The carbon-framed Rocky Mountain Element 29er spans a line that extends in size from Small (15) to XXL (20.5). RMB says it fits riders from 5′ 4″ to 6′ 6″. Highlights are as follows
- Cross-country/trail oriented 95m rear travel full-suspension bicycle with 29er wheels
- Race Tuned Compact 29er geometry (RTC-29 geometry oh how the industry loves acronyms); the 29er Element will has relatively short chain stays, short wheelbase, and a short top tube – all to maximize agility and handling in technical terrain
- Element uses ABC (Angular Bushing Concept) pivot technology; this saves weight yet increases pivot stiffness
- Other features adding stiffness includes a BB92 bottom bracket shell, massively oversized seat and down tubes at the BB junction, a tapered head tube, and a E-thru 142x12mm rear end.
- Smoothwall carbon construction adds stiffness at precisely controlled places while shaving weight and maintaining high QC standards.
- Nice touches that show RMB’s attention to detail include internal cable routing, an E-type direct mount front derailleur (mitigating tire clearance issues), cable guides for dropper posts and remote lockouts, an anti chain drop plate to help prevent chain jam and a fitted rubber seat collar sleeve to keep out rain
Smoothlink suspension technology
The Element uses Smoothlink suspension. A variation of the ETS suspension results in an initial linear spring rate at the beginning of the travel stroke (in theory good for small bump compliance) and a ramped progressive spring rate at the bottom of the travel stroke 9(ie resist bottoming out harshly towards the end of travel). I won’t go on about it in detail since I’ve already gone on at length in another article (although it was about the RMB Altitude).
The 2012 graph is included because it compares the 2013 29er iteration to the 2012 iteration
Carbon construction - Smoothwall technology
Smoothwall is a carbon construction process that involves using an inner mold to shape tubesets, as opposed to using an airbladder as in more traditional processes. According to RMB this allows them to QC the inner surface of the carbon as carefully as they sculpt the outer. The side-effect of this QC is that it allows RMB to preserve tubing strength yet control wall thickness and shave weight by, among other things, avoiding buildup of stress risers or introducing excess resin, fibers or filler into the carbon tubing.
The Smoothwall process and its ability to allow RMB to control the process at a minute detail also allows them to use a precise layup schedule, using multiple layers of carbon weave at different locations to control the carbon density, stiffness and strenght. RMB also uses full length uncut fibers – all of this culminating in tubesets with high carbon layup density ie a very strong, stiff frame.
“SmoothWall” construction involves some proprietary (and hence confidential) processes that result in an incredibly thin and light carbon frame – as this cutaway shows. Apparently this process allows Rocky to have tremendous quality control not just over the carbon’s exterior but also its interior as excess creases and detritus in the frame (eg resin, excess carbon) are minimized.
At the outset let me note that geometry numbers do not tell the tale especially if you’re new to 29ers. But they can be useful to help you narrow down bike choices. Here are some comments on RMB’s conception of why the Element is the way it is.
- In a paen to Rocky Mountain’s home trails in tight, twisty Vancouver trails, to keep handling as good as it can be the Element has a relatively short wheelbase
- For that same reason RMB kept top tube lengths on the short side
- The Element’s 70.6 degree head tube angle is in the middle of the pack for xc/trail 29ers. RMB tried to get the middle ground between stability and agility for a full suspension XC 29er. The slacker head angle also decreases toe overlap, which can be an issue on 29ers with short top tubes.
- Finally, RMB raised the Element’s BB (ie less BB drop) from previous 29″ wheeled bikes to help control pedal strikes and get a tad more ground clearance. Also it allowed the Element’s rear wheel to be tucked in which should help the front end from having the tendency to lift while allowing the rider to get weight over the rear wheel.