Introducing the Sherpa22 April 2015
Rocky Mountain Bicycles is excited to announce the new Sherpa overland bike. Bikepacking has been around for a long time, but the Sherpa puts a Rocky Mountain twist on the concept. We wanted a bike that could tackle more challenging terrain and would let us get a little rowdy—even loaded down for multi day self-supported adventures. The Sherpa will carry you and your gear to the ends of the earth, far from the nearest Strava segment and through whatever ambitious backcountry route you didn’t know you were planning.
The inspiration for the Sherpa came from our lead product guy Alex Cogger, whose own rides were getting longer and weirder and more rugged. Through strategic cooperation with WTB we were the first to experiment with 27.5+ tires and rims, and over the last few years we prototyped several bikes to test the capabilities of the wheel size. It was immediately clear that the increased float and traction was a great match for overland bikepacking.
The Sherpa debuted as a concept bike at Sea Otter 2014—complete with a custom Tibetan Snow Lion paint job. It generated an overwhelming response from riders wanting to expand their exploration capabilities, and convinced us to bring it to production.
Fully loaded overlanding requires an extended gear range. We began with our proven Element carbon front triangle and designed a wider rear end to ensure that a front derailleur would clear even the widest tires.
The wide footprint of WTB’s 27.5+ x 2.8 Trailblazer tires gives the Sherpa confidence and stability in choppy sections—important when you’re loaded down with gear and going mach chicken over high desert chunder. They also have surprisingly low rolling resistance and excellent roll-over characteristics. We matched its 95mm of rear travel to an increased 120mm of front travel for more capability and loaded stability. Rider position was adjusted to be more upright, making long days in the saddle more comfortable.
It is critical for suspension to react in tandem with high volume tires. We worked with Manitou to spec supple suspension for excellent response off the top. The Magnum fork has a wide stance for better tire clearance, and the Mcleod requires lower air pressure, allowing a fully loaded rider and bike to remain in the shock’s “sweet spot.”
WHY ANOTHER NEW WHEEL SIZE?
27.5+ is a super high volume tire mounted on a wide 27.5 rim, providing an outer diameter that is roughly equivalent to a 29er tire.
Overlanding means exploring the unknown, and for the kind of varied terrain we wanted to explore with the Sherpa we needed a low pressure, high volume tire that didn’t exceed traditional 29er outer diameters.
The extra volume improves traction and allows for low pressures even while carrying the weight of bikepacking gear—because needing to overinflate your tires is the worst. And, the outer diameter allowed us to design the Sherpa with proper full suspension in a full range of sizes.
IF MASSIVE VOLUME IS SO GREAT, WHY AREN’T ALL YOUR BIKES 27.5+?
The Sherpa is the world’s first full suspension 27.5+ bike, but we’re not using the new “skinny fat” wheel size to jump on a bandwagon. 27.5+ wheels are not 27.5 and they’re not 29—they’re not a replacement for any other wheel size and our “regular” bikes aren’t going anywhere. Everyone put their pitchforks down.
For all their advantages, they are slower and heavier than traditional 29er systems on smoother terrain. So if you’re looking to win an XC World Cup then 27.5+ probably isn’t for you. Also, more volume means their sidewalls are taller than traditional tires, limiting cornering stability. A Landcruiser isn’t great at the racetrack, but hits its stride when things get rough.
We designed the Sherpa for riders who want to get out and explore the world. From bushwhacking in Idaho, to traversing military trails in the Dolomites, to racing the Colorado Trail, to travelling long forgotten game trails in the Himalayas—the Sherpa is made for anyone whose adventures regularly require a GPS beacon.