Even if I still lived a thousand miles away from the legendary McKenzie River Trail, there'd be a good chance I'd have it on my mind when devising the perfect bike build. With its mix of uber-techy lines over lava, dark duff in old growth forest and screaming fast hardpack descents, McKenzie is a singletrack dream come true. Add to that insane views of crystal clear lakes, commanding waterfalls and massive conifers—it exemplifies the very reason I love mountain biking—even complete with a trailside natural hot spring. Now that the start of this gem is just a 30-minute drive from my doorstep, there's no way it wouldn't influence this year's dream build.
29-inch wheels were the obvious starting point because of their ability to simultaneously provide maximum roll-over on technical trails and stability at mind-numbing speeds. Plus, I already knew that I wanted Mavic's XA Pro Carbon wheels—the best riding and best looking carbon wheels on the market. From there, I zeroed in on the right amount of travel for my needs. I figured that something in the mid-travel range would be ideal. Something short enough to be light and agile, but with enough balls to take on road trips to British Columbia.
The Evil Following MB would be an excellent choice—and I should know, I have one—it's one of the best bikes I've ridden. But then I got a look at the clean, unobstructed lines of the new Rocky Mountain Instinct. Its form was simple in comparison to the Evil, and it had almost the same color orange I'd grown to love on my Following MB, but with the addition of a beautiful olive color. Best of all, it had 140 millimeters of travel front and rear—the same as the discontinued Trek Remedy 29, which I loved.
Rocky Mountain offers a "BC Edition" Instinct with 155 millimeters of travel. Actually, the BC is the only option if you're just looking to get the frame. But I wasn't interested in that much travel, so I swapped the swing link to bring the travel back down to 140 millimeters. The non-BC link also has Rocky's Ride-9 adjustable geometry chips, while the BC Edition link doesn't I definitely wanted to keep the Fox DPX2 shock, but it needed to be resized first. Once that was done, I bolted it together in the steep geometry setting, which would give the bike head and seat angles of 67 and 75.5 degrees, respectively.
The first thing to install was the Cane Creek 40 headset that I upgraded with 110-series bearings, which will keep the Fox 36 Performance Elite HSC/LSC fork steering smoothly for a long time to come. Speaking of smoothly, the fork irons out even the wrinkliest of trails with ease. With all the same features as the Factory series at a more affordable price and better color, it's tough to beat.
Next was a Wheels Manufacturing thread together bottom bracket–a must have for press-fit shells. I went with a SRAM Eagle drivetrain because it runs smoothly, shifts well and gives me the range I want. I chose an XX1 shifter because I prefer its lighter action and more refined lever angle adjustment. The cranks are also XX1. X01 cranks are a little heavier, and supposedly stronger but I've never once broken a crank. Mounted to the crank is a SRAM oval ring. It felt weird at first but I'm convinced I can clean more climbs with it, and my legs feel less tired after rides. The cassette is X01, which is costly but has proven to be longer lasting than its 11-speed predecessor so I don't expect to have to replace it anytime soon. Finally, I slapped on a GX derailleur, because SRAM derailleurs are bulky, and I'd rather have something I can afford to replace hanging out there. Sometimes even dreams need a touch of practicality.
The dropper on the other hand, is practically insane. The Instinct has tons of seat post insertion, so I went all out with the longest post I could: a 200-millimeter stroke 9point8 Fall Line. It's not just about travel though, the Fall Line works flawlessly every time. It's the only post that always lets me down … and back up again. The only bummer was that I couldn't run the carbon-railed saddle I ordered, because the Fall Line head won't accept oval rails. Oh well. On went my trusty WTB Volt with Ti rails.
UPDATE: 9point8 now supports oval carbon rails, via its Carbon Rail (CR) head kit. It is available as a $17 add on when ordering a Fall Line directly from 9point8’s website, or if you already have a Fall Line, you can buy it separately for $70. The kit includes a new head, 2 sets of clamps (to accommodate different diameter rails), plus hardware. When upgrading to the CR head on a new post, 9point8 will throw in a set of round rail clamps as well, so if you’ve got metal rails but think you might want carbon in the future, go ahead and splurge that extra $17 bucks for the best overall compatibility.
To make sure I'm always in control, I've got a Syntace cockpit, SRAM Code brakes, and e.thirteen tires. Syntace isn't the most popular choice, but the stuff is legit. The Germans don't mess around. The new Codes are World Cup DH strong at a marginal weight increase, and e.thirteen offers its tires with a super sticky triple compound that I run up front, as well as a longer lasting, but still super grippy dual compound that I use for the back. Finally, I hang onto Ergon GA2 grips, 'cuz I like 'em.
Unlike Rocky Mountains of the past, the Instinct was a joy to build. Rocky went from having most convoluted, difficult to work on pivots on the market, to probably the simplest and fastest. The cable ports are easy to use, and when removed, expose large windows for easy cable fishing. The downtube port will even hold a Di2 battery for clean and simple wiring. Not only that, but the whole thing is super neat and tidy looking, especially the hidden chain stay pivots. This frame is very well thought out, which made me fall in love with it before it ever left my work stand.
On trail, it has far exceeded my expectations. It's balanced, planted, and limber, making it an absolute terror on every inch of trail I've ridden it on so far. It goes fast, it goes slow, it goes up, it goes down, and it goes big. It's a dream I never want to wake up from.