“A part or aspect of something abstract, especially one that is essential or characteristic.”
Characteristic is a great way to describe the new Rocky Mountain Bicycles Element. It’s characteristic in its geometry, it’s climbing, descending, it’s adjustability, and it’s ability to be uber efficient with every pedal stroke.
In this review we will chat about those characteristics and what they mean to it’s riders. We won’t talk about the build specs. I usually don’t get into the geometry, but this bike begs for it to be discussed. So let’s start with that.
This bike has a very progressive geo for its category (I like to think of it as XC/Trail). In fact, it’s fairly progressive for a bike in the trail category. The Element has a four position flip chip giving this bike a head tube angle as slack as 65° and as steep as 65.8! That’s as slack as the Instinct (a 140mm trail bike). However, it’s a 120mm rear and 130mm front travel bike similar to the Pivot Trail 429 or the Scott Spark. It has a long reach (450mm) and a steep seat tube (76-76.8 ). These numbers lead to the Element having some outstanding characteristics.
One of those characteristics is the way this bike climbs or even pedals. On pavement the bike almost feels like a hardtail. It pedaled with no noticeable suspension movement. However it’s not stiff or chattery on smaller bumps. It’s FAST on the flats. On light to mid grade climbs in the saddle the Element feels like it transfers all of the power to the ground scooting up hills efficiently. As the trail gets steep or rough, the progressive mid-stroke of the rear suspension along with the anti-squat characteristics propel the Element up and over obstacles with ease. There were also very few times I was worried about pedal strikes. This may just be the fastest techy climbing bike I have ever ridden!
In the corners the Element steers quickly but confidently. With a bike this slack the front can have a tendency to “flop over” at low speeds making the rider have to have better balance for techy trails. The Element however requires no funky body positioning to juke its way through a trail. While cornering at speed the Element can be leaned in hard and hold the line. It inspires confidence in flat corners along with banked high speed rippers. This bike really made it easy.
In the descents the Element can hold it’s own with the best of them, in fact, it may be the best of them along with the Trail 429. The slack head tube makes this bike an absolute masterpiece. While not as composed as the Instinct over rough stuff, it’s still great. It launches over table tops, eats up small to moderate roots and rocks, plus it can take 4’ drops without clapping out the suspension. I was really surprised how comfortable I was leaving the ground on the Element. I was having a blast on this bike.
Who is this bike for?
It’s tough to come up with something I didn’t like about this bike or the way it rides. It’s fast, fun and versatile. It can even fit 2 full size water bottles inside the front triangle on most sizes. The thing is, nothing is perfect and there is no one bike that can do everything perfectly. It’s not a super fast XC bike. It’s not a burly DH bike or even a solid Enduro bike. If you’re looking for a stupid fast XC bike this isn’t the perfect fit. If you’re used to the plush feel of a trail or enduro bike, it’s not ideal. So where does this bike fit?
The Element is for the person that wants a fast trail bike! The person that loves techy climbing and a variety of descending styles. This bike will be ultra competitive in endurance races like the Marji! It will tackle a wide range of trails and give newer riders more confidence while rewarding experienced riders with lots of fun. I’d recommend the Element to XC riders looking for a more capable bike or to trail bike riders looking for a more efficient bike that doesn’t sacrifice too much capability.
The sum of the Elements characteristics, make it one of the better bikes I’ve ridden.