The last few seasons saw Rocky Mountain's downhill bike, the Flatline, take a backseat to their all-mountain and trail offerings, but sightings of various prototypes everywhere from the Red Bull Rampage
to the World Cup circuit made it clear that a new bike was on the way, although it was anybody's guess as to when it would make it to market. After nearly four years of development, the speculation can finally be put to rest, and the Maiden will officially be rolling into shops by early October.
The new bike is a full carbon fiber affair, with 200mm of rear travel delivered by a mega-sized version of Rocky's Smoothlink suspension. 27.5” wheels are spec'd on the complete build kits, but 26” wheels haven't been put out to pasture just yet. There are two rear wheel positions, and with the addition of a custom lower head tube spacer the geometry can be corrected so that no matter what size wheels are used the ride feel is nearly identical. A four position chip also allows for further geometry adjustment for both wheel sizes. Depending on the chip's orientation, with 27.5” wheels the head angle can be set from 63º to 63.8º.
• Intended use: downhill
• Travel: 200mm
• Full carbon frame
• 425mm chainstays
• 27.5" or 26" wheels
• 12 x 157mm rear spacing
• PressFit BB107 bottom bracket
• Sizes S, M, L, XL
• Weight: N/A
• Price: $4499 - $10499 USD
There will be four complete bikes offered: the Maiden Unlimited, World Cup, Pro, and Park as well as a frame only option, all in sizes S, M, L and XL. Pricing ranges from $10,499 USD for the no-expenses-spared Maiden Unlimited to $4499 for the Maiden Park. The frame with a BOS Stoy RaRe shock goes for $3999. Frame Design
The Maiden's frame is completely made from carbon fiber, including the chain stay and linkage, areas that often see aluminum used due to additional cost and complexity that can arise from this design choice. Rocky calls their carbon construction “Smoothwall,” which refers to the company's use of a rigid mold rather than a bladder during the layup process to ensure that the frame's shape is consistent both inside and out.
During the bike's development process a number of prototypes were built up that relied on bushings, but due to the larger size of the pivots there was too much stiction to make them a feasible option. Rocky decided to go with bearings, but not just any bearings – the Maiden uses Enduro MAX bearings that are the same dimensions as what are used for a BB30 bottom bracket, which means they should be readily available when the time comes to replace them. A supersized version of Rocky's Pipelock expanding collet system is used to hold everything securely in place.
The return of internal cable routing doesn't show any signs of abating, and the Maiden is no exception, with the brake and derailleur housing entering at the head tube and exiting through a port in the top of the downtube. That port can also accept a Shimano Di2 battery, which acts as a bit of future proofing should electronic shifting start to spread to the downhill world.
A plastic downtube protector helps to keep the frame safe from rock strikes, and a molded chainstay protector keeps the chain slap noise to a minimum. There's also a guard that fits into the v-shaped cutout where the seat tube splits around the rear shock to keep the shock from getting coated in mud and grit. Suspension
Rocky Mountain stuck with their Smoothlink suspension design for the Maiden, a layout that sees the rear pivot positioned in front of and ever-so-slightly above the rear axle. The design has been configured specifically for the demands of downhill riding, with a progressive stroke that's intended to split the difference between a more linear layout and one that ramps up very quickly. The rear wheel has a nearly vertical axle path, with only 26 millimeters of chainstay growth as the bike goes through its travel.
Except for the base model Maiden Park, all of the bikes use BOS suspension products, a spec choice that stands out in the sea of RockShox and FOX equipped downhill bikes that are currently on the market. According to Rocky, the decision to go with the French brand rather than one of the bigger players was partially due to the feedback from Vancouver area racers and shops who had been impressed with construction quality and on-trail feel of the company's products. Geometry
In certain circles, particularly on the internet, the topic of downhill bike chainstay length is as rife with controversy as religion or politics. Of course, armchair engineering doesn't compare to real world experimentation, and Rocky tested out a number of chainstay lengths during the Maiden's four year development period before settling on a relatively short 425mm length. There are several geometry adjustments that are possible on the Maiden, but that number remains consistent no matter what wheelsize is used.
On the topic of wheel size, the Maiden was designed with 27.5” wheels in mind, but measures have been taken to ensure that the bike can accept 26” wheels as well while maintaining the same BB height and trail measurements. There are two rear wheel positions, and a spacer that mounts on the underside of the head tube to correct the geometry for smaller wheels. These two adjustments allow the bike's angles to remain nearly identical, preserving the handling characteristics that Rocky worked hard to achieve.
Along with being able to set the bike up for different wheel sizes, the lower shock bolt runs through a square chip that can be rotated into four different positions, which allows the head angle to be changed in 1/4 degree increments from 63° – 63.8° degrees. Unlike Rocky's Ride 9 chip system that's found on a number of their enduro and XC bikes, changing the chip's orientation doesn't have an affect on the feel of the shock – it only alters the geometry, not the spring rate.
Rocky Mountain chose Retallack Lodge as the setting for the launch of the Maiden, a mountain bike paradise that's tucked away deep in British Columbia's Selkirk Mountains. Thanks to multiple van shuttles and a helicopter ride we were able to rack up over 20,000 vertical feet of descending over the course of a few days on a selection of incredible trails peppered with berms, jumps, roots and rocks, which provided plenty of chances to get accustomed to the Maiden's handling characteristics.
It took a few laps to find the sweet spot in regards to suspension setup, but that's to be expected considering the BOS suspension's level of adjustability. The Maiden World Cup I was riding comes with the BOS Stoy Rare shock and Idylle Rare fork, both of which have independently adjustable low speed and high speed compression along with rebound damping. Making those adjustments requires the use of tools, and even accessing the fork's rebound requires a flathead screwdriver. The good news is that the adjustments are effective – those knobs aren't just there for looks, and a few clicks in either direction makes a noticeable difference on the trail. I did notice a rattling from the front fork during repeated quick hits – I'd venture to guess it was related to the negative spring, but more time with the fork would be required to fully figure it out.
After a few tweaks to the suspension, the Maiden's true colors began to show through, and I felt more and more comfortable staying off the brakes and letting it run. The bike's handling when diving into berms was what impressed me the most – the short chain stays made it easy to quickly snap in and out of corners, but there was still loads of stability on tap to keep the bike locked securely into the turn. The Maiden feels extremely solid, which helps keep it on course even when stumps and holes are trying to direct it off line.
As easy as it was to corner and perform quick direction changes, the Maiden has a ground hugging feel, and I found myself more likely to carve or manual from one side of the trail to another rather than jumping. When I did take flight the bike felt well balanced and predictable, but a little more 'oomph' was required to get airborne than I'd expected.
It'd be easy to take a cursory glance at the Maiden's geometry numbers and categorize it as a park bike rather than a race machine, but those numbers don't tell the whole story – there's a good amount of raw speed begging to be unleashed under that blue paint job, and the bike felt best when ridden aggressively, heels down and fingers off the brakes. Even with 200mm of travel between myself and the ground I never felt like I was disconnected from the terrain that I was rolling over. It's not an overly plush ride, but it's also not harsh either, striking a balance that makes for a very enjoyable experience, transmitting just enough feedback to really feel in tune with the trail.
So who is the Maiden for? A downhill rider who spends a good chunk of time in the bike park but still occasionally finds themselves racing the clock would be a prime candidate. It's a bike that's just as fun on machine built trails as it is on the more raw, chopped up terrain, and it doesn't balk when pushed hard into corners or through rock gardens. It's much too soon to announce a verdict on durability, but if the bearings end up being as reliable as Rocky claims, this could be one formidable workhorse of a bike.
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