Rocky Mountain Vertex RSL 50 £2599

Carbon trail ride

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

The new carbon Vertex RSL 50 is a far cry from the bikes on which Canada-based pioneers Rocky Mountain built their reputation, but it’s a classy looking high-performance offering that’ll have a lot of appeal to speed freaks looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.

Big profile tyres and a wide riser bar are symbolic of its hard-riding trail ability, but it’s no slouch when it comes to cross-country race speed. 

Ride & handling: Speedy bike with confidently neutral handling

The Vertex 50 is a lot of fun to ride. It manages to combine purist precise race speed thrills with hard riding trail ability.

While its straightline tracking under power and vibration-damping character are doubtless dictated by the frame’s careful carbon lay-up, the Fox RL 100mm fork, 2.2in Continental Race King tyres and 27in Easton riser bar are also potent controlling factors in the bike’s core trail personality. They effectively allow it to become far more than just a race bike.

Comfort and control is superb on even the most demanding technical trails. The geometry is slightly more relaxed than a pure race bike, which equates to feeling more confident, especially over rough terrain, to the point where you really don’t notice the extra weight over a superlight cross-country bike apart from on long steady climbs – and even there hardly.

Frame: Monocoque carbon chassis for more than just pure race duties

Rocky Mountain say their experience developing custom alloy tubesets over the past decade has been invaluable when it comes to perfecting their ‘FORM’ carbon frames. The Vertex 50 RSL (Racing Super Light) is built using top quality carbon fibre.

The swoopy, almost sculpted looking monocoque (one-piece) build is aesthetically very pleasing and is said to be “stronger than a tube-to-tube or lugged design” as well as helping to keep the weight low. The complete Vertex RSL 50 tips scales at 23.7lb, but that’s mainly down to the components.

The top and down tube sections of the frame are configured as big triangulated ovals, flared at the ends and ribbed for extra lateral rigidity. The seatstays and chainstays are ribbed and curved to achieve the right balance of strength and rigidity plus some resilience to bumps, while the overall frame shape is built using Rocky’s RTC (Race Tuned Compact) low top tube geometry.

Equipment: Combination of fork, handlebar and tyres makes for a great ride

Drivetrain-wise, Race Face Evolve cranks and SRAM X.7 gears are a couple of downgrades that bring the complete bike price down but do not affect overall performance. Formula RX brakes are good stoppers but we couldn’t stop them squealing like banshees on the first couple of rides.

The Easton stem, 27in MonkeyLite riser bar and seatpost are all superb finishing parts and we found WTB’s Silverado saddle very comfortable. The front mech is a Shimano frame bracket unit and the wheels are trusty Mavic Crossrides. No complaints there, then.

Continental Race Kings are among the biggest profile 2.2in tyres out there. They offer a superb mix of decent grip, fast rolling speed and the sort of comfort that’s unusual on a race bike.

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