2013 Rocky Mountain Element RSL Carbon 29er Preview

29er Pro Reviews

Review, video by Lee Lau. Pictures by Sharon Bader

Introduction

In one of the more obviously logical moves for a company to make, Rocky Mountain Bicycles is introducing a line of carbon Element 29ers for the 2013 model year. It’s obvious because only last year RMB unveiled aluminium Element 29ers. The company also has extensive proprietary carbon manufacturing techniques dialed already having a carbon Element (in 26″ version) and the Vertex racing 29er hardtail in their lineup.

Rocky was kind enough to make a production Rocky Element RSL 29er (the 970 BC Edition to be exact) available. I’ve ridden it now 6 times in the last 8 days so am obviously more than a bit content with its performance. Accordingly here is an overview of Rocky’s RSL carbon Element 29er lineup and some impressions after my short (but eminently satisfying) experience.

BC XC – North Vancouver to Pemberton

Lee Lau’s biases

I am 160 lbs and 5’11″ and have had over 15 years experience riding bikes in North Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, the Chilcotins and many other areas in B.C. and Alberta. I’ve also made many bike trips to Switzerland, Utah, Washington, Oregon, California and the Yukon (for example) so I’ve had some experience biking in a variety of terrain. My bias is towards pedalling up and unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, I actually enjoy riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.

Official launch video

My personal bikes are a Santa Cruz Tallboy, Pivot Mach 5, and a Specialized Demo 7. In the 29er category I’ve tested/reviewed the Rocky Mountain AltitudeNorco Shinobi, a Transition Bandit29er and (informally) a Lenz Lunchbox

This is a test bike that will be given back to Rocky at the end of the test period. I am not sponsored by Rocky and have no commercial association with Rocky.

Lost Lake Trails – Whistler (self-filmed)

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About the author: Lee Lau

Lee Lau calls North Vancouver and Whistler BC home. He's had over 15 years experience riding bikes mainly in western North America and in Europe. Unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, he actually enjoys riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.


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  • Ben says:

    What size was your test bike?

  • Larry says:

    Did you like it more than your Tallboy?

    • leel says:

      Larry – ugh. In a way I’m so glad it came out after I bought my Tallboy as I’d have killed myself with indecision trying to decide between the bikes.

  • nlm says:

    Nice dodge leel but I’m going to hold you to Larry’s original question. Knowing what you know now, Tallboy or 970-BC?

    I take it the TALAS is a 2-step affair, 90mm or 120mm with no dialing in between?

  • Jeremie says:

    LeeL

    I just read your review of the Altitude 29er and am wondering how you would compare/rank the two bikes?

    The altitude seems to have more travel but the Element is slacker with the 120mm fork.

    I also see so many rave reviews on the Element 29ers but almost nothing on the Altitude 29ers, so am wondering if the Element is the way to go even if I don’t race?

    I live in Rossland BC and am looking to move to a 29er trail bike so would love to know your thoughts on the two.

    Thanks!

    • leel says:

      OK nlm.

      The Talas is two step – either 90 or 120 with one twist of the lever.

      Enough people have asked that I should give my honest opinion. Plus I might be the only person on earth right now who’s had reasonable time on both bikes.

      Both are stiff. Both are so quiet. Both have incredible range of use. My Tallboy is a ridiculous bling spec so its hard to compare one against the other – apples and oranges if you know what I mean (full XTR, carbon this and that blah blah blah.).

      But if I was to compare frames the Element is lighter. So there’s one in favour of the Element.

      I love the cleanliness of the cable routing. That’s another in favour of Element.

      I’m not in favour of the press-in BB92 system so that’s one in favour of SC

      Now I have no experience with Santa Cruz’s CS because the bike has been flawless. I have used RMB’s CS one when I rode a Rocky Mountain Slayer into the ground. The BB pivot was loose. I never checked. The pivot ovalized. I asked if I could do anything . They sent me a new frame. Understand that this was not because I complained or whined or threw a name around. This was back in 2006 or so. The frame was 6 years old and out of warranty and they still sent me a new frame. Based on that I’m very very favourably disposed to RMB. Note the I – this is a subjective comment based on my personal experience.

      To conclude if I had a choice between the two I’d pick the Element.

    • leel says:

      I’d like to sugarcoat it but won’t. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Altitude 29er. The Element 29er BC ed is a better downhiller and a better climber imo.

  • Rob says:

    leel, How did you choose the size of the bike you tested? By the seat tube size with the shorter top tube or the longer top tube that you are used to? In addtion to that question, how tall are you and what’s your inseam? The reason I ask is because according to RMB they shortened the TT intentionally and to get the TT I’m used to(5’10″ tall/I ride with TT about 23.75″) I would have to get a Large. Would going with the large be bad?

  • Izzy says:

    Those geo numbers are the same as the previous Element 29ers. Where’s the “shorter wheelbase/top tube, higher BB?”
    And what’s the BC’s head angle with the 120mm of travel up front?

    • LeeL says:

      Izzy – Head Angle was 70 degrees but measured with phone inclinometer and not a precision laser leveler. I didn’t understand that statement by RMB too about the ““shorter wheelbase/top tube, higher BB?”. At first I thought it was in comparison to the other 29ers but even then there’s not much difference

  • Izzy says:

    Thanks Lee. Great review BTW. This bike just rocketed to the top of my lust list.
    One more question, why no mention of the 3-position option for the Trail mode for the fork and shock? Another review said they have it.

  • nlm says:

    LeeL: have you had saddle time in the 2012 Element 950? If so was there a noticable difference with the 970 BC Ed? These two are at the top of my list for next bike.

    • LeeL says:

      nlm – I’ve only ridden the RSL Element 70 in 26 and the 970 BC ed. No time of significance on the Element 950 – the alloy version

  • Brian says:

    LeeL

    How about the Element 970 BC vs Norco Shinobi? Preference between those bikes? Utah riding, 85% Wasatch Mountain Single Track 15% Moab Shuttle runs. Can’t make up my mind! The Specialized EVO 29 is also in the mix because of those Moab trips.

  • LeeL says:

    Brian – sorry I missed this. They’re totally different bikes. The Shinobi is long. It is long and feels long. It’s for wide open fast trails and is heavy but you can get it a lot cheaper than the Element 29er. The Element is more for tight-twisty Park City trails

  • adam says:

    Leel – Have you ridden the RM altitude 27.5? I’m curious which bike you like better – the 29er element bc with shorter travel or the 27.5 altitude with longer travel? Both look sick and was hoping you could provide some insight into the strengths/weaknesses of those 2 models?

  • LeeL says:

    Adam I didn’t have enough time on the Altitude to compare.

  • jason says:

    Q. I just borrowed my friends 970 element and was super impressed today…I couldn’t believe how good it climbed and defended. Question, I was going to buy the transition 29er bandit…but after today i’m not so sure. I don’t have any time on the bandit…but since you’ve ridden both want are your thoughts? I’m more of a XC person who wants to do long rides. I was looking at the bandit because I had heard it climbs great plus has more travel. I think I know the answer but want to hear your thoughts.

  • LeeL says:

    jason get the Element. The Bandits more biased towards the downhill end of the spectrum. Although with light stiff wheels (ie carbon ie $$$$) you could liven it up for climbing.

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