Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20 2020 Review
Cons: Heavy, not super versatile for riding trails
Manufacturer: Rocky Mountain
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Our Analysis and Test Results
It was only a matter of time before some of the modern trends in bike geometry started making their way into the design of fat bikes. We've seen a few brands slowly but surely incorporating longer and slacker geometries on their fat-tired bikes, including Rocky Mountain. They claim that "the Blizzard is a proper mountain bike with aggressive geometry and massively wide tires." They aren't kidding either. The Blizzard feels and rides a lot like a regular trail hardtail, just with 4.8-inch wide tires.
The Blizzard 20 is comfortable and confidence-inspiring on the descents. That is thanks mostly to its more modern geometry and slacker head tube angle. Of course, it's still a rigid fat bike, so it's best at cruising around mellow terrain at moderate speeds, but this bike feels more stable and composed at speed and in rougher and steeper terrain than most. The component specification is budget-oriented, but it works well enough on the descents.
In Rocky Mountain's quest to make the Blizzard ride like a "proper mountain bike," they broke the fat bike geometry mold and gave it a slacker head tube angle than any other fat bike we've tested. Testers were quick to note just how much more "normal" this bike felt to ride, and how capable and composed it felt when rolling down anything outside of the typical mellow fat bike terrain. Sure, it's only about a degree and a half slacker than the average fat bike head tube angle, but it makes a very big and very noticeable difference in this bike's downhill performance. Add to that a long-ish 1200mm wheelbase and moderate length chainstays, and it's no wonder that this bike rides a bit more like a modern trail hardtail. It may sacrifice a little in the handling department as a result, but that could also have something to do with the 35+ lb weight and 4.8-inch wide tires. Body position is comfortable, with a longer reach and a somewhat roomy cockpit.
This is the least expensive model in this review, and its component spec doesn't exactly turn heads. It is completely functional, however, so there really isn't much to complain about either. The Blizzard comes ready to ride some snow, sand, or other soft conditions with a big ol' 4.8-inch Maxxis Minion FBF up front and an FBR in the rear. These tires are massive with a relatively aggressive tread pattern and can be run at very low pressures to dampen vibration and impact and increase their traction. The cockpit setup is generally quite comfortable with a proper 780mm wide handlebar and short stem. The seatpost is rigid, but Rocky Mountain thoughtfully spec'd a quick-release seatpost clamp to expedite saddle height changes for the descents. The quick-release seems trivial, but it is much better than pulling out a multi-tool every time you want to lower your saddle. The Shimano MT200 brakes aren't impressively powerful, but they work well enough in most fat biking situations.
The Blizzard 20 performs relatively well on the climbs. It's far from the fastest or liveliest on the uphills due mostly to its weight, but it works just fine for casual fat bike riders. The geometry is comfortable, and the components are functional even if they aren't flashy.
When discussing the uphill performance of the Blizzard 20, it would be hard to overlook the weight of this beast. At 35 lbs 9 oz, it's far from lightweight. In fact, it's the heaviest fat bike we've tested, nearly 6 full pounds heavier than our lightest competitor. That weight is noticeable and definitely contributes to its sluggish feel. Beyond the weight, the geometry of the Blizzard feels good, with a comfortable seated pedaling position and a roomy cockpit. The 73-degree seat tube angle is the norm for hardtail bikes, and power transfer down into the pedals feels direct while the moderate length reach helps keep you from feeling cramped. The slacker head tube angle contributes to what feels like marginally more sluggish handling, but in the often soft or snowy conditions typical of fat biking, that will probably go unnoticed.
Rocky Mountain has spec'd a SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain on the Blizzard 20. This setup provides a huge range of gearing for any pitch of climb, and it's nice to see 12-speed trickling down into budget-conscious builds. The 4.8-inch Maxxis Minion FBR rear tire isn't the fastest rolling, but it has a huge contact patch and meaty tread that provides loads of pedaling traction and floatation, even in softer conditions.
The Blizzard 20 strikes us as a relatively versatile fat bike, but far from the leader in this metric. Of course, it performs well for its intended use as a snow, sand, and soft conditions bike. It has a capable geometry that almost made our testers want to use it for some trail riding, but the weight and the huge tires of this rig aren't as well suited to ripping singletrack as some of the other models we've tested. The Blizzard does have a wealth of bottle cage and three-pack mounts on the frame and fork, which should make accessorizing and loading it up for bike packing missions a snap, and beyond the obvious weight issue, we could see it being a great adventure bike.
