PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Rocky Mountain Element
Words by Henry Quinney, photography by Tom Richards
The Rocky Mountain Element is a very different bike to the outgoing model. It’s something of a copywriter’s golden ticket, and could have its whole description distilled to buzzwords, but does this exciting take on a modern short travel bike hold water? Or is it nothing more than a damp squib?
In short, it’s longer, lower, lighter, slacker, better looking, and more aggressive while also being steeper in the seat tube. Not only this, but it also features room for two water bottles, geometry adjustment that actually represents a useful amount of range, a SRAM universal hanger, a long drop seatpost and sized tuned shocks.
Element Carbon 90 Details
• Travel: 120mm rear / 130mm front
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head angle: 65 - 65.8°
• Seat tube angle: 76 - 76.8°
• Size tested: large
• Reach: 475 mm (low)
• Chainstay length: 435 mm
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL
• Weight: 25lb 0oz (11.3 kg)
• Price: $9,589 USD
Writing about this bike is like writing an obituary for Brian Blessed. There’s just so much going on, it essentially just seems to write itself.
The bike delivers on many of these attributes in droves. Its headtube, which can be as slack as 65 degrees, is as much as 2.5 slacker than the Canyon Lux on test. It also manages to temper some of the shortcomings or quirks of other bikes by having well proportioned dimensions, even with the geometry measurements that don’t grab the headlines, such as a nice short seat tube and a good insertion depth. Our large came equipped with a 175mm dropper post, which was very welcome because what this bike lacks in travel it certainly doesn’t lack in capability.
Rocky have also adopted the idea of wheel-size specific frame sizing. For instance, there is an XS but it comes equipped with the smaller wheels. The rest of the range comes with 29” wheels. Similarly, each size has a damper tune to suit. This should mean that riders have usable adjustments and aren’t operating near the end of the range.
Unsurprisingly, Rocky’s flip-chip appears. However, we’re now down to merely 4 positions as opposed to the dizzy-days of the Ride-9 system. I’ve made my disdain for chips such as this very clear in the past, however the Element gives me a chance to clarify my position - on bikes as extreme as this, where it’s not trying to jump between conservative and very conservative, I think a degree of geometry adjustment is very appropriate. It’s one of the few bikes where I believe this to be the case.
The spec on the Rocky definitely leans towards lighter parts than burlier ones. It had some great parts, too. The Fox 34 was exceptional and did a great job of letting the bike's geometry fulfill its promise. The Fox DPS shock also worked well. The damping of this bike felt spot on, and struck a great balance between comfort, tracking and support. If the size specific tune on our large test bike is anything to go by, then it's a level that most riders across all sizes should be able to achieve.
Speccing this style of bike is a double-edged sword, and how you feel about how aggressive the parts should be will probably depend upon where you live. Every time we complained that the bike was a bit under-gunned compared to the burlier components of the Trek or the Niner, in the next breath we said how fantastically light it was. I can make my peace with the FIT4 damper and light two-pot XTR brakes, and never felt they lacked power or bite, but I would love to have seen some slightly wider rims than the 26mm models that came on our test bike.
Other nice touches include the either-way routing options for the rear brake and 2.6 inch tire clearance at the rear of the bike.Climbing
The new Element, with its low weight, renewed kinematics and shock tune, as well as its steep seat tube angle, absolutely delivered on its promise on the climbs.
This bike is not only very efficient, by our reckoning it was the second most efficient and came within a second of taking top honours. It's also a very good technical climber. It’s perhaps not quite as firm under load as the Trek, but that comes back to you on technical climbs. It was also the second fastest on the timed climbing section of singletrack.
The new Element tracks the ground very well, and while it’s not quite as supple as the Santa Cruz it is one of the grippier bikes for seated climbing in the downcountry group test. Much like the Santa Cruz, it’s also very comfortable because of this.
The Rocky feels a little bit shorter in its seated position compared to the Trek due to the slightly taller front end. However, it’s not as high as the Niner, striking what I found to be a happy balance. How great the distance is between your contact points, or how stretched out you're feeling, does affect your fore and aft balance on climbs and really becomes apparent on steeper sections. The bars sit in very health range of movement, and let you move your weight around the bike, and exact it where you need to, very easily.
The Element is balanced and steady yet very adequately responsive. The riding position distributes your weight between the wheels very well and lets you focus your mind on the task at hand when the trail gets more technically demanding.
