Review: Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt Carbon 70

Aug 6, 2018
by Mike Levy  
Rocky Mountain has been on a bit of a bike updating spree over the last couple of years, and their fresh Thunderbolt is the latest platform to get a complete makeover. The all-new bike is bumped up in travel from 120 to 130mm on the normal models (and up to 140mm on the BC Edition), and the cross-country-ish trail bike also sports contemporary geo and a tweaked suspension layout. One thing that didn't change, however, is the wheel size: It's rolling on 27.5'' hoops rather than big wheels, with the idea being to keep the baked-in playfulness that the Thunderbolt was originally known for. If you want 29'' wheels, that's where the Instinct comes in.

My 26.4 lb Carbon 70 test bike retails for $5,399 USD, and it sits one notch down from the top-tier Carbon 90 BC Edition with its burlier spec that requires another $600 USD.
Thunderbolt Carbon 70

Intended use: trail / cross-country
Frame travel: 130mm
Fork travel: 130mm
Wheel size: 27.5''
Frame construction: carbon fiber
Head angle: 66.4 - 67.6-degrees
Reach: 458 - 469 (large, tested)
Sizes: XS, SM, MD, LG (tested), XLG
Weight: 26.4 lb / 12 kg
Price: $5,399 USD
More info: www.bikes.com


bigquotesSo I guess that's who the Thunderbolt is best suited for: A person who simply doesn't want a 29er, of which there are plenty. Mike Levy






Construction and Features

Step back a few meters and you might be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the new Thunderbolt and Rocky's other recently re-worked platforms like the Altitude and Instinct, with all three sharing a similar silhouette. They're very different bikes made for different intentions, of course, but it's interesting to see the shared design language across much of Rocky's cross-country, trail, and all-mountain platforms.


Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
Cable routing is internal, and while there are no hose guides inside the frame, the large opening beneath the bottom bracket shell makes it easy to swap lines when the time comes.


Like the other new bikes, you'll find blind pivots on the Thunderbolt that make for some pretty clean lines, as well as sealed bearings all around (including the lower shock mount) that replace the bushing system Rocky used previously. Yes, it could be argued that bushings make more sense mechanically for a bike's pivots, but I assume that most of us don't hear "bushings" and think that they're better than sealed bearings, especially if you were riding in the late '90s and early 2000s.

To be honest, I never had any troubles with Rocky's bushings over the years, years that included loads of time on a handful of different models, and multiple seasons on a few, but I've heard that their bushing setup could be troublesome if the tolerances weren't bang-on.


Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
There are two (not three) ISCG 05 tabs around the bottom bracket shell, and a number of chain guide companies make protection to fit. The bike comes stock with a small upper slider mounted onto the top of the chainstay that worked perfectly.


Like many new bikes, you can go full robot-mode if you want, with the ability to mount a Di2 drivetrain and Fox's (finally) upcoming Live electronic suspension system at the same time, along with a long-stroke party post. You can't put a front derailleur on, which you shouldn't want to do anyway, but there is a 2-bolt ISCG 05 guide mount and Rocky's own 'Spirit Guide' bolted onto the top of the bike's chainstay. There's room for a bottle inside the front triangle, too, regardless of if you've fitted a piggyback shock or not.

Frame weight is a claimed 5.63 pounds (2.55 kg) for a medium, including the shock, protectors, chain guide, and axle, which is far from porky.



Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt Carbon Geometry


Geometry & Sizing

Keeping in mind that the Thunderbolt is a do-it-all kinda rig, the bike's numbers make a lot of sense. Up front, you get a head angle that can sit at 66.4, 67, or 67.6-degrees thanks to the adjustable Ride-9 system at the rearward shock mount. I'm not all that convinced that half-degree jumps between each of the settings are actually beneficial to many riders, but it's there if you want to tinker. The large-sized Thunderbolt's reach is 463mm in the middle setting, which isn't wildly long but it is much roomier than some, and it comes with a proper seat tube angle, too.



Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
The Thunderbolt's 130mm of rear wheel travel is controlled via Rocky's own interpretation of a Horst Link system.


Suspension Design

Like Rocky's other bikes, the Thunderbolt employs a Horst Link design to deliver the 130mm of travel, which is 10mm more than the previous version of the bike (the BC Edition gets 140mm). More travel doesn't automatically mean that it's a squishier, slower ride, though, with Rocky saying that they've also upped the anti-squat number – in simple terms, how much the drivetrain's influence stiffens the suspension under pedaling load – so that the new bike can still get a move on when it needs to.

''We’ve flattened out the rate curve to directly increase the amount of usable travel,'' Rocky said in their press pack, ''while maintaining mid-stroke support and making small-bump performance even more sensitive.'' Just imagine being a 130mm-travel bike and having to be good at everything; it wouldn't be an easy life.

