There’s a level of credibility that comes with a bike brand that’s been making mountain bikes for over 30 years. In addition to that, the Rocky Mountain bikes website url is www.bikes.com… Seriously.
There’s something aggressive about the look of the Element 950RSL. For a 29er, it’s compact and sleek and looks a bit like a cat ready to pounce. Maybe it’s the steep 74-degree seattube angle combined with the shortish (582mm) toptube. What ever it is, it fills you with anticipation. In contrast to the steepish seattube, the headtube is a more gentle 70.6 degrees, a nod to Rocky Mountain’s love for All-mountain and Gravity/Slopestyle riding. The main frame is made from Rocky Mountain’s FORM high modulation carbon fibre, while the rear triangle is 7005 hydroformed aluminium with a sturdy 12 x 142 rear axle spacing. The two are joined by Rocky Mountain’s patented Angular Bushing Concept pivots, which Rocky Mountain claims are lighter, more durable and 105% stiffer than a cartridge bearing. The shock is Fox Float dual remote CTD with 95mm of travel, matched to a 100mm-travel Fox 32 Float remote-operated CTD fork, with 15mm Thru-Axle. The wheelset comprises Sun Ringle Inferno rims and Wheel Tech hubs with Continental Race King (rear)/Cross King (front) 2.2-inch tyres. With the exception of a XT rear derailleur, Shimano’s SLX range fulfils braking and shifting duties with 180mm rotors front and rear, while a Cane Creek headset and Race Face triple crankset, handle bars and stem, add another two respected mountain bike brands to the mix.
The dominant colour is gloss charcoal with some white elements and the incorporation of the Canadian maple leaf. Subtle and smart. The cable routing is internal and there’s accommodation for a dropper post cable too. Neat. There’s space for a bottle cage on the downtube and two spare bottle cage bolts underneath it, well, that’s our take, cos why would anyone put a bottle cage there?
Rocky Mountain revised their 29-inch dual suspension geometry, removing 14mm off the wheelbase (of a Medium) and taking 20mm off the BB drop, which means a higher bottom bracket. They also shortened the top tube slightly. All of this was in the quest for a more agile ride. Well, they certainly achieved what they set out to. The Element 950RSL is one of the most maneuverable 29ers we’ve ever ridden. You find yourself looking forward to tight, twisty trail sections because of the planted feel. The Fox CTD system worked well and definitely gave the bike a boost in the climbing department, with the triple crankset adding some gears on the very steep stuff. We did have some front shifting issues under load on the climbs so had to incorporate more thought into our chainring shifts when the trail pointed up.
In Climb mode, it’s really responsive on the ascents, but we obviously opted for Trail mode on the rocky ups. The weight was just on 13kg, not light, but not too heavy either. The more expensive 970RSL and 999RSL models have a carbon rear triangle and more weight conscious spec.
Descending was sure and fun. The headtube angle, tapered headtube and 15mm Thru-Axle give it stability and composure, even on the roughest descents. We swapped the Continental tyres for a set of Bontrager Team, which we are testing, and found even more stability in turns and on descents – we were able to run the more burley (slightly heavier) Bontrager Team on the front at a lower pressure than the Conti Cross-King.
The Element 950RSL isn’t classified as a trail bike, but we certainly found it to be a very capable trail tamer. And in South Africa, this is a good thing because it makes an ideal bike for marathons and stage races due to the blend between comfort and control. Rocky Mountain is a highly respected brand, which has won mountain bike races at the highest level. That performance pedigree is evident in the Element 950RSL, which really delivers an impressive allround ride.
Rocky Mountain Element 950RSL
SIZES: S, M (tested), L
TOP TUBE LENGTH: 582mm
SEAT TUBE LENGTH: 432mm
HEAD TUBE ANGLE: 70.6 degrees
SEAT TUBE ANGLE: 74 degrees
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: 445mm
*PRICE: R38 700
FRAME: Carbon main, alloy swingarm
COLOURS: Charcoal with white ascents
FORK: Fox Float 29 Evolution (CTD)
REAR SHOCK: Fox Float Dual Remote CTD Custom Race Valved
SHIFTERS: Shimano SLX
FRONT DERAILLER: Shimano SLX (3×10)
REAR DERAILLER: Shimano XT
CRANKSET: 170mm Race Face 42/32/24
BRAKESET: Shimano SLX 675 hydraulic disc with
WHEELS: Sun Ringle Inferno rims, Wheel Tech hubs
TYRES: Rear: Continental Race King 2.2, Front: Continental Cross King 2.2
OTHERS: Cane Creek headset, RaceFace stem and handlebars, Rocky Mountain seatpost and saddle
CONTACT: www.hullabaloo.co.za; 012 660 0016
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 22, 2013 – All rights reserved