With advancements in suspension and frame design technology (most notably carbon fiber), 120-130mm travel is the new black. While some riders are seeking longer travel in a lighter-weight package, I say the 120-130 range is really what people want. And with several great bikes in the 120mm category, the podium is getting quite crowded. We’re talking about the Trek Fuel EX, Specialized Camber, Felt Virtue, Yeti ASR 5C, Santa Cruz Nickel, Giant Trance X and the new Rocky Mountain Element RSL/ MSL.

Not satisfied with the tried-and-true aluminum designs of yesterday, 2011 will mark a serious progression in carbon fiber usage and pricing. Rocky Mountain has a serious XC racing team (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) with superstar Geoff Kabush leading the charge, so it appears that R&D has been performed on World Cup race tracks around the globe.

The 2011 Element RSL features 98mm travel and the MSL (the one I’d place my bets on) tops out at 120mm. The extra travel provided by the MSL will help take this bike head-on with some of the best trailbikes on the market today.

For additional details on the new Element RSL and MSL, check out the following information provided by Rocky Mountain.

First launched in 1996, Element was one of the first lightweight full suspension bicycles on the market, and since then it has gone on to become one of the most enduring platforms of all time. “In fourteen years, Element has remained relatively unchanged and it has been our most successful model in the history of our brand. We knew that if we were going to update it, we had to do our homework and do justice to the Element name”, commented Pete Roggeman, marketing manager for Rocky Mountain.

With the launch of Element RSL and MSL, Rocky Mountain is targeting two kinds of cross country racer. Rocky Mountain’s product manager, Alex Cogger explains, “Racing has evolved considerably over the years. While some racers want pure World Cup performance, some want a bike that can tackle gnarly all-day epic racing. While Element RSL and Element MSL share DNA, their geometry and spec reflect their intended use; RSL with 100mm of travel has more aggressive race oriented geometry and MSL with 120mm of travel has slightly relaxed angles for those all-day epic adventures.”

Rocky Mountain drew from their extensive suspension development history and stable of World Cup racers in the creation of new Element. Cogger continues, “We’ve employed technologies in this bike that no other company else is using at the moment. Those technologies combined with input from riders like Geoff Kabush and Marie-Helene Premont has resulted in what we think is the most technologically advanced cross country race bike in the world.”

2011 Rocky Mountain Element RSL & MSL – Technical Features

One Element, two models: Element RSL (98mm of travel) and Element MSL (120mm of travel) share everything except the rear shock and link plates. The geometry of both versions stays consistent for their respective intended uses; RSL has more aggressive race oriented geometry and MSL has slightly slacker head and seat tube angles and a higher BB for those all-day epic adventures.

FORM C12 and C13 custom formed carbon tubing: Every tube thickness, flare, and taper in our carbon tubing is designed in-house by Rocky Mountain engineers. By doing this, we can precisely tailor the carbon layup to minimize weight and maximize stiffness.

True Full Carbon: 2011 Element is as full-carbon as it gets. The only non-carbon pieces are the alloy front derailleur bolt inserts and alloy inserts for link pivots on the front triangle. Otherwise, the seatstays, chainstays, dropouts, disc tabs, headset bearing seats, BB shell, cable guides and cable stops are all custom molded carbon. Seamless integration of these carbon elements makes for a sleek and extremely light and stiff package. RSL models even come with titanium hardware, because every gram counts.
Smooth Wall Carbon Monocoque construction: Element RSL and MSL’s industry leading Smooth Wall carbon layup process results in a perfectly smooth internal tube finish, so what you see on the outside is what you get on the inside. You might be wondering; aren’t all carbon frames smooth inside and out? Most are actually left rough inside from the molding process. Element’s smooth internal finish means no extra weight in the form of extra fibers and resin. No extra material also means no stress risers or inconsistencies in the tubes which can compromise strength and ride quality. What you see on the outside is what you get on the inside.

SmoothLink Suspension: For 2011 Element, we took what people loved about 3D Link: the easy to reach rear shock for on-the-fly adjustments and seemingly bottomless suspension, and then morphed it into our proven SmoothLink suspension design. SmoothLink’s patented rear pivot placement results in a pedal neutral system by keeping the lower link parallel to the average chain torque line. No bob, no feedback, just pure, efficient climbing bliss. SmoothLink is based around a linear rising rate suspension curve, which allows for predictable and precise shock adjustments. Our all new one-piece carbon link ensures that not only is the bike efficient, it’s also extremely laterally stiff. The watts you put into the pedals make it to the rear wheel. Working in conjunction with Fox Racing Shox and Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain’s Geoff Kabush, we dialed in the suspension for ultimate race performance. Element is a race bike first and foremost, so we worked with the brightest minds in racing suspension to deliver the best race suspension platform possible.

Minimal chaingrowth creates fully active systemSmoothLink features minimal chain growth (RSL:9mm; MSL:11mm) in order to create a very active suspension feel, while still maintaining the traction and forward drive created by the ETS™ effect. It’s ideal to have the rear wheel trajectory shape be as close to a circle as possible, as any deviation from a perfectly circular path will introduce an irregular rate of change between the bottom bracket and the rear axle as the rear wheel compresses. Should the Chain Stay Length (CSL) grow at such an irregular rate, the bike would be more difficult to control when the rear wheel is weighted.

Linear rising suspension rate creates bottomless feel. SmoothLink was created around a linear rising rate suspension curve. A linear suspension rate means that when a shock adjustment is made, its effect is constant throughout the full travel of the suspension. A rising rate gives the suspension that “bottomless” feel.

ABC Pivot Technology. Our patent pending Angular Bushing Concept (ABC) pivots represent a paradigm shift in high performance suspension linkage in the most literal sense. ABC pivots consist of an angular contact polymer bushing against an angular alloy contact bearing sleeve on an aluminum sleeve. They both stay tight and can’t be over-tightened. And, get this; they’re lighter, more durable, and laterally stiffer than a cartridge bearing. On Element we saved 120 grams by switching to ABC pivots while increasing rear end stiffness by X percent. Plus, they need almost no maintenance – just clean the contact surfaces from time to time.

Updated World Cup Geometry. We took our race proven geometry and tweaked it to reflect the modern World Cup racer’s standards with a longer top tube and a slightly slacker head tube angle. Extensive testing with World Cup winners Geoff Kabush and Marie-Helene Premont helped us achieve the perfect race geometry while still maintaining Rocky Mountain’s legendary ride quality.

Frame Optimization. To reach our weight and stiffness goals, every feature of Element had to be optimized and work in unison towards those goals.

BB-92. We knew we needed an oversized downtube for maximum lateral stiffness and pedaling efficiency, so we used the BB-92 bottom bracket standard which allows for a larger bottom bracket/downtube junction.

E-type Front Derailleur. By using the E-type front derailleur standard, we created the absolute lightest and stiffest swingarm configuration.

Tapered Headtube. Element’s tapered headtube keeps the front end as stiff as possible, by facilitating a larger headtube/downtube junction.

Compact Frame Design. The smaller the triangle, the stiffer the frame. Element features compact front triangles with longer seat tubes to ensure the stiffest frame configuration possible and ample standover height.

Seat Collar Sleeve. It’s a hassle emptying water out of your frame after a rainy ride, so we included a super light rubber seat collar sleeve to keep the water out.

Two Chain Suck Plates. Carbon fiber and bicycle chains don’t get along well, so we integrated two chain suck plates into the frame; one molded into the chainstay and one at the bottom of the front derailleur.

More Info: Visit Bikes.com

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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