What is long, squishy, and white and red? No, not that candy cane that you just found under the couch cushion...although I'm sure that is still ok to eat. What I'm talking about is Rocky Mountain's new top flight Flatline Pro DH bike. Don't get too excited as the review is still a ways off, but due to sheer boredom (the large amount of snow will do that to me) I've put together a little "preview to a review" article to get your blood flowing during these cold winter nights. Inside we have got Wade Simmons on video from 'Vegas to give us the low down on the Flatline, as well as far too many pictures!
Read on.....Nothing like a new big bike added to the stable of test rigs to get the blood flowing mid winter. Then again maybe it's just frustrating. Not wanting to be anywhere near the winter weather, or Christmas for that matter, makes getting Rocky Mountain's new Flatline ready to rip a frustrating task. But with the family gathering season behind me and some New Years debauchery to lighten the mood maybe things are looking up? After all, the weather can only get better and here I am adjusting lever reach on Rocky's top end go-fast and go-big bike. For now all I can do is check my tire pressure hourly while I wait for the snow to melt, as well as give you guys a quick preview of a bike that will see quite a bit of saddle time, the Flatline Pro.
Rocky Mountain Flatline Pro
And what a bike it is. Maybe it should really be BIKE in capitals as this is one hell of a machine. I won't call the Flatline "Rocky's first DH race bike" as the RM series were as downhill as downhill bikes were at the time, but it sure fits the mold of today's go-fast bikes: long, low, and slack. The frame, which is the same throughout all four models, is sporting some unorthodox shapes and ideas. Someone has gone to town with the 'ol tube bender and hydro-forming machine with the end result being the Flatline's heavily manipulated frame shapes.
The Flatline's downtube and/or fender?
The most obvious result of all this pressure formed trickery is the bike's down tube, which seems to have a built in fender of sorts. Most riders will cringe at the word "fender", but don't be to alarmed as it actually looks pretty neat. Other benefits to the down tube's odd shape could include: extra boost off of jumps due to its winged shape, radar deflecting angles which are always handy when flying into enemy territories, as well as lessening the chance of the bike being pilfered...What thief wants a bike that has obviously been involved in a head on collision with something unmovable.
Riders that have been cursed with short or stubby legs will be thankful for the bike's generous amount of crotch clearance and low-ish seat tube length. Down below all the heavy bits have been located together, with the shock surrounded by a cage of sorts. The Flatline uses Rocky's LC2R linkage to activate the shock, similar to the Slayer SXC 90 I tested awhile back. This version of the LC2R system has been tweaked to ring the most out of a longer stroke shock and has some extra beef added when compared to the Slayer's arrangement. I was pretty happy with how the shorter travel version performed so I have high expectations for the Flatline's rear end.
All linkage trickery aside, the Flatline is a single pivot bike that uses the LC2R system to control shock rate. The main pivot itself is 'captured', in that it sits within twin spars inside the frame. There are a few ways to look at it, one of them being that it should increase stiffness. Time will tell. One thing that is for certain is that it creates a bike that looks quite moto. The rear end is a 12/150 mm affair with pinch bolts on both sides and a stock steel thru-axle. It would be nice to see it come with a lighter aluminum piece here, but the steel version will be more goober proof.
The main pivot is held within the frame and the hardware is recessed
The majority of companies will run with two frame sizes, calling them either a medium or large (short or long). Rocky Mountain offers the Flatline in four frame sizes, including an XS for all you gnomes, so there is no excuse to be on a miss sized Flatline. Despite the options it can still be tricky to measure and fit yourself to the right sized bike as opinions vary widely as to what is correct and what isn't. Below are some numbers for a medium Flatline, if you want to see the other sizes click HERE.
EFF Top Tube
Actual Frame Size (effective seat tube length)
Armed with a measuring tape I found some other numbers that will be of use to you if you are eyeing up a Flatline. With the fork at full travel, I was able to lower the bars to a height of 40.5" (ground to center) with the stock parts. Using only spacers and moving the fork within the crowns it should be easy to raise them at least 2.5". The relatively low bar height is helped along by the 4.25" head tube and integrated headset. The standover height I measured at the center of the toptube is slightly higher than Rocky's given number at 30.25", with a BB height of 14.25". As for the proposed "Reach and Stack" measurements (a sort of modified front to center and height number) I found a reach of 17.25" and a stack of 22.25". Want to know what Reach and Stack are?
