Preliminary impressions – BC edition Rocky Element 970 Carbon
The test bike I received was the BC Edition and is a tongue in cheek reference to the plain fact that “BC XC” (or really Vancouver XC) trails are generally pretty technical as depicted humourosly by this video
Getting back to the point of the BC Edition version of the Element Carbon, the frame has a carbon front triangle and an alloy rear end (to save a bit of cost – the bike is still a fairly staggering $ 5,199 MSRP). There are some other spec choices which bear noting and which push up the aggressiveness factor of this bike:
- Front and rear suspension don’t have the more race-course oriented remote lockouts. Only the BC ed bike gets a 120mm travel fork (the Fox 32 Talas 29 120 FIT CTD – hows that for more acronyms?)
- There’s liberal use of the elegantly beautiful Race Face Turbine group (cranks, stem, handlebar)
- To really challenge the hard core xc race nerds a Rock Shox Reverb comes OE
- 3×10 drivetrain! Losing man points on the shaved leg start line! But I love the ability to spin and ride many many days in a row so applaud this choice.
I did the reverse weight weenie and added a half pound to the bike replacing saddle and stem/bar combo going with a Chromag Trailmaster for the seat (to add leathery class) and swapping for a shorter stem and wider bar (RF Turbine 60mm and Chromag Fubar OSX). I also endured the heckling of RMB’s product manager and lost more street cred by replacing the front Conti 2.2 XKing with a 2.2 Mountain King.
Uphill and trail
If this bike was anything but an exceptional climber I’d have been seriously disappointed and I was not disappointed. After all it does bear the name Element, which is associated with World Cup xc wins.
To expand, the bike climbs with a firm, planted manner. Traction is exemplary; probably attributable to geometry (74 deg nicely steep seat tube angles and short chain stays helps you keep in good climbing position even with my short stem); and the suspension action which seems to drive the wheel on the ground with pedal strokes. However, the suspension action is decidedly cross-country even with the RP23 fully wide-open. The Element does not pretend to soak up every hit possible but by that same token does not suffer from pedal bob. By this I mean that the bike does not have a couch feeling going uphill or ripping on the flats and you have to be active even when trucking through roots, rocks or ruts. One does not hang for the ride on the Element. Indeed the bike rewards you as you give it more.
If I could use one word to characterize its performance uphill it would be efficiency. This does not climb like a 28.5lb bike. Literally every stroke of the pedal feels like its being translated into forward and uphill motion. I’ve had some experience with carbon bikes (my own personal xc full-suspension and my wifes’ bike) and wonder whether this was a trait of carbon construction and/or the remarkable attention to frame-building related by RMB in its marketing materials.
… and that segues nicely in to my impressions about the bike. This is quite the precision ginsu steak knife. It sure doesn’t feel like the stereotypical XC bike that’s suited for wandering hither and yonder on glorified gravel paths. Instead the Element is a responsive, quick, snappy and precise descender (dare I say efficient). Point it down steep lines, keep your form together, stay on top of the bike and there it goes. The Element ts not a relaxed la-z-boy type ride. As with uphill the more you put into it the more you get out.
Portion of the NIMBY FIFTY race course (climb and the Overnight Sensation downhill)
I did have some minor quibbles but these have only showed up when I was pushing the bike pretty hard on rather unforgiving Pemberton rock-faces which had descents of steeper variety which are listed as follows:
- The Conti XKing 2.2 is one scary front tire. It rolls fast but has limited braking and cornering power. I’ll say this much; its fairly to break loose and comfortable consistently drifting sandy steep sections. If you like some semblance of control perhaps pick something with a few more knobs
- Both the Fox front and rear end get a bit overworked on long downhills. One ride was down a portion of a BC cross-country race course with a 7min 30 second downhill (the fastest racers the day before did the section in about 6 minutes. Now one might say that long technical downhills in xc races is one of those “First-World Problems” unique to BC; but the front and rear shocks were packing out and spiking minutes into the ride.
To beat home a point, I don’t think this is a bike for beginner or perhaps even intermediate riders. These riders won’t get the most out of the Element and instead might want to go with something more in the “Trail” or “All-Mountain” category (that’s the last of the marketing jargon I promise). At the heart of Rocky Mountain’s Element carbon 29er is pretty much an uncompromising high-performance frame that demands and responds to aggressive rider input.
MSRP and weights
MSRP, weights and specifications for all the carbon Elements follow. The prices are definitely on the steep side. Having said that, Rocky sold through its entire inventory of 26″ wheeled Elements without blinking an eye and I do not doubt for a second that this too will happen with the 29er offerings.
|Element 999 RSL||17.0 (M)||10.14||22.3||$ 7,999|
|Element 970 RSL||17.0 (M)||11.9||26.2||$ 4,999|
|Element 970 BC ed.||17.0 (M)||12.5||27.7||$ 5,199|
|Element 950 RSL||17.0 (M)||12.6||27.8||$ 4,099|
Weights above are without pedals (which aren’t supplied). Element 970 BC edition tested- with modifications (Chromag Fubars OSX 760mm bar and RaceFace Turbine stem and Chromag seat) – 28.55 lbs
Frame weight for the 999 frame (including hardware and rear shock) 4.38lbs/1.993kg