Rocky Mountain recently released their 2020 Slayer
, a long-travel, hit-all-the-things carbon fiber bike with up to 180mm of suspension and a head angle that can dip as low as 63-degrees. It's what some might call a 'no excuses' bike that you could use instead of a downhill rig, and especially if Rampage-worthy moves are the goal. Freeride might not be dead, but the Slayer could even pop up for some EWS racing as well.
Go back nearly two decades to the first Slayer, pictured above, and it's hard to see the resemblance.2001 - 2002:
That bike had 120mm of travel and had to be good at everything when it was released back in 2001. Cross-country? Yes. Ridiculous, neck-snapping wheelie drops to flat? Yes, and you better do them a few times. These days, I could come up with all sorts of excuses if I was aboard that OG Slayer, but it was known as a burly, capable bike in the period.
With its horizontally-mounted shock bolted to the toptube, the first Slayer also looked a lot like the cross-country focused Element. That bike had 100mm of travel, though, and the Slayer was manufactured using Easton's RAD aluminum tubing that was intended for more aggressive riding. There was also a different '3D' linkage to bump the travel up to 120mm via a coil-sprung shock from Fox, despite coils not being cool until around 2017. The single-pivot, linkage-driven suspension layout seems primitive now, but it was par for the course in 2001, as were the bushing issues that many riders seemed to run into.
While the Slayer was intended for more aggressive use than the pure cross-country bikes, it was only a touch slacker at 70.5-degrees up front. That sounds scary now, sure, but it's not all that bad if you don't know any better.
2003 saw the Slayer get a new tubeset, gain some sealed bearings, and lose some weight.2003 - 2005:
The Slayer would appear to stay largely the same from 2003 to 2005, but there were some major changes to be seen if you took a second look. The new Easton custom Bi-Oval RAD tubing replaced the previous frame's more square-shaped tube shapes, and Rocky Mountain ditched the troublesome bushings in favor of sealed bearings at every pivot location. Travel stayed at 120mm, but they bolted on a Fox Float RL shock with a lockout lever and stuck a 130mm-travel Marzocchi Z1 on the front of it.
From the first model in 2001 to the 2005 version, the Slayer was a very conventional-looking machine. Double-diamond frame, pencil-like tubing used to build the rear-ends, and the shock attached to the underside the toptube. Yawn. But 2006 saw an all-new, much more capable Slayer from Rocky. 2006:
While the bike still used a linkage-driven, single-pivot suspension system, it made the old design look prehistoric in comparison. There was 152mm of travel via an air-sprung shock from Fox, and it came specced with a 150mm fork. The tubes were heavily hydroformed and the bike looked the part, even if there seemed to be a few too many speed holes in the middle of it. More importantly, the geometry took about ten steps forward; the head angle was 68-degrees, and the seat tube was at 73-degrees. Reach? That wasn't invented yet.
The LC2R-equipped Slayer debuted in 2006 and offered 152mm of travel, a 68-degree head angle, and much better looks.2007:
Rocky must have known they were onto something with the new Slayer because there were more updates the following year as well. Travel was bumped up to 160mm via the LC2R linkage (Low Center Counter Rotating) and as good as speed holes are, they cleaned up the suspension area and added a set of carbon fiber seatstays. Aside from the geometry, which wasn't changed from the previous year thanks to adding 10mm of travel to the front, the 2007 Slayer frame wouldn't look all the out of place today.
2007 also saw the Slayer line split, with a burlier, slacker SS model intended for slope riding and a women-specific model added to the range.
SmoothLink suspension came to the Slayer in 2011, as did a slacker head angle and steeper seat angle. Rocky Mountain was way ahead of the curve with their Straight Up geometry.2011 - 2014:
The next time Rocky would start over with the Slayer would be in 2011 when it saw yet another wholesale change, this time going to a more conventional-looking layout with a vertical shock, 165mm, and heavily hydroformed tubing. LC2R was swapped for SmoothLink, a four-bar system that saw Rocky Mountain place the axle pivot above the dropout instead of below where it was more commonly seen. The bike also received their Straight Up geometry that saw a 75-degree seat tube angle used back in 2011, even if the reach wasn't extended to match.
At the time, many other bikes had seat angles that were 3 to 4-degree steeper. It was slacker at the other end, too, with Rocky relaxing the handling with a 66.5-degree head angle.
The Slayer SS, short for slope style, had 100mm of travel and quicker handling.
There was a new Slayer SS as well. Kind of. The mini-Slayer had 100mm of travel and compact, fast-handling geometry for Geoff Gulevich and Jarrett Moore, but only for them - the new SS stayed a prototype until 2013. 2017 - 2020:
Rocky kept both the standard and the slope Slayers around and unchanged for 2014, but the name was left out of their catalog for the following two years. That brings us to the recently retired 2017 Slayer, a 165mm-travel, 27.5" wheeled bike (it could also do something called 26+ that never took off) that stood out for its unique combination of incredible pedalling abilities (at the cost of small bump compliance) and relaxed handling.
This version showed up in 2017 on 27.5" wheels and with 165mm of travel.
It wasn't universally loved, but it was the right tool for a certain kind of rider who valued efficiency and still wanted capable geometry and plenty of travel. It seems like there weren't many of those people, however, as this version was put out to pasture for latest Slayer that was released only a few weeks ago.
Depending on how you see it, that makes for at least eight different iterations of Rocky Mountain's Slayer if you include that newest model. Do you have a favorite?