Rocky Mountain Instinct 990 MSL BC Edition - first ride review£5,500.00

Top-drawer Canuck 29er

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Rocky Mountain’s 130mm (5.1in) travel Instinct 29er has always been an impressively sorted and enjoyable all-rounder, but the BC Edition turns the fun dial up to 10.

Frame and equipment: a high-class selection

The Instinct frame is unchanged for 2015, but that’s no bad thing. The Smoothwall chassis is made using rigid internal formers (rather than inflatable bladders) that squeeze the carbon lay-up until it’s as tight, light and tough as possible. The pivots and linkages for the Smoothlink four-bar suspension platform are set as wide apart as is feasible and there are ISCG mounts around the press-fit BB.

While the gear cables and seatpost hose run internally, the rear brake hose stays external for easy maintenance. Unlike many 29ers, standover and mud clearance are generous. A rotating square chip within the rear shock mount gives nine head/seat angle and ride height options.

The monarch shock has been revalved:
The monarch shock has been revalved:

The Monarch shock has been revalved

Compared with standard Instinct models, the BC Edition gets a 140mm (5.5in) rather than 130mm travel fork – in the shape of the impressive RockShox Pike – which leans the bike back further. The Monarch rear shock is revalved and you get a 35mm diameter, 70mm long Race Face Turbine stem holding a 760mm wide Race Face Next bar.

Gear cables go internally while brakes are externally routed for easy maintenance:
Gear cables go internally while brakes are externally routed for easy maintenance:

Gear cables go internally while brakes are externally routed for easy maintenance

Stan’s Flow wheels plump out top-spec Maxxis Minion DHRs, Race Face Turbine cranks turn the SRAM X01 transmission and there are Shimano XT brakes on stopping duties. The RockShox Reverb Stealth post and custom Rocky Mountain saddle complete an excellent spec but complete bike pricing is definitely boutique not bargain.

Ride and handling: tune properly and reap the rewards

That premium price is fair enough though, because the Rocky rolls out a properly premium ride. At a claimed 2,380g (5.25lb) for the frame and shock, the foundations are there to make a seriously light bike, and even in the burlier BC build it has real pop and purpose in its acceleration. There’s no sense of slur in turns or softness under power though, and together with the big bar and chunky rubber this means it feels confidently keyed into the trail from the start.

It’s a good job too because the Ride 9 chip lets you throw the front wheel out as slack as 66.7 degrees, which makes it a potentially radical ripper in 29er terms. That meant we were firing it down the throat of the gnarliest trail sections at full gas and drifting up dirty great clouds of roost as soon as we got the Instinct cranked over through the turns.

The instinct will benefit from careful tuning to coax the most from its trail-caning character:
The instinct will benefit from careful tuning to coax the most from its trail-caning character:

The Instinct will benefit from careful tuning to coax the most from its trail-caning character

Even with the ‘BC tune’, balancing initial sensitivity against mid-stroke support and accessing the final part of the travel isn’t easy. That means it’s definitely a bike that’s worth spending time on tuning. Short stem fans should also take advantage of the low slung frame and go a size up from normal because our XL sample was more like an average large in terms of reach.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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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