Like a lot of companies, Rocky Mountain has an extensive range of bikes to cover nearly any needs you could think of. Slayer is a name that is used on two lines of bikes meant to excel at different tasks. The Slayer SS is a robust 6" travel slope style (that's the "SS") rig with a slacker 66 degree head angle and more stand over height than its lighter brother, the SXC. The Slayer SXC, that's "Super Cross-Country" by the way, also sports 6" of rear wheel travel, but is aimed at the rider who fills his pack and disappears into the hills for a day of epic mountain biking. A more xc-friendly 68 degree head angle, longer seat post extension, and lighter weight set the SCX apart from the SS. As someone who enjoys a jaunt into the hills I was more than happy to saddle up on the SXC for a few months and give the bike a proper going over.
Frame and specs
The made in Canada SXC frame is finished very nicely in grey with a few silver maple leafs thrown into the mix so you don't forget where she came from. As on most bikes these days only the seat tube is left round. The large down tube starts off close to a triangle shape at the front and morphs into a massive square tube as it nears the bottom bracket. The SXC's top tube also sports the triangle shape, only reversed, and tapers to a round cross section at the seat tube with a crotch-saving curve. Stand over is just under 32". Apart from any structural benefit, the nicely shaped tubes give the bike some great lines that all seem to flow into one another, despite the interrupted seat tube design. About that interrupted seat tube, you still have more than enough height adjustment to play with so don't shy away if you like to drop your saddle on the tough bits. I measured roughly 7" of room to play with, although you do need to be aware that the post is able to slide through and make contact with the shock if you are not paying attention. Frame weight is a claimed 7.82 lbs and the entire bike (minus pedals) comes in at 32.5 lbs. Not the lightest in this category, but a solid ride none the less.
Rocky Mountain is calling the Slayer's suspension design LC2R, which stands for "Low Center Counter Rotating". One thing the cycling industry is not short of is acronyms! LC2R is Rocky's latest and greatest and is an evolution of their time tested Trust Link design. It is tuned to take more advantage of today's shock technology and be more responsive to smaller trail inputs. Before we get too carried away, the SXC also takes advantage of the most proven design available, the single pivot. Even with all the rate-altering magic that LC2R promises, the rear axle is still attached rigidly to the swing arm/main pivot. Whether this is due to patent issues or Rocky is more than happy with a single pivot design I don't care. Multi link designs with imaginary pivots out in space are obviously here to stay, but I for one have never been happier with my own personal single pivot bike even after getting to ride the latest designs. A set of carbon stays on the SXC 90, 70, and 50 help shed a few grams and claim to damp extra vibrations better than aluminum tubes. This is a common feature on many of today's road bikes and I was very curious to see if the advantages transferred over to mountain bikes as well.
Both front and rear suspension is handled by the guys at Fox. The entire bike is air sprung, using the top of the line Talas II 36 RC2 in the front and the equally high end DHX 5.0 in the back. The DHX uses the new on/off Pro-Pedal lever which makes a lot of sense for this type of bike, and the Talas fork is adjustable from a full 160 mm to 130 and down to 100 mm if you think you need it. As is the case with a lot of bikes these days, SRAM takes care of the braking and most of the shifting. Juicy 7 brakes and full X.0 minus a Shimano front derailleur. Wheels can make or break a bike so it makes sense to spec some uber-nice and proven wheels on your flagship all-mountain bike, Rocky turned to the French and clamped up a set of light Mavic Crossmax ST wheels. Once the domain of machine-like xc riders, the ST version is still feather weight but should be able to be monster trucked (carefully) if needed. I should really just put some Hutchinson tires on my own bike as they seem to be on nearly every test bike I ride. The SCX 90 is shod with fast rolling Hutchinson UST Piranha tires.
|Frame and size||Rocky Mountain Slayer SXC 90 (Silver)|
•160mm of travel
•7005 Aluminum and Carbon Seat Stays
|Rear Shock||Fox DHX 5.0 Air|
•235lbs in the main chamber
•180lbs in the boost
•bottom out at full ret.
•max pro pedal
•6 detents in from full ret on the rebound
|Fork||2008 Fox TALAS II RC2|
•20 mm Axle with tool free removal
•100, 130 and 160mm Travel adjustment
•Rebound and High/Low Compression Adjustments
|Headset||FSA Orbit Cartridge 1 1/8"|
|Crankarms||Race Face Atlas, 175 mm in Black|
|Chainrings||Race Face 22/32/44|
|Bottom Bracket||Race Face 68/73mm|
|Pedals||Crankbrothers Candy Clipless|
|Chain||SRAM PC971 9-speed|
|Cassette||SRAM PG-980 11-32T 9 speed|
|Front Derailleur||Shimano XT|
|Rear Derailleur||SRAM X.0 Mid-Cage|
|Shifter Pods||SRAM X.0 Front and Rear|
|Handlebar||Race Face Atlas Low Rise OS (31.8mm)|
|Stem||Race Face Deus 1 1/8" OS Clamp (31.8mm)|
|Grips||Rocky Mountain Lock on Grip|
|Brakes||Avid Juicy 7 with 6" rotors|
|Front Wheel||Mavic Crossmax ST 20mm TA|
|Rear Wheel||Mavic Crossmax ST 135mm with Quick release|
|Tires||Hutchinson Piranha UST 2.3|
|Saddle||WTB Pure V Chromo|
|Seatpost||Race Face Deus XC 30.9mm|
How did it ride?
