Rocky Mountain Element 29 RSL - First look

New carbon fibre 29er race bike for 2013

We found Rocky Mountain’s Element RSL to be one of the lightest, stiffest, full-suspension cross-country racing bikes on the market. The 26in Element was developed in the crucible of World Cup racing, and now Rocky Mountain have taken lessons learned building the 26in model and applied them to a new 29in variant.

The new Element 29 RSL looks just as promising as the 26in models have proven.

By combining the proven technology of the Element RSL 26in bike and highly developed RTC-29 geometry — developed first with Vertex 29 — Rocky Mountain have created an impressive new crop of 29in full-suspension race bikes for their line, which is topped by the Element 999 RSL, a US$7,999 flagship, with a claimed weight of just over 22 pounds (10.14kg) without pedals.

The new Element 29 RSL line will be available for sale early this fall, in five sizes, ranging from US$4,099 to $7,999.

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Rocky Mountain's new Element 29 RSL line — big wheeled race rockets

The proven: SmoothLink, ABC, SmoothWall

The new Element 29 RSL line incorporates Rocky Mountain’s SmoothLink suspension design — which aligns the lower link parallel to the Average Chain Torque line to isolate the active suspension system from tension on the chain, and subsequently eliminate pedal-induced suspension movement. SmoothLink also offers minimal chain growth, just 8mm, and Rocky Mountain tune the linkage to offer a rising rate curve that, they say, offers the bike a bottomless feel. All of the 29in Elements feature 95mm of rear wheel travel.

Rocky Mountain also carry over their ABC pivot system, which is bushing based and offers unique angular-contact polymer bushings. They say the system is much stiffer than systems relying on standard bearings, and our experience with ABC — when testing the 26in Element — seems to support this claim. Rocky Mountain use ABC pivots in six locations and claim a 120g weight savings over traditional hardware.

Sag gradients on the upper swing link

Finally there’s the carbon construction, which Rocky Mountain call SmoothWall. They describe it as a proprietary, high-modulus molding method that uses an inner mandrel to best shape the frame tubing’s walls.

Along with the proprietary molding, Rocky Mountain offer a number of carbon-specific features, including a net-molded head tube that accepts bearings directly, and an all-carbon press-fit BB-92 bottom bracket. The drive-side chain stay incorporates a stainless steel guard, and above, the seat post clamp is sealed with a rubber gasket, which says a lot about where Rocky Mountain ride their bikes.

The new: geometry, 12x142, plus internal cable routing for remotes and dropper posts

The big obstacle to overcome in creating the 29in Element line, say Rocky Mountain, was geometry. When Rocky Mountain started in on their 29in redesign projects — beginning with Vertex — the industry was all over the place about 29er geometry, with vast ranges in head-tube angle, different fork offsets, not to mention intense focus on low bottom brackets and short chain stays.

Rocky Mountain's goal was simple in concept: make the 29in models ride like their 26in equivalents. Alex Cogger, Rocky Mountain’s lead product manager, stressed that making a smart handling bike isn’t about nailing the trendy specs, rather the whole package. He said that Rocky Mountain built six aluminum test mules and equipped them with Cane Creek AngleSets to prove out much of the geometry, including head-tube angle and cockpit dimensions.

The tenants of the Rocky Mountain Elements’ design include a slightly higher bottom bracket, middle of the road head angle, as well as shorter cockpit, chain stays and wheelbase.

The higher bottom bracket serves to reorient the rider further over the rear wheel. This aids in lifting the front wheel over obstacles and when manualing or for wheelies. This move also allows better placement of the front derailleur, which in turn allowed the shorter (445mm) chain stays.

Rocky then settled on the slacker/mid-range head tube angle, but paired it with a standard fork offset. The slacker head angle — 70.6° — allows them to shorten the top tube, again aiding in the bike’s 26in feel, but avoid toe overlap. Why 70.6°, you may wonder? Well that’s a static angle, so when a rider sets the proper sag, roughly 20-percent, the angle becomes 70.25°, which is the same as the Vertex hard tail. Note that these angles refer to a 100mm travel fork, bumping to 120mm — a la Element 970 BC Edition — kicks the head angle out another half degree or so.

The new Element features a 12x142mm rear through-axle, which will be compatible with Shimano’s new direct-mount rear derailleur. “It unclutters that area,” Cogger told BikeRadar of the new interface. “You can just clunk the wheel in place, and it opens up the area a bit more so it becomes much easier to get the wheel in and out.”

While a standard derailleur hanger is shown, the new Elements will fit Shimano's new direct-mount Shadow derailleur hanger

The SmoothWall frame is also molded with internal cable routing for all of its cables including a rear shock remote and dropper post — the flagship Element 999 comes with RockShox Monarch XX with a hydraulic remote — the latter option is for standard dropper posts, not RockShox’s internally routed Reverb Stealth.

Rocky Element 999 RSL

Element 999 RSL is the flagship of the line and equipped to go straight to the World Cup racecourse. The US$7,999 bike is fully equipped with SRAM’s SID and Monarch XX suspension components, both of which use hydraulic lockouts. SRAM also provide a full XX group for the bike’s drivetrain and braking systems, while Race Face take care of the cockpit, and a DT Swiss X1.4 wheelset completes the package.

  • Frame: FORM C13 hi-modulus SmoothWall carbon monocoque
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL and 2XL
  • Fork: RockShox SID XX World Cup 29, 100mm (tapered steerer, 15mm axle, remote lockout)
  • Shock: RockShox Monarch XX, custom valved w/ remote lockout
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40 series
  • Stem: Race Face Turbine, 6-degree rise, 70-100mm (depending on frame size)
  • Handlebar: Race Face Turbine Flat Wide, 31.8mm, 700mm
  • Grips: Rocky Mountain Lock On XC
  • Brake callipers: SRAM XX World Cup, 180mm rotors
  • Brake levers: SRAM XX Carbon MatchMaker
  • Shifters: SRAM XX MatchMaker
  • Front derailleur: SRAM XX S3, direct mount
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM XX, 10-speed
  • Crankset: SRAM XX, 170-175mm, 39/27t
  • Bottom bracket: SRAM press-fit GXP
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-1099, 11-36t, 10-speed
  • Chain: SRAM PC-1091
  • Front hub: DT Swiss X 1.4, 15mm axle
  • Rear hub: DT Swiss X 1.4, 12 x 142mm
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Aerolite
  • Rims: DT Swiss X 1.4, Tubeless Ready
  • Front tyre: Continental X-King, 29 x 2.2in, Race Sport carcass, Black Chili compound
  • Rear tyre: Continental Race King, 29 x 2.2in, Race Sport carcass, Black Chili compound
  • Seatpost: Race Face Next SL Carbon, 30.9mm x 400mm
  • Saddle: Fizik Tundra Kium

Rocky Mountain Element 970 RSL

The Element 970 RSL appears to be the privateer’s bike at US$4,999. It features the same SmoothWall carbon front and rear triangles, paired to Fox suspension components and Shimano XT group.

  • Frame: FORM C13 hi-modulus SmoothWall carbon monocoque
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL and 2XL
  • Fork: FOX 32 Float 29 100 FIT Dual Remote CTD, 100mm (tapered steerer, 15mm axle, remote compression adjustment)
  • Shock: FOX Float Dual Remote CTD, custom race valved w/ remote compression adjustment
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40 series
  • Stem: Race Face Turbine, 6-degree rise, 70-100mm (depending on frame size)
  • Handlebar: Race Face Turbine Flat Wide, 31.8mm, 700mm
  • Grips: Rocky Mountain Lock On XC
  • Brake callipers: Shimano Deore XT, 180mm
  • Brake levers: Shimano Deore XT, I-Spec
  • Shifters: Shimano Deore XT, I-Spec
  • Front derailleur: Shimano Deore XT, E-Type
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR
  • Crankset: Race Face Turbine, 170-175mm, 38/24t
  • Bottom bracket: Race Face Team XC
  • Cassette: Shimano Deore XT, 11-36t, 10-speed
  • Chain: Shimano HG94
  • Front hub: DT Swiss X 1.6, 15mm axle
  • Rear hub: DT Swiss X 1.6, 12 x 142mm
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Competition
  • Rims: DT Swiss X 1.6, Tubeless Ready
  • Front tyre: Continental X-King, 29 x 2.2in, folding
  • Rear tyre: Continental Race King, 29 x 2.2in, folding
  • Seatpost: Race Face Turbine, 30.9mm x 400mm
  • Saddle: Fizik Gobi XM

