Rocky Mountain's goal for the latest iteration of their famed Slayer bike line was to create a world class All-Mountain/Enduro/DH adventure cycle machine. Easy to pedal, light weight, and fantastic on the downhills. Did they meet these goals?


Pros:
  • Pedals surprisingly well for the amount of travel
  • Goes downhill like a rockstar
  • Component spec is fantastic for price but could use some personal tweeking
  • Fun to ride and immediately comfortable in the saddle and out
  • Neutral body position makes corners, jumps, handling, very easy
  • Traction up hill and down
Cons:
  • Front wheel comes up too easily on very steep climbs
  • (edit into final comments)

To achieve this, Rocky Mountain needed to design the latest Slayer from a clean slate. The engineers at Rocky Mountain chose a slightly modified four-bar platform for the suspension. The Slayer 70 uses Rocky Mountain's SmoothLink™ suspension system, which is an extension of their ETS platform and is now used extensively throughout the Rocky Mountain bike lines.

The key features of the SmoothLink™ are minimal chain growth, for example a 140mm travel bike will have 9mm of chain growth, and a linear rising suspension rate. A benefit of this is that shock settings will be constant throughout the stroke and the suspension will have a limitless feel. The SmoothLink™ system puts the rear swing arm pivot 10mm above the rear axle, which allows the Average Chain Torque Line (ACTL) to follow more closely to the lower link of the system. Keeping these two lines closely in parallel allows the Instant Center of Rotation (ICR) of the suspension system to closely follow the ACTL, which means reduced pedal bob. But this isn't the only design advancement that the new Slayer would receive. Rocky also noted that optimum pedaling power comes from having a correct seated position, so the StraightUp™ geometry was developed. This means that when the suspension is set to the correct sag, the seat tube angle will be around 73 degrees. At this angle you shouldn't have to scoot up on the nose of your saddle when pedaling uphill. It will put your hips and legs in better alignment with cranks and pedals for optimal power. Obviously this geometry won't make up for having weak legs, but it can make the chore of riding up hills more enjoyable and efficient.

Other cool tricks in the new frame include a two-piece bottom bracket that is hollowed out to save as much weight as possible, an e-type front derailleur that bolts onto the frame, tapered head tube for optimum strength to weight savings, and a pretty trick little chain device that helps keep your chain from completely dropping off the double rings up front. Oh yes, and that one guy, Wade Simmons, famous for doing stuff on bike or something like that, had a lot of input into how the bike handles and rides.




My mountain biking background has been dominated by downhill. Though as I've grown older and acquired more responsibilities, 20ft step downs and riding hell bent over nasty rock gardens just doesn't have the same thrill that it used to. So I've been on a hunt to find a bike that will allow me a bit of the DH fun while reducing the pain and agony of hill climbs. The Slayer caught my attention for many reasons, but mostly I hoped the relaxed downhill geometry would allow me to ride all the local DH trails as well as the XC/All Mountain ones. For those bikers in the Bay Area, being able to go from Demo to Tamarancho to Pacifica, all on the same bike.

I'm 6'4" and am fairly comfortable with a smaller cockpit, so I asked to test the 19-inch frame. And while it works, I'm not too cramped and have ample legroom, if I had the option to have re-asked for the 20.5-inch frame, I should have. Being spread out another 1.5-inches would make hill climbs slightly more comfortable, but on the downhill the smaller frame is just that much more maneuverable.

The spec'd components on the top of the line Slayer 70 are fantastic. Formula The One disc brakes, SRAM X9 derailleur and 10 speed gearing, Fox 36 Float RLC Fit with Kashima coating, Fox RP23 XV with custom valuing and Kashima coating, DT Swiss EX 500 Tubeless compatible rims, and the 'never-going-back-to-a-standard-seatpost' RockShox Reverb. The 19-inch frame weighed in at just about 30lbs, and if one was inclined, there were some obvious weight saving options. For instance a 203mm rear rotor is a bit over kill, and if you have the legs for it, converting to a single ring up front would shed more weight. One could easily have a 28lbs, 160mm trail destroying machine. The only thing I found I would change out immediately is the 28-inch handlebars. 30-inch bars are a much better fit for this bike.




Up Hill

So, does all the technology, the SmoothLink™ and StraightUP™ geometry, reduce the pain of a long up hill pedal? No, but the SmoothLink™ does actually reduce pedal bob and StraightUp™ geometry does make pedaling in the saddle much more comfortable. I almost never had the urge to get out of the saddle and I'm a get out of the saddle type of climber. Moving the RP23 into the "Climb" setting and running about 80 to 90% of the Fox 36 locked out, made long ascents much more tolerable while keeping the suspension slightly active for bump, root, and traction. Also, completely locking the fork out seemed to over emphasize the bob of the rear suspension and made for a very awkward feeling of riding a rigid fork on a suspension frame. None of this was notable though when only locking out the fork 80-90%. For more technical ascents leaving the RP23 in the more active "Trail" setting allowed for better traction of the rear wheel. The one complaint I did have was with very steep climbs, the front end wants to wheelie and a lot of leaning forward is required to keep the front wheel down. This might have been less intense if I had had the 20.5-inch frame because my body would have already been leaned over more, but it wouldn't change the chainstay length and rear wheel placement, thus I'm not sure a larger frame would have actually made a difference.