The build of the Blizzard 20 is nothing super flashy, but it is perfectly functional and is relatively nice for the price. The frame is crafted from 6061 SL Series Alloy, and it has a Rocky Mountain Fat QR Al Light fork. The frame has internal cable routing with 3-pack mounts on the downtube, the underside of the top tube, and on the fork legs.
The Blizzard 20 comes equipped with SRAM's SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain. That gives the rider a super wide range 11-50-tooth cassette, and when paired with the 30-tooth front chainring provides plenty of range for virtually any situation. Rocky Mountain has attached a set of Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes to slow this beast. These aren't the most powerful brakes, but they do a perfectly adequate job of slowing and stopping the Blizzard at moderate fat bike speeds.
The Blizzard 20's cockpit consists of a handful of house-branded parts, including an alloy AM stem, a 760mm XC handlebar, and a rigid SL seatpost. They've chosen a comfortable and crowd-pleasing WTB Volt Race saddle to rest your haunches. It may sound a little odd, but testers were quite pleased with the user-friendly quick-release seatpost clamp. In the age of dropper posts, all of our testers found themselves wishing it was easier to lower the saddle on most of our test bikes, and the QR on the Blizzard is much easier than pulling out an allen key every time.
Based on the name alone, the Blizzard was clearly intended for snow riding. This is further evidenced by the fact that it comes equipped with a super wide set of wheels and tires. The Rocky Mountain Speedhole rims are 95mm wide and laced to a combo of a Rocky Mountain front and a SUNRingle SRC rear hub. Hubs and frames that use quick-release skewers are quickly going out of fashion. However, the Blizzard 20 does have old-school QR's both front and rear. Mounted to those rims are a super-wide 4.8-inch Maxxis Minion FBF on the front and a 4.8-inch Maxxis Minion FBR on the back. These tires are enormous and have a relatively aggressive tread. They are a bit slower rolling than some of the other options but perform quite well on most snow surfaces, and they have loads of floatation for cruising on sand as well.
In general, the Blizzard 20 has relatively standard measurements for a fat bike, though Rocky Mountain broke the mold a bit and gave it a slacker head tube angle than we're used to seeing in this realm. Rocky Mountain refers to the geometry of the Blizzard as "aggressive," and we'd agree that a 67-degree head tube angle qualifies as aggressive, for a fat bike anyway. The slacker headtube does give this bike a more composed and confident front end, and testers were more comfortable riding down steeper and rougher sections on this bike than most. Beyond that, the geometry seems pretty normal, though we'd argue that the sizing feels a little small. In fact, we tested an XL frame as the manufacturer's measurements for the size large seemed a little small, and this was validated by our 6-foot tall testers who felt the XL frame felt just right. The XL Blizzard we tested had a 655mm effective top tube length, a 456mm reach, and a 1200mm wheelbase. The chainstays were 440mm long, and the bottom bracket was 322mm high, with a seat tube angle of 73-degrees.
The Blizzard 20 is the least expensive model we've tested. That fact alone makes it a good value, but considering how well it performs in snow, sand, and soft dirt conditions, we feel it's an excellent value and the winner of our Best Buy Award.
The Blizzard 20 is a capable fat bike with a reasonable price tag. This bike sets itself apart from the competition with its more aggressive geometry, which takes cues from modern trail bike design. The slacker head tube angle helps to give the Blizzard a more confident feeling front end that performs well at speed and in steeper, rougher terrain than most. It's not lightweight or particularly fast-rolling, but we feel it would be a great addition to any mountain biker's quiver and an affordable one at that.
Rocky Mountain makes several versions of the Blizzard fat bike. The 20 model we tested is the second least expensive in the line.
The Blizzard 10 retails for a very reasonable $999. It comes equipped with the same beefy wheels and tires, a Shimano Altus 9-speed drivetrain, and Tektro MD-M280 brakes.
The Blizzard 30, $2,449, comes with a Manitou Mastodon Pro 120mm fork, a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, and Shimano MT 400 brakes.The Blizzard 50 is the top of the line model with a retail price of $2,999. It comes with 27.5" wheels and tires, a Manitou Mastodon Pro 120mm fork, a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, and SRAM Guide RE brakes.
— Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue