2015 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt MSL preview

The popular aluminum Thunderbolt gets a carbon makeover

Trail capable and pedal efficient, the MSL

Trail-capable and pedal-efficient, the MSL does well on both long climbs and fast descents.

Besides the obvious–carbon fiber–the 2015 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt MSL has had several upgrades: shorter chainstays, lower standover, RIDE-9 adjustability, new pivot technologies, etc.

Named after its “lightning-quick agility,” the 2015 Thunderbolt MSL is said to dominate on a variety of terrain. Equally at home on long, technical climbs as it is on flowy singletrack descents, it’s built to power through the rough stuff and pop off every trail feature you lay eyes on.

The all-new SMOOTHWALL carbon frame on the Thunderbolt MSL models represents a major milestone for Rocky Mountain. By using the new PIPELOCK main pivot, they have removed all traditional bearings from the frame. This, combined with grease ports in key pivot-locations, reportedly results in a stiffer, lighter and lower-maintenance bike.



The Thunderbolt comes equipped with a 120-millimeters of travel to create a trail-capable bike that has cross-country efficiency. According to Rocky Mountain, the suspension stays supple yet supportive through a wider range of gears than conventional single-pivot or other four-bar suspension platforms. The patented system reportedly reduces both pedal-bob and bottom-outs, and improves braking and climbing traction.

In order to achieve the agility and responsiveness Rocky Mountain was looking for, they decided on 27.5-inch wheels and short, 422-millimeter chainstays.

“We increased control by lengthening the toptube and reined in the stem length, and were able to significantly reduce standover height by tucking the shock into the toptube,” Rocky Mountain said in press release.

They also added RIDE-9 system into the mix, providing a wide range of adjustment, from slack and progressive to steep and efficient (67.2 to 68.4 degrees), allowing riders to dial-in the Thunderbolt MSL for preferred riding style and terrain. The system uses two interlocking chip inserts to adjust geometry and suspension characteristics, allowing riders to tune their bikes to their specific riding styles, terrain and weight.


Connecting the moving parts are BC2 and ABC pivots. Lighter and stiffer than conventional bearing pivots, the Bushing Concept 2 (BC2) pivots are the oversized next generation of the ABC system. The BC2 pivots are used on the swing-arm connections and the ABC pivots are used in the chainstay. The main pivot uses PIPELOCK, which is military grade, hard-anodized collet that reportedly expands radially to create the widest–and therefore most rigid–pivot stance possible, while also reducing weight.

“Unlike other bushings, our patented system uses a hardened alloy insert that bottoms out to control the contact of the bushing surfaces, reducing the preload that causes stiction and binding,” Rocky Mountain said in a press release.

The pivots also feature grease ports for effortless maintenance.


Carbon where possible and XTR everywhere else, the 799 MSL breaks the 10k mark.

Carbon where possible and XTR everywhere else, the 799 MSL breaks the $10k mark.

Although the top-of-the-line 799 MSL might break the bank at $11,499, it comes equipped with a pimped-out package including a Kashima coated Fox 32 Float FIT CTD with Adjust fork and a Kashima coated Fox Float CTD Remote shock, XTR drivetrain, XTR brakes, Stan’s Valor Carbon rims, etc. Let’s just say, if it can be carbon it is, and if it can be XTR, it is. Oh, and if you want the Shimano’s Di2, that’s a available too.

The next model down, the 770 MSL, is substantially cheaper. At $5,799, it’s still pretty steep, but it does come equipped with some solid accessories. Up front it sports a Fox 32 Float FIT CTD and in the rear a Fox Float Remote CTD. The drivetrain is a Shimano XT/XTR combo. Brakes are also XT.

The 750 MSL model gets below five grand, but just barely. This model costs $4,599 and has the Fox Float Remote DTD Custom Race Valved shock and Fox 32 Float CTD Rebound fork. It comes spec’d with Shimano SLX brakes, SRAM X7 shifters and front derailleur, and an X9 rear derailleur.

As always, the BC Edition sports the trade-mark matte blue.

As always, the BC Edition sports the trade-mark matte blue.

The 790 MSL BC Edition has a price tag of $6,699 and will be “set-up the way we set our own bikes up—wide bars, short stem, big tires, stiff wheels and premium suspension–the BC Edition translates the Thunderbolt's agility into a true trail-bike’s playfulness and aggression.” It will be fully Shimano Di2 compatible with an integrated stealth port in the downtube, have a Shimano 142-millimeter E-Thru rear axle and a BB92 pressfit bottom bracket. It will come equipped with RockShox Pike RCT3 up front and a RockShox Monarch RT3 in the rear, and will be spec’d with Shimano XT brakes and a SRAM X01 drivetrain.

Other Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt news:

News: Rocky Mountain Debuts 650b "Thunderbolt" Model