Rocky Mountain is a semi- custom bike manufacturer,That is based (and builds bikes) out of Vancouver, British Columbia. SinceThey are not pumping out hundreds ofThousands of bikes a year,They are ableToTakeTheir Time and ensureThat every Rocky Mountain isThe best it can be.The original version ofThe Element was released in 1996. DueToThe great design, it has remained relatively unchanged. NewToThe Element lineup isThe Element 950 29”. This 29” full suspension crosscountry b
Strengths: Rolls over rough terrain with so much ease! Feels stable and solid, very nimble around the turns, I barely even noticed it was a 29er. Nice feel and ride to the bike. I bought it for racing, so far Ive just done a 24 solo and a stage race on it, but I feel it was the right tool for the job.
Weaknesses: I didn't like the 2x10 setup that came with it so I plan on switching to 3 speed up front. Also, I haven't been major happy with the Rock Shox rear shock, it seems to leak air fairly easily. I switched to a narrower bar as the stock bars were a bit wide for me. Also, the tyres have zero cornering grip and Ive washed out on them a few times.
I would definitely recommend this bike to anyone looking to get a 29er for the first time. Its confidence inspiring, and the handle just felt really natural right out of the box. Really nice bike overall!
Strengths: At 28.0 pounds with a "real" aftermarket trail wheel set and "trail worthy" tubeless tires, this is the best all-around XC/trail BIKE I have owned to date. After trying a hard tail and carbon, I firmly believe in aluminum full suspension...but not too much of it (95mm of rear travel and 90-120mm of adjustable front travel). The travel adjust fork highlights a workhorse component spec that packs a lot of value without requiring immediate upgrades. The frame and suspension include clean lines and smart design features that produce a fairly stiff finished product. I am very happy to finally have a bike with front and rear thru-axles and a tapered head tube. Also...the wide bottom bracket definitely has something to do with the frame's stiffness and stability. I also like how the rear shock is mounted up and away from the BB...this reduces the cleaning nightmare associated with many other suspension designs. This bike suits my needs very well...mostly dry California weather and pretty basic XC/trail single track and fire roads. It may be a little "too much" bike at times, but it is set-up to tackle the full spectrum of my riding abilities. This is a great "one bike quiver-killer" for real world people who don't have a bunch of F-you money lying around. The price of the 2012 version is probably outrageous to those who don't understand why we love bikes, but is definitely a semi-bargain to those who "get" what this bike is capable of.
Weaknesses: I was super happy to bring my new bike home! I had scoured the internet and magazines to create a pool of bikes to choose from...then I went on a two month demo tour to be absolutely sure of which bike would be best for me. After all the reading, riding, and interrogating I pulled the trigger. First, I encountered the dreaded creaking sound coming out of the main pivot axle that I had read about. I asked the shop owner to look into greasing this before I took delivery. He didn't grease it...I had to. Bummer, but it solved the problem. A pain in the rear...but fair enough. Heck, now I was becoming familiar with my bike and some future maintenance procedures. Then the Rocky house brand Wheel-Tech front hub developed play. It has been diagnosed as a bearing, but it still hasn't been replaced by Rocky (I kinda moved on after buying a new wheel set...I will get to this in the future). Another pain. While I was having the front hub diagnosed, the mechanic noticed that the seals on my fork were migrating out of the lower seats. I had the seals replaced...$90 and a pain. The shop did give me a $50 credit later. Soon after, my fork seized up...no travel. Another pain, but Rock Shox replaced it with an upgraded version. Sweet! Recently, my shock decided to lose 40-50 PSI every ride. Great...another pain. RS took care of it...but it took a month. Also...re-mounting the shock on this frame is a MAJOR PAIN!...you need six hands and more space than the frame will allow. Ouch! On another note, the SRAM X.9 rear derailleur makes for a tricky trail-side rear wheel removal in the case of a flat. To be fair to Rocky, half of these issues are SRAM's fault. But there is a difficult learning curve when it comes to working with some parts of the frame. Even after all of this, I still believe the performance advantages of the frame outweigh a few negatives. I have to mention these things...especially if you aren't handy or don't want to deal with such headaches.
