Editor’s Note: With these Ride Impressions Twenty Nine Inches riders do not imply that these bicycles are ultimately good, bad, or indifferent for you. We do mean to convey through our many hours of riding lots of different 29 inch wheeled bicycles over a period of years to give you, the reader, an indication of what you might expect from these new rigs. In other words, this ain’t no review, but hopefully it points you in the right direction

Interbike 2011: Rocky Mountain Element 29 Ride Impressions: by Grannygear

We first saw a prototype of the new Element 29er FS at Sea Otter when Andreas ‘Dre’ Hestler showed us the vision Rocky Mountain had for the big wheeled version that would carry the Element banner into 2012. So we were quite excited to get a leg over the Element 950 at Bootleg Canyon.

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I asked them what the target was for the Element and they said they intended to impart a racier feel to the bike, something that could cover ground quickly and feel fast, but not be sketchy. Bullseye. Bang on target Rocky Mountain.

Pedaling out to the trail I was struck by how eager the bike felt when pedaled. It just scooted along like crazy. Factor in a lowish handlebar height and it added up to an aggressive, over the front feel that made you want to go fast. I ran it open on Pro Pedal and with only 2 clicks off of full fast for rebound and that was still a great pedaling, but firm feel. It still was giving me full travel and following the trail well, but it was not plush. I questioned them after the ride about why I was so far on the open side of things and we came to the conclusion that we were at the high end of the spring rate (air pressure) on the rear shock. No biggy, because I really think it was where this bike should be set to, that being a firmer feel, but speaking to Dre, he said that it can be a quite plush feel depending on set up. Now, I could have had a different experience if the set-up was very different, so know that as you read on.

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Looking at the odd shock angle and that linkage makes me think something is broken before I start riding, but pedaling and watching the linkage, you can see that it is hardly affected at all by pedaling/body input. On the trail it just flew along and reminded me of the Niner JET9 and the Specialized Epic in the way it took out the trail chatter but never felt bogged down or slow and it was well balanced to the Rock Shox Revelation fork set at 90mm. Steering was on the stable side for something that spunky and it really was a nice combo. Lofting the front wheel was dead easy and even the rocky drops at Bootleg (albeit moderate ones) were not sketchy at all.

I could see very little flex in the chassis and that seems to be a trend with the new hydroformed frames paired with a 12mm rear thru axle. That is a really good trend. The Maxxis Ikons on the DT Swiss wheels accelerated well and helped with the quick feel.

Based on the brief ride at Bootleg, I have to put this bike on the top level of full suspension 29″ers at 100mm and I would not hesitate to suggest it for a rider who appreciates a faster feeling ride and is not bothered by a less-than-plush suspension feel. In that way, it joins the Epic and JET-9 in my book and is darn good looking to boot.

I have a riding friend who has a 3 year or so old Element 70 FS 26″er, and he has been wanting to get on a 29″er full suspension for next year. He likes the same type of big XC rides I do, ranging into the 40 mile zone+ and over all kinds of terrain, but never too heavy technical wise. He also races team 12 hour stuff and does not need a bigger trail bike, but wants the big wheel feel brought into his rides. Well, he is gonna LOVE this bike because it fills that slot perfectly and it says Rocky Mountain on it, and that means a lot to him.

Oh, Canada!

We hope to get on one for a longer ride later this season, so stay tuned.

More from Interbike coming soon!