Rocky Mountain Element 50£2,195.00

Pedigree classic

BikeRadar score4/5

The Element has been largely unchanged for several years now, but then if it ain’t broke… This year’s 50 certainly still rides well and it’s better value than ever.

It isn’t the lightest in its class and it doesn’t have the smartest suspension, but we thoroughly enjoyed riding the Rocky whether we were hard on the gas or just playing down the woods.

Ride & handling: Still has the fun factor after all these years

The Element is twitchy on steep stuff but poised and balanced when it comes to threading through trees at speed. It’s stiff enough to push the pace hard too, with plenty of useful traction information coming from the all-conditions Hutchinson Toro rubber.

The seatstay pivot suspension stutters noticeably when you’re clouting bigger stuff at speed, and you'll quickly learn to ‘quick flick’ the ProPedal platform damping lever on the shock to stop pedalling bounce on the smooth stuff. Despite decent finishing kit it’s fairly heavy, which cuts its race appeal.

Carbon fibre stays are part of the rocky mountain pimp appeal: carbon fibre stays are part of the rocky mountain pimp appeal

Frame: Proven suspension plus some subtle performance-enhancing changes

There have been a few subtle changes, and top and down tube now both use a vertical teardrop profile with a 3in shared seam for extra vertical stiffness.

The hourglass headtube is low enough to please head-down racers, while a straight but sloped top tube puts plenty of standover room in front of the extended seat tube.

The CNC-machined 3D link driven by single piece carbon H-stays is a well proven design, while the chainstays connect via a neatly scooped and hollowed CNC bridge and main pivot behind and above the bottom bracket.

On the practical side, there’s reasonable tyre space, a spray stopping front seat slot – and it’s one of very few suspension bikes with three proper bottle cage mounts too.

Equipment: Race Face finishing kit is the icing on the cake

There’s certainly nothing wrong with the mixed Shimano XT/SLX transmission in performance terms. The maple leaf detailed Formula brakes are plenty powerful, even with 160mm rotors. Mavic Crossride wheels are tight, reasonably light and good-looking too.

The real deal here though is the amount of quality gear you’re getting from Race Face, which actually started life as Rocky’s in-house brand. 

It’s amazing the difference that a really good handlebar can make, and Race Face’s current low-rise bar shapes are among our favourites. We can see a lot of riders switching to a 90 or 80mm stem to plug in some proper play agility.

Fox’s f100 fork is the benchmark front end for this test: fox’s f100 fork is the benchmark front end for this test

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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