Review: Rocky Mountain Element

A no-nonsense, race-bred steed with a thirst for pure speed

The Rocky Mountain Element has long been a bike with a racer-like disposition, and the new 970 RSL continues that tradition. Of all the bikes in this year's Bible, the Element would be the one most comfortable at the start of a stage race.

With 29-inch wheels and a lightweight, stiff carbon frame, the Element is clearly designed to cover ground at speed. And with some of the steepest angles in this year's test, it's a cross-country beast with a bias toward climbing efficiency. When the Element's adjustable Ride-9 geometry is set in the steepest position, the head angle is 70 degrees and the seat angle a climb-crushing 75.5 degrees. Testers found this geometry to be ideal on the rolling ups-and-downs of our test circuit. Once the wheels were up to speed they felt unstoppable, making short order of the endless punchy climbs and diving into subsequent descents with nary a pause for reflection. On the Element, the game plan was simple: Keep stomping on the pedals and the speed would follow. It begs to be ridden hard, with its pedaling-friendly suspension rewarding explosive, out-of-the-saddle efforts.

Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element
Rocky Mountain Element

Some testers noted that the bike's planted, stable feel came at the expense of playfulness, but all agreed that such a trade-off is to be expected of a race-bred steed. For such a spartan XC workhorse, however, I was impressed with the bike's handling in more technical terrain. The 120-millimeter Fox 34 Float Performance Elite fork was a godsend, helping to negotiate chunky descents while running the geometry in the steepest setting. For its part, the 100-millimeter Fox Float DPS Performance Elite shock did adequate duty through small bumps with the sag at 30 percent. I ran the shock open for the entire test and never needed the remote lockout, though this feature could come in handy for racers who can accept a cluttered cockpit for the convenience of a bar-mounted lockout lever.

Other highlights were the reliable Shimano XT brakes and XT drivetrain with an XTR rear derailleur, the combination of which delivered ultra-crisp shifting. It was also comforting to see a race bike equipped with a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post, and we felt the overall component spec represented fair value for the $5,300 price tag

MSRP: $5,300

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 Q&A with Rocky Mountain coming soon…

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Welcome to the 2017 Bible of Bike Tests