The cross-country focussed Element has been a fixture of the Rocky Mountain bike stable for over 20 years. In that time, it’s seen a number of reincarnations, and 2017 sees the next step in the evolution of this classic bike. Reflecting how XC racing has changed, with increasingly technical courses, the Element has now moved slightly more towards the trail side of things.
Designed for cross-country and stage races, Rocky Mountain has looked to develop a bike that blends efficiency and speed with comfort and stability, particularly for routes that combine long distances with technical sections.
“This new Element is a full-on XC marathon weapon, but with the confidence of a trail bike.” says product director Alex Cogger. “People used to show up at the BC Bike Race expecting to grind fire roads all day, only to walk the descents and snap their made-for-the-scale bikes in half. XC racing has evolved, and bikes that can handle the real world have no business on the course.”
Updates and redesigns
This isn’t just a cosmetic upgrade; the Element has received a substantial overhaul, including brand new geometry. This includes slacker angles up front which give greater stability and confidence on descents, with a longer fork offset. The seat tube has been steepened for a better position for climbing, and the rear centre has been shortened to lengthen the reach slightly. It’s also now available in a size XXL for taller riders.
The Element also now features slightly longer 120mm forks, to provide a little more cushioning on those long marathon miles. Combined with the updated geometry, this should make it feel more planted and secure on the technical descents that have become increasingly common on XC circuits.
At the rear, the Element has a 100mm shock with a four-bar ‘Smoothlink’ suspension system, with a brand new tune to go with the new geometry. Rocky Mountain has focussed on mid-stroke support and lowering the shock leverage ratio which, they say, keeps more travel available and gives more efficient suspension performance, including good progression.
Rocky Mountain also adjusts the suspension tune to suit each different bike size, based on ‘real-world’ field testing.
Another major new addition to the Element is the Ride-9 adjustment system. This allows the user to further tweak the geometry of the bike to suit different terrain, different events and different riders. T Ride-9 systems allows – you guessed it – 9 different configurations, and while on Rock Mountain’s trail bikes it sits at forward shock mount, for the Element it’s been moved to the link to reduce weight and built.
In short, it means you can adjust the head angle between 60 to 70 degrees, and the suspension rate can be tuned between XC or trail feel, which, Rocky Mountain feel, makes it an ideal choice for multi-day events where riders are likely to encounter different terrain on each day of the race.
With the proliferation of electronic parts and accessories, Rocky Mountain has taken steps to ensure the Element is future proof – or as future proof as it makes it. This includes a design that allows it to run multiple electronic components at the same time, including Di2, Fox Live and a dropper post. The Canadian company has also built the Element to include full-length internal shift, dropper post and lockout routing, plus internal brake routing in the front triangle for those riders who still need cables, facilitated by oversize head- and down-tubes.
Best of the rest
The carbon frame weighs in at 2250g (size medium including shock and hardware) according to Rocky Mountain, though you can add in 30g for two-tone paint on the special edition Team Only frame. There’s also room enough for two bottle cages.
The single-sided chain stay pivots gives a narrower rear triangle which Rocky Mountain claims eliminates heel rub even with Boost spacing, and the bike has clearance for wide 29 x 2.35 tyres. Lightweight bolt-on axles save a further reputed 35g when compared to traditional Boost axles.
In terms of gearing, the Element can take a 1x system with a 38t SRAM or 36t Race Face chainring, or a 2x 28 – 40t chainring.160mm post mounted rear brake, PressFit BB92 bottom bracket with XS44 / XS56 headset and a new derailleur hanger designed to reduce hardware complexity finish things off.
Finally, the Rocky Mountain Element is available in sizes S to XXL.
The Element range
There are seven complete bikes in the range, and a frame-only option. The Element 930 RSL comes with RockShox Monarch RL shock and RockShox Reba RL forks, with full Shimano SLX gearing and brakes. WTB SX19 rims and Maxis Ikon 29 x 2.2 folding tyres. The 950 RSL features a mix of Shimano SLX brakes and shifters with some Shimano XT elements, and Fox Float DPS Remote Performance Elite shock with Fox 34 Float Performance forks. Both come in red. It’s also available in a 1x and 2x setup.
The Element 970 RSL comes in either blue, yellow and black or stealthy black with red highlights. Fox Float DPS Remote Performance Elite shock is paired with Fox 34 Float Performance Elite forks, Shimano XT/XTR gearing and a RockShox Reverb seatpost. Race Face Turbine Cinch 32t cranks and Turbine handlebars.
The Element 990 RSL switches back to RockShox for suspension, with a Monarch RT3 shock and Pike RCT3 forks. Shimano XT and XTR brakes and gearing plus Shimano Race Face Turbine Cinch 32t cranks and Race Face SixC 800mm handlebars, RockShox Reverb Stealth 30.9mm seat post and some rather nice Stan’s ZTR Arch Tubeless Ready rims with DT Swiss 350 Boost 148mm rear hub, Rocky Mountain Boost 15mm front hub and Maxis DHRII/Minion SS tyres finish things off. As with the 970 RSL, this is available in a number of colour ways.
The top of the range Element, the 999 RSL, comes in the red and white Team Only colours with a maple leaf or two incorporated into the design. Followers of the latest in bike tech will also be interested to hear the Element 999 RSL features the brand new Sram XX1 Eagle gearing plus Sram Level Ultimate brakes.
This is on top of the RockShox Reverb Stealth 30.9mm seatpost, Fox Float DPS Remote Factory shock and Fox 34 Float Factory forks, and the Stan’s wheels with Neo Ultimate Boost hubs and Valor Carbon Tubeless Ready rims. The frame is also available in the Team Only red and white colours with a Flox Float DPS Remote Factory shock.