Rocky Mountain Element 970 BC Edition

The Element 970 BC Edition ($5,199) is an interesting bird. It trades out the Shimano components for a, mostly, SRAM X9 package. It’s one of Rocky’s two, lower tier, Elements equipped with a FORM 7005 aluminum rear triangle. It does include a RockShox Reverb dropper post and Fox Talas (120-90mm travel adjust fork) with the package, which appear to be the main differences from the ‘standard’ Elements, which all feature fixed 100mm travel front ends.

  • Frame: FORM C13 hi-modulus SmoothWall carbon monocoque front triangle, hydroformed 7005 alloy rear triangle
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL and 2XL
  • Fork: FOX 32 TALAS 29 FIT CTD, 90-120mm (tapered steerer, 15mm axle)
  • Shock: FOX Float CTD, custom trail valved
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40 series
  • Stem: Race Face Turbine, 6-degree rise, 70-90mm (depending on frame size)
  • Handlebar: Race Face Turbine Flat Wide, 31.8mm, 700mm
  • Grips: Rocky Mountain Lock On XC
  • Brake callipers: Avid Elixir 90 XM, 180mm
  • Brake levers: Avid Elixir 90 XM MatchMaker
  • Shifters: SRAM X9 MatchMaker
  • Front derailleur: Shimano SLX, E-Type
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM X9 Type 2
  • Crankset: Race Face Turbine, 170-175mm, 42/32/24t
  • Bottom bracket: Race Face Team XC
  • Cassette: SRAM PG-1070, 11-36t, 10-speed
  • Chain: SRAM PG-1071
  • Front hub: DT Swiss X 1.6, 15mm axle
  • Rear hub: DT Swiss X 1.6, 12 x 142mm
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Competition
  • Rims: DT Swiss X 1.6, Tubeless Ready
  • Front tyre: Continental X-King, 29 x 2.2in, folding
  • Rear tyre: Continental X-King, 29 x 2.2in, folding
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb, 30.9mm x 380-420mm
  • Saddle: Rocky Mountain XC Light

Rocky Mountain Element 950 RSL

The Element 950 RSL qualifies as the base model at $4,099, however, its spec and price still put it well within the enthusiasts’ category. Highlights include the Fox Float Dual Remote, which operates both front and rear dampers. The transmission and brakes are mostly SLX — substitute XT rear derailleur — and the wheels are Wheeltech’s Inferno model.

  • Frame: FORM C13 hi-modulus SmoothWall carbon monocoque front triangle, hydroformed 7005 alloy rear triangle
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL and 2XL
  • Fork: FOX 32 Float 29 100 Dual Remote CTD, 100mm (tapered steerer, 15mm axle, remote compression adjustment)
  • Shock: FOX Float Dual Remote CTD, custom race valved w/ remote compression adjustment
  • Headset: Cane Creek 10 series
  • Stem: Race Face, 6-degree rise, 70-100mm (depending on frame size)
  • Handlebar: Race Face Turbine Flat Wide, 31.8mm, 700mm
  • Grips: Rocky Mountain Lock On XC
  • Brake callipers: Shimano SLX, 180mm
  • Brake levers: Shimano SLX, I-Spec
  • Shifters: Shimano SLX, I-Spec
  • Front derailleur: Shimano SLX, E-Type
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano XT, direct mount
  • Crankset: Race Face Turbine, 170-175mm, 42/32/24t
  • Bottom bracket: Race Face Team XC
  • Cassette: Shimano HG62, 11-36t, 10-speed
  • Chain: Shimano HG54
  • Front hub: Wheeltech SL, 15mm axle
  • Rear hub: Wheeltech SL, 12 x 142mm axle
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Champion
  • Rims: Wheeltech Inferno 23 by Sun
  • Front tyre: Continental X-King, 29 x 2.2in, folding
  • Rear tyre: Continental Race King, 29 x 2.2in, folding
  • Seatpost: Rocky Mountain XC, 30.9mm x 400mm
  • Saddle: Rocky Mountain XC Light

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