The Rocky gives a very trail-like feeling on the descents. It’s different to the Trek, despite them sharing many of similar dimensions. For a 25lb bike with 120mm of travel, it’s amazing how much it can plow through rough or choppy terrain. That’s not to say it’s anything like an unrefined brute, but rather it’s more suited to slightly more technical trails than the precise-feeling Trek. If you were to try and keep up with friends on bigger bikes, the Element, of all the downcountry bikes, could well be the best bet.
Through steeper turns or sections, it’s amazing the level of confidence this bike can inspire. The geometry keeps your weight very central on anything like demanding trails, however, that does come at the cost of precision on flatter turns.
Everything is a compromise, and I think the Rocky gets it about right. It's perhaps not as trail feeling
as the Niner Jet RDO or the Giant Trance, but that's the point, isn't it? It feels like the Rocky does a good job of picking its battles and striking a balance between making-flatter-trails-fun and getting your down more challenging trails. It also manages to keep the weight down which, to me at least, is a big bonus.
If the Trek is an XC bike with some trail dimensions, this is a trail bike with XC weight. Through fast-paced or rougher terrain, the suspension manages to provide ample tracking as well as a very suitable level of support. It's happy to go into the stroke, providing excellent small bump compliance, but without ever wallowing or falling through its travel.
I think the Rocky is probably one of the more versatile bikes on our test, and there's not much it can’t do. If you’re the kind of person who wants to downsize their trail or enduro bike, there are probably few bikes more suitable. If, however, you’re an XC rider that wants more travel but keep the more classic position you’ve come to know and love, maybe the Trek would be a better candidate.
If you were to have one mountain bike and you want it to do a little bit of everything, from technical trails to steep and fast ones, but you also have no interest in lugging around 150mm or more and travel, and want it to be fantastically light and efficient, then I can’t imagine this leaving you disappointed.
However, if you got this bike to really liven up flat trails, then this might just be a little too capable, if there can be such a thing.
"HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO THE SPUR"
Feel free to rearrange the order of the last 4 or 5
Yeah no shops are demoing bikes right now. If we have excess bikes they're going on the sales floor.
"Element has up to one degree slacker HTA but less standover. Otherwise nearly identical"
Give the SID fork on a Spur a couple months, the bushings will provide an adjustment for variable geometry.
On the other hand.. i LOVE Transition =)
@blaaaaaaaaaah: spoiler alert--Levy is 'blown away' by both. Kazimer isn't interested enough to swap in a handlebar, but he'll take your click
I think a head-to-head comparison between the Spur and the Element would be fun to see/watch/read. Same parts, different frame.
While I accept that the better is the enemy of the good, I dare say that most people won’t ever be able to tell the difference (me included).
I love rim talk. But you can’t possibly be serious that you have a different riding experience when switching from 24 to 26 mm rims. But I detect no other satire so...?
Honestly, it doesn't really matter. Internal rim width is half marketing and half magic fairy dust.
I've ridden 30mm inner width rims (Velocity P35) for almost 6 years and I have absolutely no issue with the 25mm ones + I prefer the rounder shape of the tyre compared to the squarer shape I had before.
The price on that Element is just effing crazy, though. I feel like Rocky Mountain and Kona both have premium pricing for what used to be a value brand. For comparison, the Blur with X01 AXS and Reserve wheels (28mm internal) is the same price and arguably better-spec'd. And SC has always commanded a price premium.
The Element sounds like what I'd hoped my Spur would be - a (competitively) raceable trailbike.
Lots of great bikes available these days, for sure.
You could race it, for sure - and in the right terrain, maybe a good choice - but not suitable for the pointy end of Cat1 races here, despite local trails becoming rougher and rougher.
Looks like Element 30 is $4200 with a Z2 and alloy rims, but I’d guess the weight is probably still under 28lbs.
You're now "that guy" who people enjoy downvoting. This was one of your few replies that didn't have 5x more downvotes and was hidden. I hope for the riders taking your skills classes, and your girlfriend, that you're really a nice person in the real world because online you're a thunderc*nt.
and ya I'm just going to let your statement "you can seek attention and not care what others think" stand on its own as that highlights your stupidity more thank I could hope to. If you stopped to think for 2 seconds that argument makes no sense. You obviously care, because you need the engagement for your own egotistical entertainment. You say you don't care what lesser humans think but you're responding to every response, desperately trying to defend your ego and convince us all you don't care. again, painfully transparent.