The Flatline is no light weight, not even a light heavy weight actually. The Pro model hit the scale at 46 lbs 3 oz, portly when compared to some other bike's off the shelf weight. Stripped of all its parts the frame weighs 13 lbs 10 oz., meaning it will take some smart component picks to build a custom complete approaching the low 40's. I guess the real question will be how much the heft hurts the big bike's performance, if at all. Hoisting the bike with my hands tells me that the weight feels evenly placed, but that there is obviously a load of it. Should be interesting!
Watch the video to see Wade Simmons talk about the Flatline
...And The Parts!
There are four complete Flatlines available from Rocky, as well as a frame only option. The Pro model you see here fittingly sits at the top of the series and is loaded up with top notch bits. The Flatline Unlimited is one position down in the lineup but is interesting in it's own right, having a big single crown fork and Truvativ's HammerSchmidt paired with a wide range 11-32 cassette. Just what kind of animal would pedal that beast up and over things I don't know?
Marzocchi 888 ATA World Cup
The Pro model uses Marzocchi to handle suspension duties, with a bit of a twist anyways. The fork is a big white 888 ATA World Cup that visually matches the Flatline perfectly. Air sprung 888's are not as popular as some of the competition's air forks so I am pumped to give it a proper go and report back on my findings. One good reason to run this fork model is its ATA feature. A single dial that sits atop the right leg can be used to dial down the forks travel (200-160 mm), thereby being a quick and dirty way to make some handling adjustments. On top of that you get the usual rebound and compression to fiddle with, as well as a volume adjustment. Lots of options to keep the knob turners happy.
Marzocchi's integrated stem and the ATA knob to adjust travel
The bigger curve ball is out back. The ROCO used in the back isn't the usual World Cup job, instead being a TST-R model. Marzocchi's Terrain Selection Technology lets you adjust the dampers compression quickly with the flick of a switch, from full open to nearly full closed, usually something found on more pedal friendly bikes.
Marzocchi ROCO TST-R
Frame and Size
Rocky Mountain Flatline, RMB FORM 7005 Alu •medium Frame
Marzocchi ROCO TST-R
Marzocchi 888 ATA World Cup •160-200 mm travel
FSA Orbit Z1.5-1 1/8
Shimano Saint, 36t
RMB Team Flat, black
Shimano SLX-9 11-28T
Easton Havoc DH 31.8, 20 mm rise, 711 mm width
Marzocchi Integrated 31.8 mm •24/53 mm reach
RMB Lock On
Shimano Saint, 8" rotors
Saint 20 mm hub •Mavic EX729 rim
Saint 12/150 mm hub •Mavic EX729 rim
Front,WTB Prowler MX 2.5 Comp FT •Rear,WTB Dissent 2.5 Team RR A.V.
WTB Pure V Race
Easton Havoc 30.9 mm
Besides some tinkering on random bikes this will be my first go with the new Saint group over an extended period of time. In person the new Saint group looks like it belongs on Batman's DH bike, in other words it looks pretty neat. The Rocky's package includes brakes, hubs, crankset, ring and BB, shifter, as well as the rear derailleur. Finishing up the kit includes some parts from Easton (post and bar), and rubber supplied by WTB.
'09 Saint crank
So all that's left is to get on the damn bike and report back with my findings, right? Hold on a minute as that may not be as easy as it sounds. The Flatline is going to be quite the interesting test, as a few pieces of the puzzle came as a bit of a surprise. First up: how about that weight. A 46 lb bike was acceptable four or five years ago, but today? There are a number of off the shelf completes coming in at well under the 40 lb mark (albeit some with flimsy rubber) so where does that leave the big Flatline? And how about that suspension, the TST equipped ROCO matched up to Marzocchi's air sprung and adjustable travel 888. For now my new white and red girlfriend is hung from the ceiling waiting for the white fluffy stuff to finally disappear, but I assure you that at the first sight of some brown dirt she will be put through the ringer. I'm also looking forward to bringing the Flatline along on our annual pilgrimage to Utah, more precisely the area in and around the numerous Rampage sites. Seems like a proper bike for the task at hand!