The Pipeline is back.
Sort of. The name may be the same, but the bike is certainly not. Rocky Mountain's new Pipeline is a 130mm travel rig - with a 150mm fork up front - that rolls on 27.5+ Maxxis Rekon 2.8'' wide tires, a recipe that should make for a trail bike that doesn't shy away from some rowdy riding. Rocky Mountain will have two versions of the Pipeline in their catalog, the $4,799 USD 770 MSL with Fox Factory suspension and a drivetrain mix of Shimano XT and Race Face, and the RockShox Yari RC and Monarch RT Debonair spec'd 750 MSL (shown above) that retails for $3,999 USD.
Both bikes are assembled around the same carbon fiber front triangle and aluminum rear end, but Rocky Mountain has no plans for a frame-only option at this point.
• Intended use: trail riding
• Rear wheel travel: 130mm
• Fork travel: 150mm
• Wheelsize: 27.5+
• Carbon front triangle
• Aluminum rear end
• Single chainring only
• Clearance for up to 27.5 x 3.25'' tires
• Internal dropper post routing
• BB92 bottom bracket
• Boost hub spacing
• Sizes: S / M / L / XL
• Availability: mid May
• MSRP: 770 MSL - $4,799 USD, 750 MSL - $3,999 USD
Big Tires, Same DNAFamiliar Suspension
The 130mm travel Pipeline shares the same carbon fiber front triangle with another 130mm travel bike, Rocky Mountain's Instinct. But while the latter rolls on a conventional 29'' wheelset, the Pipeline sports 27.5 x 2.8'' wide rubber that is going to give it a very different personality on the trail. The 27.5+ specific Fox or RockShox 150mm travel fork on the front of the Pipeline also sports plus-specific offset numbers, and the bike's 443mm long aluminum rear-end is also specific to the Pipeline and made to clear 3.25'' tires.
The usual frame details are all there, including internal cable routing for a dropper post and all of the other lines. However, you won't ever need to think about installing cable and housing to control a front derailleur - this bike is for single chainring drivetrains only. A set of ISCG 05 chain guide tabs are found around its BB92 bottom bracket, and, being a 27.5+ bike, Boost axle spacing is used front and back.
While it would have made for an interesting story, Rocky Mountain wisely chose not to go with the unified rear triangle suspension design employed on the original Pipeline from nearly two decades ago. Probably a smart decision. Instead, you'll find their Smoothlink four-bar design on the back of the second generation Pipeline, a setup the delivers 130mm of travel and also one that's been a proven performer over the years. If it isn't broke, don't try to fix it.
Wide But Not The Widest
The major pivots are all of Rocky's BC2 variety, a bushing-based design with hardened alloy inserts that control the contact area of the bushing surfaces to keep things rotating smoothly. The setup, which evolved from Rocky's ABC pivots, is said to be lighter and stiffer than a more common sealed bearing-based system.
Just as you'll spot on many of Rocky Mountain's other high-end full-suspension bikes, the Pipeline features their chip-in-chip Ride-9 geometry and suspension rate adjustment system (shown at right) that allows for, you guessed it, nine different configurations. You can tinker with this to tune-in more ramp up if you need it, but without altering the bike's geometry. Or vice versa.
While fewer and fewer bikes are coming with adjustable suspension or geometry, Rocky Mountain continues to offer more setup options than pretty much any other company.
I've spent a ton of time on a few different plus-sized machines lately and have been happiest on those with 2.8'' wide rubber. It seems that I'm not the only one who thinks that this big-but-not-too-big tire size makes a lot of sense, with Rocky Mountain spec'ing both Pipeline models with Maxxis' Rekon EXO 27.5 x 2.8'' tires. While the difference between the Pipeline's tires and the 3.0'' rubber found on some other 27.5+ bikes may not seem like much, that 0.2'' of missing tire makes the bike feel more like a normal machine, but without diminishing the benefits of going with big meat - more traction and more forgiveness.
Both the 770 MSL and 750 MSL also come with Alex's mega-wide XM35 rims that should go nicely with the 2.8'' wide Maxxis tires. So, What is the Pipeline For?
Nothing in particular, which is what makes most of these plus-sized bikes so much fun. This is just a first look at the Pipeline, with information and photos supplied by Rocky Mountain, so I haven't been able to ride the new bike yet in order to confirm or deny whether the Pipeline is as good of a time as its tires and geometry have me suspecting that it is. But that's the only thing these 27.5+ bikes are suitable for, having fun, and that's a good thing because most of us are here for that exact reason. Flipping through Rocky's catalog reveals that the Pipeline's brothers include the 150mm travel Altitude, a big-hitting 27.5'' wheeled bike that's raced on the EWS circuit; the 130mm travel Instinct 29er that I'd probably prefer over the Pipeline for all-day epics; and the 120mm Thunderbolt that's more of a lighter duty trail bike.
And the Pipeline? With 130mm out back and a 150mm fork, it could do any of those tasks, too, but its 2.8'' wide tires mean that it's probably going to go about it in its own way. We'll find out what sort of way that is when we get our hands on one soon for testing.Photos by Margus Riga