Rocky Mountain Pipeline plus bike review

27.5+ rig dumbs down the trail — and that's a good thing

27.5 All Mountain Trail Plus
Rocky Mountain Pipeline 770 MSL 2016 Full Suspension Plus Bike

The Rocky Mountain Pipeline is full suspension plus bike targeted towards the rowdier end of the trail spectrum.

Lowdown: Rocky Mountain Pipeline

I wasn’t sure about plus bikes coming into this review, but the Rocky Mountain Pipeline changed my opinion. While the geometry may not appear particularly rowdy or playful on paper, it was a revelation on the trail. With lively handling and the ability to climb up or descend almost anything, this was a bike we didn’t want to send back. Find out why in the full review below.

Stat Box
Front travel: 150mm Gearing: 1x only
Rear travel: 130mm Frame material: Carbon front, Alloy rear
Wheel size: 27.5+ Price as tested: $4799
Max tire clearance: 3.25” Rating: 4 Flamin' Chili Peppers 4 out of 5

Pluses
Minuses
  • Excellent spec
  • Decimates lesser tires
  • Playful handling
  • Longish chainstays
  • Adjustable geometry and suspension
  • Comparatively short reach
  • Grease ports for maintenance
  • Mild oversteer due to frame flex
  • Mounts for two bottle cages

Review: Rocky Mountain Pipeline

When Rocky Mountain offered to send Mtbr its new full suspension plus bike for review, I wanted nothing to do with it. I thought the whole plus concept was stupid. You’ve heard the complaints before: the tires feel squirmy in corners, their imprecise, heavy, and lack durability.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline 770 MSL 2016 Full Suspension Plus Bike

The Pipeline is based on the Instinct chassis. It comes equipped with a 150mm fork and 130mm of rear travel.

And to be fair, that’s all true. The thing about new standards is that it often takes a few tries to get it right. The first time I rode a 29er it was eye opening. The thing could roll over anything, but the geometry was terrible, there were no good tires, and the frame and wheels were more flexible than a politician’s moral compass.

As manufacturers trampled themselves to get a plus bike to market, the same thing happened. The early test bikes we rode were plagued with component issues like rims that weren’t wide enough or flimsy tires, so the hate was and is understandable. But the Rocky Mountain Pipeline changed my mind.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline 770 MSL 2016 Full Suspension Plus Bike

Wide bars, short stem, great tires, and a full Shimano XT groupset. The spec is damn near perfect right out of the box.

Top-Shelf Spec

The Pipeline is marketed towards aggressive trail riders, so the spec is very similar to Rocky’s other trail/enduro bikes. Right now only two build kits are available.

The more affordable version, the 750 MSL, retails for $3999 and comes with a RockShox Yari fork, a smart mix of Shimano components, and some Rocky branded cockpit bits. The 770 MSL, tested here, retails for $800 more. That extra cash nets you top of the line suspension from Fox, a full Shimano XT groupset, plus Race Face finishing kit. Both bikes share the same wheelset and tires.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline 770 MSL 2016 Full Suspension Plus Bike

The FIT 4 damper in the Factory level Fox fork is better than what is found in RockShox’s budget oriented Yari.

For our money, the 750 is the smarter buy. While we prefer the performance of the FIT4 damper in the Fox fork over the budget minded Yari, everything else is roughly comparable in terms of performance. The main difference between the two price points is weight.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline 770 MSL 2016 Full Suspension Plus Bike

The 28T chainring paired with an 11-42 XT cassette provided plenty of range, but we would have preferred the 11-46T version because bigger is better.

Overall, both builds are spec’d well. You get a short stem, wide(ish) 760mm bar, great tires, etc. Our only complaint (and it’s minor) is the range of the stock cassette. The stock gearing left us nothing to complain about, but we would have preferred the wider 11-46 Shimano XT cassette over the narrower 11-42 XT unit.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline 770 MSL 2016 Full Suspension Plus Bike

Like the Thunderbolt and Instinct, the Pipeline gets grease ports at the pivots for ease of maintenance.

