• 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
MTB Design Manager D'Arcy O'Connor discusses CEN testing and FEA testing the new Element 29 Carbon for pedal load.
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.
Engineer Joe Kerekes cuts a joint on a tube for a new Flatline frame for Thomas Vanderham.
This Element 29 RSL custom shock hardware starts life as a solid block of aluminum before being shaped by the CNC machine
After being shaped on the CNC machine, D'Arcy then cuts them off of the aluminum block...
...and then they're cut down to the final tolerance on the lathe.
Building bikes is rough dirty work
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
Thomas' Flatline waiting to be welded up...
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
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...
As well as designing their own wheel deflection test Rocky also created their own frame stiffness test.
The "bolt jiggler" This thing tests suspension bolts and how well they hold up under the constant simulated abuse of riding on rough ground...
Old bicycles are found everywhere, these late 80's Rocky Mountain Sherpa and Discovery models are used for cruising to the beach after work!
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?
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...