I think for racing, especially in my area of the country, a medium would’ve worked better. It probably would’ve put me on a 70 mm stem or so, and I would’ve been able to run a little more set back on the saddle – sacrilege, I know – which would’ve helped in the flatter to rolling terrain I ride normally. It would’ve taken a chunk off the wheel base, for sure, helping it be bit more agile.
Now that I think about it, the reason I have sized up to large frames for the last 10 years has been to get the front contact patch further in front of me - but it’s safe to say that even a small frame with modern geometry puts it at least as far out as a 10-year-old large did. Maybe it is time, at least on certain bikes, for me to try a medium.
Answering a question about downsizing on the spur, as someone who downsized on the spur, is actually why the comments exist. I actually did exactly what the person asked. Not hypothetical. Thats called real world experience. You should try it some time.
nobody is playing a therapist, it's just called calling you on your bullshit. I don't need to be a therapist to recognize a troll that is projecting security while they have none, it's not like you're unique to the internet experience. but please do respond with how much you "don't care" and are "laughing at all the comments". We totally believe you bro, you're the coolest dude ever!
One has to ask one's self if this is worth it at this price.
To each their own, but personally, I don't think so.
If there are people with enough disposable income to purchase this without much thought to having to scrimp in most other aspects of their life, then we have truly polarized our income demographic to haves and have nots.
Now get off my lawn!
as someone from Saskatchewan that rides in Alberta and wants to start getting into BC more. this sounds perfect. I could do the couple of races a year and still have fun.
I did make a small error in the text, it was actually the second fastest single track climber which I've now amended. Hope that doesn't affect your plans too much .
My only beef is that the weight will be a pound or more heavier running burlier tire casings and wider rims.
If I had the scratch (and Rocky wasn’t sold out for about a year right now) this would be my n+1.
Call that version the Hellement. Credit goes to one of the guys on the PB podcast.
I went from a 35mm to a 40mm length stem
It's good that there are different geometries from different companies, everyone can find something that works for their terrain.
Ibis is smart enough to use short seat tubes so it's really easy to fit a Ripley by reach preference.
5'11" here with a large Ripley V4, 50mm stem. My bar has never felt like it's in my lap and I'm on basically nothing but rolling terrain.
Something else was off and you're simply blaming the STA. In all reality, the 76* STA of the Ripley is not exactly aggressive, it's borderline conservative at this point.
I’m 6 ft, 32” inseam with longer arms and the bar felt like it was IN MY LAP on a size large, 50mm stem. I absolutely hated it and sold it immediately.
I turned around and bought the XL and it fits like a glove (35-40mm stem). Certainly the best shot travel bike I’ve ever ridden. Even better with an angle set.
Definitely not a bike for actually tall people
Something as simple as someone having a large ape index can make a cookie cutter size chart worthless for someone.
Either way, tons of people have some other situation going on with the bike set up and they are jumping to “I can’t fit this bike” rather than take a closer look at your bike setup.
Bar rise/sweep, too many/few spacers under the stem, stem length, saddle too far forward/back on the rails…
Basically, I highly doubt a STA 1* steeper than another bike rendered the Ripley unrideable like is being claimed. There are far too many things going on dynamically with a bike for that to be the case.
You are an example that the STA alone is not the issue. Sometimes they just purchased the wrong size.
Fork: up fork 140mm (34 / Pike)
Rear: piggyback shock (or more capable damper than a DPS)
Brakes: XT 4 pot / Codes RSC 203mm/180mm
Wheels: DT Swiss 350/54t custom 30mm front / 25mm rear rims
Cockpit: 35mm reach / 780mm 30mm rise
wheels manufacturing “thread-in” pressfit BB / cane creek 40 headset
Spur, Following and now this bike (in 2 of the settings), all super fun and some of the most progressive in the category.
Anyone have any thoughts on how this would stack up (assuming equal components spec) between Ibis Ripley, Epic Evo Pro, Scott Spark Tuned, and Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 0 (the white one without LiveValve)?
Element 25lbs 130 - such confidence inspiring bike
2021 Altitude max 64.5 angle not slack enough
2022 element 65 angle - RADICAL !
There's the options for 3 specs on this platform really, 120mm Sid or 34 SC, 2-piston brakes and 2.25/2.4 Aspen or Rekon Race, the way its spec'd now with 4-piston brakes, and a BC Edition with a 140mm Pike or 34, Float-X or Super Deluxe and 2.4 DHR II/Dissector.
