Rocky Mountain Instinct 990 MSL BC Edition – first ride review

Top-drawer Canuck 29er

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £5,500.00 RRP | USD $6,199.00

Our review

Stiff, light trail 29er with super-slack ‘flat out, foot out’ swagger, but size and tune carefully for full potential
Skip to view product specifications

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:
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

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:
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

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:
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

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.

Product Specifications


Name Instinct 990 MSL BC Edition (15)
Brand Rocky Mountain

Brakes Shimano Deore XT, 180mm/180mm
Saddle WTB Rocky Mountain custom
Year 2015
Wheelset Stan's NoTubes ZTR Flow EX 29 wheels, Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C MaxTerra EXO 29x2.3in tyres
Weight (kg) 12.5
Stem Race Face Turbine, 70mm
Shifters SRAM X01 Trigger 1 X 11spd
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth
Rear Tyre Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C MaxTerra EXO 29x2.3in
Cranks Race Face Turbine Cinch 170-175mm 30t Direct Mount
Rear Shock RockShox Monarch RT3 DebonAir
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 Type 2 All Mountain 11spd
Handlebar Race Face Next, 760mm
Front Tyre Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C MaxTerra EXO 29x2.3in
Frame Material C13 Hi Mod Smoothwall carbon, 130mm (5.1in) travel
Fork RockShox Pike RCT3, 140mm (5.5in) travel
Weight (lb) 27.5