2013 Rocky Mountain Element 29 RSL & Factory Tour

Jun 1, 2012
by Ian Hylands  
 
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2013 Element 29 RSL Details

• C13 Hi Mod Carbon Smoothwall monocoque frame (aluminum stays on 970 BC Edition and 950 RSL)
• Rear wheel travel: 95mm
• Uses Rocky Mountain's Smoothlink rear suspension design
• ABC (Angular Bushing Concept ) pivots
• Tapered head tube
• E-Thru 12 x 142mm rear axle
• Sealing rubber seat collar sleeve
• Internal cable routing for brake, shifting, and dropper post
• BB-92 bottom bracket shell
• Sizing: S - 2XL
• Fame weight: 4.38lbs (medium 999 RSL, including rear shock and hardware)
Rocky Mountain Element Evolution

Rocky Mountain's Element chassis has, throughout its entire evolution, been putting singletrack under its tires since 1996 - that's an incredible seventeen years. There has been much progression in the design through those years, of course, with everything from geometry, materials, and even suspension layouts being altered, but compare the basic silhouette of that first model to the 2013 version and you'll see that they share very similar lines. That isn't to say that the current bike rides anything like those dinosaurs from years past, but that the Element has seemed to evolve to meet the demands of the time only as needed - an interesting point when you consider how many bike designs seemed to be based more around fashion than function throughout our history. Then again, the Element's very name is quite suiting given the bike's intentions as a cross-country steed that is designed to be no more and no less than what is required on the mountain.

You can learn more about the Element platform by visiting Rocky Mountain's Element microsite.


Element 29 RSL Rapid Prototype

Rocky Mountain makes use of a rapid prototyping 3D printer that allows them to manufacture life size plastic models of the finished product. The details that are possible with this machine are impressive: have a look at the faux chainstay guard (above, right ) that closely matches the profile of the stainless steel version found on the production bike, dimples and all. The E-type front derailleur mount is also present, and the main pivot bore and ABC pivot locations are all sized just as they would be on a frame off the showroom floor. This plastic scale model is far from rideable, though. Why bother creating such a thing? The model gives Rocky Mountain a true sense of the frame's shape, something that is impossible to do while staring at it on a computer screen. The plastic mockup also allows them to check clearances and to be sure that small details, like cable anchor points, are all in the correct position - all very important things to do before giving the go ahead to an expensive mold for the production carbon frames.

Rocky Mountain 29 RSL
2013 Element 999 RSL

Assembled around their 4.38lbs (medium, including rear shock and hardware) C13 Hi Mod Carbon Smoothwall monocoque frame, Rocky Mountain's flagship Element 29 999 RSL features a build kit that unashamedly states the bike's podium seeking intentions. The black, red, and white bike sports a full SRAM XX drivetrain, as well as matching XX World Cup brakes - including smartly spec'd 180mm rotors to slow down the larger wheels. More carbon can also be found on the RockShox XX World Cup 29 fork, with its one-piece carbon crown and steerer assembly making it one of the lightest cross-country sliders out there. Rocky Mountain says that the 29 999 RSL weighs in at just 22.4lbs straight off the shelf, although that is a figure that we would hope for given the bike's $7,999 999 USD asking price.




2013 Element 970 BC Edition

The Element 29 RSL is a purebred cross-country race machine, right? Well, the lines blur a bit between that and what we feel looks like just a fun bike to ride when it comes to the 970 BC Edition. The bike, which uses the exact same carbon front triangle as the 999 RSL mated to aluminum rear stays, features a different build spec that ''reflects how some Rocky employees and friends of ours in Vancouver would set up their race bikes'', says Rocky Mountain's Peter Valance. That means an adjustable length FOX 32 TALAS 29 120 FIT CTD fork up front, giving 20mm extra travel and slackening the geometry, as well as a RockShox Reverb telescoping seat post and triple chain ring Race Face Turbine cranks. The complete bike is clearly going to be heavier than the other models in the Element 29 RSL bloodline, but the $5,199 USD 970 BC Edition might be just the ticket for riders who like to explore the possibilites of their ''cross-country'' bike a bit more than the average lycra clad racer.