Where's the commenter who claims that the slack head angle/front wheel being a long way infront of you made a bike a slow slimber?
All these bikes are slow climbers if you compare them to XC bikes, and fast climbers compared to enduro bikes. Whats your point?
Saying the bike climbs fast against these other bikes, does not mean the bike climbs fast period. I know it climbs well, Rocky Mountain has the climbing traction part dialed. The element used to be an XC bike, now its a 1 bike for all bike.
Meow meow meow slack head angle doesn’t climb as well. Same people who say they prefer climbing-because they suck at both but suck at descending even more.
Seems pretty fast for a climb...
Most places I've ridden, the fastest climbers also are very competitive (if not at the top of the boards) on the DH segments.
I think it's way more common for poor, unfit riders to "prefer downhill" than the reverse.
All that said, I feel the big downside of a very slack HTA is flat cornering. Tight uphill switchbacks aren't bad once acclimated, especially with a steep STA.
Same with “roadie” vs “mountain biker”. Fast riders are fast. Slow riders are slow, and tend to describe themselves as a certain type of rider (instead of just a bike rider).
that is, the editors are frankly lying
As you can imagine, in a heavy filming schedule sometimes details get confused, and this was one of those times.
I made an initial mistake in filming and then I wrote the article based on a lot of the talk in the video, which basically has made the error worse. I definitely made a mistake (which I'll correct in the article now but the video is sadly stuck that way). But just to clarify, that's because I'm a bit thick - not because I'm being deliberately disingenuous. It's also worth noting that I specified the correct results at another point in the article. I think "frankly lying" and "most offended" is a bit over the top, no?
We all make mistakes, or at least anyone I've ever met.
Thanks for reading all the same but, yeah, I think that lying is a pretty heavy thing to level and crosses a line for me. Cheers.
That is the best value I see. But, then the question becomes if it is trail bike how much does it weigh and is it then worth getting something w more burly frame if weight starts to get there. I am thinking Banshee or Canfield tilt at 128rear which an also be built to 30lbs with 34 fork.
For the current crop of 2.4/2.5 enduro / DH tires I do struggle a bit to choose a tire that complements my 25mm rims.
I've found the Wild Enduros are spot on. They do square out too much on 30mm rims, preventing me from leaning into flat turns securely like I do on a WT DHF.
Conversely, riding the DHF on a 25mm rim is only suggested if you are an expert / pro and lean it hard enough. For me that is too scary. For Super Bruni, less so.
It is less of an issue with treads like the Magic mary, that thing works reasonably well with any rim width.
What is pinkbike’s opinion on that ?
This bike has not been designed or tested for what is made for.
It’s not a downcountry bike, it’s a crosscountry bike with a useless geo for what it’s made for.
The front of the seat stay that attach to the shock pivot has been so poorly designed that the bearings arent lasting 500km.
And when the bearings get destroyed, there is not enough space between the seat stay and the shock pivot so they are hitting together and this destroy the seat stay carbon.
They would need to make some bushings to replace those bearings or they will need to replace the seat stay with a new design that allow for bigger bearings or, at least, double bearings like it is in the back of the seat stay.
With less than 1500km, having bearings destroyed twice and seat stay carbon damaged twice, it’s absolutly not a reliable bike.
It’s bad because it’s really playfull and fun to ride but with over 20 years of mountain biking, i never had a bike that is almost ready to throw at carbage after 1 month of riding like this one.
I sincerely regret this purchase and i hope Rocky Mountain will come with a reliable solution ASAP for this.
Also, i think it’s important to have people who bikes seriously before releasing them on the market.
3-4 pictures of know racers and 1-2 rides from Pinkbike buddys is clearly not enough to get reliable feedbacks..
Please come with a fix for this and choose serious riders to test your rat bikes more than 30km before putting them on the market..
with varying levels of rear wheel travel, but look at the frame, suspension design, wheelbase.
Tallboy frame is heavier but not that much
But even looking at the different builds I'm not even sure where the Tallboy weight is coming from. I think it has the Grip 2 damper and a heavier front tire, and wider rims. Anyway I retract my comments.
I’m not sure what rocky claims, but I’d be surprised if it’s much under 5lb with shock.
The rest of the weight savings come in the form of careful parts spec.
I think the bigger difference comes in the form pedaling efficiency- lower link vpp does not excel in this area… (but it serve up great traction) … holding 2 water bottles doesn’t hurt either.
