All-City Gorilla Monsoon Review: Monster Crossover
The All-City Gorilla Monsoon captured a lot of attention when it was released a few months ago. With 2.4” tires, a bi-plane fork, and a snazzy paint job, we had to test one to find out if it’s glitz and glamor or the real deal. Here’s our review after a couple of months on gravel, forest roads, trails, and tarmac…
It’s hard to resist the charm of a new bike that breaks a few rules and shakes things up a bit. At the same time, it’s hard not to be skeptical of such rigs. However, given that gravel bikes, and variations on the theme, are in their infancy (relatively speaking), who’s to say what the rules really are? Just because the majority of them are built around 40mm tires and a 68mm bottom bracket shell, are named using words synonymous with remote, and painted matte black, doesn’t make that the correct way to go about it. Maybe the fact that All-City tossed out every one of these conventions is what helped them sell out of the Gorilla Monsoon in a matter of days after its release. Or, maybe it was All-City’s lofty promises that the Gorilla Monsoon could do it all in style—from gravel slaying to fire-road touring and cross-continent exploration.
- Frame/fork: “612 Select” Steel
- Angles (58cm): 71.5° Headtube, 72.5° Seattube
- Stack/Reach: 621mm/389mm
- BB Drop/Chainstay: 71.5mm/430mm
- Bottom Bracket: 73mm English
- Hub specs: 12x142mm / 100x15mm Thru-axle
- Seatpost: 30.9mm
- Max tire size: 27.5 x 2.4″
- Price: $1,999 (complete), $850 (frame)
All-City, makers of urban-inspired cross rigs, track machines, and colorful mountain bikes—most of which are named after ‘80s wrestling sensations—lumped the Gorilla Monsoon into their “Cross” category. The other three groupings listed on their website are Road, Track, and Dirt. I suspect there was a lot of discussion amongst their ranks as to whether it should fall within the Cross or Dirt silo. After riding it, I would have picked the latter. Even so, I found the descriptor that All-City pinned to the Gorilla Monsoon to be fairly accurate. It is indeed a monster-cross bike. Maybe not letter-for-letter, but more so in keeping with the title of this article.
All-City based the Gorilla Monsoon’s geometry on their current crop of cross bikes. In their eyes, it is a cross bike. “We love how those bikes ride, and they have very neutral well mannered handling characteristics,” states Jeff Frane, All-City’s brand manager. However, the Gorilla actually has a slacker head tube angle, higher stack, a slightly lower bottom bracket, and shorter stays than their popular Macho Man, all in effort to offer a bit more off-road rowdiness. Even so, there’s nothing too out of the ordinary about the Gorilla Monsoon’s geometry. It’s not exceptionally long or slack. It’s actually pretty normal in the grand scheme of things, but that’s not to say this bike isn’t interesting…quite the contrary. I immediately appreciated its fit and feel. More on that later. First, the nitty gritty on the frame.
All-City Gorilla Monsoon Frameset
The Gorilla Monsoon frameset is built from “612 Select” steel tubing, All-City’s standard 4130 chromoly tubeset that is used for most of their daily use/touring models. According to All-City, this tubeset is all about ride quality and durability. It’s actually constructed with the same metal as Surly’s 4130 Natch, however, All-City made different choices in terms of wall thickness and butting profiles. So while they are the “same,” they’re not the same at all, according to the folks at All-City, who claim to prioritize ride feel over invincibility.
The frame features double-butted down, top, and seat tubes, externally tapered, ovalized, and dimpled chain stays, tapered seat stays, and a replaceable derailleur hanger. The fork—which is the special sauce, in my opinion—is a 4130 chromoly mountain lugged crown with 15mm thru-axle dropouts, a straight steerer tube, and IS disc brake tabs. In the same vein as other All-City bikes, the Minneapolis-based company kept to the “handbuilt” aesthetic with a lovely bi-plane crown fork and details such as diamond reinforced bottle bosses. They took the Gorilla Monsoon far enough in this direction that at first glance, one might suspect that it came directly from the shop of a one-man framebuilder.
The frame also features front and rear thru-axles, rack and fender mounts at both ends that are compatible with Surly 8- and 24-Pack racks, stealth dropper post routing, 27.5 x 2.4” tire clearance (650b x 48 with fenders), signature All-City dropouts, E.D. coating for rust prevention, and three water bottle mounts. Additionally, there are three cable mounts on the downtube, providing the option of adding a front derailleur or a dropper post.
