Ride Report – ’13 ROCKY MOUNTAIN Element 970 RSL “BC Edition”- by c_g

On June 1st we had brought to you the new range of ROCKY MOUNTAIN Element 29″er models (here). With these RMB has expanded the range of 29″er Elements by a solid 4 new models – the 950 RSL, the 970 RSL and the top-end model 999 RSL – all with 100 mm front and rear, designed for XC/Marathon and performance riding. But wait, didn´t I say 4 models?! Indeed, as an exercise of free thinking, ROCKY MOUNTAIN also presented the Element 970 RSL “BC Edition” – a bike that goes beyond the classic definition of a XC bike. We had the opportunity to ride the B.C. extensively for several weeks following the presentation and therefore are able to provide this report.

THE BIKE:

The ROCKY MOUNTAIN Element 970 RSL “B.C. Edition” is based on the newly launched Carbon main frame (made in the patented Smooth Wall technology) and the aluminum rear triangle known from the previously Element models. For all other technical features of the Element RSL 29″ers go to the ROCKY MOUNTAIN micro-site (http://element.bikes.com) or to our intro article (here).

With its focus as an aggressive XC bike the B.C. Edition has received a little „special treatment“:

• The fork is a FOX Float 29 Talas FIT F32 CTD. This means that the travel can be set in seconds in either 95 or 120 mm by simply flipping the Talas lever in the top left of the fork. Contrary to what FOX usually communicates about the TALAS settings ROCKY MOUNTAIN interprets the 95 mm setting as “standard” for the Element and reserves the 120 mm setting as “rough trail and downhill mode“. The fork is featuring, like most ’13 FOX forks, the 3-stage CTD-setting, which here has another three platform levels to coose from when ridden in the middle “trail mode” – exactly the fine-tuning option I had been missing on the other models with simultaneous CTD remote adjustment.

• On the back a slightly plusher tuned FOX Float CTD shock (relative to the other RSL 29″er models) is taking care of suspension duties. With the identical 3 CTD main settings (and the triple adjustable platform damping in “Trail mode”) it offers a good and well usable adjustment range.

• Both fork and shock have to be adjusted manually, but given the easily accessible position this is very easily and intuitive.

• To suit the bike better to hard trail riding, RMB has equipped the BC Edition with a ROCK SHOX Reverb height adjustable seat post. The infinitely adjustable post allows awesome freedom of movement on the bike for technical sections. The adjustment is done via the handlebar mounted, hydraulic X-Loc lever. New for ’13 (and to our knowledge exclusive to the carbon frames) is the possibility to run the remote hoses internally (and from the shock rearward nicely tied to the top tube). The extra weight of the post (about 250 g compared to a rigid post) appears negligible considering the orientation of the B.C.

• To further optimize the freedom of movement on the bike and to make the seating position a bit more compact the B.C. Edition received a slightly shorter stem (our test bike had a short 80mm stem mounted).

• In the production trim the BC Edition also receives X-King CONTINENTAL tires front and rear (the others RSL models – and our pre-production bike – have the CONTI Race King on the rear). For general use, the choice makes good sense, but on really rough terrain we would choose more aggressive tires anyway – like the CONTINENTAL Mountain King II.

•With the B.C. also comes the beautifully crafted triple crankset (24/32/42) by RACE FACE, to make those long climbs a bit easier on you.

The remaining components are good value with a SRAM X.9 group set (combined with a Shimano SLX front derailleur for better tire clearance), Avid Elixir brakes XM 90 (180 mm front and back), a wide RACE FACE handlebar (700 x 9 °) and the said short RACE FACE stem. The wheels are by DT-Swiss with new Straight-pull hubs and the bomb proof star ratchet engagement system. The narrow DT rims with just 18 mm inner width don´t really fit the trail oriented image of the bike , but at last they are tubeless ready.

RIDE IMPRESSIONS:

As I said, the test conditions at the official demo day were rather tricky due to the sudden onset of winter and even though temps had been quite nice, the trails adjacent to the presentation site were mostly snow covered. On day 2, the demoing action was relocated a little lower down the valley, where the trails were already open again. I rode the 2-hour loop a few times with the B.C. that day and also had the bike in the following 21 days, both during the Lago di Garda Festival (but only at night, so no pictures ) and on the local trails around my home.

