Rocky Mountain Bicycles has just unveiled their new cross country race weapon, the Element 29 RSL.
We spotted their alloy Element 29er bikes last summer. The hydroformed tubes are easily mistaken for carbon at a glance, but the new RSL models step up the game to offer a sub-2kg frame with shock and hardware on a 100mm BC-ready race platform. The more bikes we ride here at Bikerumor, the more we come to appreciate a well thought out bike, and the new Element 29 RSL has plenty of impressive features to keep us happy. We were fortunate to get a preproduction model in for a few rides prior to the announcement. It’s fast, no doubt, and it’s quite the looker.
The Element 29 RSL takes all of Rocky Mountain’s latest tech from their 26″ bikes to create a top shelf, lightweight racer. In fact, they believe it’s so fast, the Element RSL will only be offered in 29er going forward…no 100mm 26″ models for 2013.
The frame uses their C13 Hi-Mod carbon in a monocoque construction. The build uses internal molds rather than air bladders, which creates a smooth inner tube surface. They call it Smoothwall, and as we’ve learned, a smooth inner surface reduces the likelihood of stress risers and saves weight. It also means they’re getting better compression, which yields a stronger frame.
2013 ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELEMENT 29 RSL LINEUP
Four models are on offer, all with Cane Creek headsets. The top of the line Element 29 999RSL comes in at a claimed 22.3lbs complete (without pedals). Highlights are a full SRAM XX group, Continental Race King tires on DT Swiss wheels, Rockshox SID XX World Cup fork and Monarch XX rear shock, a Race Face Turbine cockpit and a Fizik Tundra K:ium saddle. All models are offered in five sizes, Small through 2XL, to fit riders from 5’4″ to 6’6″. MSRP is $7,999.
The Element 29 970RSL gets a Shimano XT/XTR drivetrain and brakes mix with Race Face Turbine cranks, alloy Race Face cockpit and Fox’s new CTD fork and shock with remote dual lockout. DT Swiss wheels roll on a Continental X-King in the front and Race King in the rear. MSRP is $4,999.
Next down is the Element 29 970 BC Edition with a 120-90mm TALAS adjustable travel fork and Reverb dropper seatpost. Tires are the grippier X-King front and rear, a Race Face Turbine triple crankset (999 and 970RSL are both 2×10) with a Shimano SLX / SRAM X9 mix and Avid Elixir 9 brakes. MSRP is $5,199.
The Element 29 950RSL gets the X-King/Race King tire combo on Wheeltech wheels, Fox Float 32 CTD suspension with remote dual lockout, Shimano SLX group with Race Face Turbine cranks and cockpit. MSRP is $4,099.
FRAME DETAILS & SPEC
Our test bike is an XL 970RSL. Even being the next-to-largest size, the frame offers plenty of stand over clearance and actually looks small considering the size. Rocky Mountain gave it a reasonable top tube length (full geometry chart at bottom of post) and fairly short 17.5″ (445mm) chainstay. That tighter geometry was combined with a slacker 70.6º head angle, which provides proper toe clearance for the front wheel and keeps the bike quite stable.
Their SmoothLink suspension design places both the main pivot (near BB) and rear pivot above the rear axle, which claims to put the line between them parallel to the Average Chain Torque Line throughout its travel. The result claims to be bob-free suspension where chain tension (i.e. pedaling forces) don’t act on the suspension, keeping it both efficient and active.
Actual rear end travel is 95mm, though the bike is billed as a 100mm ride. The upper pivot has marks showing proper sag. Rocky Mountain’s marketing guy Peter Vallance strongly encouraged us to set the suspension at the ideal sag between 25% and 30%. Rocker arm is carbon, too, and the lower rocker pivot doubles as the lower shock mount.
The bike’s six smaller pivots (left and right side for rocker arm upper and lower pivots and rear chainstay pivots) all rotate on RM’s Angular Contact Bushings (ABC). They say these provide super smooth action with minimal maintenance and, because of their design, can’t be over tightened to where they bind up. The upside is that they save 120g per frame versus cartridge bearings, handle side loads better and last longer.
Up front, the headtube junction is stout, but not massive. Internal cable routing for both derailleurs, the rear shock remote cable and…
…a dropper post are all included. This is perhaps the sleekest integration of cable lines for a drop post we’ve seen. Note the exit for the shock remote, then the shaped hole in the shock mount structure followed by a zip-tie groove directly above the upper rocker pivot.
It keeps the bike very tidy looking.
Speaking of tidy, Rocky Mountain’s based in Vancouver, which has its share of wet days. The seatpost binder is covered with a rubber sleeve to keep the water from getting into the frame. The bolt head peeks through the other side to make adjustments without having to remove the cover. Untidy, however, is the mess of cables for the dual remote. The length of its levers along with the length of Shimano’s shift levers is making for some interesting setup tweaks.
IS mount brake tabs let you get completely weight weenie if you want (it is designed as a race bike after all), but they come stock with 180mm rotors front and rear). Rear axle is E-Thru 12×142.
Bottom bracket is PressFit82, which keeps it clean looking and stiff. The E-Type (direct mount) front derailleur mounts to the chainstay swing arm, so it’s stiff and always lined up with the chainrings properly regardless of suspension movement. The chainstay and a small section on the front edge of the BB have perforated stainless steel chain guards to protect the frame.
FIRST RIDES & ACTUAL WEIGHT
Fortunately, our East Coast testing grounds provide roots, rocks and wetness not all that dissimilar to BC, just perhaps of a lesser magnitude. Rocky Mountain designed the Element 29 RSL to be both fast and fun over exactly this type of terrain. So far, I’ve had two rides for a little over 40 miles. One day was dry, the other a bit wet, and on both days the bike felt fast.
It also felt solid. And easy to maneuver. What’s most impressive, though, is how quiet the bike is. It’s make-a-ninja-uncomfortable quiet. Riding behind a couple of friends, they had to turn around to see if I was still there. Repeatedly. And when I passed them, they had no idea I was coming ’round until it was too late. And this is without Shadow Plus or TYPE 2 rear derailleur trickery. For a racer, this could be both a tactical and mental advantage.
RM says the layup was designed to maximize stiffness, and I’d agree. The bike is very responsive and reacts quickly. I’m still learning the limits of the bike, and converting to tubeless will help get the most grip out of the tires to really let me explore its potential. First impressions are very good, now it’s time to take it to the mountains.
Our XL 970RSL came in at 26lbs 5oz without pedals. This is with tubes in the tires, but it comes with tubeless valve stems. Personally, I’d prefer the bike set up without the suspension remote. not only would it save a bit of weight and streamline the appearance, but it would improve cockpit ergonomics. And, mainly, so far I just don’t think the bike needs it. With sag set up properly, I’ve spent most of the time in “D” mode. It’s more fun, more active and still plenty efficient.
What about Fox’s new iRD electronic lockout? Vallance says they didn’t spec it because at this time they don’t see the benefit on this model outweighing the cost. He did say it’s on their radar, though, and that the RSL frame molds are set up to incorporate a Di2 battery mount in the future should more interesting things develop. Don’t hold your breath.
GEOMETRY, VIDEO & LINKAGE
Check out their mini-site to geek out on the Element 29 RSL.
Looking for more travel? Check out our review of the Rocky Mountain Altitude 29er here.