I swung up to Deer Valley for a few hours to attend Bike Dealer Camp. My goal was to ride a couple of the new crop of 29ers that will be arriving soon. Tops on that list was the all-new Rocky Mountain Element 950. This new 29er from the boys up North had been sufficiently hyped so I just had to find out for myself if it was a worthy entry in the increasingly-crowded full-suspension 29er market.
2012 Rocky Mountain Element 950 Features:
- Smoothlink suspension design with carbon fiber linkage
- RTC™ 29 Geometry with shorter chainstays, top tube, etc. to better mimic the best 26ers
- Slightly-raised bottom bracket to make the bike more maneuverable
- Rockshox Monarch rear shock (notice the ultra-short stroke)
- Rockshox Revelation 120mm with travel adjust (drops to 95mm)
- Easton EA70 cockpit
- SRAM 2×10 drivetrain (mostly X9)
- Internally-routed derailleur cables through downtube (really cool design)
- MSRP: $3200 USD
2012 Rocky Mountain Element 950 Quick Review
After a thorough run-down on the new features of this bike, I got dialed in and headed out to the trails. Immediately, the Element 950 felt comfortable and natural without some of the flopping you get with poorly-executed 29ers. Peadling up the singletrack, I truly felt like this bike could climb anything without so much as flinching.
While climbing, I played around with the travel adjustment in the proprietary Rockshox Revelation just because I could, not because it needed it. I climbed smoothly and efficiently in both minimum and maximum travel and honestly couldn’t tell much difference, so I just left it at 120. I did move the Monarch’s pedaling platform switch in about 4 clicks for extra efficiency, but easily blew through that when needed.
Descending flowy singletrack on the Element 950 was tons of fun. This bike has a playful character and honestly feels as nimble and jumpy as a 26er. I found myself laying into the corners and hopping over drops without some of the negative characteristics found on some 29ers. This bike has the heart and soul of a Rocky and that pedigree shines through. You could race this bike, but I’d be downright content riding this as my daily driver.
To add an extra dose of comfort and control, I’d prefer a bit wider set of low riser bars. And, I’d also reverse the stem and headset spacers to drop the front-end as much as possible. As it was, the bike handled great, but I think a bit of tinkering would yield even more awesomeness from this bike.
Since this is a fairly quick review of this bike after only 45 minutes of riding, I chose to focus on how the bike felt and not necessarily dive into fine details of the build — since all that stuff would need more time in the oven. But, I will say this… the Element 29ers are a great addition to the market and have a lot to offer those who are looking for an XC-capable 29er full-suspension bike that can also dance with some of the best trailbikes on the market.
Good Element 950
- Rocky nailed the geometry
- Has a playful and fun feel while being efficient to hang at your local XC race loops
- Smooth climber with traction aplenty
- Front end stays put with no noticeable wander
- Unique Rockshox Revelation fork with travel adjustment
- 142mm rear axle certainly stiffens things up
- Unique internally-routed cables
Bad Element 950
- Wheels felt a tad noodly
- A little heavier than I’d like, but that’s what upgrades are for, right?
Bottom Line: 2012 Rocky Mountain Element 950 29er
Rocky Mountain has certainly done their homework with the new Element 950 and it shows. They dissected the best of the competition and now have a truly remarkable XC-capable and trail-friendly full-suspension 29er.
More Info: Visit Bikes.com (2012 info coming soon)
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Jason – any thoughts on the Element 29 vs the Element MSL 26?
I haven’t ridden the MSL, but a sweet carbon frame will do wonders. However, the 950 certainly exceeded my expectations and quickly won me over. I think it’s a great bike.
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Jason, with lots of new FS 29ers debuting, any thoughts on the RM 950 vs Niner RIP 9? It seems like the Rocky Mountain and Santa Cruz Tallboy are more the trail XC bikes that you can race on the side, whereas the RIP 9 can handle some more serious drops/rocks, albeit with some weight penalties?
Also, the Cannondale Jeckyl and Scott Genius have the sweet adjustable suspensions – any thoughts if that would be ideal for a 29er? i.e. something like 95mm and 130mm all in one?
Your assessment on the Rocky/Tallboy vs. RIP is spot-on. The RIP is still my all-time favorite 29er trailbike. It is the ultimate do-it-all machine. The Tallboy and Element 950 are close, but don’t quite have the squish for really gnarly stuff.
The Cdale Jeckyl and Scott Genius do have the adjustable suspensions, but the Equalizer shock on the Genius is a complete pain to set up properly. I rode the 2012 Scott Spark 29 RC and it has an adjustable travel shock from 100 to 70mm and it’s unnecessary, I think. Course, adjusting from say 120 to 100 may be more usable.
In general, I’ve not been a huge fan of adjustable travel on shocks or forks. With some bikes, it works great (Ibis Mojo with a TALAS), but on other bikes, it’s unnecessary (2012 Scott Spark 29er). I’m a fan of simplicity and getting a bike that’s dialed at 120/120 or 100/100 is more of the ideal, I think.