The 970 BC Edition is a niche bike that might have a small audience, but we applaud Rocky Mountain's nod to their home terrain.



Rocky Mountain 29 RSL
2013 Element 950 RSL

The most affordable Element 29, the 950 RSL comes in at $4,099 USD. That price gets you a mix of Shimano's SLX and XT components, along with a set of Race Face's Turbine triple crankset. Rocky Mountain specs the 950 RSL with an aluminum rear end - it still features an 12 x 142mm axle - mated to its carbon fiber front triangle.
2013 Element 29 970 RSL

The 970 RSL sits one step down from the premium 999 RSL, although it still uses the very same frame. Shimano and Race Face make up the build, with a mostly XT drivetrain being combined with Race Face's Turbine cranks. FOX handles suspension duties with their 2013 CTD suspension, including a custom ''race valved'' rear shock. MSRP $4,999 USD.




SmoothLink Suspension

The 2011 model year marked the introduction of Rocky Mountain's SmoothLink rear suspension to the Element (although it has been employed in their lineup since 2009 ) that saw the dropout pivot move to a position that is 10mm above the rear axle. Rocky Mountain says that this layout ensures that, if one were to draw a straight line through the main pivot to the rear pivot, they would find that it sits above the rear axle throughout the bike's travel. What does all that mean? ''The lower linkage member is virtually parallel to the Average Chain Torque Line (ACTL ), at all points of travel,'' says Rocky Mountain, "this is the key to bob-free suspension, since the two are parallel, the chain tension cannot act on the suspension.'' Those claims are about as bold as it gets in the mountain
bike universe, and no, we've yet to actually put enough time on an Element RSL to either confirm or deny it. That said, Pinkbike's own Mike Levy will be spending a full seven straight days aboard the new platform as he races the upcoming BC Bike Race - tests don't get much more real-world than that. Stay tuned.


Rocky Mountain 29 RSL
12 x 142mm Thru-Axle and Internal Dropper Post Cable Routing

How long until the quick release fades away completely? The rear of the Element 29 RSL frame features an E-Thru 12 x 142mm rear axle (above, left ) in an effort to minimize flex from the package. Cable entry points aft of the head tube (above, right ) allow for both the dropper post line and rear shock lock-out cable to be routed internally. The lock-out cable exits from the underside of the down tube and near the forward shock mount, making for an impressively clean setup that goes a long way to eliminating clutter.


ABC Pivots and Sag Meter

Rocky Mountain has been utilizing their Angular Bushing Concept pivots for a number of seasons now without trouble, proving that bushing-type pivots can be engineered to be very durable. The ABC system employs angular contact polymer bushings that rotates on a tapered alloy pivot hardware, creating a larger contact area than is possible with standard sealed bearings. The result, Rocky Mountain says, is a rear end that is 105% stiffer torsionally than if the bike was equipped with cartridge bearings. The key to the system's success is the tight tolerances in the design that allows the pivots to rotate smoothly when tightened to the correct torque - no, the ABC system has very little in common with the old bushing pivots of bikes of yore. While the pivots greatly improve chassis rigidity, Rocky Mountain's main objective, they also end up saving about 120 grams when compared to cartridge bearings.

Setting the correct sag is key to getting the most out of any full suspension design, but that fact is especially important when dealing with a shorter travel machine like the Element 29 RSL. Three simple red lines on the bike's rocker link let the Element rider sit in the saddle and look down to see if their rear shock's spring rate needs tuning. Add or subtract air as needed until the arrow lines up correctly and you're set.

BB-92 and Cable Exit Port

At the bottom of the Element 29 RSL frame you'll find a BB-92 bottom bracket shell that sees the bottom bracket bearings (that sit within plastic cups) slid directly in. This setup, also used by other manufacturers, allows standard integrated spindle cranks to be used without fuss. The wide frame's wide bottom bracket shell allows the down tube to feature a very large diameter without having to taper down to meet a smaller, standard width BB shell.

