Aggro cross-country bikes are all the rage these days, and Rocky Mountain has filled that ‘downcountry’ gap in its line-up with the new Element. With trail-bike geometry but less weight, shorter travel and slicker tyres, is it the best of both worlds?
Rocky Mountain Element C70 29 frame details
There are three aluminium-framed models and four carbon fibre bikes in the Element range, all available with either 29in or 650b wheels. The full-carbon chassis of the C70 is constructed using Rocky’s Smoothwall process, where the fibres and resin are laid up around a solid mould, instead of the usual air bladder. This is said to reduce excess material and give an improved strength-to-weight ratio. Different lay-ups are used across the frame to give the strength, stiffness or impact protection needed in specific areas.
The Element delivers 120mm of rear-wheel travel via a four-bar, Horst-link suspension design. Rocky’s RIDE-4 adjustment system enables you to choose between four shock-mount positions on the rocker link, each of which alters the bike’s geometry and suspension rate. In the slackest setting, this delivers a 65-degree head angle, 76-degree effective seat tube angle and 47mm of bottom-bracket drop.
A RIDE-4 flip chip in the rocker link enables you to switch between four frame configurations. This increases to a 65.8-degree head angle, 76.8-degree seat tube angle and 36mm of bottom-bracket drop in the steepest setting. Four sizes are available (small to extra-large), with reach figures ranging from 425mm to 505mm in the ‘slack’ setting, and increasing by 8mm in ‘steep’. All share snappy 435mm chainstays (436mm in ‘slack’). Each frame has a size-specific shock tune, which is a neat feature. The front triangle has plenty of space for two bottle cages or a cage and a tool mount, and there’s decent chainstay protection plus the expected internally routed cables.
Rocky Mountain Element C70 29 geometry (POS 3)
|Seat angle (degrees)||76.5||76.5||76.5||76.5|
|Head angle (degrees)||65.5||65.5||65.5||65.5|
|Rear centre (mm)||435||435||435||435|
|Seat tube (mm)||380||420||445||480|
|Top tube (mm)||576||603||631||663|
|Head tube (mm)||105||115||125||135|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||40||40||40||40|
Rocky Mountain Element C70 29 kit and specifications
Rocky’s Smoothwall carbon lives up to its name. There’s no shortage of solid parts on the C70, which is one level down from the top-spec C90 model. While the geometry is aggro, the Fox 34 fork nods to the fact this is a ‘rad XC’ rig rather than a trail bike, with 130mm of travel and the brand’s lighter but less adjustable FIT4 damper, rather than the GRIP2 cartridge. It’s a similar story with the Shimano XT brakes – Rocky has gone for the lower weight of the two-piston version over the all-out power of the four-pot variant. The rear shock is a Fox Float DPS with a three-position lockout lever.
Shimano’s dependable XT drivetrain takes care of the gears. The bike rolls on relatively narrow WTB ST Light i27 TCS 2.0 wheels shod with fast-rolling Maxxis Rekon EXO 3C MaxxTerra tyres – another sign that the Element C70 is built to cover ground quickly. Rounding out the spec are a Race Face Turbine R dropper and own-brand cockpit kit.
Rocky Mountain Element C70 29 ride impressions
The Maxxis Rekon tyres keep rolling resistance low. A bike that’s designed to tackle ups, downs and everything in between with gusto has a tough job to do, and some compromise is inevitable. One component that has an obvious effect on the C70’s performance is the Rekon tyres. With their low-profile tread, relatively lightweight EXO casing and firm 3C MaxxTerra compound, they keep rolling resistance low, improving the bike’s climbing prowess and ensuring that you don’t feel like you’re dragging a mule around the trails.
Their 2.4in width adds a bit of extra comfort over slimmer XC rubber, along with slightly more mechanical grip, courtesy of a larger contact patch. Geometry-wise, I started off in position three (the second-steepest – how the bike came set up) and later switched to the slackest setting. This didn’t significantly compromise the climbing position, with the 76-degree seat tube angle still sitting me in a comfortable, central position on the bike and the moderate 450mm reach (medium) allowing me to easily load the front wheel on steep ascents while maintaining traction at the rear.
The Element never felt as though it was stealing my power through suspension bob, so I left the lockout off and the shock free to soak up trail imperfections, while not sinking too deeply into its travel. Point the Element downhill and its 65-degree head angle gives you the confidence of a trail bike. This is helped by the rear suspension, which, while providing plenty of support, enables you to use its travel to take a surprising amount of the sting out of square-edged bumps. In rougher terrain, the Rekon tyres hold the bike back – here, a more aggressive tread and softer rubber would deliver more grip, at the loss of some rolling speed on tamer trails. The FIT4 fork also struggled to offer the same plushness as the rear suspension, and the Rocky Mountain handlebar felt a little harsh.
Rocky Mountain Element C70 29 bottom line
Aggro XC bikes are all the rage these days, and Rocky Mountain has filled that ‘downcountry’ gap in its line-up with the new Element. Ultimately, this is a capable bike that can be what you want it to be. If maximum average speed is your thing, leave the spec as it is. On the other hand, if sacrificing climbing pace for singletrack flow is your preference, stick on some burlier rubber and release the frame’s full potential.