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Bicycle Review: Rocky Mountain Element 10

By MBT Staff

Taming the Elements Canadian Style

Overweight XC or underweight Trailbike? Neither.

Northern Exposure

Who better to craft a light-weight sprinter than our neighbors to the north? Canada features some of the most demanding, versatile terrain in the entire world and fortunately for the rest of us, their residents are passionate about the sport. Vancouverís Rocky Mountain may be best known for their higher end aggressive trail bike frames, but donít let that fool you into believing their more budget friendly Element line plays second fiddle.

We spent a few weekends ripping up the flooded New York back-country with Rocky Mountainís Element 10. At roughly $1700 this mid-priced dual suspension beauty exemplifies the Canadian philosophy of light weight frames that are deceptively durable. Although marketed as a slightly heavy XC rig, our testing revealed a bit more to the story. The truth of the matter is that although heavy for an XC machine, the Element can serve double duty as an extremely light trail bike and an incredible all day climber.

Lets Talk Specs

Our Element 18 inch Easton aluminum frame came equipped with Marzocchiís Grand Fondo Race 3 (105mm) of frontal squish and a (100mm) Fox Float R (rebound adjust) in the rear. Like the frame, Easton is responsible for the bar, stem, and seatpost. Shimano Deore shifters and front derailleur mate with an XT rear. Braking is accomplished via Hayes Sole hydraulic discs front and rear. Finally IRC Serac XC tires come wrapped around sturdy Alex DP17 rims. Total weight was a tad over 29 lbs.

The Element 10 just wants to fly.

Initial Impressions

Climbing into the cockpit of the Element is a reminder of the bikeís original place in the market- as there is definitely an air of cross country heritage in the bikeís layout. For starters, the bike feels tall and lanky with a particularly high top tube that may have male riders a bit nervous about slipping off the saddle. The reach across the fairly long stem and to the sturdy Easton riser bar stretches the rider pretty far forward. Lifting your feet onto the M520 pedals immediately takes the strain off the lower back and transforms the initial stretch into a head down, charge position. The bike hides its girth well by distributing its weight well across the chassis. Despite feeling tall initially, the bikeís true flickable personality is revealed after only a few rotations of the cranks.

On the Trails

We began by navigating through some pretty technical double track that dumped into farm truck field roads before finally tapering off at the base of some greasy clay assents (three inches of downpour a day prior had the clay base of the hills glistening).

Rocky Mountain Element 10
Frame Easton 7005 Taperwall Aluminum, 18"
Fork Marzocchi Grand Fondo Race 3 (105mm)
Shock Fox Float R (100mm)
Headset FSA
Wheels Shimano 525 Disc/Alex DP17
Tires IRC Serac XC 2.1"
Brakes/Brake Levers Hayes Sole Hydraulic/Hayes Sole Hydraulic
Crankset/BB Shimano M460/Shimano UN26
Cassette Shimano Deore 9sp
Shifters Shimano Deore
Derailleurs (F&R) Shimano Deore/Shimano XT
Stem Easton EA30
Handlebars Easton EA30
Seatpost Easton EA30
Contact Rocky Mountain Bikes - (604) 527-9993

Through the technical portions, the Element managed to put on a pretty decent performance. The rather stretched out riding position comes to haunt the bike on some of the really technical, foot dabbing terrain. However we do have to mention that the frameís geometry is very well suited to the smooth stroke of the Marzocchi GF3 and the plush Fox Float. Our own affection toward just about anything that rolls off the Marzocchi line has only been strengthened by our test of this Rocky Mountain. Roots, rocks, and tricky lines each fell victim to a very plush and active suspension design.

Along the flat fields this bike loves to sprint. Any complaints of the riding position in the technical stuff were quickly forgotten once a little speed became possible. Each pump of the pedals results in a steady, almost metered burst of acceleration. And suddenly, in an instant, the beauty of the engineerís vision becomes crystal clear. A long, low slung body posture keeps the wind flowing over your back and the cranks spinning with ease. The Element 10 chassis flies a steady line, even over light chop we experienced no stutter or deflection.

Our last portion of the terrain trifecta would be the ultimate test for any bike. We came to a halt at the bottom of some overgrown hilly singletrack. Beneath the dense weeds was a foundation of slippery gray clay from a few days of relentless rain-fall. With very little momentum to fall back on, we began pounding our way skyward into the brush. So how does the Element 10 climb? Like a hard-tail! Taking a bit of the Fox Floatís rebound out results in an excellently proficient climber. Thanks to the generous frame geometry, standing up to pump on the hills is quite rewarding. RMís take on the single pivot frame-work equals no pedal bob and a rear tire that stays well planted. Our only suggestion would be considering a more aggressive tread tire, something along the lines of WTBís Weirwolf DNA, if continues swampy or technical terrain happens to be on the menu.

Drafting the Details

Braking was definitely up to par. As always the case with the Hayes Sole hydraulic systems, squeals and moans are very common during initial burn-in but after about an hour- watch out! The bikeís stability transfers well to the brakesí grip and modulation. The Marzocchi Grand Fondo Race 3 continues the tradition of Marzocchiís excellent progressive suspension and matches perfectly to the capabilities of the Fox Float R. On paper the scales arenít as good to the Element 10 as the frame actually works out in the real world. All 29 evenly spread pounds are carried through the bikeís center of gravity quite well.

What Do We Really Think?

Rocky Mountain understands the game. Even in our moments of doubt, the Element 10 stood its ground and waited patiently for us to fall under its spell. The reality is that this bike has a sweet spot in the form of wide open spaces, zipping speeds, and power climbs. Riders quick to judge may not understand the Elementís depth on a short parking lot demo or even a swapped loop with a close buddy. Take the RM where it wants to go and let it get to work- any initial disappointment will be immediately forgotten.