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.
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.