Although your local mechanic will greatly appreciate the removable cable entry port insert, it is nearly completely hidden from view. The insert can be pushed out to make for quick and easy cable changes that don't require endless patience as you try and feed the cable through a small opening, making easy work of many mechanic's most hated job on a bike.

After checking out the new bikes Pete Vallance took us around the place to show us a bit more of what actually goes on in Rocky's fabrication and testing facility.

Like any good bicycle company production at Rocky is fueled by the rich black licquid that is coffee. This machine sees a lot of use.
  Like most good bicycle companies, production at Rocky is fueled by the rich black liquid that is coffee. This machine sees a lot of use.

The tamper for the espresso machine was hand machined in house.
as was the custom made piggy bank used to collect donations for coffee. Dedication runs deep here and the sound of coins plink plinking their way into the box is almost musical.
  The tamper for the espresso machine was hand machined in house, as was the custom made piggy bank used to collect donations for coffee. Dedication runs deep here, and the sound of coins plink plinking their way into the box is almost musical.

From stuff dreamed up by the engineers to computer designs and FEA and then on to machining fabrication and testing all of Rocky s aluminum protoypes are built here.
  From stuff dreamed up by the engineers to computer designs and FEA and then on to machining, fabrication and testing, all of Rocky's prototypes are built here.

XXX discusses
  MTB Design Manager D'Arcy O'Connor discusses CEN testing and FEA testing the new Element 29 Carbon for pedal load.

Audio Loading...


Rocky Mountain has their own shop so while the production bikes are made overseas they do all their own protoyping and custom work in house.
  Rocky Mountain's fabrication shop, while the production bikes are made overseas, all their own prototyping and custom work is done in house. Rocky has their own CNC machine and they can make pretty much anything they need for new prototypes and custom one off's in house.

XXX cuts a joint on a tube for a new frame for Thomas Vanderham.
  Engineer Joe Kerekes cuts a joint on a tube for a new Flatline frame for Thomas Vanderham.

Rocky has their own CNC machine and they can make pretty much anything they need for new protoypes and custom one off s in house.

These XXX start life as a solid block of aluminum before being shaped by the CNC machine
  This Element 29 RSL custom shock hardware starts life as a solid block of aluminum before being shaped by the CNC machine

A few small aluminum bits are first shaped on the CNC machine then cut off of the aluminum block.
  After being shaped on the CNC machine, D'Arcy then cuts them off of the aluminum block...

After that they re cut down to the final tolerance on the lathe.
  ...and then they're cut down to the final tolerance on the lathe.

After that they re cut down to the final tolerance on the lathe.
Building bikes is rough dirty work
  Building bikes is rough dirty work

Tucked away in a back corner we found stacks of old designs stored away.
  Tucked away in a back corner we found stacks of old designs stored away.

A new frame sits on the table atop plans for a new custom Flatline being built up for Thomas Vanderham
  A new frame sits on the table atop plans for a new custom Flatline being built up for Thomas Vanderham

Thomas Flatline waiting to be welded up... prototype facility and Vanderham flatline audio
  Thomas' Flatline waiting to be welded up...

Audio Loading...


As well as custom machining Rocky also does their own welding and heat treating in house basically it s a full fledged fabrication shop.
As well as prototyping and building bikes in house Rocky also does all of their own testing. They perform all of the required frame tests as well as a few of their own proprietary tests.
  As well as prototyping and building bikes in house Rocky also does all of their own testing. They perform all of the required frame tests, as well as a few of their own proprietary tests.

Rocky built their own custom wheel deflection measuring tool
  Rocky built their own custom wheel deflection measuring tool

Pretty simple really a weight is hung from one side of the rim and the amount of deflection is measured with a micrometer. Rocky measures their own wheels as well as plenty of the competitions to see how they measure up.
  Pretty simple really, a weight is hung from one side of the rim and the amount of deflection is measured with a micrometer. Rocky measures their own wheels as well as plenty of the competitions to see how they measure up.

  A new Element 29 RSL is put through fatigue testing...

Rocky s frame deflection test machine. They test various tubing shapes and thicknesses to assess frame stiffness and get hard results.
  As well as designing their own wheel deflection test Rocky also created their own frame stiffness test.

Audio Loading...