So..."Why the 4 chili rating for the best bike you have owned to date?...Why not a 5 chili?" Well, I could do what many of us do when we buy a new bike...brag endlessly about how smart I am to have found the "perfect bike" and got a smokin' hot deal to boot. But...that wouldn't be an accurate, objective appraisal of this bike. Yes, this bike is "great" overall (BTW..."great" is the 4 chili rating). Yes, I love this bike. Yes, I plan on riding this bike for many years. Yes, I will probably replace this bike with another Rocky Mountain. But...I did go through the "terrible two's" after I brought this "baby" home. There was some TLC required after the honeymoon period ended...and this baffled/irritated me. And, also not absolutely necessary, I did swap out quite a few components due to personal preference, mechanical failure, or soon-to-be mechanical failure. There is also a rear tire clearance issue, but Rocky has improved that on 2013 models by adding dimples inside the seat stays. But there are rear tire width limitations on the 2012. The rear tire size is also limited by the direct mount front derailleur that offers very little clearance between it and the tire. I have also found it difficult to dial in the right amount of PSI in the rear shock. And...the SAG indicator on the top of the shock link doesn't work as well as I hoped it would. But...think about it...what complete bike doesn't have similar issues? True 5 chilli bikes probably don't exist. Instead, they probably only exist in giddy new bike owner's minds. Would I buy this bike again?...Yes. Would I recommend this bike to others who intend to use it in the manner Rocky intended?...Yes. Would I recommend it over other really nice bikes in its genre?...Yes. The 950 is a great choice for mountain bikers (maybe not racers due to its weight). If you just like to RIDE, or race longer endurance events, it's good enough on the climbs and descends very well. It just flat out works and is fun to ride. Oh...on another note...everyone at Rocky Mountain is ABSOLUTELY AWESOME to deal with! They have been very patient and willing to help me navigate through the speed bumps I encountered along the way. They are the reason I will stay with Rocky when it comes to replacing my 950.
Similar Products Used: Giant Anthem X2...a 4" full suspension bike...BUT it was a 26er
Cannondale Flash Carbon 3 29er...29er...BUT it was a hard tail
Bike Setup: Swapped out stock parts with: Easton carbon flat bar, Thomson seatpost and seatpost clamp, Specialized Alias saddle, Specialized The Captain Control 2.0 front tire, WTB Nano 2.1 TCS rear tire, WTB Frequency i23 rims with e.13 TRS+ hubs, 11-36 cassette, XTR clipless pedals, ESI Chunky grips, Stan's tubeless set-up
Strengths: Value, versatility, pure awesomeness. Climbing prowess, stability, fun-quotient. Confidence inspiring. Well built. Understated, but classic.
Weaknesses: Color options (nit-picky). Loud brakes (but very powerful). Carbon wasn't available initially, but was too good to pass up.
This review is for both the 950 (my wife's ride) and the 970 (my ride).
My wife was coming off an upgraded 2006 Giant Trance (crossmax wheels etc) and I was coming off a 2006 sub-25 pound Specialized Epic (crank brothers cobalt wheels etc) and we were thinking it would be nice to upgrade to carbon sometime in the next couple of years. We had initially targeted the Ibis Mojo SL, the Santa Cruz TR and hadn't considered 29ers until we came across a demo day hosted by Rocky Mountain and 3 Ring Cycles in San Anselmo, CA.
Simply put, riding is believing. I immediately felt comfortable on the Element 29ers and was blown away how it not only smoothed out the rougher stuff, but the agility of the Rocky Geometry. I had no trouble on the usual switchbacks and was impressed how flickable the Element was. I'm only 5'6" and had thought that 29er couldn't possibly be for me... while the Santa Cruz Tallboy (medium is smallest size) is too large, I can flick around the 15.5" Rocky without problem. Technical terrain and switchbacks are much easier than ever on my 26" Epic.
Of note, I loved my Specialized Epic and had always been a Specialized guy. That said, I demoed an Epic 29er to make sure it was the Element and not the bigger wheels. Riding the Epic 29er felt like riding my smaller wheel'd Epic, but with larger wheels whereas the Element felt like something special, something that just felt right. It was an easy decision. I met a few other guys on the trail during a Specialized Demo day and tipped them off to the local Rocky Mountain Dealer (3 Ring Cycles) and I found out later that they bought two 950s on my tip, despite riding the Epic, Carve and Stumpjumper 29ers.