This bike got put through the ringer! Multiple triple digit kilometer weeks on the dirt, four, five, and six hour rides in the rain, some Super D racing, and shuttle runs with the DH crew all meant that I got even more acquainted with the SXC 90 than any other test bike in recent memory. What I didn't need a lot of time for was getting comfortable with the Slayer's cockpit. The 70 mm RaceFace Deus stem and 23.2" top tube put me in that perfect 'all day' position. Not too short as to force me to bend into the bike, and not long enough to take any playfulness out of the bike. Some aggressive riders here in B.C. may be tempted to go with a 50 mm stem but I'd give the stock stem a chance first as you may be surprised.
The Slayer surprised me while climbing. Not because the bike climbed better while seated (as most 5+ inch bikes do) or standing, but because it seemed to motor along nicely regardless of the rider doing either, even with the ProPedal turned off. A lot of these sorts of bikes force the rider to sit and spin so as not to settle deeper into the travel. The Slayer seemed immune to this trait and more then compensated for whatever my body was doing wrong at the 3 hour mark into a 5 hour ride. Turn on the ProPedal and drop a gear higher, no problem. Yeah it weighs 32.5 lbs, but between the fast rolling Pirahna tires, the light wheel set, and firm ProPedal setting, the weight is well hidden.
The Slayer was a blast on all but the most extreme of downhills. With about 7" of post extension to play with I was easily able to get the seat out of the way while shuttling, a big help when trying to ride the burly stuff. The Fox suspension is top of the line and performed as such. People seem to forget that these air sprung dampers are far more advanced than what was available to the world's best DH'ers only a few short years ago. You have to love the trickle down effect! At speed I found myself riding in a slightly more rearward position than on some other mid travel bikes.
The large majority of these bikes are air sprung these days. It makes a lot of sense as it can save a lot of weight and tailor the bikes ride to which ever loop you are doing on a particular day. The 36 RC2 continues to amaze me. I can't think of a single instance of myself wishing for more fork on the front of the Slayer, and it's light to boot. The adjustment range is massive and means less time having to take the fork apart to make adjustments and more time riding. At 175 lbs and being an aggressive rider I eventually settled on 95 psi, the high-speed 4 turns out, low-speed 1 turn out, and a middle bottom out setting with the rebound 2 turns from closed. All the knob turning is very effective and you can almost create any fork you could think of with them. My preferences kept the fork stable under braking and at speed to preserve the bike's handling while still feeling supple enough to keep the front end tracking over the bumps. I did play with the TALAS feature a bit but never found any advantage to it. Most of our climbing is done on forestry roads or open double track but I know that having the front lower for more technical climbing can never hurt. Either way, the TALAS dial is easy to turn and there for you if you want to use it.
The DHX Air 5.0 out back complements the 36 quite nicely. There has been some Fox trickery done to the inside of the SXC's air damper to better mate it to the LC2R linkage. Whether it's the custom work or just the fact the air shocks are getting better every year, the 5.0 on the Slayer felt very good. 195 psi gave me just over 30% sag, the rebound was 4 clicks from closed, and I ran 155 psi in the 1/2 closed Boost Chamber. Running over 1/3 of the stroke as sag may seem like over kill on this sort of bike. It might be for some but the more time I spent on the Slayer, the more I realized that there was a lot less wallowing into the travel than other DHX Air's that I've ridden in the past. It sagged right to where I wanted it and that was that. The Boost Chamber was very effective and I never once felt a hard bottom, despite the o-ring telling me I was using all the travel when I needed it. The new on/off ProPedal switch is a long time coming and unlike the TALAS up front, I used it on every XC ride. The on position is still active enough to aid a bit with traction as well as take the edge off, but feels to be twice as firm as the off position. With the ProPedal on the bike jumped under each pedal stroke, with it off I could take advantage of a slacker head angle and more responsive suspension. The best of both worlds.
Wheels make or break bikes. At this price you would expect a bike to have some high end hoops, and it does. The Mavic Crossmax ST's were a smart choice. I wasn't exactly hitting up any super booters on the Slayer, but they came through the abuse that I did give them with flying colors. I was probably harder on the ST's than the average rider using them but never once had to tension or true them. The Slayer felt much more sprightly than its weight would have you believe, most likely due to the ST's light weight (1630 grams) and inherently stiff design. The Hutchinson tires blew me away in nearly every condition I rode them in. The low stiff center knobs roll very
fast but they have an amazing amount of predictable cornering traction. There is a lot more bite than you'd expect, and when they do let go it is predictable and controlled. Those same low and wide center knobs don't exactly give you confidence when things get greasy though. Again, despite any mud I was surprised with the cornering traction, but there was little to no braking traction while upright in the mud. Compromise's....Other notes....