The bolt jiggler This thing tests bolts and how well they hold up under the constant simulated abuse of riding on rough ground...
  The "bolt jiggler" This thing tests suspension bolts and how well they hold up under the constant simulated abuse of riding on rough ground...

Audio Loading...


Old bicycles are found everywhere these guys date back to the 1980 s...
  Old bicycles are found everywhere, these late 80's Rocky Mountain Sherpa and Discovery models are used for cruising to the beach after work!

Racks of old frames dating back to the start of the company.
Pete Vallance shows off and old Rocky Mountain Edge.
  Pete Vallance shows off an old Rocky Mountain Edge TO DH frame.

Brett Tippie poses with the very first RM9 as well as an early painted production model. Remember this bike
  Brett Tippie poses with the very first RM9 as well as an early painted production model. Remember this bike?

Audio Loading...


Rocky has a pretty good museum of old bikes sitting around. We managed to find Wade Simmons RM7 frame from back in the day...
  Rocky has a pretty good museum of old bikes sitting around. We even managed to find Wade Simmons RM7 frame from back in the day...

Views: 5,342    Faves: 51    Comments: 4


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77 Comments

  • + 20
 How do you not love Tippie!
  • + 13
 I wanna know what he drinks in the morning. I want that energy! Maybe unicorn tears?
  • + 3
 haha, I love Wade's bike building philosophy. couple a rims, tire and some tubes....let's ride!
[Reply]
  • + 16
 Cooooool. Love my Rocky Mountain. Four years and goin' strong on the trail. Quality bikes.
[Reply]
  • + 12
 Great article, i love seeing the design, engineering and manufacturing within the bicycle industry. Its much more interesting and clear what the designer intended the bike for coming straight from the horses mouth rather than being spun by the marketing man. Refreshing way of advertising your brand and product, and would give me as a potential customer great confidence in final product seeing all the processes taken from the computer to the final product. Almost the perfect article with great photos and good videos. More please!
  • - 3
 Say NO to spandex!
  • + 1
 what dafuq?
  • - 1
 You guys will realize what I'm talking about when you are blinded by a moose knuckle.

www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-10-worst-moose-knuckles-at-the-olympics
[Reply]
  • + 11
 Amazing! I'm pretty excited for this to arrive! The BC edition is going to kill it!
  • + 1
 It ate up the Nimby Fifty course
  • + 1
 Did you try this one?
  • + 3
 It's sitting in my garage Mike!
  • + 2
 Very cool. Are you doing a review anytime soon?...Fancy lending me it for a spin Wink
  • - 13
 I would rather have a trek superfly 100, they look so much cleaner
  • + 1
 I can't Mike! Such limited time on this bike - only a few weeks.
  • + 1
 @theskidkid - pretty useless comment there dude.

@leelau - Yeah, no worries. I'm sure I'll get a go on one at at some point. Online or Mag review?
  • + 2
 Its for MTBR mike - its up on their site. Sorry I don't want to spam on this thread as it doesn't seem cool
[Reply]
  • + 11
 I like the subtle maple leaf!
  • + 1
 Hah I saw that too. This article really shows how much effort is put forth in making a new bike. I know understand the prices for these things, respect guys, keep making the machines we are all passionate about!
[Reply]
  • + 5
 A little off topic here, but I just wanted to say that I really liked the use of Audio in the video. Not only did the interviews sound nice and clean (not always the case with videos I've seen here) but your use of the audio while they were riding was great. Mic'ing the riders as they rode the trail added some excitement to the overall feel of the riding footage. Thats something I don't think a lot of filmmakers think of. Just hearing those tires and wheels chatter over the roots immediatly brought me into the scene and made me want to get out and ride. Kudos to whoever put that piece together.