The geometry and rate-adjusting Ride-9 system are still present, but just like on their other re-designed bikes, it's been relocated to the rocker link from the frame's forward shock mount in order to shed some grams and gain some sleekness. It does look a lot cleaner than the old version.
Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review


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Specifications

Specifications
Release Date 2018
Price $5399
Travel 130
Rear Shock Fox Float DPS EVOL Performance Elite
Fork Fox 34 Float Performance Elite 130mm
Headset FSA Orbit NO.57E
Cassette SRAM XG-1275 10-50T
Crankarms SRAM Stylo 7k Eagle 34T
Chainguide Spirit Guide
Bottom Bracket SRAM GXP BB92
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX Eagle
Chain SRAM GX Eagle
Shifter Pods SRAM GX Eagle
Handlebar Race Face Turbine 760mm
Stem Rocky Mountain 35 AM
Grips Rocky Mountain Lock On XC
Brakes Shimano XT
Hubs Rocky Mountain / DT Swiss
Spokes WTB 1.8-1.6
Rim Stans Crest MK3 Tubeless Ready - Tape / Valves Incl
Tires Maxxis Minion DHR II Folding 27.5 x 2.3 / Maxxis Crossmark II 27.5 x 2.25
Seat WTB Silverado Race
Seatpost Fox Transfer Performance Elite 30.9mm



Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review










Test Bike Setup

Oh boy, where to start... This was probably the most involved setup period I've ever had with any bike, partly because the ultra-adjustable Ride-9 system is, well, so damn adjustable, and I felt like if I tinkered a bit more I'd get 'er just right. But also because I was never all that blown away with what the bike's suspension was doing under me; it works fine, but it was never invisible, which is always the goal.

The first five rides on the Thunderbolt saw the Ride-9 system in five different settings, with the Fox shock seeing a bunch of different pressure changes to boot. Compliance was never an issue, but it often felt like the shock was sitting a bit deep into its stroke. Until the Ride-9 system was moved to the slacker, more progressive setting, that is. Sure, the pedals are a bit close to the ground for my liking, but this mode proved to offer the best compromise all around, at least for my trails and style of riding.

Maybe there are just too many ways to run the Thunderbolt, though? To be fair, the Ride-4 system on the Slayer proved to be extremely useful, as did the Ride-9 on the multiple Elements that I've had in my garage, so I can't complain too much, but I still don't think that the Thunderbolt needs the complication and all the options that Ride-9 provides. I'm not sure any bike does.
n a
Mike Levy
Location: Squamish, BC, Canada
Age: 37
Height: 5'10
Inseam: 33.5"
Weight: 168lbs
Industry affiliations / sponsors: None
Instagram: @killed_by_death

I'm of the opinion that Thunderbolt owners would be better served with a more all-around, non-adjustable Ride-1 setting.


Climbing

With 130mm of travel and trail or cross-country-ish intentions, the Thunderbolt needs to be efficient and deliver plenty of traction to compete in a crowded category of high-end performers. It does check those boxes, but the black and red bike never felt like it was in a hurry with its Fox shock left wide open. Good thing I often use a handlebar-mounted stopwatch, though, because while the legs and lungs can lie to you, the clock is always loyal.

The Thunderbolt felt active and like it was in no hurry to get anywhere, but the clock told me that was all in my head: It proved to be just as quick up my local hour-long fitness test as any other bike of similar ilk. Like a friend that's there for you regardless of all the mean things you say about him, the Float shock's pedal assist switch was there for me, too. I don't think I should feel like I need to reach for it while on a 130mm-travel bike, but I did exactly that fairly often. Placebo? Maybe, but half the battle is in the head.


Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
While it's far from slow, the Thunderbolt has more of an all-mountain feel to it than cross-country legs during long climbs.


The supple rear-end helped the Crossmark tire on the back of the bike, no doubt, and while I was questioning Rocky's decision to put such a condition-specific tire on a bike that's made to go anywhere, the Maxxis rubber proved to be up for anything. If this were my bike, I might even replace it with another Crossmark once the stock one is worn down from too much skidding.

If you're on rutty, technical trails, the slack setting (with 28mm of bottom bracket drop) might result in some pedal strikes until you get used to it, especially at 30-percent sag. For reference, the new Stumpy ST 27.5'' has the same bottom bracket drop, and it's not wildly low, but the 21mm and 13mm of the two steeper settings make the Thunderbolt much more well-rounded in locales that require some awareness about when a pedal is about to ricochet off a rock and put you on the ground.

The bike would be much less useful if its slack mode were its only mode, so while I'm not a big fan of adjustable geometry in general, and I moaned about it pretty good earlier in this review, I do prefer that adjustability over being locked into too-relaxed geo. And if you don't need to think about pedal strikes and tricky climbs, drop 'er down into the relaxed setting and be on your way.


Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
The Thunderbolt prefers to play rather than smash out KOM attempts all day long.


So here's the deal: When it comes to trail bikes, I put just as much emphasis on climbing performance as I do on descending, and that probably puts me in the minority. It also means that I expect a lot from a 130mm-travel bike. If that sounds like you, then you might not be blown away by what the Rocky does on climbs, but if just being out on a ride makes you happier than a new PR, or if you aren't the type to session a mega-tricky climb until you clean it, I suspect that you'll get on just fine with the Thunderbolt.



Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
With supple, active suspension, roots like these were erased relatively well for how much travel the bike has.


Descending

This bike, especially when it's in the slacker, lower geometry setting, loves to be leaned over through a corner, and the tradeoff of the lower bottom bracket setting feels entirely worthwhile when you link a few great corners together one after another. That's one of the best feelings around, and you'll end up doing that fairly often on the Thunderbolt, but only in between the times when you're manualing or popping off every single bump and lip in sight like an absolute goon.

That's what the black and red Rocky does - it's not any faster than other bikes, and especially most 29ers, but it could help some of us remember that you should get more points for fun than you do for going fast.


Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
If you're more interested in bonus airs than the fastest line, you might be a fan of the Thunderbolt.


That attitude makes the Thunderbolt pretty decent in technical terrain, especially if you're good at throwing a bike around like you're a hungry killer whale who just caught a baby seal. Less blood and gore, hopefully, but you get the gist. But when speeds pick up or the ground gets rough, it's not as easy to live with as a 29er, or even a 29er with a bit less travel, and it just didn't feel as settled in those kinds of moments. More effort is required from both the brain and your body, and while the Rocky is a fun rig at 80-percent, it's when you're bouncing off your personal limits that the bike doesn't feel as confidence inspiring as I would have liked.

The revised rear suspension is certainly active and more sensitive than its predecessor - especially off the top of the stroke - something that's no doubt helped by sealed bearings all around (including the lower shock mount) that have things moving freer than they did when bushings were involved. However, there were times when the Fox shock felt like it was using too much of its stroke a bit too eagerly, but volume-reducing tokens are your friend in that case.

Faster and fatter riders will need to take the time to sort out the correct shock setup to get the most out of the Thunderbolt's rear-end.
Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
One place the Thunderbolt did impress is in the corners. This thing loves 'em.

I felt like I was chasing the ideal geometry and suspension action when I was on the Thunderbolt, and while it certainly clicked at many points and in many places, it just didn't give me that 'Boom, there it is' feeling that I've found with Rocky's other bikes. It is, however, leaps ahead of the previous generation Thunderbolt, but it hasn't made the same step forward that new Instinct and Element platforms have compared to their predecessors.




Guerrilla Gravity Smash review
Production Priv e Shan N 5 Photo by James Lissimore
The Smash (left) has a bit more travel and bigger wheels, while the Shan No.5 (right) rolls on 27.5'' wheels and also has an extra 10mm over the Thunderbolt.


How Does it Compare?

Aside from Santa Cruz's new 5010 that I haven't had enough time on to really compare to the Thunderbolt, this travel bracket is filled with a lot of 29ers. And the one that comes to mind is the recently reviewed Smash that has an extra 10mm out back and is half a degree slacker. It's also a more capable climber, I'd argue, and more confidence inspiring on the way back down, especially when it's properly steep and rough. The Smash is heavier, sure, but I don't give a shit about that. Is the Thunderbolt more playful? Yup, it is, but a skilled rider can make most bikes do whatever they want.

The last 27.5'' wheeled bike that I spent a good deal of time on was Production Privée's Steel-Framed Shan N°5 that, being a relatively limited production run bike, is sort of an odd comparison. It's heavier than the Thunderbolt, too, but it's more capable on the descents. The Thunderbolt takes it on the climbs, of course, but that's not exactly a surprise.


Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review
The Thunderbolt has a well thought out spec that leaves little to no room for required changes.


Technical Report

Fox 34 Float Performance Fork: The Thunderbolt's 130mm-travel Fox fork asked nothing of me after the initial setup. It was smooth, the damping is spot-on, and the three-position compression lever makes sense for a bike like this that's going to see all sorts of different terrain.

Drivetrain Kudos: I'm not sure why bikes come with 30-tooth chainrings when they're also spec'd with 10-50 spread cassettes like the SRAM block on the back of the Thunderbolt, but I'm stoked to see Rocky go with a 34-tooth ring to get the most out of Eagle's range. If you're going to have the pie plate on the cassette, you can run a large chainring and still have a relatively easy gear, which was always the plan with Eagle, but us humans just like to default to the easiest possible setup, hence all these stock bikes running 30/10-50 drivetrain combos... Even though a 30-tooth ring is what was often combined with 10-42 spread cassettes. Anyway, good job to whoever spec'd the Thunderbolt's drivetrain.

Smart Spec: Other not flashy but smart things on the Thunderbolt include the Stan's Crest rims that suit the job perfectly, the 150mm dropper post squeezed onto a medium-sized frame thanks to the low seat tube, and the aforementioned tire choice.



Pros

+ Playful personality
+ Supple suspension action
+ So much adjustability
Cons

- Requires more effort to ride fast on difficult trails than a 29er
- Finicky suspension setup if you want to get the most out of it
- So much adjustability


Is this the bike for you?

This is a tough one. The Thunderbolt isn't a bad bike by any means, but its performance doesn't fire me up as the Instinct and Element did. But here's the thing: In my head, I'm constantly evaluating and comparing bikes and how they perform during Every. Single. Ride. At this point, it's essentially impossible for me to just go for a lap and not think about those things. It's sort of like the 'grass is always greener' scenario when you're dating someone in that if you're not entirely happy, you're often looking around and thinking how things could be different, better, or more exciting.

But when you're content, your eyes and thoughts won't wander nearly as often. And a lot of people will be more than content with the Thunderbolt, I do not doubt that, but I suspect that those are the type of people whose eyes and thoughts never wander, and who have a more laid-back approach to riding than I do. So, if that sounds like you, then the Thunderbolt might be the only grass you'll ever desire.



Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesMaybe I'm being a bit too harsh on the Thunderbolt, but it's just that there are a hell of a lot of killer bikes out there right now, including others in Rocky's catalog, so it's difficult to get fired up about it being just okay. A few years ago, the Thunderbolt would have been best in class, and that really underscores where we're at these days, which is a really good time to be a mountain biker but also a really difficult time to put together a standout bike. Mike Levy








115 Comments

  • + 126
 This bike is for people who don't use Strava. I ride an Intense Spider 275C, and what bothers me about this review is that Mike can't seem to appreciate this bike for what it is. It's not a monster climber or descender, it's a fun trail bike. 10mm more travel won't improve it, just change it (c.f. Recluse). Same with bigger hoops. This bike should be compared to the 5010 - light, flickable, fun. I'm not racing, nor doing hill climbs, I'm just having way more fun on my local trails than I ever would on a 29er. Just because you prefer a Mustang over a Miata doesn't mean the Miata isn't great for people who want exactly that. Vive la différence.
  • + 17
 I agree! I’ve ridden a lot of he new RM models and I always go back to the Thunderbolt. Super fun bike for the East Coast trails that I ride.
  • + 12
 Scout rider here; chose between the Scout and the 5010 and ultimately the Transition won. Bikes like these which aren't specifically good at one thing are another are sone of the best. Just downright fun to ride. In the end, that's all a mountain bike needs to be for most.
  • + 73
 ... so everyone wants honest reviews. Reviews that point out the flaws in a bike and where the bikes sits compared to the competition. ... Mike writes such a review and instantly there is someone looking for a get out for such a review. It's nothing to do with strava. If you are happy to pay for a bike which is inferior to the competition then that is up to you. Personally I like to feel like my bike isn't holding me back when I get out. Going slow and not riding certain lines or features due to my bike isn't my idea of fun. Enjoy your riding, also appreciate a honest review.
  • + 8
 @betsie: I agree. I'm pretty sure Mike is a big fan of playful bikes rather than than sheer speed (didn't he do that piece on preferring the older steeper geo Ibis Ripley?), and what I read in this is that he wasn't blown away with this bike. There are clearly others that he would pick over this. I think the suspension wasn't quite in the same ballpark as this bikes peers...
  • + 3
 I ride 29 and also love my Miata - colour me confused
  • + 3
 Fully agree, this one with a slack HTA, or the 5010, both seem like super fun trail bikes.
  • + 15
 @betsie: most people think they're the most hard-core bastards the world has ever seen and they need 180mm enduro bikes. This type of bike is far more capable than most riders on this website. It's largely a mental barrier She to the travel bracket seeming relatively small. I don't feel like my 150/125 bike is holding me back on much short of downhill tracks. In the end, I ride it because it's more fun than a full on enduro sled. Different strokes for difderent folks.
  • + 7
 Mike, we get it. You like 29ers. You shouldn't be testing these bikes. We need a competent ex racer or just a different person to do these tests
  • + 19
 @betsie: yep. This is a great review. Just because the reviewer didn't gel with the bike doesn't mean somebody else won't love it.

The end of all reviews being "climbs like a mountain goat, descends like a scalded cat" cannot come soon enough.

Keep judging bikes harshly. There's a lot of choice out there, and these things aren't cheap. No company should be able to get away with dropping the ball.
  • + 16
 I ride a 2016 Thunderbolt which I will be trading up for this and I totally agree. This bike isn't for corner cutting, trail hogging, brake bump causing, spandex or baggy pants wearing KOM chasing Stravassholes. It's more for fun loving, every little bump jumping, ear to ear grinning overgrown children like myself. And there are a lot of us.
  • + 8
 @jjhall666: there are DOZENS of us!!
  • + 14
 @betsie: My comment isn't that the review wasn't honest, nor that the TB has it's flaws. My point is that we should compare apples to apples. There is a reason the Slayer doesn't come up - it's a different beast. I'm equally going to say a short travel 29er, or a longer-legged bike, are intended for a different audience. This bike is aimed at the (declining) crowd that just wants fun to ride, even if it's less efficient. Check out how the new 29er DH bikes are faster on many courses, but not much fun to ride. My other bike is a 170mm Nomad. I enjoy riding my 130mm bike on 90% of the trails I ride, and while my friends are faster going up on their 29ers, they always want to borrow my bike on twisty, jumpy descents. I just feel someone with more experience on this type of bike might have emphasized what bike can do, instead of what it's less good at.
  • + 10
 "The Smash is heavier, sure, but I don't give a shit about that. Is the Thunderbolt more playful? Yup, it is, but a skilled rider can make most bikes do whatever they want."

Maybe this is a bike for people who care about weight and playfulness more than rock garden stability and racing at the edge of their skillset. If I want a heavy plow machine, plenty of other choices out there.
  • + 7
 @carlomdy: You probably hit the nail right on the head there; it works on your local trails. If that is the case, have at 'er. I remember back in the early 90s foolishly following the advice of mtb magazines that were pushing light weight, xc crap, and I was riding the shore.

