This article is not going to be another rant/discussion/spew about wheel sizes and what is better and how great (they are) or outdated a 29er is. This is going to be a (mostly) objective look at the details that went into the latest Instinct and my take on how it all stacks up.
The Instinct has been a very successful model line for RMB, I have personally had a few bikes in this category: Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc, Scott Genius 970 and a whole slew of shorter travel XC-ish 29ers. This Instinct is by far one of the best spec’d and capable rides for the pacific northwest.
No matter what bike you are on, there will always be compromises in performance at some point for certain types of trails, simply put: different bikes are suited to climbing vs descending, cornering vs rough roll ability etc. There is no such thing as a “perfect” bike, just maybe one more suited to the conditions you are riding at that exact moment.
I won’t bore you with the build specs, chances are pretty good that if you are reading this review, you have already found the specs on Rocky Mountains Wesbite: www.bikes.com. What I will do is highlight some of the important points.
The BC Edition is the culmination of years of tweaking and part-swapping upgrades to make factory stock bikes more suitable to the unique and demanding pacific northwest trail conditions. British Columbia trails are renowned as being the most physically, mentally and technically demanding in the world. Bike shops saw riders swapping on wider bars (more leverage and control on the downhills), shorter stems (more upright positioning, more aggressive DH and steering performance), wider (stronger, stiffer) rims and of course the now ubiquitous (even on XC bikes now..) dropper posts. With this evolution we get:
- 760 mm Wide Race Face Carbon Next Handlebar (still narrow, I would prefer 780 or 800)
- Stans ZTR Flow EX tubeless wheelset laced into the latest 6-pawl Stan’s NEO hubs—An exceptional wheel set delivering lightweight, performance and value. These are not some precious $2000 carbon nano hoops, and if you manage to mangle a rim beyond fixing, it can be replaced for around $125.
- 125 mm Rock Shox Reverb (I have a love-hate relationship with this seat posts function vs reliability). For my proportions and saddle height, I would prefer to see a 150 mm travel since I have enough space above the collar and it would allow me to slam the seat even further down for those ever so sweet near vertical granite slab descents.
- 140 mm Travel Rock Shox Pike.—The benchmark trail fork on the market right now.
- 60 mm RMB Stem—Shorter stem, more precise handling, more confidence on the steeps. This seems like a cost-decision, earlier models had a RaceFace Turbine Stem.
- Custom valved Rock Shox Monarch RT3 shock.
Rocky Mountain’s trademark Ride9 geometry adjustment is also present, allowing you to fine tune the suspension spring rate and bike geometry by adjusting two nested for position eccentrics that support the upper shock mount. Adjustments are simple with the use of a 4 and 5 mm allen key (and don’t forget the loctite when reassembling!)
Out of the box, like most bikes assembled in Taiwan, it is 90% assembled and you have to install the front wheels and brake, attach the handlebar and install the dropper post. The last one is probably the most challenging part during assembly, but I have an easy trick to avoid having to bleed the circuit (OEM bikes rarely come with the “Connectamjig” fitting for the dropper line, but even with that feature, you still need a bare hose end to thread through the frame properly)
I have two gripes based on the factory assembly/packaging, the first being that the rear 12×142 axle was very slightly cross threaded into the frame nut and now causes the threads to bind slightly when you try to re-install the axle. Its enough that when you apply force to get it to engage, if you are not careful, the nut pops out of the frame (a 1.5 mm setscrew can only support so much side loading).
Note the tiny 1.5 mm set screw above the rear axle. Horst link style pivots provide a very stable, progressive feel to the rear suspension. Direct mount derailleur is welcome.
The second gripe being a nice factory applied paint chip right on the top tube in a section of contrasting paint–hard to ignore and a bit disappointing right out of the box. The bikes are very well wrapped in two layers of bubble wrap, cardboard and foam protection so it is not likely and shipping and handling type of damage. I’d like to apply my own paint chips thank you very much.
The Instincts still have a few evolutionary artifacts, evidence of a much needed frame update:
- Recess and mounting points for a front derailleur
- Seemingly outdated geometry (short top tube, long chain stays)
With the availability of consumer-range 11 -speed drive trains from Shimano and Sram, 1 x cranks are the preferred drivetrains and multiplex front rings are no longer necessary (insert arguments here, I know some of you are probably steaming)
Recess on the front triangle for front derailleur clearance and mounting location on the swingarm near the main pivot.
There has been a lot of concern with strength in the BB/main pivot location. I personally have seen this area fracture through the BB into the main pivot (previous models) and have had others see failure points above the main pivot location on the front triangle. Perhaps a redesign, eliminating the recess will allow a stronger, stiffer BB junction. Below is a screen grab from http://www.bikes.com showing the Pipelock collet that was introduced with the Thunderbolt. The Instinct received the serviceable BC2 pivots, but a frame redesign incorporation the new main pivot design will have to wait. The Pipelock Collet has a larger diameter that should lead to less stress in this area.