Image courtesy of RockyMountain/DennisStratmann.de

Since we have been having a ROCKY MOUNTAIN Element 29″er as a permanent test platform for over ½ a year and since geometry and kinematics have remained unchanged – it took nearly no getting used to the bike. Only the more compact riding position and therefore more agile steering by the shorter stem a had us wondering initially.

The already mentioned characteristics of the new ROCKY MOUNTAIN Element frames (here) also apply for the RSL B.C. Edition:

The frame is exceptionally stiff and direct – definitely equal to if not better than the aluminum version.

• The issue with tire clearance was mostly solved by specifying another front derailleur. Our test model initially had the SRAM X.7 derailleur installed and suffered from the very tight tire clearance, but after about a week we exchanged it for a SLX front derailleur (as specified on the ´13 models), and from then on were quite happy with tire clearance. It still is not exceptionally huge (nothing that would fit a 2.5 or such ), but for all that would be considered adequate on the bike, it works well.

Since the FOX shock on the B.C. is tuned a bit softer, the BC in Open mode is very comfortable and almost plush. The 95 mm of rear wheel travel then feel like a good match for the front … even with the Fox fork set to 120 mm. On rough trails and descents I usually ran the shock open and I have engaged the platform only on long climbs or road sections. I don´t think I ran the locked mode for anything but testing.

I found the 3-fold adjustment of the shock and fork in the TRAIL-position to really work for me. By this I was able to balance the front and rear to meet my riding style nicely. It was this fine tuning option I had previously missed in the remote activated CTD models.

I am still undecided what fork travel setting really goes better with BC. On the rooty trails around the Sexten Domlomites and on the boulder strewn trails at Lake Garda I almost always ran the 120 mm setting (except on uphills), but on my home trails with frequent ups and downs I most often ran the 95 mm setting. Just like my own tests with the the FOX Talas TerraLogic on my Element 970 platform have shown (the verdict was posted only recently here), the bike can handle both. Whatever setting you ride in – the B.C. benefits from the adjustability which extends the versatility of the bike considerably.

The Element B.C accelerated very directly and rode this nimbly that during all the test we never even thought much about the weight of our B.C. test bike. When at the end of the test we finally hung it on the scale, we were a little surprised that in its (almost) standard trim it came out at 27.88 lbs (or 12.65 kg). We hold the components and wheels responsible – with lighter components sub-12 kg (or 26.5 lbs) should easily be possible.

The RS Reverb seat post has been awesome. I’m not a huge fan of dropper seat posts (simply because I had not had much experience with them), but on the B.C. I have used the feature very often and found the freedom of movement and control awesome. Since then, I am considering to upgrade my bikes as well ;) .

HANDLING:

The trails ridden offered everything you could wish for when testing: Anything from flowy fast, to tight switchbacks and technical sections, to small jumps and drops had been present. Once again I was thrilled by the universal and agile handling of the RMB Element 29″er. Be it forest, gravel roads or single tracks – the bike, in my opinion, is always fun to ride. It requires a certain level of riding skills in rough terrain, but in return you always get optimal feedback from the ground without ever being too firm or even uncomfortable.

There are bikes that climb more calmly, but these will not be as agile and fun – I have made it up any thing without excessive weight shifting.

The BC is clearly superior to the other Element RSL models, when things turn difficult and sketchy. The reason for this is the very effectively working FOX fork (especially in the long travel 120 mm setting) and the more compact front that make you feel more confident and make things easier.

Towards the end of the tests we mounted a 110 mm stem to see how this would change the B.C.´s character and voila … back was the well known XC/Race feeling. Thinking about it, the BC should actually be supplied with two stems – a short one for technically oriented trail rides, and a longer one for the next marathon or XC race at the weekend. Versatility has rarely been this easy to achieve.

So much for my impressions of the ROCKY MOUNTAIN Element RSL 970 B.C. Edition – a bike that goes beyond boundaries and has made us smile a lot during the test phase.

Last but not least we want to say THANK YOU to to the guys (and girls) from ROCKY MOUNTAIN for inviting us and in particular to the BIKE ACTION crew for entrusting us with the B.C. Edition bike for this first ever test.

RIDE ON,
c_g