For 2014, Rocky Mountain is debuting carbon in the Instinct 29er lineup. With three models, 999 MSL, 970 MSL and 950 MSL, there’s enough wiggle room to figure out just which one fits your budget and riding style. I was able to slip out on the Instinct 970 MSL, which at $5399 represents the workhorse of the lineup. My time aboard the 970 was short but sublime.

2014 Rocky Mountain Instinct 970 MSL Features:

  • Smoothwall carbon front and rear
  • Ride9 system for adjustable geometry and suspension
  • Shimano XT 2×10 drivetrain with RaceFace crankset
  • Stans ZTR Arch EX29 wheelset
  • RockShox Reverb seatpost
  • MSRP: $5399


My First Impressions

Hopping on over to the Rocky Mountain booth, I was initially drawn to the Altitude lineup with their “perfect” 27.5 wheel size, but I was steered to the 130mm travel Instinct MSL because it seemed to be just the recipe for fun. Rocky has always held a special place in my heart as I’ve owned and ridden nearly every one of their bikes in the past 10 years. During that time I’ve become familiar with the classic Rocky feel. Once you’ve been on one, you know what I’m talking about. Descending is always a top priority, but all-day fun is a close second.

With the Ride9 chip set in the neutral position, I hopped on the medium test bike. At my size (5’11”), I could have opted for the large and I’m hoping to get aboard a large in the future for comparison, but a short cockpit medium it was. That short cockpit made for a ton of nimble fun, but made climbing a little tight.

The Fox CTD trigger happily dialed in the rear suspension on-the-fly. Heading uphill on the initial road climb, I was amazed at just how sprightly the bike felt. I mean, this was a 28 lb. North Shore-capable 29er afterall and I was seemingly zipping uphill. I was more than a little surprised.

Ride9 Chip - 2014 Rocky Mountain Instinct 970 MSL

Once I hit singletrack, the Instinct really felt at home. Climbing felt smooth and stable with little-to-no front wheel wander. I wished that the fork was integrated with the bar-mounted CTD trigger, but it’s pretty easy to flip the switch, when needed. While I felt like I was just cruising along uphill at a good clip, my Strava segments told the truth — I was a bit slower in reality. That said, I’m OK with that because this bike was still a pleasure to climb on and made each climb feel effortless (standing or seated).

When it came to the downhill, the Instinct remains true to a long line of Rocky Mountain pedigree. Switched to full Descend mode, this bike simply soaked up every bump and made small drops just disappear. Tight, winding singletrack is pure joy on the Instinct and I bested the Pivot Mach 429 C by 30 seconds. While it descends in dream-like fashion, the long-ish 17.9″ chainstays made for tough (and nearly impossible) manualing. More saddle time would help, but that pivot point is hard to reach.

The Good:

  • One of the best descending 29ers I’ve ridden
  • While not fast uphill, this bike is super-capable and makes climbing enjoyable
  • The full gamut of handlebar levers provides the ultimate in adjustment
  • Ride9 provides the ultimate in adjustability
  • Smoothlink suspension is active and smooth in all terrain
  • Plenty of room for an extra-large water bottle inside the front triangle (a rarity these days)

The Bad:

  • Bar-mounted CTD lever doesn’t adjust the fork
  • XT drivetrain left something to be desired (X01 please!!!)
  • The geometry and suspension made this bike tough to manual

The Bottom Line

The 2014 Rocky Mountain Instinct 970 MSL is one of the most fun 29ers I’ve ridden. It’s not first to the top, but it will more than likely be first to the bottom and a joy to ride in both directions. It feels balanced and the Smoothlink suspension is responsive, supple and smooth. If I had my druthers (and a fat bank account), the 999 MSL would be my choice, but the relative affordability of the 970 makes this one a winner.

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About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly 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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