When it was announced, a big surprise was that the Gorilla Monsoon features a 73mm bottom bracket shell. This enables the use of mountain bike cranks, which is a plus for those of us who like to tinker with MTB parts and simply prefer that standard over road. Moreover, it allows adequate clearance for the 2.4” tires that really make this bike stand apart from other off-road drop-bar bikes. And if those are too big for your tastes, the Gorilla Monsoon was designed to handle a variety of other tire sizes, such as 650b x 47mm. According to All-City, moving to smaller 650b tires results in a slightly lower BB, which gives the bike “excellent manners when riding with a load,” a setup they fully endorse. If you want to run 700c wheels and tires, the frame maxes out at 42mm, which will raise your BB by 8mm. 700c x 38 keeps the BB about the same as it is with the 27.5 x 3.4” tires. The 73mm BB also provides a little more breathing room for chainrings. For reference, here’s the max ring sizes for each setup: 1X = 38T, 2X = 28/42, 3X = 26/36/48.
First Ride Impressions
I was a little surprised by how heavy the All-City Gorilla Monsoon felt when unboxing and assembling it. The size 58cm I tested weighed exactly 29 pounds (13.15 kg), set up tubeless, which is pretty chunky for a 650b drop-bar bike. That said, the frame isn’t the heaviest one out there. The bulk of the weight is in the wheelset and a few other components specced in the complete build. And even though it felt heavy, once I saddled up and began pedaling, I was shocked by how snappy it felt. It seemed as though I was pedaling a different bike than the one I nearly threw my back out while lifting it into the bike stand. Given its large 2.4” tires, I was also surprised at how quickly the Monsoon accelerated down the bike path en route to gravel. On the whole, it felt more spritely than the Kona Sutra LTD, another drop-bar bike I recently tested. Throughout that first ride, that perception never faded, even during climbs and descents. Compared to the Sutra LTD, a bike I liked enough to buy, the Gorilla Monsoon has a 2.4cm shorter wheelbase and a steeper head tube angle. As such, I expected it wouldn’t be as confident on descents as the Kona, but I wasn’t disappointed. After my first climb, I pointed the bike downhill and touched the brakes far less frequently than I have on other gravel bikes. The 2.4” Riddlers, a tire I am quite fond of, ate up the bumps and the frame felt solid, well-balanced, and planted.
I took the Gorilla Monsoon out on countless unloaded gravel rides, along forest roads, and even a on little singletrack, and my first impressions never faded. The bike is simply a joy to ride. The 2.4” tires, in tandem with a comfortable, yet lively geometry, make it a good all-around climber and a capable all-terrain machine. It’s both nimble and stable, and seems most at home picking apart chunky forest roads.
While Out Bikepacking
The first flaw I thought I found was while bikepacking a section of the upcoming Waterfalls Gravel Route, a challenging and at times incredibly steep route in western North Carolina. Loaded up, the Gorilla Monsoon started to feel a little noodly, even flat at times. I thought it might be me, so I asked Joe Tonsager, fellow bikepacker, proprietor of Jpaks bikepacking bags, and a Gorilla Monsoon owner himself, what he thought. “I’d agree that it feels less lively when loaded, but for me, personally, no different than my other rig. Albeit some may feel friskier than others with a load, I always like how the bike feels planted and the trail irregularities get muted by the gear. There’s something to be said for the shock and jarring from the road/trail being absorbed by the metal, fabric, water and items inside the bags. As you know, it’s a cool feeling.”
Even so, I presume that the tubing is a little less stiff than that of a bike such as the Long Haul Trucker or Kona Sutra, both bikes that were made to be loaded down, and actually feel better loaded than not. In the end, I think the Gorilla Monsoon rides better unloaded, or lightly loaded. But I don’t think pedaling it loaded takes enough away from the ride to be a deal breaker.
I think part of my problem was with the stem. While Joe built his Monsoon with a 90mm stem, I left the stock 110mm ProMax on there, which gave the bike a bit of a wandering feel when climbing the steep bits. That imbalance/wavering feeI just seemed to be amplified with significant added weight.
After scrutinizing the frame, it’s hard to find any faults with the All-City Gorilla Monsoon. In the end, I want one. The frame, at least. The issues I took with this bike were in the parts kit, particularly the crankset. It comes with an FSA Comet with a direct mount 36T chainring—a little too big for loaded bikepacking. Having no previous experience with FSA direct mounts, what I thought would be an easy switch turned out to be a pain. None of our three well-stocked local bike shops carry FSA chainrings. Short on time, I ended up putting a Shimano Zee with a 32T ring on the bike for bikepacking.