You can't get away from the test terrain influencing the review. Mike is in Squamish and the aggressive, short travel 29er really works for those conditions. They are a game changer in here in BC, but probably not so much in your neck of the woods.
  • + 1
 @codfather1234: 1000 Plus to this. It's practically my Mantra.
  • - 1
 I don't know where a short travel 29" wouldn't be better?
  • + 7
 @codfather1234: spot on! What holds people back 9 times out of 10 is lack of skill/balls. Lack of travel is an easy excuse. I ride a scout, and the things I don’t ride on it, I still wouldn’t ride if you gave me nomad because I don’t ride it because it scares me! Nothing to do with the X amount of less travel I’ve got! I suspect they 99.9% of us on here aren’t professional riders, nor are we likely to ever become so. Don’t pay too much attention to all the nonsense you’re fed on the internet, telling you need x & y, that the bike that’s just come out with similar geometry to yours is now useless. Just enjoy yourselves, life’s too short!
  • + 1
 @jjhall666: So damn sick of the "us vs them" argument. Stop reading reviews on anything then, no one will be just like you and thus ALL reviews you ever read will be pointless. But I am guessing you get value out of the reviews that validate your point of view vs contradict it. We all work that way, to a certain extent... we all want our points of view validated, and not have something we enjoy and often with our bikes.... love, criticized by someone else. Your argument is ridiculous in the fact that in making your point you have to put others down... I ride better than you or for a different purpose so I am better. Just stop.
  • + 0
 YESSSS! This.
  • + 2
 @jjhall666: if you don't wear spandex, and you don't wear baggies... Is this bike for nudists?
  • + 2
 @betsie: thats why they make certain bikes for intended uses. Shouldn't get enduro/dh guys to review xc/trail bikes because they will never enjoy riding them.
  • + 1
 Loving that bolt on top chainguide.
  • + 1
 @carlomdy: Yes an ultimate machine in my opinion. I've gone through two of the past years models and currently sitting on the C50 and loving it. That added travel allows me to hit bigger jump lines and drops with ease on the transition. It's like a dirt jump bike that's also an amazing trail bike and no in between.
  • + 2
 @codfather1234: 3 years back my short list was the Thunderbolt, 5010, Troy and Norco Sight. Really dug the Troy, but the 5010 came in second and I got the Sight. I didn't love the Thunderbolt (even though I thought that would be my favorite.) Been stoked on the Sight ever since.

I'm not gonna lie though, a friend has the new 29er Sight and I think about that bike quite a bit.
  • + 0
 27.5 for life! Jk just got my first 29er and it's awesome
  • - 7
flag sevensixtwo (Aug 6, 2018 at 17:46) (Below Threshold)
 27.5 fanboys are like trashy dipshits driving humvees. You’re stuck with what you have; don’t troll 29ers because you’re having fomo. Just embrace your bike, be quiet, and ride the shit out of it.
  • + 2
 @sevensixtwo: funny because I find its the everything must be 29er guys that I think are the biggest wankers and the shittiest mtbers in my area anyway. Its funny when I blow by them on my 26er.
  • + 3
 I’m 5’3” with a short inseam, so 29” wheels don’t work nearly as well for me. I am currently riding a 2018 Scott Genius 29 so I’m fairly familiar with a modern 29” trail bike. But it’s not the 27.5” wheels that make the Thunderbolt a rad ride, it’s just an overall great bike that I’ve had a ton of fun on at demo days. Can’t fault it!
  • + 6
 Haha! If this was a super thumbs up review, everyone would be bitching about how PB reviews are just paid ads.
  • + 3
 @carlomdy: The previous Thunderbolt stands out in the list of bikes I've demoed for being extremely fun, and I'm 6' 3". No other demo bike has been memorable.
  • + 24
 All I want in life is a DH rig and a Thunderbolt. It's not about being fast, for me it's about having fun.
  • + 18
 Can you actually buy a bad bike now? I ask that as sure there may be bad decisions in bike genre suitability but when you are dropping good coin on a bike there seems to be seldom a bad quality product. As stated above it's getting to the point where its down to personal perception and needs which is a good thing IMO
  • + 0
 yes you can
  • + 20
 We dont need no 29ers, we dont need no rims with thin walls.
  • + 72
 Hey teacher, leave our wheels alone.
  • + 32
 All in all it's just a nother ripped up side wall
  • + 9
 All in all 29's just a nother wheel size too tall
  • + 8
 If you don't like 29er meat, you can't having any pudding
  • + 0
 Go home, take your new standards.
  • + 20
 So 29ers are for people with less skill?
  • + 9
 exactly
  • + 9
 More stability = less skill required
  • + 9
 Or, they allow you to go faster than a comparable 275 bike before they get sketchy.
  • + 9
 @PHeller: but getting sketchy is where the real fun happens.
  • + 4
 This is the stuff that makes me not want to come back here. Its a different tool for a different purpose.... geez. Again with the US vs THEM. Enough internet today I guess.
  • + 3
 Few folks mention it: a big factor to consider when contrasting wheelsize should be rider height. If 6'+ then perhaps the 29er is superior. Sub 6' then 27.5 is going to provide better everything. Different wheel sizes for different sized humans!
These reviews should all include two perspectives, that from a short or medium person and then another from a tall person.
  • + 1
 @Adamrideshisbike: So, your saying the changes like SBG geometry or stumpy evo geo are for less skilled riders? I would argue that nearly all geo changes made in the past few years are with the intent to make a bike more stable. Doesn't necessarily mean that the bike is being built to suit people with less skill, it could be to make a pro rider that much faster...which doesn't mean less skill.
  • + 12
 You can't buy skill, but you can buy a 29er
  • + 0
 @Loamhuck: My comment actually wasn't a criticism. I like 29ers.
  • + 12
 To bad for us in South Africa who are unable to get any new bikes. The last time the local importer brought in bikes was 2016. Since then, no new bikes have been available and the guys and gals (including myself) have seen our second hand value fall so hard, not even Bender is getting up.

