Rocky Mountain has today launched a new, far more aggressive version of its Element range. The Element, known for being a cross-country race bike, now has descending credentials that, on paper at least, could defy the XC tag.
This bike is a ground up redesign and features radically more aggressive geometry. In fact, not only does it see the reach increase by between 30 and 40mm depending on size, but it also reduces the head angle by around four degrees in its neutral mode.
Rocky Mountain ElementFrame material:
Carbon or AlloyIntentions:
120mm (130mm fork)Wheelsize:
XS 27.5” - S / M / L / XL 29"Head Tube Angle:
65.0 - 65.8°Reach:
$2,559 - $9,589 USDMore info: bikes.com
Speaking to some of the staff at Rocky, they make it clear that while this bike is aiming to be very adept at climbing and comfortable enough to ride all day, it is something of a departure from the idea of an all-out XC race rig. The way they put it is that it's tailor-made for stage races such as the BC Bike Race. In events like that, there is a huge amount of vertical elevation to conquer but people don't traditionally tackle it on all-out 100mm cross-country hardtails that prioritise weight over everything else. Instead, people ride it on bikes that can do everything the race bike can do, but also a whole lot more.
Realistically it's this style of XC bike, your downcountry
build, that is probably best suited to your average Joe, myself included. Personally, I would have little interest in having an XC race-rig in my garage. A bike like the Element, however, is a different proposition entirely. I could enjoy riding it as my daily and, if I were to get dropped on the climbs on a group ride, I can assure you it wouldn't be the bike's fault.Frame Details
The new Element features a whole host of frame features. Some you may well expect, such as Rocky’s loyalty to multiple position geometry chips, even if that has now been cut down to the mere four positions as opposed to the previous 9. The Ride-4 adjustment uses a single allen key to give four different ride positions that will affect the head and effective seat tube angle by nearly a degree.
The Element uses a svelt-looking four-bar system to deliver 120mm of rear wheel travel that's paired to a 130mm fork at the front.
There is also smart sizing in terms of wheel size. Instead of trying to butcher a 29” wheel into all sizes, or even running a mixed wheeled setup, Rocky have decided to offer the extra-small in 27.5”. A consequence of the smaller wheels, as well as the increase in travel and more aggressive geometry for the Element, means that the Thunderbolt is being removed from Rocky’s range entirely. The new extra-small element features significantly more (33mm) standover clearance than Thunderbolt in the same size.
All 29” frames can be equipped with two water bottles. The extra small has to make do with one, but this is rectified somewhat by comfortably accepting a 750ml bottle.
The elegant tubing continues to the rear end of the bike to feature a rear axle sheltered within the contours of the carbon.
Both the carbon and alloy models feature more frame protection, a chain guide, internal moto-compatible gear and brake routing, a SRAM universal hanger as well as shielded bearings. The main pivot nut on all bikes is interchangeable with the one on the Instincts and Altitudes to accept Rocky’s Canadarm chain guide.
The bikes will happily accept anything from a 30 - 36t chainring and have clearance for a 2.6” tire. They also feature size-specific shock tunes.Geometry
The Element, straight from the off is drastically more progressive than its predecessor. Not only does it become around 4 degrees slacker in the head angle but the reach also grows by a substantial amount. In fact, the larger the size the more it grows and the extra-large, comparing both the new and outgoing bike in their neutral settings, increases its reach by 38mm. This is a huge change.
Unsurprisingly, the seat tube angle has also been steepened to keep tabs on the front end while climbing. The seat tube angle is now around 76.5 degrees, depending on size and chip position. The seat tube itself is short enough to put many a modern enduro bike to shame and will enable long-drop seatposts as standard. The large we were sent features a very healthy 175mm of drop.Suspension
Rocky revised the kinematics of the new Element to increase anti-squat, which is at around 103% at sag. The increased anti-squat should ensure a good platform when the rider accelerates.
Rocky feels that riders will now not only be able to benefit from using a lower spring rate with less damping, and reap the grip benefits associated with that, but also access the entire range of the travel when needed because there is less progression in the end part of the shock's stroke.Models
The bike is available in both alloy and carbon, with the higher end builds predictably coming on the non-metallic bikes. The Alloy 10
, the base model, comes with a Deore level spec and that improves through the Alloy 30
to eventually reach a solid SLX and Fox Performance build kit on the Alloy 50
which sells for $4,049 USD.
The carbon models start with the $4,259 Carbon 30
which also features an SLX build, but differentiates from the Alloy 50 with a Marzocchi Z2 fork and some lower spec componentry including Shimano non-series brakes. They then progress through the 50 and 70 to the range-topping XTR laden Carbon 90
which retails for $9,589 USD.
The Rocky is an interesting bike to ride. I've been lucky enough to be riding it in Squamish, just up the road from Rocky Mountain's Vancouver offices and in a town the aforementioned BC Bike Race rolls through. If this bike is going to shine anywhere, this is the place.
Coming from a few months of riding longer travel bikes, namely those featured on our field test, the Element feels like a lot of the things I've become accustomed to but in a far lighter and livelier package, and it delivers on its promise to be XC for BC in droves. In the few days I've had it it's shown that it's fun, it's lively and it's actually a very comfortable bike to ride. Sometimes when the geometry of a bike outperforms the travel on offer it means that your body ends up paying the price, but that's not the case with the Element. It's not only a fun bike to ride, but it's a fun bike to ride all day.
My initial impressions have been generally very positive and hopefully we'll be able to feature this bike in our upcoming field test.