Secondly, the wheelset that comes stock on the Monsoon is quite heavy, and its quality is not commensurate with the complete bike price tag. Sticking with the WTB product line, I would have expected KOM or ASYM rims and slightly better hubs than the Novatec that are specced. That certainly would have lightened things up a bit. In addition, to match the 2.4” tires, I would have rather seen 29mm internal width rims, instead of the WTB STP i25. There are a few other parts and bits that didn’t really impress me. The saddle was excruciatingly uncomfortable, but I suppose that’s a personal issue. In addition, the Hayes mechanical brakes are horrible. They started giving me issues after just 50 or so miles and never stopped squawking.
All that said, the complete parts list isn’t all bad. The Cowchipper bars are great, as are the WTB Riddlers, which corner well and, considering their 2.4” width, are super fast on both pavement and gravel. All things considered, I would buy the frameset and build the bike myself.
Complete Build Specs
- Brake Compatibility Disc Only, 160mm Front & Rear Minimum Rotor Size
- Steerer Tube / Headset 1-1/8″ threadless, EC34 upper & lower, Crown race 30.0
- Extras Rack & fender mounts, E.D. coated for durability and rust prevention
- Headset Cane Creek 40 Series
- Stem Promax 3D Forged Stem
- Handlebar Salsa Cowchipper
- Bar Tape All-City Silicone Bar Tape w/Locking End Plugs
- Shifter/Brake Lever SRAM Apex1 Mechanical (1×11)
- Rear Derailleur SRAM Apex 1, Long Cage
- Brakeset Hayes CX Expert, 160mm Front & Rear
- Crankset FSA Comet 1x, Direct Mount 36t Ring
- Bottom Bracket MegaExo
- Seatpost Promax 30.9mm
- Saddle All-City Gonzo
- Cassette SunRace 11-speed, 11-42t
- Chain SRAM PC-1110
- Hubs Novatec Sealed Bearing, 32h, Black
- Rims WTB STP i25 TCS, 27.5″, 32h
- Tires WTB Riddler TCS 27.5″ x 2.4″
Bags and packing
For this review, Rockgeist made a custom Wedge, which you can read more about here. This allowed me to add a large 32oz Klean Kanteen on the seattube using the Widefoot Design cage. In addition, I ran the venerable Revelate Terrapin seat pack in the back and an old Salsa Minimalist front rack with dry bags up front, alongside the Porcelain Rocket Nigel, for camera carrying duties.
- Clearance for massive 2.4″ tires afforded by 73mm bottom bracket shell.
- Very quick feel considering this bike has 2.4″ tires.
- Attention to detail with the bi-plane fork, reinforced bottle bosses, and E.D. coating.
- Plenty of mounts, including three bottle mounts, rack and fender bosses, and a mid-blade fork mount.
- Bike feels surprisingly confident on descents and technical terrain.
- Some good components, such as the Cowchipper bars, Riddler tires, and cassette/derailleur.
- Very heavy frame and wheels.
- FSA crankset direct mount is for the birds.
- Hayes mechanical disc brakes performed poorly.
- Other equipment I didn’t like includes the very uncomfortable saddle, long stem, and heavy cockpit components.
- Size Tested 58cm
- Weight (as tested) 29 lbs (13.15 kg)
- Price $1,999 ($850 frameset)
- Place of Manufacture Taiwan
- Manufacturer’s Details allcitycycles.com
When the All-City Gorilla Monsoon launched, I feared it was all glam and hype, with little substance. After spending some time with it, I can objectively say that I was wrong. Although the geometry is fairly neutral, and not too out of the ordinary, it’s well-conceived and generally suited for riding a variety of terrain. All the while, it’s a lot of fun. And, with a nice blend of classic styling and a modern build features, such as thru-axles, short-ish chainstays, and beefy tires, the Gorilla Monsoon is certainly unique. Plus, it’s not too shabby to look at, either.
That’s not to say it’s without flaws. As mentioned, there are a few parts in the complete build kit that aren’t ideal, and make it rather heavy. The build kit would make more sense on an entry level $1,500 steel bike, but this isn’t that kind of rig; it would’ve been nice to see a slightly higher end wheel set, cranks, and brakes. Even so, the Monsoon feels surprisingly fast, yet stable and comfortable, all key ingredients to a good dirt road bikepacking rig. From my experience, the Gorilla Monsoon feels most at home on rough dirt roads and chunky gravel, where the massive 2.4” tires are at home. What’s more, this bike performs pretty well on tarmac and is surprisingly playful on smooth singletrack as well.