If you put in some long days in the saddle you may already have a WTB seat on your bike. If you don't then you should. It's almost like no matter what version WTB seat I plant my ass on, I like it. The Pure V was no exception. The RaceFace Atlas cranks are very nice. They are reasonably light yet very strong, and the chainrings shift as well as anything out there. Unfortunately they are an outboard bearing system. I'll be very clear: the crank and b.b. combo gave me no troubles while I had the bike. If it was readily available I would still far prefer an ISIS system though. It has become very clear that outboard bearing systems do not last longer, in fact they have never lasted anywhere near as long as the ISIS systems on my personal bikes. I also refuse to accept the amount of bearing and seal friction that accompanies the system. Why should I have to buy expensive ceramic bearings just to make my new cranks spin almost as good as the ISIS system I had on my bike in '01? They may be marginally stiffer but can you feel it with 30 psi in your tires and 6" of suspension travel? I doubt it. As things sit right now there are not a lot of options out there and the industry seems to have forced this unfortunate standard upon us. Back to the bike review though
RaceFace's Deus XC post is one of my favorite designs. You can adjust the angle and fore/aft position separately without having to muck about with the other. They also put some height lines on the shaft so its easy to put it back to the right spot after you make it through the gnar.
The SXC90's carbon stays really do look sharp. Do they actually affect how the bike rides though? I'd have to ride an SXC with aluminum stays to really compare, but I have my doubts as to whether the use of carbon in the stays alone makes any difference. Sure does look good though!
I didn't mention anything about the shifting or braking above. That's because there really isn't anything else to say that you have not read before. The Juicy 7 brakes worked great and are the best in the biz. A ton of power, even more modulation, and the 7" rotors worked great. The X.0 shifting has no equal. It was flawless and took no attention. It is also nice to see a SRAM chain, a proven PC971.
There are two bottle mount locations on the Slayer and both are nearly useless. The cage in the small triangle of the frame will only accept short bottles and it can be difficult to even use those. The down tube location is as inconvenient as the down tube location on any bike. You can't go and design a bike around bottle mounts so it is hard to fault Rocky too much, but keep it in mind if you use lights that run off an old style large battery bottle. It wasn't an issue for myself as I use a Camelbac and my lights are where they belong, on my head. I also had a water bottle boss work itself loose from the frame. This was a first for me but is easily fixed with a rivet tool.
Yet again the set of test Hutchinson tires would not seat straight regardless of method or pressure. They were also horrendously difficult to install. What the Piranha's did do though was roll fast and find traction in as many spots as one could hope for.
The Mavic quick release is top notch, as is Fox's new tool-free 20QR system. It makes me wonder what everyone else has been thinking with their "quick release" 20 mm offerings!
The combination of using the DHX Air with the Slayers particular LC2R leverage ratio means that some of you big riders out there may have trouble setting up the shock properly. If you're over 210 lbs you will want to grab a shock pump and see if the air pressure parameters will work for you. A re-valve (common in the moto industry) is available so don't be too bummed Tubby (jab at Brule), you can still make it work great for you! If you are of more average dimensions then it is of no concern!
I did have one of the LC2R pivots work itself loose on more then one occasion. The first time I simply noticed that the bike didn't feel quite as stiff as when the ride started. The second time was actually the other
LC2R pivot and made quite the racket once it was loose. A small drop of blue Loc-Tite on each pivot nut and I've had no troubles since. If you have a Slayer it is worth doing, even if you've had no troubles yet, as they come dry from Rocky.
There is no getting around the fact that it is near impossible to adjust either the volume or air pressure in the DHX Air's boost chamber while it is bolted to the bike. It is not the end of the world as both adjustments become easy once the rearward shock bolt is removed and the shock is pivoted down. It is a big enough pain that I had to be really motivated in order to do it on the trail for set-up purposes though. Now that it is set where I like it I only need to do the procedure every now and then to make sure it's holding the right pressure over time. The question is: how often do you play with your Boost Valve pressure? I suspect it's not too often, but if it is then take this into consideration.
Every time I get on one of today's all-mountain bikes, and the Slayer SXC 90 in particular, I reminded of how fun it is out there. The Slayer excelled on every sort of ride, and more importantly it was a absolute blast on every trail I rode it on. My weekend rides aboard the Rocky always seemed to start a few hours earlier than usual in order to get maximum saddle time in. With a top notch component spec, very fast wheels, and amazing suspension, the Rocky is a fully capable "do everything" machine.Check out Tyler's preview here
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