Included in this, were deposit taken for new bikes from clients, only to find out months later that the bikes were never ordered. We would really like Rock Mountain International to step in and give the brand to someone who can do it justice, but all our calls to RM International have fallen on deaf ears.
  • + 6
 I would expect your 2nd hand value to go up in that market?
  • + 11
 Would be great to see some deeper comparisons, even to non-2018 bikes. Better than Yeti SB5 or The Calling? That way we at least have some perspective. Everything in the mind can be so subjective. Always an easy move to grab a few similar bikes and do some back to back laps with buddies, maybe grab some strava times for context between them.
  • + 12
 I think the challenge is time. How does a reviewer ride a bike long enough to set it up right then form a decent opinion,then swap and do the other 15-20 bikes in a segment each year, while also riding long enough to comment on reliability and tune in the shocks etc.
The multi bike test session with multiple reviewers is a great idea, but you need some deeper analysis and experience so that it isn't overshadowed by bad setup or geometry benefiting certain reviewers more dominating the results.

Lets be realistic, most of us will buy a new bike based on a combination of;
- personal bias towards certain bands
- what we can get cheap,
- what feels all right in the carpark (or at a test day if we're lucky)
- the colour scheme
  • + 4
 I agree. The Calling would be a great comparison for cornering and small wheeled gooning...
  • + 3
 @Roobar: ^Spot on with reviewers being on a bike long enough to set it up right. With new bike models becoming so genre specific and and unique, just taking the time to adjust to a new bikes geo and style can take quite a while. Being fortunate enough to try many different styles of bikes, I've noticed more recently I need at least 3 to 5 rides on any given bike just to feel like I don't totally hate it. A recent example comes to mind in a 100mm 29er XC race rig Levy also recently reviewed. First two rides out I was cursing the thing out and hating it dabbing all over, now after a couple of weeks on it, the bike feels like a true extension of my body and is often the first bike I grab when pulling something from the garage.

While reviewers do spend adequate time aboard bikes to form opinions, unlike many of us they simply don't spend the hours on ONLY that bike to truly adjust and get used to it. This has me thinking back to a recent EWS Pro Bike Set Up video where the Fox Tech was essentially saying that some riders spend far too much time trying new set ups instead of simply adjusting and learning the one that they are on.
  • + 2
 I don't need the whole bike Bible thing, I just need a frame of reference. I just need a comparison to a few staple bikes in regards to fun, decents, gnar, climbing, strava times (for empirical). Not that hard to grab a few bikes and ride them for a couple of days. Even better with buddies. I'm guessing 95% would gladly appreciate that format
  • + 5
 @Svinyard: ENDURO Mountain Bike Mag in my opinion has the most analytical approach to these reviews. Better then the crazy subjectiveness and wild analogies brought fourth in The Bible? Yes completely. Can it come across as overly scientific and a bit dry? Perhaps to some. I don't see hope in reviews from any North American media company starting to resemble this more analytical approach. They have to fill character space with useless analogies brought fourth by the emotions they experienced while testing filtered through their biases. As pointed out in a comment above, most people are coming to these reviews to reaffirm their personal beliefs. I'll just leave these links here;
enduro-mtb.com/en/seven-trail-bikes-under-3000-review
enduro-mtb.com/en/8-enduro-bikes-under-e-4500-in-review
  • + 2
 @chrischapman: Even better is Outdoorgearlabs. Its not perfect but the format and level of comparison, detail is unprecedented. I'd like to see PB and others start to go down that path as these bikes are so expensive and such a commitment that they help to really dial in your demo-dance-card.

www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/biking/best-trail-mountain-bike
  • + 10
 I am curious as to why the reviewer didn’t compare this bike to the Ibis Mojo 3, that he reviewed 2 years ago. The set-ups, wheel sizes, travel and intended uses are very similar.

I would also argue that not being a 29” bike is a “pro” instead of a con for many of us.

Good review, overall, even if I don’t agree with the reviewer’s opinion on 29” Bikes.
  • + 3
 Probably because it was 2 years ago.
  • + 9
 This seemed a little like a dislike of the smaller wheels vs 29er and being a little more used to the bigger wheels, which is fine and I fully appreciate how hard it must be to review the full spectrum of bikes
  • + 8
 But we have to secretly kill off 27.5" now, have you not seen the tone of all recent reviews and articles, 29 is better in every way because......
  • + 8
 @usmbc-co-uk: Indeed. Did you read that BMC article? Funny, though, my Jeffsy is 27 and it's a blast to ride. I must be doing something wrong.
  • - 13
flag jclnv (Aug 6, 2018 at 8:30) (Below Threshold)
 29" are better in every way.
  • + 3
 @jclnv: Yeah, that's the dumbest statement of the day. The answer you're looking for is geometry. Wheel size is secondary i.e 29er geo is still not correct and that's why you see 27.5 bikes ruling the podiums. So no, 29ers are not better. Ride both and you'll quickly discover vague steering with 29ers and momentum and stability when/where you might not want it. why? Geometry
  • + 1
 @Poulsbojohnny: the BMC article wasn't "27.5 sucks". It was 27.5 isn't sufficiently different from 26" to have been worth the effort.
  • - 4
flag jclnv (Aug 6, 2018 at 11:34) (Below Threshold)
 : @Loamhuck: Yeah but when geometry is optimized on both, the bigger wheel wins.

More cornering grip, less rolling resistance, more stability (show me a 650b with 40mm BB drop), better braking performance, climbing etc.