Carbon frames are made in expensive molds in overseas factories that are typically developed and amortized over a number of years. Changes to Carbon molds are expensive and usually only done for new models are complete re-designs of older models (the same thing really). The Instinct line-up if I had to guess, is probably tapering in the contribution to RMB’s bottom line in most markets due to the wild popularity of the 27.5″ wheeled platform, and therefore perhaps investments are being delayed viewing this segment as in its twilight. I however do not subscribe to that logic. Long travel 29ers are seeing a resurgence with the newer geometry and the short chain stays permissible with the absence of a front derailleur, and in certain markets, 29ers are the obvious choice.
The top linkage driving the shock received the BC2 upgrade this year with the main benefits being serviceability and a small increase in stiffness. Flush-type SAE grease fittings are used to provide fresh lubrication and purge contaminants without the need for disassembly. I have found a poorly designed o-ring retention groove on the covers of these upper pivots. Right from the box, one of the o-rings was dislodged from the groove. And can be pulled out very easily by hand when fully assembled. The end caps were not designed with a proper standard o-ring groove, a redesigned cover, slightly larger in diameter with positive outside retention on the O-ring would solve this problem.
Upper BC2 pivot with displaced O-ring.
Lower BC2 Pivot showing flush-type SAE grease fitting and pivot hardware.
The absence of the left side shifter allows convenient location of the Reverb button. I have placed a self adhesive tab of grip tape on the button for traction. Anyone who has used these with wet gloves knows that they are fairly slippery and this little mod helps immensely.
Rocky Mountain has also updated their head badge and removed the lower “Bicycles” to clean it up bit.
The new Stan’s Neo hub with ultra fast engagement and the 11-42 Cassette.
I was super stoked, the new M8000 XT Gruppo brakes appeared to be a direct trickle down from XTR, almost identical to the XTR brother. Basic feel and operation is great, but on no fewer than three sets of these, under increased and sustained braking effort they pump out, the levers reach further and further from the bar. I have three friends with identical bikes and they all have this issue…I have found similar experiences with these brakes while searching other initial ride impressions. I do not feel like it is a brake bleed issue on all of these sets, but consultation with Shimano should reveal the cause and solution.
Smooth and sexy Integrated XT levers
A Bare-framed look at the BB junction showing bushings (the main pivot rotates on ball bearings, these are used for the main axle contact) and ISCG05 chain guide mountain points. The ISCG05 tabs are also, in my opinion unnecessary. So much can (and will, I am certain) be done to clean up and strengthen this area.
I have had the chance to put a number of hours on this bike since receiving it in early December. After coming off my Altitude Rally Edition the 29er felt like a thoroughbred on the climbs. This is by no means an XC rocket, but with more upright geometry, slightly longer stem (60 mm vs 50 mm) longer chain stays, and more tire contact, it is very well planted on loose climbs and allows you to remain in the saddle longer and climb more efficiently. The Instinct BC Edition is marketed as “Aggressive Trail” which is i suppose self explanatory. It will however allow a rider to hold his own in a local “Aggressive XC ” style race, think Squamish or Whistler Toonies, Hell of a series and Nimby 50. I initially set the Ride9 chips to dead centre and then full slack, with the bolt located in the most forward-middle location.
The climbs and root sections were great, with the instinct holding straight lines and popping over most obstacle predictably. Because of what I came from, a smaller wheeled endure segment bike, the downhill ride felt a bit twitchy but that is to be expected. Cornering however, was exceptional with traction (Minion DHF II F&R) holding fast.
One of the most notable things about the ride is the extremely well tuned Monarch RT3 Shock. I have used Fox shocks for as long as I can remember, but after a number of rides, I am converted. The initial plush feel, spring ramp up and mid stroke compression of this shock is perfectly matched for the conditions I ride in. Air volume seems spot on with enough ramp up on big hits and jumps, it uses every part of the 130 mm travel very well and I never felt harshness at the top of the travel while running a compliant air pressure to maintain the initial plushness and sage that I prefer.
Downhill I do feel a bit “perched” on the big Instinct, I’m 6′ tall and ride a size large, not that the frame size has much to do with that feel, it is just part of the nature of the long legged bikes and geometry.
Gear selection is spot on ever with many sustained 20% + grades on my local trails, I was not wishing for easier gears, at least on shorter rides. On long rides when you are a bit knackered you can ALWAYS use an easier gear. Race Face Cinch type Turbine cranks make changing rings fairly easy.
- Reasonable weight for this price point at right around 28 lbs.
- Excellent part spec leaving little needed right out of the box
- Very adaptable and universal trail bike–May actually be the most well rounded bike you will ride in terms of ups and downs, technical and smooth trails.
- Exceptional handling and combination of rear suspension stability, plushness and traction.
- In need of frame updates/modernization
- Chain stays are too long, main pivot/BB junction can be improved
- Pipe Lock on main pivot would be a great upgrade.
- XT Brakes Pump-Out…
- Want a wider handlebar
- BC2 Pivot o-ring retention…This seems to be an oversight in design that could easily be fixed.