The original Slayer debuted back in 2001, the follow-up act to the Pipeline, one of the first freeride bikes ever to hit the market. It's had a few different looks over the years, but for 2020 the Slayer gets back to its freeride roots with more travel and longer, slacker geometry numbers.
Previously only available with 27.5” wheels, there's now a 170mm 29” wheeled version in the mix to accompany the 180mm 27.5” version. The first models available will have carbon front triangles and aluminum swingarms, with full aluminum frames set to arrive in November.
Rocky Mountain Slayer Details
• Wheel size: 29" or 27.5"
• Travel: 170mm (29") / 180mm (27.5")
• Carbon front triangle, aluminum swingarm or full alloy
• 63.8° - 64.8° head angle
• Chainstay length: 442mm (29") / 430mm (27.5")
• Carbon 90 price: $7,999 USD
The top tier Carbon 90 model shown here retails for $7,999 USD, built up with a Fox DHX2 coil shock, 36 Factory fork, Shimano XTR 12-speed drivetrain and 4-piston brakes, and a 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHF / Aggressor tire combo, both with Double Down casings. Frame Details
The new Slayer's frame shape now looks closer to an Instinct or an Altitude, although the front triangle brace helps it stand apart from its siblings. The front triangle is carbon fiber, with tube-in-tube internal cable routing to make derailleur, brake, and dropper installation as easy as possible. Rocky's designers had considered keeping the brake line externally routed, but they decided to tuck it inside the chainstay to prevent any possible damage from occurring during shuttle runs - a poorly placed pedal and a bumpy road can be all it takes to mess up a brake line that runs on top of a chainstay.
Extra care was taken to keep the bearings contamination-free as long as possible, and they're all shielded in to prevent mud and grit from getting inside. Other details include water bottle compatibility, clearance for up to a 2.6” tires, and single-tool frame hardware wherever possible. Geometry
The Slayer is equipped with Rocky's Ride-4 geometry adjust feature that, you guessed it, allows for four different configurations. In the neutral setting on the 29” model the head angle is 64.5-degrees, with a 442mm chainstays and a 76.5-degree effective seat tube angle. The bike's actual seat tube angle is relatively steep as well, which is good news for taller riders.
Reach numbers range from 442mm – 503mm on the 29” model, which comes in M, L, and XL sizes. The numbers are almost identical on the 27.5” bike, but there's a small model in that wheel size, with a reach number as low as 419mm. Chainstay length on the 29er is 442mm, and it's 431mm on the 27.5” bike. Suspension Design
The Slayer's shock orientation has been altered from the previous version – it's now mounted to a brace that connects the top and down tubes rather than being vertically oriented. Remember the purple and yellow Pipedream that Wade Simmons was on
at the end of 2017? That bike was actually a sneak peek of things to come – it was a prototype used to refine the suspension design of the new Slayer.
Given that the new Slayer was going to be more downhill-oriented than ever, Rocky's engineers set out to reduce the amount of anti-squat, and to increase the amount of end-stroke progression. The previous version had anti-squat levels that were high enough to cause unwanted pedal kickback and harshness at the beginning of the shock's travel, although it did make for a very efficient feeling ride. To address that issue, the new Slayer's anti-squat now sits between 80-90%, and doesn't deviate as drastically as the bike goes through its travel.
On the leverage ratio side of things, the ratio is more linear early on in the travel, before it ramps up towards the end of the stroke for better bottom out resistance, and to make the bike coil shock compatible. Models Carbon 90:
$7,999 USD. Fox DHX2 coil shock, 36 Float Factory fork, Shimano XTR drivetrain, XTR 4-piston brakes, Race Face Next R cranks, DT Swiss 350 hubs / Race Race ARC 30 rims. Carbon 70
: $5,999 USD. RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate shock, Lyrik Ultimate fork, Shimano XT drivetrain, XT 4-piston brakes, Race Face Turbine cranks, DT 370 hubs / Race Face AR 30 rims.Carbon 50 (29” only):
$4,999. RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate shock, Lyrik Select fork, Shimano SLX / XT drivetrain, SLX 4-piston brakes, DT Swiss 370 hubs / WTB i30 rimsAlloy 50:
$3,999 USD. RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate shock, Lyrik Select fork, Shimano SLX / XT drivetrain, SLX 4-piston brakes, DT Swiss 370 hubs / WTB i30 rims.Alloy 30:
$3,299 USD. RockShox Super Deluxe Coil select shock, Yari RC, SRAM SX drivetrain, Shimano MT520 4-piston brakes, Shimano MT400 hubs / WTB i30 rims.
Rocky Mountain's headquarters are ideally situated at the base of the Vancouver's North Shore mountains, the epicenter of the freeride movement back in the late '90s and early 2000s. The trails have evolved over the last twenty years, and there might not be quite as many telephone pole high skinnies, but they're still plenty challenging, full of root-choked chutes, steep rock rolls, and perfect loamy turns if you know where to look. I was able to spend two days getting acquainted with the new Slayer on the trails it was developed on, and as an added bonus, freeride legends Wade Simmons and Thomas Vanderham joined in on the rides, something that would have made 19-year-old me positively giddy with excitement.
For my 5'11” height I went with a size large, and 29” wheels. I kept the Ride-4 chip in the neutral position to start out with, but I'll be messing around with the different configurations in the future.
There wasn't a whole lot of climbing on the rides thanks to the use of some shuttle vehicles, but on the few shorter uphill sections we encountered the seated pedaling position felt very comfortable thanks to that steep seat tube angle. The coil shock does cycle into its travel a bit during harder pedaling efforts, but the compression lever is easy to reach for extended fire road or paved road climbs, and the lower antisquat number does allow for increased traction, something that's key during wet and slimy winter rides.
Big wheels and 170mm of travel can be a recipe for a bike that requires extra attention and effort to control, but that wasn't the case with the Slayer. It doesn't feel like a big, sprawling brute of a bike, which was a nice surprise. It felt more nimble than I expected, a trait that came in handy on some of the more awkward sections of trail we encountered. The 170mm of travel was smooth and well controlled in extended rough sections, and the fork saved me more than once when an unexpected hole suddenly appeared.
I did have a few moments where the lever feel of the XTR brakes changed mid-run. The bite point would be in one spot, and then it'd be closer or futher away from the bar the next time I pulled the lever. It's possible that it's a bleed-related issue, but it may also be related to the Servo-Wave technology, which Mike Levy detailed in his recent XT review. Even though the lever feel changed, the amount of power the brakes deliver is impressive, and it came in handy for doing quick speed checks staying in control on extended steep rock rolls.
I'll be putting more miles in on the Slayer over the course of the next few months – stay tuned for a full report later this year. And don't worry, I'll be sure to evaluate how it handles skinnies and drops to flat.