The 2013 model year has been a particularly big one for the Canucks at Rocky Mountain Bicycles. From the outside, it appears that the brand has recaptured the same spirit of innovation and design that established their reputation in the first place, after some admittedly lack-lustre years where other companies had begun to move ahead in terms of frame and suspension design. Addressing their model range year-by-year, Rocky have established a whole host of new technologies including the ABC pivot bearing system and the SmoothLink suspension platform to very positive effect. We tested the 100mm travel Element 950 last year in Issue #22 of Enduro, and came away really impressed with the handling package that Rocky has been able to produce.
Capitalising on the momentum they have been building over the past 2 seasons with their burgeoning range of cross country 29ers, the 2013 Rocky lineup has grown to include two new All Mountain platforms that have been designed from the ground-up. The new Altitude has without doubt been the darling of the media, given its use of the fashionable 650B wheelsize in a 150mm travel package that served to kill off both the previous 26″ and 29″ versions. However, another new model called the Instinct, also slipped into the range at the same time. Despite featuring many of the same innovations as the Altitude along with progressive 29er geometry, 130mm travel and a brand-new frame design, the Instinct hasn’t quite created the same stir. That being said, we reckon there’s a lot to like about the new trail 29er, especially when Wade Simmons gives it his tick of approval.
Before we get stuck into the details of the new Instinct however, let’s have a quick look back at a little video Rocky Mountain screened during the lead up to the release of the Element 29er.
Yes, that may have just been an excuse to show some sweet trails. And no, it’s not a particularly new edit. However, in reference to the new Instinct, it’s actually a very valid video. For both Rocky Mountain and the average rider, having Simmons and Vanderham shred 100mm travel 29er on far more technical trails than they were intended for has gone a long way to turning around the perception that big wheels are for XC and racing only. Over 12 months later, and the Element 29er has become one of the biggest selling models in the range, quickly overshadowing the 26″ model it was originally based on. Along with the recent releases of longer-travel options from other brands on the market, it seems the scene had been set for Rocky to bring out the next step in their evolution of the 29″ mountain bike.
The 130mm travel Instinct takes the same basic recipe as the Element while beefing up the travel, slackening off the angles, throwing in ISCG chainguide tabs and oversizing the tubing to take full advantage of the big wheels and fat tyres. It may have 20mm less travel than the new Altitude, but the Instinct is built to be just as capable and arguably a better option for rolling over really rough and loose trails.
Ah, not quite what you thought it would be? Had us fooled too!
Instinct 970 – $4999 RRP
The current Instinct range is split into 2 models using the same 7005 Alloy frame. Given the rest of the lineup, we would expect Rocky to bring out a carbon fiber version to appear in the near future. Having said that, the hydroformed aluminum tubes are beautifully sculpted and make the most out of the recent advances in the material, so much so that it’s easy to mistake for carbon. Tapered zero-stack head tube, thru-axles front & rear, internal cable routing and a neat rubber sealed seatpost condom that helps to keep water and contaminants out of the frame: it goes without saying that the Instinct has been firmly whacked with the technology stick. A smaller detail that we really like with the new pressfit BB92 on both Instinct bikes is the use of an alloy RaceFace Team bottom bracket. Rather than the plastic housing used on current Shimano and SRAM pressfit bottom brackets, the RaceFace version uses machined alloy cups for the bearings just like a headset, which should result in a stronger, more durable and quieter system.
Instinct 950 – $3699
Rocky have called on Fox Racing Shox to provide both dampers on the Instinct, with the 970 upgraded with a CTD handlebar remove to control the rear shocks compression settings (Climb-Trail-Descend). It also receives the sealed FIT cartridge for the fork for better control on repeated hits, though both bikes get adjustable air pressure front & rear for easy setup regardless of rider weight. The Instinct gets a distinctly modern drivetrain, with a 2×10 system used on each model (SRAM X7/X9 on the 950, Deore XT on the 970), clutch rear derailleurs and lower direct mount front derailleurs. Because the 970 comes with an XT rear derailleur, it also utilises the new ‘Shimano Direct Mount Rear Derailleur’ hanger system. Both hangers are available aftermarket should you wish to swap between brands/standards.
If you’re looking for the option that doesn’t need any upgrades, that would be the 970 for sure. With the included Reverb hydraulic dropper post, machined alloy Cane Creek ’40’ headset and the lighter weight DT Swiss wheelset with its Star Ratchet freehub mechanism, there are some significant improvements in the overall spec aside from the more obvious upgrades in the spec box.
Specifications aside, there are 3 key features with the new Instinct frame that we’re particularly interested in: the ABC Pivot technology, the SmoothLink suspension design and the new Ride 9 geometry system. We’ve already covered the pivots and suspension technology in our in-depth review of the Element 950, though the videos here do a great job of explaining how they work.
Seen on both the Instinct and the Altitude, the ‘Ride 9’ geometry system revolves around a dual chip-set for the upper shock mount that simply changes the location of the upper shock eyelet. This alters both the spring rate and the frame geometry, so that riders can tune (get it??) the suspension characteristics to their riding style. Rocky are so proud of the new system that they’ve built their own mini-site, complete with an explanation of how to position the shock mount correctly, which you can check out here.
Keep an eye out for further ride reports from Enduro, though in the meantime for a list of local Rocky Mountain dealers in your area, get in touch with the Aussie Distributor www.AdventureBrands.com.au. Otherwise, if you’re keen to learn more about the new Instinct platform and check out the full specifications, head to the Rocky Mountain website.