While I was convinced, my wife would be harder to convince. In her mind, she didn't feel the need to spend the money on a new bike. Well... the demo convinced her. In fact, the day of the demo she didn't settle for our usual one lap and done at our usual riding spot. She did a second lap for the first time ever. These bikes simply make you want to ride. And the 950 has helped take my wife's riding to a whole new level. It inspires confidence.
I should say that these bikes have taken both of our riding to a new level. We've upped the amount of riding we do and signed up for the Mt. Tam Dirt Fondo this coming Sunday. We've transformed from weekend warriors and the occasional longer ride to this Dirt Fondo - 45 miles, 7000+ feet of elevation gain. Granted, I love my wife for her 'hard core' mindset, but when she first started riding the slightest semblance of a hill sent her in the opposite direction.
As for specifics, we both really like the 2x10 set ups. I sometimes envy her longer fork travel, but the 970 is very well spec'd. Unfortunately, while the Formula brakes are super strong, the ones on my 970 are super loud! I need to figure out if I bent the rotors and they are rubbing, but it's so inconsistent that sometimes sounds like the wind is causing them to whistle!
We've since put custom wheel sets on them (best upgrade you can ever do to a bike). Her 950 has e*Thirteen TRS+ hubs laced to WTB i19 Frequency Team rims with DT Swiss Comp spokes and Alloy nipples. My 970 has Chris King Hubs, WTB i19 Frequency Team rims and DT Swiss Comp spokes as well. Both bikes are set up tubeless with WTB Bronson 2.2 up front and WTB Wolverine 2.2 in the back. Stock tires were super light and great for what they are, but was looking for extra grip and edge hold.
Overall, the 950 and 970 are superb bikes and the only thing that could make them better is carbon. That said, I'm glad we didn't wait. With the new wheel sets and dropper posts, we have our dream bikes... just need to avoid temptation of 2013 carbon versions!
Strengths: The features that make this bike a strong winner are the 12x142mm rear axle, the 20mm front axle, the stiff front triangle and bottom bracket BB90. With a lively but smooth anti-bobbing pedaling rear suspension. A tappered head tube Plus a good frame geometry. The list grows and grows the more I think about it. Even the price is a good one when you compare other bikes in this class I challenge you to find a better equipped bike with120mm front fork and as good of a wheel set to keep the weight down. The 2x10 X-9 drive train is a solid performer. I am 5' 11" and weigh 190lbs and fit the 17.5 inch frame. Steering is precise and more sure on uncertain surfaces. I don't detect unwanted flex in pedaling or rear suspension. This bike climbs like a goat and races the downhill with confident fun. I have dropped it a few times already but I was flying too fast. My fault. I raced my best personal time at my local trail on this Element 950. Just to see if I could And I did easily. All smiles no regrets. Go test a demo and you will be impressed. Like me!
Weaknesses: You have to really be a tough customer to have or find much fault in this bike. For me it is the little things that I'd like to improve like the handle grips are a bit thin and wear fast. The end plug which I liked fell off most likely from rubbing a tree. But they don't twist which is good and I'll use them until they're done. The seat is good enough for me. You only get one paint scheme for the 950, white with black and grey strips. It's a little boring but I added some Rockshock stickers to liven the colour and I like it more now. I think the hubs are of a lesser quality then I'd prefer but haven't had any issues with them yet in the month I've owned it. I did wack my knee hard on the top tube once. My fault for sure but I also considered that the upward rounded shape didn't help the incident either. The tires are good but if ground is loose or you push too hard you can lose traction on these low knobs. Still a good tire set.
The bottom line is that I LOVE THIS BIKE! I mostly ride cross country and have never owned a nicer bike in my long history of riding.(30 plus years). This is my 4th 29er and 8th mountain bike that I've owned and my best riding one. I've cleared certain hills or features with more ease on this Rocky 950 than on all of the previous bikes combined. I can't say enough good things about it. I did test ride the bike at a bike shop before i purchased it. On that day I wasn't looking for a new bike at all. But was so impressed with the great qualities that I knew this bike could take pleasure to a new level. Thanks to my wife for understanding how important it was to me, and the 950 didn't disappoint.
Similar Products Used: Tried the Epic 29 full suspension, Used a 26" Stumpjumper FSR Comp. Jamis DragonPro hard tail. Salsa Dos Niner.
