Bikepacking is a small niche but an expanding one – especially in the US. While many eschew big travel and less reliable tech, Rocky Mountain reckons you can still have fun when full loaded. As such, the 31.5lb / 14.25kg, 95mm travel Sherpa is a full-suspension bike ready to be loaded up and lugged into the backcountry and beyond.
Steed? This here's a mule
With luggage hauling a priority, and with the bike-packer’s mode of choice being frame bags, the short-stroke Manitou McLeod shock sits high into the top/seat tube junction. It’s action is stiff off the top, giving good pedalling characteristics, but wallows into the mid-travel before ramping up towards the end.
The Manitou shock sits high in the angle of seat tube and top tube
This can leave the bike blowing easily through its travel when pushed into rougher terrain. There’s decent compression adjustment with the shock, which allows easy toggling between loaded and un-loaded riding, should you wish to explore local singletrack with a bit more vigour.
Fortunately for the suspension, some of its less refined features, including the rather coarse adjustment of rebound, are masked by the large tyres, which ensure a comfortable ride when suspension is set up stiff for efficient load-hauling.
It's a shame the seat angle isn't a little steeper
When it comes to the shape of the bike, we were left a little cold by the slack-ish 73 degree seat angle, which doesn’t put you in an ideal pedalling position – something this bike should be designed around. Nor are we fans of the 90mm stem, which makes for sluggish steering. That said, for plugging away across moorland and deserted mountains, the upright seating position is comfortable.
Solid and reliable spec
Rocky Mountain has done a good job of equipping the Sherpa with reliable gear. The two-by Shimano Deore/SLX/XT mix drivetrain gives plenty of range and the Manitou Magnum fork impressed with its ground-tracking action.
The Sherpa is very much at home munching its way across remote country
The Sherpa loses out somewhat on the rubber front though, as the WTB TrailBlazers are poor performers in all but the most uniform conditions. In mud they struggle, and with a sidewall that blows out beyond the tread, they’re not much use in rocky, technical terrain either. They do, however, roll nicely on smooth, hardpacked trails.
In addition to the underperforming tyres, the Sherpa came out just before the industry transitioned to 'boost' 148x12mm rear axle spacing. Not an issue with the stock build, but it's worth noting because finding the majority of 27.5+ wheelsets now come with this wider stance.
Rocky Mountain has done something brave with the Sherpa. This isn’t a trail bike, so if you’re looking for maximum laughs, look elsewhere. But if you like to disappear on for days on end, and want a comfortable, relatively efficient way of doing it, the Sherpa delivers. Swap out those WTB treads and that long stem for improved performance though.
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This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.