The Element is Rocky Mountain's longest running frame design, which has been given a few tweaks over the years to keep it up to date and looking fresh. The 2007 bike features some significant structural changes, but the classic ride is still intact.
The big change for 2007 is the one-piece carbon seat stay section. The Element had carbon seat stays in 2006, but now they're a lot beefier, swelling to a fat centre section and bridge before tapering away slightly at either end.
Some members of the Wrecking Crew loved the look, others hated it, but this design really helps lower weight and retain reasonable mud clearance without losing stiffness. The Element certainly isn't shamed on the scales, with a frame and shock weight of around 2.5kg (5.5lb) and a complete weight of 11.8kg (26.1lb).
There's more sweepiness at the front end too, thanks to a brand new curved and radically hydroformed down tube. This flows from a very tall ovalised section to an equally radical flat oval area at the bottom bracket. Typically for Rocky, the CNC'd sections on the dropouts, linkages and chainstay bridge are as accurate and indulgently worked as you'll find anywhere, and each bike is proudly signed by its builder. Rocky Mountain's paint jobs are also second to none, with a multi-coat arrangement allowing a trademark maple leaf-detailed, two-tone finish.
The Element has a tough race bike character, and the spec reflects this well. A Shimano XT group set (including disc brakes) with an XTR rear mech and cassette provides great shifting and subtle but controlled braking, and the Wheeltech wheels are hand-built by Rocky Mountain. Up front is a Fox 32 F100RL fork and there's a Fox RP23 shock at the rear.
Alloy RaceFace Deus XC kit features heavily to provide lightweight strength without high carbon cost, and even the saddle is chosen for comfort rather than just the gram count. There's obvious potential for significant weight loss via upgrading though.
The price might seem high compared to other 'mainstream' bikes but it compares pretty well with the other builds here, and you've got the options of four other models, from Element Team to Element 10.
Most people will buy Rocky Mountains for the combination of luscious quality and balanced ride manners rather than the value. After years of use, the bike's 3DLink suspension platform is pretty much dialled, with a naturally fluid and reactive stroke. Very little feedback through the pedals means consistent traction, and although the bike occasionally gets walloped or left hanging in the air by big square edges and sudden drops, it loves rolling dips and softer, rounded terrain. You have to be careful on uneven terrain though, because the very low bottom bracket means it's easy to ground the pedals.
You'll also need to click the dial on the Fox shock into its middle ProPedal damping position to stop it bobbing and squatting when you stomp the power down. This inevitably means a harsher feel over small bumps and the short shock stroke means the rear feels pert rather than plush, even with its smooth mix of needle and cartridge bearings on the pivots.
Classy finishing Rocky Mountain have been hand crafting some of Canada's finest bikes for decades, and their finishing standards are still some of the best around. The tubes and CNC'd pieces are all cut and joined with incredible precision, making their frames a joy to work on if you build them up yourself. The iconic two-tone maple leaf cut-out paintjob never looks anything less than stunning either.