Bike Setup: Stock. 25%sag front and rear, 28lbs air in front tire. 30lbs air rear tire.
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: August 5, 2012
Strengths: This bike made me a better rider. It climbs like a mountain goat, descends confidently and is scary fast. When compared to my previous 26” RMB ETXS 30, it feels like I’m “cheating”.
Having never driven a 29er, I was leery about having less suspension travel. The ability of the front fork to go to 120 mm, which is where I run it, was the final decision maker. Whether it’s the larger wheels or the suspension set-up, or both, I don’t notice the lesser amount of travel in the rear. I do however notice much less pedal bob.
Since I never used the big chain ring anyway, the 2 x 10 set-up is nice and suits this bike well.
I was pleased with the stock Maxxis tires. They accelerate well. Admittedly the Aspen, on the rear, doesn’t look like much (when compared to my previous Nevegals) but it has been more than up to the task in mud, over roots and rocks, and bombing through flowing single track.
Weaknesses: Not so much a weakness as just plain annoying, I find the brakes desperately loud (when compared to the whisper quiet Shimanos on my ETSX). That being said the brakes do work, are very powerful and do stop the bike efficiently.
The free hub broke after about two months. I believe it was likely a manufacturing defect unknown when installed and failed after use. It was replaced by the local dealer under warranty with no issues since.
The black / shades of grey on white paint scheme, although not ugly, is hardly eye-catching either. A splash of colour wouldn’t have hurt. But then I suppose you don’t see it when coated in mud.
Simply put, this bike is just plain fun.
While waiting for the new free hub, I rode my ETSX (with Nevegals), and was it ever hard work. The 950 simply does everything better. Over the same technical single track trials the 950 gives up nothing to my old ride. The 26” bike was slightly (very slightly) more nimble. But the 950 makes up for that tenfold by simply being way more enjoyable to ride.
Last winter, when shopping for a new bike, I seriously looked at (but never rode) the Scott Spark 29, KHS Flagstaff and Norco Revolver. I have no doubt these are all good rides. I’m also quite aware that there are likely better bikes with better components. I have not once regretted my purchase of the RMB Element 950, and have been riding the snot out of it since April.
FYI – I’m 5’10”, 210 lb, with a 30” inseam. My 950 has a 17” frame (my ETSX was 18”). I ride locally, over wet or dry technical terrain, 2 to 4 times a week. I don’t race. I don’t tend to jump much, at least not on purpose.
I would recommend to anyone unsure about what 29er to purchase to have a look at the 950. If you manage to test drive one, whether you buy it or not, you’ll have a smile on your face.
Bike Setup: Stock. I run 10 psi less than what is "recommended" on the front fork.
Date Reviewed: July 24, 2012
Strengths: Great overall. Very comfortable fit, climbs well, fast on the downhills. Was concerned about tight switchbacks with a 29'er, but hasn't been a problem.
I like the 2x10 drive train. Didn't think it would be a big deal, but finding it a pleasant surprise.
I have also been pleasantly surprised that the 2.1 rear wheel gives good traction. I was used to riding 2.5+ tires on my 26'er. I still may try a 2.2 rear with a bit more tread when I wear the stock tires out.
The Formula brakes and Rock Shox suspension seem excellent so far.
Weaknesses: First off, I did swap out the grips and seat. I like a softer grip, and the stock seat was a POS.
After 10+ rides, I developed some play in the front hub. Took it back to the shop, and they seem to have fixed it, but am a bit suspicious now that Rocky cut some corners by spec'ing Wheeltech, which is their in house brand.
Not sure it rises to the level of a weakness, but I doubt I will ever adjust the fork to less than 120mm travel.
The paint job is unimaginative... wish they'd had some color choices.
I switched to this bike from a Yeti 575, which was a great bike. While they are clearly different, the 950 seems to pick up some big advantages on climbing and long rides, without giving up anything on the downhills.
The May 2012 issue of Bike Magazine had very favorable long term reviews on this bike by two riders.
Other info: I am 6'4" and 175 lbs. I bought the 20" frame. I have been riding 20+ years, and enjoy long xc rides. I ride technical terrain, but am no downhill bomber. I live in Colorado, and do most of my riding in dry conditions.
If you are looking for an all around xc bike, this one should be on your list to try. I think it is my favorite bike ever.