Rocky Mountain Element 70 MSL
$4,600 / bikes.com
From the Designer
The Element MSL is designed to be one of the stiffest and lightest 120-millimeter bikes on the market while still retaining the qualities that Rocky Mountain is known for: race pedigree, rough-and-tumble durability and technical descending prowess. By developing some new technologies, we were able to hit our performance targets and create a bike that rides like a Rocky should. —D’Arcy O’Connor
Tester 1: Vernon Felton
Years Riding: 22
Test Locale: Bellingham, WA
I first rode the Element MSL during testing sessions for our Bible of Bike Tests and was immediately floored by how fast it accelerates. Ridden back-to-back with other top-tier trail bikes, there's no comparison: the Element rips. Pedaling efficiency is jaw-dropping and while I'd describe the Element's suspension feel (even when running 25 percent sag) as firm, the bike still scales rocky climbs with traction to spare.
The Element truly shines, however, when conditions get ugly. The bike has an extraordinarily stable feel to it—both at blazing speeds and during slow-speed maneuvers. The full-carbon frame is also outstandingly stiff, making for a bike that corners like it's on rails, even in the rockiest of hairpin turns. When you breed your XC bike on the North Shore, this is the beast that pokes its head out of the birth canal.
It's winter as I write this review, and western Washington's singletrack is smeared in a thick coat of earth phlegm. It's the time of year when I normally take it down a notch and ride the "safe" trails. Every time I climb aboard the Element MSL, however, I find myself tackling the truly evil routes—and grinning. Don't get me wrong: this is no all-mountain bike. It requires a deft hand at the controls and the suspension is nowhere that forgiving. Likewise, there are a few select trail bikes out there with more supple rear ends. The Element, however, is one of the best trail bikes to have under your arse when you've gone and gotten yourself in over your head.
Tester 2: Brice Minnigh
Years Riding: 22
Test Locale: Southern California
We've been singing the praises of the Rocky Mountain Element 70 MSL for several months now, and, after another extensive rotation through our line-up of test riders, it's safe to say we're all still singing from the same hymn book. And the chorus continues to be: "This is an XC bike with enormous balls."
Given Rocky's reputation for building burly bikes, this probably shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, the Element is a cross-country beast designed and perfected with Vancouver's North Shore trails in mind. So it stands to reason that it would hold up soundly to the rigors of similar terrain in nearby Bellingham, Washington.
But how would it perform on other landscapes, such as the typically dry and dusty trails of Southern California, or the physically demanding ups and downs around Bend, Oregon? On all accounts, we were blown away by the versatility and playfulness of this bike, which has struck a sublime synthesis between the climbing performance of an XC rig and the descending capabilities of an all-mountain machine. The 69.5-degree head angle keeps the front end astoundingly obedient on climbs, while still inspiring confidence on formidable descents. And its laterally stiff carbon front triangle just begs to be thrown into tight corners.
We've ridden the Element on the spectrum of Southern California trails, from the rocky burl of Chiquita and Noble Canyon to the fast-and-flowy San Juan trail. We've even raced it in the Super D at Fontana. And it always seems to be right in its element.
Rocky's Two Cents
We're happy to hear that the Bike mag testers echo how we feel about the Element MSL. When we set out to design the bike, we had lofty goals. We needed to make a bike that Geoff Kabush could race and win on, and that would be able to be thrive on our gnarly local trails day in and day out. Geoff has proven it's a winner and the Bike mag crew have obviously put the bike through the wringer.
—D'Arcy O'Connor, BASc.
R&D MTB Design Manager