Gabe’s Carver Gnarvester Review: Camp + Shred
“I can pick my way up tight lines, ride skinnies, drop ledges, and then unpack and make a cup of pourover…”
I had been mulling on the idea of a fatbike or the new plus-sized Krampus as the ideal mountain biking camp rig for a while when I had the chance to test ride a Krampus from Geno at One On One bikes in Minneapolis. Minutes later I was hooked on the 29+ format and was chasing squirrels and taxicabs through the metropolis. A few weeks later I got my own Krampus from the fine folks at 21st Ave Bikes here in Portland and was blown away by the bike. Sure, it was a solid camping rig just like I expected, but what I couldn’t believe was its technical terrain prowess. I’ve always preferred techy steep lines, dabbling in trials and rolling big drops instead of hucking them. All of a sudden I was riding this rigid bike that felt more at home in boulder fields than my 7″ trail bike did.
The Krampus is a fantastic platform but a year later I was looking for some upgrades. Slacker geometry. Tucked rear wheel. Larger seat tube diameter for a dropper post. Tapered head tube. Thru axles. The fact that Carver’s Gnarvester was titanium didn’t hurt either, so I impulse bought one when my size popped up on Ebay last fall.
Again I was shocked at what a different ride it gave me. Most notably the rear wheel tuck—fully loaded I can lift the front end effortlessly and drop ledges much smoother. I swapped in a Fox Talas 34 from the stock carbon fork adding a great deal of weight, but what a relief after battering myself on the rigid Krampus in Idaho for 17 days last summer. It can drop the front end from 150mm to 120mm for steep climbs and has the Climb/Trail/Descend modes which I use constantly. I shaved 1mm off the fork bridge with a file to prevent tire rub and so far the super tight clearance has not been an issue in the mud at all. The Reverb dropper post is leagues better than the 27.2 KS Lev I was running previously. The sliding dropouts and breakable chainstay are well-made though they tend to creak. I’ll never set up the bike as a single speed, but they’ve been useful for adjusting knob clearance for different tires. The thru axles stiffen the whole bike up noticeably, preventing the flex rub on chain/chainstays. It would be nice to try it in a 27.5+ wheel size too: I didn’t mind the giant wheels on the Krampus, but the slacker geo of the Gnarvester make its height painfully obvious. That and the graphics are terrible.
But the Gnarvester rips. It’s a well-designed, solid, aggressive, modern mountain bike.
Many people prefer the ECR as a camping rig, but I’d rather favor a bike’s shredability over its campability. Geometry makes a much bigger difference when riding trails than it does on gravel roads. I’ll stick with aggressive mountain bike geometry and finesse my contact points to make the bike comfortable during long days in the saddle rather than tame down the core of the bike’s essence.
And it camps surprisingly well. I had Scott from Porcelain Rocket make a cuben frame bag and extra svelte cuben Mr Fusion to accommodate my dropper post and double seatpost DIY hack. I’m stubborn, and decided to make my own handlebar roll with some PVC stand-offs, straps, and cowhide glued to HDPE sheeting. I’ve got a 20mm SON hub powering my B&M Luxos U that’s a fantastic dynamo light with USB port for charging my phone, steripen, headlamp, and camera batteries. That’s plenty of storage for a 5 day trip of moderately tolerable weather. If I’m bringing camera gear I generally end up riding with my HMG 2400 Southwest backpack as well. To round out my tacky rodeo clown aesthetic I made my own furry cowhide rims strips and set up my Maxxis Chronicles with a split tube tubeless system.
The Carver Gnarvester really does live up to its name, I can pick my way up tight lines, ride skinnies, drop ledges, and then unpack and make a cup of pourover. It’s an extremely versatile bike and I’m excited to see how the Plus platforms revolutionize not just the bikepacking world in the coming years— but the whole mountain biking realm.