Rocky mountain thunderbolt build
Bike's Editor-in-Chief, Brice Minnigh, has made a lot of bad decisions in life. But choosing the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition as his Dream Build is definitely not one of them.

Dream Build: Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt

Brice builds a Thunderbolt that would electrify Zeus himself

When it came to choosing my dream build, I approached the privilege as literally as I could: I picked the bike that had pervaded my dreams the most over the past year.

I tend to have some pretty intense dreams, and most of them involve mountain biking at some point or another. And while a small handful of bikes have crept into my dream space in recent months, none of them have left such an indelible impression as the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition.

I first rode the Thunderbolt BC Edition during last year's Bible of Bike Tests in Central Oregon, and I instantly fell in love with it. Once the other testers had taken their turns, I commandeered the bike, taking it for big rides on the McKenzie River trail and the sublime singletrack around Oakridge, Oregon.

On those all-day rides, which included extensive climbs as well as technical descents, the Thunderbolt struck a sensible balance between climbing and descending efficiency. I kept its RIDE-9 geometry adjustment in the furthest-forward position, giving the cross-country-esque bike a 67.2-degree head angle—and the decidedly all-mountain disposition needed for demanding descents.

Rocky mountain thunderbolt build

After fiddling around with Rocky’s RIDE-9 adjustable geometry settings, Brice has tended to leave it in the furthest-forward position, which gives the bike a 67.2-degree head angle. In this position, the slightly slacker headtube angle gives the Thunderbolt a more aggressive descending disposition, yet the front end still feels plenty obedient on steep climbs. On more mellow trails, Brice has recently found RIDE-9’s ‘up position’ to give the bike a balanced feel, though this position begs for more air to be added to the shock.

For this dream build, I stuck with the BC Edition's stock 130-millimeter RockShox Pike RCT3 fork and 120-mil RockShox Monarch RT3 shock–an ideal pairing for the Southern California trails I usually ride. In the drivetrain department, I opted for a SRAM XX1 11-speed setup with a 30-tooth chainring, which has never left me wanting on my local rides.

SRAM XX1

For most of Brice’s go-to Southern California trails, the SRAM XX1 drivetrain with a 30-tooth chainring offers just the right amount of gearing options. Though he welcomes the recent availability of more affordable one-by offerings from both SRAM and Shimano, he feels very little remorse for choosing the pricier (and lighter) top-of-the-line option.

For brakes, I chose the trusty SRAM Guide Ultimate stoppers, whose remarkable combination of power and modulation continue to make them my hands-down favorite.

SRAM Guide Ultimate

The Guide Ultimate has the same stopping power and modulation as the proven Guide RSC, but with titanium hardware and carbon lever blades it is even lighter.

After weighing the pros and cons of various wheelsets, I went all-out on the Industry Nine Pillar Carbon Enduro hoops, whose stiff rims paired to 32 oversized, aluminum spokes and a 120-point freehub promise strength, durability and astonishing engagement. Wheels of this caliber deserve to be dressed up in the finest rubber, so I wrapped them in Maxxis Minion DHF tires front and back.

i9

After ample trail time on his dream build, Brice is convinced that his choice of Industry Nine Pillar Carbon Enduro wheels has yielded some of the most welcome results on the trail. The 3-degree engagement of the rear hub gives incredible responsiveness and reliability, and it is immediately noticeable on technical climbs. When tricky lines bring you to near-trackstand moments of uncertainty, the reassuring hubs respond quickly to pedal input and reward those last-ditch efforts to salvage shitty line choice. Riders who are skeptical about the actual benefits of such stellar engagement need only to get hung up on a technical climb to see how quickly these wheels can bail them out.

For my cockpit, I chose Chromag BZA bars in a width of 800 millimeters, with a 25-mil rise and a 35-mil clamp diameter, cinching them in with the 35-mil Chromag BZA Clamp stem. The comfortable Chromag Trailmaster DT saddle sits atop the stock RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post, which continues to set the paradigm for dropper performance and reliability.

Chromag BZA

The Chromag cockpit, with 800-millimeter-wide bars (soon to be cut to 780 mils) with a 25-mil rise, is both comfortable and confidence-inspiring. And the 35-mil clamp diameter, coupled with the 35-mil BZA Clamp stem, help keep the front end reliable and obedient. And since the obliteration of Brice’s favorite pair of clipless shoes almost a year ago, he’s rediscovered a primal fascination with flat pedals that harks back to his childhood. This has resulted in even sketchier line choices, a persistent tendency to enter turns ridiculously hot with his inside foot hanging out and a generally loose and childish approach to riding his bike. Brice considers his Chromag Scarab flat pedals to be his fun-loving partners in crime.

I've always run clipless pedals, but several months ago I rediscovered the joy of riding flats and have been trying different models. One of my favorites is the Chromag Scarab, which I prefer to run without pins in the middle.

Now that my dream build has become reality, it's time to chase down some trail dreams.

Check out last year’s dream builds:

Brice’s Santa Cruz Nomad

Palmer’s Trek Fuel EX 29

Vernon’s Giant Trance Advanced SX

Nicole’s Scott Contessa Genius 700

Anthony’s Rocky Mountain Altitude 760 MSL Rally