Rocky Mountain's 2006 Slayer really did slaughter technical descents but its heavy weight and squishy stock suspension made it murder on the climbs. For 2007, the SXC drops frame fat and re-levers the shock to create a true all-rounder.
Basic layout is very similar to last year's Slayer, only the down tube is downsized and the bridge section over the shock massively simplified. Chainstays are much bigger as they now take most of the rear wheel load, with a one-piece carbon fibre seatstay assembly driving the short shock link independently.
The frame is still handmade in Canada, with neat touches like the unmasked polished metal maple leaves on the top tube, but it's built from Rocky Mountain metal, not Easton like last year.
It's immediately obvious that the lower weight of the frame helps liven things up but the real difference is in shock response when pedalling. While the old Slayer seemed to suck any speed out of your legs, the SXC sits rock steady even with minimal ProPedal damping. It can wallow if you're churning a big gear but otherwise there's just enough feedback for judging traction without any obvious bob or softness. While it weighs 14.3kg (31.4lb), its general eagerness and crisp response gives morale and momentum a boost.
Hit a bump and the back end just sucks it up instantly, with a rapid dive through the mid stroke that's typical of DHX Air shocks. There's none of the 'wasted travel' feel that can result, though, and its eager squat helps you flare the back end out or pop the front end up.
Rebound is a bit hard to control over successive big drops and it might get sketchy on proper Alpine runs, but again the linkage manages it really well. Despite initial worries about the 90mm stem, the handling balance of the 68 degree head and 73 degree seat angle is spot on.
With the fork at 130mm, it naturally chases slipping tyres and dives into the sharpest singletrack corners. Run the full 160mm and it'll launch drops and push the flow to the limit. It put the slightly nervous character of other 6in all-mountain machines we've ridden recently to shame.
The SXC is just as good, if not better, than the 06 Slayer on descents. It can rip up the singletrack and storm the climbs with real speed too. It's not the lightest or cheapest in its class, but for sheer ride enjoyment there aren't many that'll match it - and that's what really counts.
A Fox 36 TALAS fork provides a very controlled stroke with phenomenal steering authority and precision that's well worth a bit of extra weight. The three-step 100-130-160mm travel adjust is really handy for tweaking geometry too. Top quality RaceFace Deus XC and Atlas kit sorts out the cockpit, easily adjustable seatpost and crankset in a light but durable style.
SRAM X-9 gives positive shifting while Juicy Five brakes work superbly. Handbuilt wheels are a bonus too, although wider rims would be useful as the 2.25 IRCs are a bit nipped at the bottom. They still gripped predictably in all but the wettest wood conditions.