Tech

The Pipeline shares the same front triangle as the 130mm travel Instinct, a trail oriented 29er, but utilizes a purpose built rear end. What’s interesting is that unlike most competitors in this segment, the Pipeline is not convertible to 29er.

By going plus only, Rocky was able to lop nearly half an inch from its chainstays. At 17.4 inches, they’re still on the longer side (although you wouldn’t know it from riding), but that’s because the bike has clearance for up to 3.25” tires.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline 770 MSL 2016 Full Suspension Plus Bike

While 2.8” is widely regarded as the sweet spot for plus, the Pipeline has clearance for up to 3.25” tires.

It should also be noted that Rocky also nixed 2x compatibility in the name of shorter chainstays. We’re sold on the range of 1x drivetrains, so that’s a compromise we’re happy to make. Most buyers shopping for an aggressive plus sized trail bike probably feel the same.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline Geometry 2016

On paper, the Pipeline isn’t as long and slack as some bikes in this category, but we loved its fun lively character.

Geometry and Ride 9 System

If you’re used to the geometry numbers on the new crop of long and slack bikes, you’ll immediately notice the Pipeline looks conservative in comparison. This bike isn’t intended to play the same role as the Slayer, it’s a trail bike first.

However, if you want to get rowdy, the geometry is adjustable via a set of interlocking chips. Depending on their orientation, you can tweak the head angle up to 1.6 degrees (67.2-68.8), adjust the BB height, and can make the suspension feel more linear or progressive.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline 770 MSL 2016 Full Suspension Plus Bike

An added feature of the Ride 9 system is that by making the suspension curve more linear or progressive, it can better tuned to rider weight. Having trouble utilizing all your travel? Make it more linear!

In the middle setting, the handling is fast and nimble. The XC mode offers more of the same, so we skipped right over to shreddy. This small adjustment to the linkage makes a big difference. The bike retains that playful character that all Rocky’s share, but felt more stable and confident on descents. It also helped ramp up the bottom of the stroke.

If you like to get geeky, this system is a great feature. Everyone else will probably experiment until they find a setting they like and stay with it. Unfortunately, none of these changes will lengthen the reach, so consider trying a size up before you buy.

Continue to page 2 for more of Mtbr’s Rocky Mountain Pipeline plus bike review


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  • Bob says:

    “There’s this perception, perpetuated by cycling media, that plus bikes are best suited for beginners” (FTFY)

    I keep reading statements like this on the web and in magazines. Standard 2.8 “plus” tires (like the Rekons in this review) typically measure out to 2.66″ wide and are apparently for beginners only. Yet the industry is falling all over themselves with excitement about new wide track tires that measure 2.6″ and totally shread the trails. Um, okay.

  • BlackBean says:

    Right on Bob!

    I’ve ridden some terrible plus bikes. I definitely find I don’t like the 3 inch tires on 27.5 rims. 2.8 definitely works much better for me. That being said, I own a Trek Stache 9 with 29 inch rims and 3.0 tires and I LOVE them. Maybe it’s just the tire weight and compound.

    I think plus bikes is ideally suited for most of the terrain the East Coast. I’m far from the best or fittest rider out there, but I’m sufficiently capable to ride anything on offer on a HT 29er. And have been for years. But. I got a Trek Stache and HOLY COW. You just feel safer and can go harder. And then for the first time in over a decade a actually tired a plus-sized FS bike with trail geometry/travel. Did I say HOLY COW! Just so much faster and feeling more confident, especially when it’s much wetter. I’m closing in on 50 and I’m past the point where I need to feel like a hero. I will always ride my 29er HT in the more mellow parks and rail trails, but when it gets rockier and it’s wet, the plus bike is the go-to tool.

  • Dale says:

    I read a another review on this bike and they said it was the Rocky Mountain Sherpa with more travel and cost…

  • Ralph says:

    Dale – then that was not a very good review…

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