Back on topic, I love Rocky Mountain too. I rode my Switch for many trouble-free years.
  • + 1
 I really enjoyed this edit too despite the great feel wasn't entirely sure why... but you're right the sound is gooood. Very atmospheric.
[Reply]
  • + 7
 Tippie and Simmons, that RM7, those RAD tubed frames...this was the absolute shiznit when I first started riding.
  • + 2
 Hell yeah man. I have a 2001 RM6 and a 2003 RM7 frame adorning the wall in my garage. So glad I never got rid of them, so fun to look at, and great to remember sending it on them.
[Reply]
  • + 7
 this is why I love Rocky Mountain!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 Love my RM Slayer, the smoothlink suspension has a noticeable "snap" under chain tension. It's possibly the perfect bike for riding in Scotland and also really like the look of the Element BC edition.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Until Rocky starts standing behind their carbon frames I see no reason to get excited. I cracked an Altitude RSL last year near the bottom bracket and they refused to warranty. It was less than 8 months old and was my XC bike!!!! I will never again own a Rocky product.
  • - 3
 There are folks who've posted complaints in mtbr's rocky mountain forum about the warranty as well, so mtxandy isn't alone with issues. Apparently riding the ABC pivots in really muddy conditions, and allowing the hardware to loosen, will actually grind away the carbon fiber of the chainstay where the pivots are installed. There are photos there in one of the threads. At least with cartridge bearings, when the bolts are loose all you're doing is pitting the bearings inside the cartridge.
  • + 9
 Yes. If you ride hard constantly, in crappy conditions, and never inspect your pivots, after a year you will have damaged them. - UNIVERSAL TRUISM.
[Reply]
  • + 6
 The BC edition is quite the bike
[Reply]
  • + 2
 I loved this article. Im still riding my RM7. Its still as tight as the day I bought it.That speaks volumes of the quality we have come to expect from Rocky Mountain. Rocky mountain bikes Rock!!
[Reply]
  • + 5
 I wish i could just go and grab whatever i want
[Reply]
  • + 5
 That bike is lighter than an albino polar bear!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Great article. I love my Element 70 MSL, it has been the best bike I have ever ridden so I'm excited to see if they have improved upon what I already deemed was perfect. So stoked to see Rocky pumping out killer bikes again.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Love Rocky, fave company hands down. I also love how they pretty much gave to big middle finger to the Big red S and it's FSR patent and moved the link haha.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 I've had 3 Rocky Mountains. I loved all of them. Rocky Mountain makes nice enough bikes, but their policy of not dealing with customers directly has driven me away permanently. I broke a linkage bolt on my Slayer SXC... after a long phone number search (no phone number or email on their website), I finally got in touch with someone at R.M. on the phone. Even though I was willing to pay right then and there they made me go though my dealer.... problem was, the dealer went out of business 2 years previously. I told them this and they said "sorry, that's our policy". So finally after calling around to every bike shop in the area, I found one who was willing to deal with them. 3 weeks later I got the replacement linkage bolt... in the mean time I bought an Intense Tracer. When I got SXC fixed I immediately put it on ebay.

Here's what they have on their website as a means of contact:
"Contact Us
Please contact your nearest dealer for any questions concerning your Rocky Mountain Bike.
To find your local dealer please Click here"

They also have a email address (info@bikes.com) but if you email them concerning parts, they tell you to go to your nearest RM dealer.

Until they change their customer service policies, I'll never even consider buying another bike from Rocky Mountain again. It's a shame their customer service policies suck because their bikes are top notch.
  • + 2
 That's been a complaint for years now, and they still won't listen to customer complaints. I think the problem is less with rocky mountain and more with their owners, procycle group, holding onto the reins a little too tightly.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I think this bike is pretty pimp, but I dislike/hate Raceface cranks/BB. They shift poorly and wear out way too fast. Love their other products though.
  • + 3
 There is no denying they had some serious issues in the past... Good news:

1. We've been riding the new generation of rings for an honest year, and they work flawlessly. So RF is back baby. Cranks are lighter and stiffer than the other guys, shift great, have more flexible gear ratios, and they are our boys down the street!

2. BB: after what, 4 years of making BB92 frames, RF pressfit BB's have proven to be more durable, and spin WAY more freely than Shimano.

