Review: Gruv Gear's V-Cart Solo (And Friends)
(ShackMan | Posted 2011-03-27)
Sometimes it's a quiet thing when a company starts off (thank you, Fred Ebb). It's strange to think that with all of the sudden press that GruvGear has gotten, especially since making a sizable splash at this year's Winter NAMM convention, a major product like the V-Cart Solo has been around right under our noses for almost five years now. Well, sort of. Ask Jay Baldemor, owner and President of Gruv Gear, about the original V-Cart, and he'll tell you that "It was kind of a pilot project...We pretty much confirmed a need. We brought it out at 2007 Bass Bash, and immediately people saw how it was going to help them get in and out of gigs much easier with their rig." With Gruv Gear pulling in endorsements from David Dyson, Todd Johnson, Damian Erskine, and other top notch musicians, it's still a wonder that the new edition of the V-Cart almost didn't change into the black and orange steel beast that so many musicians (and non-musicians) have fallen in love with. "We wanted to make some changes to the V-Cart based on the feedback we were receiving, but the company that was manufacturing them had a pattern and wasn't really willing to move from that," recalls Jay. "It left us at a point where we could either just leave and quit or build it ourselves. So I hired some industrial designers, did the whole development from start to finish, addressed all of the changes we wanted, took about 12-14 months, and the result is the V-Cart Solo that we sell today."
The new V-Cart Solo is almost unrecognizable when compared to the original 2007 model. It's gotten sturdier, isn't too much bigger than a backpack, and at 23 pounds, it's just as easy to carry and cart around. They added bigger polyurethane casters and wheels, a wider wheelbase, a completely redesigned frame, and a totally revamped, stylish black and orange exterior that reminds me a little of the Markbass colors, although the orange is a little darker than Marco's choice of yellow. It's still pretty striking when you walk into the club. Enough to draw a second glance your way.
After pulling my V-Cart out of the packaging, I was instantly reminded of the feeling I got when I first started collecting Transformers. As soon as it came out of the wrapper, I had to figure out how to make the switch between every mode. While I don't recommend ignoring the directions, especially the safety hints and tips, I didn't have any trouble putting the V-Cart together or figuring out how to make it “transform” just by looking at the pictures. You have to attach the main handle yourself, a process which requires no tools and takes about a minute, if that. The four modes are facilitated from there via the two orange handscrew knobs on the main handle and a frame that drops and locks into place at various angles. Going from any mode to another takes no more than ten seconds (not an exaggeration) and minimal effort. All totaled, you have access to a 2 wheel “dolly,” a 4 wheel “V” mode, and a standard platform cart mode, as well as the compact storage mode. For all you visual people out there, here's a pic of just what I'm talking about:
That's 1” steel tubing making up the frame (made to just the perfect thickness to get under an amp on casters), so you can load it up to 500 pounds without worry. The surface is pretty smooth, too, to keep any potential for scratches on your instruments or gear to an absolute minimum. If you're still worried, go ahead and pick up a heavy-duty carpeted deck to make sure nothing happens to the precious finish on any of your gear. If it's hardshells and cased gear that you're hauling, and your more worried about sliding than scratching, go ahead and save yourself the bread and grab a pack of GruvGear's Grip Tape. At two 18” strips for $10, it's a solid buy. For myself, I think that in the long run, I'd rather just have the carpeted deck. $50 or not, I feel like the carpeting should keep things from sliding just enough, as well as keeping them safe from scratching. It's a little more all-purpose, removable, and I think it looks a little more professional, too. And if that isn't enough room for you, try the V-Cart Solo XL Frame and extend your storage room to just over 42” instead of the Solo's 24” base. The XL Frame add-on frame attaches easily between the top handle and main frame and is currently only available for pre-order. The bottom line here is that no matter what troubles you have, there are accessories to solve your problem. I can't come up with a situation which couldn't be helped by one of Gruv Gear's already made fixes.
I think it's fair to point out that Gruv Gear really only has one cart in competition: the Rock 'n' Roller Multi-Cart (It's labeled as being 8-in-1, but there are really only 4 useful modes), which sits at a price point of $230 next to the V-Cart Solo's $300. While both are useful and good at what they do, the V-Cart Solo has several advantages that not only justify the price difference but make it a much better overall choice. It weighs almost 15 pounds less and packs into a smaller overall area. The wheels on the V-Cart Solo are polyurethane and as such can never go flat; the Rock-n-Roller's have tubes which, just like the mountain bike in your garage, are subject to every staple and nail and beer bottle laying around. Not something I would trust within a few hundred yards of your average bar or restaurant. Both are rated at a solid 500lbs, but the Rock-n-Roller lacks the 1" textured steel tubing of the V-Cart Solo. Then you tack on the whole lineup of peripherals and accessories that Gruv Gear offers, and those to me are worth the difference between the Rock-n-Roller and the V-Cart Solo alone. I've been saving my favorite accessory for last...
Enter the Stage Wedge. That that little pole you see on the left hand side holding up the V-Cart Solo. Roll your rig in on the V-Cart Solo in dolly mode. Set the main platform down and lean it back. Screw in the stage wedge, and play. (Note: For safety reasons, Gruv Gear does not recommend screwing in the Stage Wedge while the V-Cart is loaded) The Stage Wedge is also adjustable of course, depending on the amount of tilt you want. It almost looked at first like the cart would be resting on the wheels, but thanks to some ingenious design, it sits at just the right angle that it rests squarely on the frame. Squarely enough that even with a 4x10” cab and an 8-space rack, it would still take a solid shove to budge it, and even then the drop-down frame is there to keep everything from falling.
All of that adds up to the V-Cart Solo getting my vote over the Rock-n-Roller, not to mention over every other wimpy aluminum wanna-be cart on the entire dog-gone market. Ease-of-use, low storage space, the lighter weight, and the meticulously designed extra features all come together for one grand package that is, in my opinion, the best on the market today. Not to mention the fact that Jay Baldemor (Gruv Gear President) has even more planned for the future. I managed to get a sneak peak at a large special-style backpack that could attach to the side of the V-Cart Solo and save room on the platform for the bigger items. I don't know much about it right now, but you can bet I'll be sure to have the information posted here as soon as I get it.
Until then, stay creative!
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. He has worked with legendary playwright Frank Gagliano's, is currently composing for the new original musical “Off with Her Maidenhead!” and recently became the youngest Soupbone.
Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at James.Rushin@MusicGearReview.com.