Rocky Mountain Instinct MSL - first look

New carbon 29er trail bikes with adjustable geometry

Rocky Mountain introduced the Instinct family of 29er trail bikes last year. For 2014 the Canadian company is adding four new carbon bikes to the Instinct line. The new Instinct MSL models shed weight and allow riders to tune the bike’s geometry and suspension feel to suit different riding styles and types of terrain.

Like the alloy Instincts, the Insctinct MSL bikes have 130mm of front and rear travel, save for the BC Edition, which gets a bit more front travel (140mm) and a burlier component spec. “The Instinct MSL line was designed for the cross-country rider with all-mountain abilities,” said Rocky Mountain’s director of product Alex Cogger. To that end, keeping the frames light, stiff and versatile were key design considerations.

Instinct MSL frame tech

The claimed weight for a medium Instinct MSL frame is 2,350g (5.18lb), which is 550g (1.2lb) lighter than the full aluminum Instincts. We're told frame weight increases by approximately 125g for the 970 BC Edition and 950, both of which use the same carbon front triangles as the 999 and the 970, but come with aluminum rear ends to keep the price in check.

Frame weight was kept respectably low thanks to the use of a carbon molding process that eliminates excess resin from the inside of the frame. Additional weight savings were achieved by using bushings, rather than bearings, for the Instinct's suspension pivots.

According to Rocky Mountain, the ABC (short for Angular Bearing Concept) system increases stiffness by 105 percent over cartridge bearings and saves approximately 20g per pivot. The angular bushings have a 45-degree face that allows them to self-center onto the pivot, keeping axial and radial play to a minimum. Maintenance is said to be easier, too—a simple surface cleaning of the polymer bushings is all that is needed to keep them smooth and silent.

All four Instinct MSL bikes have internal cable routing, BB92 bottom brackets, direct-mount front derailleur mounts, 142x12 rear thru-axles and ISCG 05 chainguide mounts.

Cogger claims the Instinct MSL is the most versatile platform in the Rocky Mountain range. Depending on the component spec and how riders choose to set up the bike’s adjustable geometry and spring rate, the Instinct MSL can be a race worthy endurance machine or a capable all-mountain brawler.

Ride-9 explained

Rocky Mountain has developed a clever approach to geometry and suspension customization. The Ride-9 system uses two interlocking chips in the Instinct’s upper shock mount to adjust the head tube angle, bottom bracket height and shock progressivity. In the case of the Instinct MSL 999, 970 and 950, the head tube angle can be slackened from 69.3 degrees to 67.7 degrees, and the bottom bracket can be raised or lowered by 18.9mm.

The BC Edition, with its longer travel, 140mm fork starts with a slacker, 68.2 degree head tube angle and can almost reach into the realm of downhill bikes in its slackest, 66.6 degree setting. The BC Edition's bottom bracket can be raised or lowered by 19.4mm.

All four models were designed around a "stock geometry" that can be found with both interlocking plates centered in the middle of the shock mount. (Geometry charts for all four bikes can be found by clicking through the gallery at the right.)

These two interlocking chips allow riders to choose from nine possible geometry and suspension rate configurations

Ride-9 according to Rocky Mountain:

“By moving the shock forward, the geometry slackens and the suspension rate becomes more progressive, giving greater bottom out resistance for aggressive downhill trail riding. When you move the shock backwards, the geometry becomes quicker and the suspension more supple, for ripping around on technical singletrack and better climbing traction.

When you move the shock upwards, it requires a higher air pressure to support the rider at sag. This is beneficial to lighter riders, allowing them to run 'in the sweet spot' of the shock, and not wind up with an under-pressurized shock, which feels overly harsh. Conversely, when you move the shock downwards, a heavier rider won’t need as much air pressure, increasing shock and seal durability, and keeps the damping range usable.”

Rocky Mountain even has a micro site that allows users to experiment with various setups.

SmoothLink Suspension

There are subtle differences that distinguish Rocky Mountain’s SmoothLink suspension from a Horst Link. The Horst Link uses a pivot mounted to the chainstays, below and in front of the rear axle. The SmoothLink suspension uses chainstay-mounted pivots that are located 10mm above the rear axle.