Still like my yeti sb100.
"The Spur climbs horribly"... Compared to what?
"Tallboy and Element are almost the same"... the Tallboy weighs 5lbs more!
The Spur and the Element are very close in geo, in travel, and in weight... the only differences are 10m in fork travel and 2 piston vs 4 piston brakes.
As evidenced by the Blur, Santa Cruz can still build a super lightweight carbon bike. But everything from the TB on up seems a bit overbuilt- either to increase durability and lower warranty claims, or just to make the bikes a bit more dh focused. On the plus side, the lower link VPP on a short travel bike is pretty impressive- it really is one of those bikes that punches up in terms of dh performance. Even more so with the cascade link. As an all around trail bike. It’s still a great choice, due to its versatility and descending prowess.
So… it’s a great bike (I had one and rode the heck out of it for about 18 months) but to me ultimately it felt like it wasn’t offering enough benefit over a longer travel bike of the same weight. The Rocky- and the trek with a 130mm fork- both seem to offer something special in terms of efficiency (and to a lesser extent lower weight) that feels bang on for the 120mm category. Too bad it’s so hard to demo bikes these days.
The pm is a short, fat, clueless bro who had absolutely no idea what riding fast xc type bikes is about. It was like having an engineering discussion with a toddler.
He said the engineers didn't want the bottle there. He did. His words.
Its not just bikes either. Project managers and product designers have ruined engineering on all fronts.
If they are going to claim they have 2 water bottle mounts, at least make them functional. Not for pinkbike comments
You must suck so bad at riding you need plus tires cause you can't bike handle 2.3. See how dumb that sounds.
What you meant to say was if 1lb that high up bothers you, ride a different bike. Which I do now. After being very loyal to the Element. Before graphic designers ruined bikes
Works fine for me.
Maybe if you race non-stop for 2 bottles worth, this doesn't work.
However your delivery is pretty caustic. You 'told the person who designed this bike it sucks' according to you. Is that really appropriate? Has is occurred to you that not everyone might feel the same way?
My opinion is that you use hyperbole to express your opinions. In reality the gigantic differences you claim between these bikes, just isn't there. Also have my concerns that all of the bikes you criticize so strongly, might not have quite been set up correctly based on some of your past comments, but that's another topic.
Friendly advise I try to personally apply to all conversations, online, or in person: I never say or express anything that I wouldn't be comfortable saying or expressing in the same manner, to the person I'm speaking about. This is really a useful rule that prevents me from gossiping or just being mean.
How would you know the differences if you haven't ridden them? You just don't like how I say things and that's fine. Im not here to say things to please everyone. Im here to give my opinion. Do you want to sign a waiver that says, these are my opinions, take them as my opinions before you read what I say? My opinion is based on taking my money, buying the bike, setting it up, riding it, using it on different trails, try a few races, etc. Decide if it does what I need, by that time the next best thing came out, I buy that. I dont get paid to ride bikes, or get free bikes to review, or have a channel to promote. If you knew me, you would know anything I would say on the internet I would say in person, and have. Its not on mean to worry about how other people react to what I say.
I appreciate your experienced opinions on bikes I'm interested in, as I can't spare the energy to purchase/ build/ dial in/ sell/ etc. all of the possible choices. No one wants you to quit sharing your real world experiences.
What is distasteful is how you express your opinions and behave in general online. You are probably a great guy in person but like many others you develop this weird cocky alter ego while online. Take a moment before you type and think to yourself 'would I express myself the exact same way standing in person in front of my audience?' I know that you don't simply because you'd get your ass kicked weekly and have no relationships if you acted the way you act online, in person.
"The water bottle mounting system is the dumbest ever released on a bike. Project managers have ruined engineering. I told the person who designed this bike it sucks at the sedona mtb festival and he got butthurt."
I told him the water bottle mounting system sucked. Maybe you need to get a better grasp of reading comprehension. Its pretty obvious what I said. I told the guy who thought it was a good idea to put the bottle there it was a stupid idea. He took it personal. He obviously doesn't actually ride with a water bottle that high up. He said most people only use 1 bottle and it's easier to reach. Hes trying to make a bike a bike people buy. How it rides with a water bottle up there is the least of his worries. Its not an XC bike anymore anyways.
How can I have an opinion on how a bike rides on a bike that doesn't even exist for public consumption? They had 2 elements in sedona and didn't allow people to touch them.