Bankruptcy was the best thing that could have evr happened to RF. They are back and CRUSHING it. Wait to see what else they're working on...
  • + 1
 I'm sorry, saying Race Face BB's are smoother/more durable than Shimano just isn't true. I have both. I know you're the publicity guy, but come on. By the way I have a Rocky Mountain and I love it.
  • + 1
 Jhou and jfyfe. The new Turbine stuff is PIMP. Dare I say it again? PIMP and works exceedingly well. I don't know if its better than Shimano but it sure works well and that's after 1 year of pretty hard riding
  • + 2
 The new race face bearings are better than the Shimano offering at least in press fit form. The Shimano press fit bearings are junk and seize very quickly. I have replaced more than three in just over a year.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Just rode an aluminum 29" Element at a demo. The thing I liked the least was the frame flex, if the carbon solves this they will be killer bikes.
  • + 1
 THis thing is redonkulously stiff
  • + 2
 If it is anywhere near as stiff as the 26" version it'll be a huge win. The torsional stiffness of the MSL is pretty much mindblowing compared to other company's carbon offerings.
  • + 1
 Nice. Was not impressed with the stiffness of the the carbon Enduros when I checked one out. If Rocky builds stiffer not just lighter a carbon would be worth the extra $$.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 really nice article! Rocky Mountain are doing things the right way!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 never trust someone with a dirty espresso machine. they may as well boil cutting fluid. haha. good looking bikes.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 29 inches wheels on a mtb just look strange... no matter how good it rides.
  • + 0
 there called clown wheels.
  • + 1
 You know what's funny? Everyone here has been staring at 29'ers so long, it's 26" wheels that look weird to us now!
  • + 1
 "You know what's funny? Everyone here has been staring at 29'ers so long, it's 26" wheels that look weird to us now!"

@RMB-PM: YUP!! rode my buddy's Stanton Slackline 26er for 1km on a trail ride the other day, and could have sworn I was looking at 24" wheels down there?

Got back on my Stumpy 29er and it was nice to be home

we came up with snappy retort to all the jibes about "wagon wheels", "Clown wheels", "hybrids"

26 wheels? "Micro Scooter"! Wink
[Reply]
  • + 0
 what is this craziness with the 29 ers. I would stay with 26rs , it looks like a very good company trick to persuade people to change their bikes & sell , sell , sell .........ell
  • + 2
 Bigger wheels ARE better...especially for XC which the element platform is marketed towards. Rocky has tested the Element MSL already and declared the things to be 650B compatible, and they've dropped all the 26" hardtails from the XC racing model range above the trailhead model. I'm expecting full suspension Element 650B and hardtail 650Bs for next season.
  • + 1
 Try a 29er, they ride great for XC. Unless you have flat, root and rock free trails, then they don't really shine.
  • + 1
 Not great for steep uphills or steep downhills either. They have their place, it's just not where I ride.
[Reply]
  • + 4
 Great article!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 " the bike's $7,999 999 USD asking price." Thats got to be a typo right?
  • + 3
 No it isn't.Top end bikes are not cheap. A full XTR or XX groupset alone will set you back over $2k.
  • + 3
 Yes but they aren't selling this for 8 million dollars.....
  • + 4
 The price is comparable to any company's high end carbon offerings.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 i've got that RM7 Wade Simmons signature! it's great!
www.pinkbike.com/photo/8008838
[Reply]
  • + 3
 29ers still look weird
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Love the technical drawing and how cool it must be just to grab whatever you need from the warehouse. Good life.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Ian-
Do you know when these will be available to order through a Rocky dealer?
  • + 1
 To be honest I have no idea. Send me a message tomorrow to remind me and I'll check with Rocky and see what they say.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Wasn't that Wade Simmons signature RM7 from like 2005? If that's back in the day then I must be getting really old..
[Reply]
  • + 1
 that xc rig is pretty sick. some uber rich dude is going to be really happy when he buys that.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 pretty good article I must say
[Reply]
  • + 1
 cant wait to get my hands on one!!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 urrrm i thought vanderham was off RM ?
[Reply]
  • + 1
 are they making hydroforming in house for prototypes love this article !!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Hmmm, no Taiwanese to be found anywhere.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 the 999 RSL looks really nice. But not quite 8 million dollars nice.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 For that price the coffee machine better come with it too.
[Reply]
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