A matter of millimeters: Rocky Mountain's rear pivot is positioned 10mm above the rear axle; the Horst Link patent applied to bikes with the rear pivot located just below the rear axle

According to Rocky Mountain, this location was not chosen to skirt the Horst Link (FSR) patent held by Specialized, rather, it was the preferred location for creating a suspension that is fully-active under pedaling and braking, meaning the suspension does not stiffen under pedaling and remains active under braking.

On the trail this translates into a bike that sticks to technical terrain, but relies on the shock’s platform damping to eliminate rider-induced movement. The Instinct MSL 999 and 970 come with handlebar-mounted Fox CTD remotes to making switching from the platform modes to fully-open easier.

The Instinct MSL models

Instinct 999 MSL

  • Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 with RaceFace Next SL crankset, 30t XX1 chainring
  • Front suspension: 130mm-travel Fox 32 Float FIT CTD with Kashima coating
  • Rear suspension: Fox Float CTD with Kashima coating and handlebar-mounted remote
  • Brakes: SRAM XO brakes with 180mm rotors
  • Wheelset: Stan’s Notubes Arch EX rims laced to Stan’s 3.30 hubs
  • Tires: Continental Mountain King 29x2.2
  • Cockpit: RaceFace SixC Carbon handlebar (750mm), RaceFace Turbine stem, RockShox Stealth Reverb seatpost, WTB Silverado Race SLT saddle
  • Price: US$7,599 (complete), US$2,999 (frame w/shock)
  • Claimed weight: 25.5lb (11.6kg)

Instinct 970 MSL

  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT shifters and rear derailleur, SRAM XO front derailleur, Shimano HG-81 cassette, Race Face Turbine (36/22t) crankset
  • Front suspension: 130mm-travel Fox 32 Float FIT CTD
  • Rear suspension:  Fox Float CTD with handlebar-mounted remote
  • Brakes: Shimano XT with 180mm rotors
  • Wheelset: Stan’s Notubes Arch EX rims laced to Shimano XT Center Lock hubs
  • Tires: Continental Mountain King 29x2.2
  • Cockpit: Race Face Turbine handlebar (750mm), Race Face Turbine stem, RockShox Stealth Reverb seatpost, WTB Silverado Race SL saddle
  • Price: US$5,399
  • Claimed weight: 27.7lb (12.6kg)

Instinct 970 MSL BC Edition

  • Drivetrain: SRAM X9 shifters and rear derailleur, SRAM X7 front derailleur, Shimano HG-81 cassette,Race Face Turbine (36/22t) crankset with bashguard, Blackspire Stinger chainguide
  • Front suspension: 140mm-travel Fox 34 Float FIT CTD with Kashima coating
  • Rear suspension: Fox Float CTD with custom “BC valving” for increased progressivity
  • Brakes: SRAM XO Trail with 180mm rotors
  • Wheelset: Stan’s NoTubes Flow EX rims laced to SRAM X9 hubs
  • Tires: Continental Mountain King 29x2.4
  • Cockpit: Race Face Turbine handlebar (785mm),Race Face Turbine stem, RockShox Stealth Reverb seatpost, WTB Silverado Race SL saddle
  • Price: US$5,399
  • Claimed weight: 30.2lb (13.7kg)

Instinct 950 MSL

  • Drivetrain: SRAM X7 shifters, SRAM X9 rear derailleur, SRAM X7 front derailleur, SRAM PG-1030 cassette, Race Face Turbine (36/22t) crankset
  • Front suspension: 130mm-travel Fox 32 Float CTD (open bath)
  • Rear suspension: Fox Float CTD
  • Brakes: Avid Elixir 7 with 180mm rotors
  • Wheelset: SUNringle Inferno 25
  • Tires: Continental Mountain King 29x2.2 (front), Continental Race X King 29x2.2 (rear)
  • Cockpit: Race Face Turbine handlebar (750mm), Race Face Turbine stem, Race Face Turbine seatpost, Rocky Mountain XC Light
  • Price: US$3,999
  • Claimed weight: 28.2lb (12.8kg)

All four Instinct MSL models are expected to be available this October. (UK pricing TBD.) For more information visit bikes.com.

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