Down Hill

On descents the Slayer 70 performs wonderfully. A neutral balance to the suspension and stable handling allowed for an extremely comfortable and assured feel right from the start. On my first ride I was hitting the local step-downs and mid-sized doubles without any hesitation. Due to the neutral body position and suspension, cornering was very easy and predictable. Compared to my old Canfield F1 where I needed to constantly remember to "GET UP OVER THE FRONT!", on the Slayer 70, the body was already there.
The frame is without question, solid. Almost no flex was detectable, and the bike stayed on-line through rocky sections and off camber trail segments. When the trails really got gnarly, the Slayer held its own but it obviously wasn't a DH bike with a DH fork. Thus, I wasn't able to ride the DH trails with the same gusto as on a dedicated DH rig, but the Slayer 70 was nonetheless exciting and confidence inspiring. I just had to keep my pure DH mentality in check a bit.


Braking

Trouble stopping? Not with 203mm rotors and Formula The One brakes. What impressed me most though was how active the suspension stayed while braking over ruts, bumps and rocks. This allowed the rear wheel to stay in better contact with the ground and thus actually stop me faster. This also meant that braking on super steep chutes and runs was controlled and didn't throw my body forward. Unlike my old Canfield F1 which had brake squat, the Slayer stays neutral under hard braking and was easier to get going again afterwards because my body was already in a good position to pedal.

Final Thoughts

I would absolutely recommend the Slayer 70. From the moment I put a leg over the saddle, barring some suspension set up, the bike felt stable and comfortable. I haven't had a lot of time on a Santa Cruz Nomad, but from the couple of trails I've ridden, the Slayer 70 versus a Nomad with a similar set up, did offer me the same initial comfort level as the Slayer did. I felt a similar thing on some of the V-10's I've ridden. The bikes are just very different riding. The Slayer is more in line with the initial comfort levels I've felt with Cannondale and Norcos. Hopefully those of you who have ridden similar bikes will understand my point. One thing I have noticed of All Mtn/ Enduro bikes of late is the complexity of the bike set up and maintenance and the constant need as a rider to consider the bike setting almost as much as one has to consider the rock garden they are flying towards. As someone who ride all types of bikes, and works on making user experiences natural and instinctive, I hope that as bike technology improves, part of that will include a seamless user experience that allows the rider to enjoy the benefits of a high end bike without having to understand absolutely everything technical about the bike they are on.

Technical Details

Frame Material: RMB FORM 7005 aluminum
Suspension: SmoothLink
Pivot Type: Angular Bushing Concept (ABC)
Leverage Ratio:
Rear Travel: 6.5 in
Geometry Adjustments:
Rear Shock: Fox RP23 XV (custom valved)
ISCG Tabs: ISCG 05
Headset: 1.125 x 1.5 in
Accessory Cable Stops: seat dropper
Rear Axle: 12 x 142 mm
Fork: Fox 36 Float RLC FIT
Front Travel: 160 mm
Wheelset:
Rims: DT Swiss EX500
Hubs: (front) 20 x 110 mm WheelTech AM Carbon, (rear) 142 x 12 mm WheelTech
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition
Front Derailleur: Shimano SLX E Mount 10spd
Front Derailleur Mount:
Rear Derailleur: SRAM X.9 (10-speed)
Shifters: SRAM X9 Matchmaker
Crankset: Race Face Turbine
Chain Rings: 36 / 24 T RaceFace
Crank Arm Length:
Pedals:
Bottom Bracket: Race Face Turbine X Type
Brake Levers: Formula The One
Brake Calipers: Formula The One
Rear Rotor: 203 mm
Front Rotor: 203 mm
Handlebar: Easton Haven carbon fiber
Handlebar Width: 711 mm
Handlebar Rise: low
Grips: RMB lock-on
Stem: Easton Haven
Stem Length: 55 mm, 70 mm
Stem Angle: 6 deg
Chain: SRAM PC-1071
Cassette: 12 - 36 T SRAM PC-1071
Sprocket Range:
Tires: Maxxis Ardent
Tire Size: 26 in x 2.4 in
Valve Stem: Presta
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb
Seatpost Diameter: 30.9 mm
Seatpost Length:
Seat Collar: QR
Saddle: fi'zi:k Gobi XM
Cables / Housing:
Compatible Components:
Weight: 29 lb 9 oz



(Outdoor photos by Jason Van Horn)