First Look: Rocky Mountain Instinct MSL – 130mm Travel Carbon 29er Revealed

29er All Mountain Trail
The Rocky Mountain MSL is a plush and configurable 130 mm travel 29er.

Wade Simmons riding down a rock wall in the North Shore, BC. All photos by Margus Riga and Brendon Purdy.

Rocky Mountain invited us over to their new headquarters in North Vancouver, British Columbia to check out the Instinct MSL, a 130mm travel carbon 29er. The aluminum version has been out for a few months and it has been a sleeper hit. Now Rocky has gone all out with a carbon frame that is available in many builds, ranging from a 25lb Instinct MSL 999 to the 950 MSL at 28.2 lbs, but at an affordable $3999. They also made a very special build called the BC Edition which is a spec close to what many of their employees ride in the North Shore trails

Instinct MSL Overview
  • 130mm travel Rear
  • Ride 9 Adjustable geometry and suspension rate
  • Smoothwall carbon monocoque front triangle,
  • Weight: 25 lbs for  Instinct 999  and 30lbs for Instinct 950 (claimed)
  • Price: $7599 for Instinct 999 and $3999 for Instinct 950
  • ISCG-05 tabs
  • 142x12mm thru-axle
  • Internal cable routing
  • Many different configurations available including the BC Editions for All Mountain duty
  • 29 inch wheels
  • Availability: Late October

Video: Product Overview of the Instinct MSL by Rocky Mountain

The claimed weight for a medium Instinct MSL frame is 5.18lb which is 1.2lbs lighter than the full aluminum Instinct frame. The frame weight is heavier by approximately .27 lbs for the 970 BC Edition and 950, both of which share the same carbon front triangles as the 999 and the 970, but come with aluminum rear ends to lower the frame price and improve the components for All Mountain duty in the case of  the BC Edition.  Rocky Mountain claims the carbon version of this frame is notably stiffer than the aluminum version.

BC Edition.

Ride-9 System

Ride-9 is the moveable front pivot location of the frame shock mount.  It features 9 locations that will change the response rate of the shock, change the head angle and also the bottom bracket height. Here is the logic behind the system according to Rocky Mountain.

To help the end-user understand the nine various configurations allowed by the Ride-9 system, Rocky Mountain has created a microsite that explains each of the settings. The user can move the a slider around the screen to visualize how the various metrics like head angle and bottom bracket height are affected. Check the Ride-9 site here.


Photo: Steepest Setting on the Ride-9



Photo: Slackest Setting on the Ride-9

“By moving the shock forward, the geometry slackens and the suspension rate becomes more progressive, giving greater bottom out resistance for aggressive downhill trail riding. When you move the shock backwards, the geometry becomes quicker and the suspension more supple, for ripping around on technical singletrack and better climbing traction.

When you move the shock upwards, it requires a higher air pressure to support the rider at sag. This is beneficial to lighter riders, allowing them to run ‘in the sweet spot’ of the shock, and not wind up with an under-pressurized shock, which feels overly harsh. Conversely, when you move the shock downwards, a heavier rider won’t need as much air pressure, increasing shock and seal durability, and keeps the damping range usable.”

Morgan Manualling Up a Root.

SmoothLink Suspension

The suspension used by Rocky Mountain on the Instinct is called Smoothlink. It is similar to the Horst Link but with subtle differences. Unlike the Horst Link uses a pivot mounted to the chainstays, below and in front of the rear axle, the SmoothLink suspension uses pivots that are located 10 mm above the rear axle. Where the Horst Link seems to have pedal-induced suspension bob, the SmoothLink appears to have very little.

Rocky Mountain said this pivot location is their preferred location for creating a suspension that is fully-active under pedaling and braking. This allows the suspension to not stiffen under pedaling and and is more active during braking.

Ruben Salzgeber In The Seymour Mountain Forest.

Continue reading for more information, specs and the full photo gallery.

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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