Maybe 650b is winning the EWS races (BTW who won the last WC DH?) because the most talented rider (possibly of all-time) is riding 650b. Who's winning WC XCO (which is way closer to most people's terrain) on 650b.
  • + 1
 @PhillipJ: Which is what Specialized said, all along.
  • + 7
 I love my unsung hero a ‘18 Thunderbolt BC - my fav for virtually all my riding- Strava stable up and down the hills and nimble and I ride it next to my coil ‘18 Slayer and have to say I love the Thunderbolt for 80% of my riding. Slayer does the bike park a touch better. The anti squat gives the bikes the best feel over my other past bikes my spesch coil enduro 27.5/29 er and my past 29Epic for XC, my past Niner , Mach 6, intense tracer - all coil Push. The above review seems lost a bit, in wheel size debate etc of which I myself revert to 27.5 so everyday feels like a fun playful powder day (snowboarding reference) - I am a rocky fan after a many other bikes- but as always it’s the rider not the bike- skills and fitness
  • + 5
 Loving mine too! I’ve demod the calling, scout, 5010, trance, and the Thunderbolt is just the best all rounder for me. It’s not as plush as the trance, but pedals out of the saddle substantially better. I’m loving it!
  • + 6
 It's just not a very well-written piece.
He concludes he doesn't like adjustable geometry in one paragraph and then in a later paragraph he praises it.
He keeps referring back to 29er capabilities but it's entirely his personal preference, it would be like reviewing an Audi A3 but continually referring to how capable new SUVs are.

Look at this line:"The Thunderbolt felt active and like it was in no hurry to get anywhere, but the clock told me that was all in my head: It proved to be just as quick up my local hour-long fitness test as any other bike of similar ilk." Why the hell is that goof putting his personal bias against such bikes in there?

If he had just reviewed the bike (and I think he gets that part right in many ways) then readers would be better served. Maybe this should have gone through another editing phase?
  • + 2
 This is why at least somewhat empirical data helps. Any review guy should have a stable of strava times (hopefully decent sample size for each) with a given bike. Then go and do those same runs with a few known quantity bikes (baseline) each time a bike is reviewed. It's never perfect but at least effort is being made to somewhat corral the subjective stuff. That kind of balance is a rare thing. Hey tho, you have to praise for not saying it climbs like a goat! Regardless of perfection, I like that these review formats are improving so cheers to that.
  • + 2
 I don’t English good but I agree. I got lost in the wording and really waned off when he kept on wanting to compare it to bikes that are not similar to it.
  • + 1
 @Svinyard: fair points.
  • + 5
 "but the black and red bike never felt like it was in a hurry with its Fox shock left wide open". I just don't get why people insist using a Horst link. It simply does not climb efficiently and this has been know for at least 20 years ... even my 100 mm Norco Revolver is a dog uphill if I leave the shock open. Turn the blue lever and it climbs better but traction and bump compliance goes off.
  • + 5
 Not true man. Rocky and a couple others have done something special with the Horst link. They are sprite going up man. Hard to believe until you jump on one. I've got a 18' Instinct (full 36grip2/dpx2 140mm custom) and rode it back to back with my friends 16' 429 trail DWlink XX1 build with similar tires and carbon hoops , I hardly noticed a difference despite extra travel and Horst. No joke.

Now Mike did reference Rockys other bikes as being better this year so maybe this one is a bit of a dog on the way up.
  • + 1
 @Svinyard: so much so that even this reviewer notices that the bike does not really go with the shock wide open ... compare to my IBIS HD3 that climbs like a goat with a wide open shock and 150 mm travel. My experience with Horsts (GT, 130 travel, Turner, 140, Norco, 100) has always been the same: unless you firm up the shock a lot they don't really climb well. Back off the air pressure and they go through their travel the second they hit a root or a step, effectively stopping your momentum.

But by all means, if you like it enjoy your bike!!!!
  • + 4
 @mikelevy "only in between the times when you're manualing or popping off every single bump and lip in sight like an absolute goon."

The ultimate 27.5 goon bike hands-down is Evil's The Calling, but Evil still is isn't kosher on PB.
  • + 3
 Phil Metz is the king of goons on that bike. He does all kinds of little stupid things on it that look like a blast too. Rides it like a BMX.
  • + 1
 if Phil Kmetz can ride the Calling at crabapple hits then who cares how it rides up the hill
  • + 4
 @mikelevy: a little recommendation: can we list the CDN price as well? In this day of trade wars and such it would be good to understand what benefit (if any) there is to buying a bike from a CDN company....

Other than that...great review, as always!
  • + 4
 So my question is, are there any short travel 29ers that descend AND climb better than this bike? Sounds like the bike didn't impress because it was very much an all-arounder, which is what I assume people are looking for in bikes of this category.
  • + 3
 Translation: 95% of mountian bikers are too lazy or too dumb to set it up right and the other 5% will be able to out ride this bike even if they set it up properly.

Also, why do they give all that geo adjustment and then spec it with the moron grade fork and shock that have zero worthwhile adjustments?

#27.5aintdead really, it’s not dead. Don’t listen to the actual bike company guys who say it is dead. Buy this bike.
  • + 5
 Why not compare this bike to other bikes that are actually similar? Bizarre review.
  • + 2
 Would love to hear thoughts on how the Thunderbolt compares to the altitude, 5010, scout or trance... or some of the similar common playful trail bikes. I ride a slayer, but it is overkill on the local trails most of the time and I don't share Levy's 29er love/bias (not that there is anything wrong with that).
  • + 2
 Super well written review, but Maybe put some proper tires on to make a more fair comparison to the Shan and smash though. Everyone knows tires can make a bike ride amazing or like shit. Crossmark on rough trails would no doubt be shittier than something with double down or super gravity casing.
  • + 1
 I actually like my 30/10-50 gear setup. It opened me a lot of possibilities as it allows me to ride climbs that I'd use to walk. Sure in those cases I don't ride it fast but I'm still faster than walking and I just hate putting a foot down. It's especially nice when you are with a buddy who is riding an e-bike as they tend to go anywhere regardless of the gradient.

On the other hand I have no use of a bigger top end, even when riding on the road to the trail I can still catch some roadies at cruising speed.
  • + 1
 This. I run an 11-42 on my Jeffsy. It is sufficient most of the time. But I don't spend much time in the high gears on my local trails. If I were to run an 11-50, I think it would be the same. Seems to me this is the ideal for most riders who don't ride for a living? More time in the middle of the ring than on the extremes gives you a truly useful range for most conditions. Headed to the bike park? Add some teeth to the front.
  • + 3
 "fatter riders"

Is this biologically speaking or some kind of gnar term that im not farmiliar with?

Will a fat guy have the same issues as a muscular guy?
  • + 7
 @Mntneer: Yeah, being Canadian you'd expect better words. Why not "heavier" riders Mike? Also, I call BS on this review. I ride the North Shore and Squamish multiple times a week on a 2016 Thunderbolt 750 MSL with 150mm Pike RCT3 up front and the standard back with lockout (but I leave it open). I ride up and down and mostly blacks and some blues. This bike handles everything with absolute ease and to-boot, I also do multi-day stage events and the Kokopelli with absolute no problems, excellent time and most of all, with Minion tires (yes, tires make a huge difference)

I also ride my Stumpjumper, Scout and Altitude 29er. This Thunderbolt is the best of the stable that I have and have absolute confidence that this bike is able to handle anything that the typical AM rider is looking for.
  • + 2
 @MMOF: As a fellow 2016 Thunderbolt owner I wholeheartedly agree. I've fitted a Vorsprung Corset and Push ULF seals and the bike hauls everywhere as long as you hold on; I've ridden everything from the BC Bike Race to uplift days and love the thing now I've tweaked it.

To me, it's the perfect UK trail bike.
  • + 3
 The more I look at latest Rocky Mountain bikes, the more I love my old Slayer SXC which is still working like a clockwork and gives me so much fun and confidence.
  • + 3
 Too much adjustability? Never. The problem with the Ride 9 chip is that it doesnt do enough - ie let you swap between wheel sizes.
  • - 1
 Your opinion is not my opinion and therefore wrong
  • + 4
 @Joelukens00: oh my god i see you commenting on all these bike reviews and youre so annoying i wish you would just abort yourself
  • - 3
 @JacksonStall: I wish I could. I don't think you understand the things I am going through in my life. I am so deeply insecure that I resort to making rude comments at people on an online forum about bicycles. Is that the kind of life that any sane human wishes to live? The answer is no. So by telling me to "Abort myself", you are only further confirming my underlying suspicion that my life is meaningless and I am no longer an important aspect of anybody's existence.
  • + 1
 The crossmark on the rear is such a weired choice. It's a pure xc tyre with a full centerline of rubber. Maybe they are trying to emulate the classic Larsen-tt whitch is 26 only AFIK.
  • + 3
 "people who don't want 29ers" are stumpy legless midgets with no ambition or sense of hygiene...
  • + 9
 So degrading. “Stumpy legless little people with no ambition or sense of hygeine...” There, much better ...
  • + 0
 I appreciate your honesty. It's refreshing to hear what you did and didn't like about the bike, rather than a bunch of fancy words that say nothing. I don't envy you guys, there are only so many ways to describe a bike, but I feel like this was one of the most useful reviews I've ever read.
  • + 1
 Rode a few Rocky's this year , had a similar experience , always sort of felt like wet cardboard on the ups , but I wasn't getting exhausted , performed well on the downs but I wasn't blown away...
  • + 2
 The TunderBult. The ThunderButt. The BunderTholt. The BoltThunder. The I need sleep.
  • + 4
 Evil Calling......
  • + 1
 "You can't put a front derailleur on, which you shouldn't want to do anyway"
Thank you.
  • + 0
 Which corners better the Shan No.5 or the Thunderbolt? I'm really only interested in cornering fast!
Also, what would you think to a 29er out on the front?!
  • + 3
 Shan no 5 by a mile and I've spent at least a month on both bikes. I never tried a 29er on the front but one of the employees of PP does.
  • + 1
 @wonnacott: Cheers! I think I'm going to have to demo a Shan. Want to give one a rip!
  • + 2
 Guerrilla Gravity is just flat out hard to beat.
  • + 2
 Put the shock spec in the review?
  • + 2
 You mean his setup? He said it needed volume reducers so it probably didnt include those. Fox Float DPS Performance.
  • + 1
 This bike lacks the Thunder for a Thunderbolt.
  • + 0
 Are there bolts of thunder?
  • + 1
 You gave me the big cancer

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