Intro & Our Rider
Rocky Mountain has been one of those sleeper brands for a while, especially this far south of the Canadian border. Looking through their catalog, it becomes clear that their bikes have a slight XC bent, but often find themselves outfitted with burlier components. Here, then, is the prime example of that duality: Instinct BC Edition.
We decided to take one of our demo fleet bikes for a proper testing in the rugged, loose and steep trails near Tijeras, NM at Otero Canyon. Our rider, Robert, has been riding Spez for years, chasing grams instead of good taste (don't tell him I said that), but was curious to put this beauty to the test.
Hell bent on pure XC speed, but seeking out rowdier terrain, this rider and location would be an ideal opportunity to discover if the Instinct qualifies as the Holy Grail bike: the one bike quiver.
So, does this trail-orientated beauty live up to it's BC origins?
With the new trend leaning towards mid-travel 29ers that break all the rules, the build kit on this bike fits right in with today's expectations.
Alright, let's get the paperwork out of the way:
- Full carbon frame with Ride 9 Geometry adjustments
- Rockshox Pike RTC3, 140mm 29"
- Rockshox Monarch RT3, 130mm
- Rockshox Reverb 125mm, stealth
- Shimano XT Brakes, Icetech rotos
- Shimano XT drivetrain, 11 speed 30t - 11-42t range
- Stan's Wheelset, Neo Hubs and ZTR Flow EX Rims
- WTB Silverado Saddle, Rocky Mountain Grips
- Shodded with Maxxis Highroller II, 29x2.3 EXO 3C
- Race Face Next Carbon bar, 60mm stem
Coming in a hair under 28lbs in a size medium, this is far from a heavy build given it's 29" anchors and burly build.
Given his race orientated expectation, we set the bike up in it's 'highest' setting with the Ride 9 chips. These simple, indexed metal squares have nine different positions that change the overall geometry. For the Instinct, you can get the head angle as slack as 66.5'.
Rob weighs about 150lb wet, therefore we settled with the Pike with one bottomless token and 55 psi, while the rear Monarch was pushed to 160 psi. Given the square-edge ledges out at Otero, we ran slightly higher psi for our tires running roughly 22 psi front, 26 psi rear.
"I'm not sure I'd want to race Enduro on it but this is a great platform for long challenging rides. Climbs great and feels very efficient even in the open shock mode. If ever I had to down size to just one MTB, this would be a candidate." -Mike Chapman, Owner The Broken Spoke
"This bike is sick- One of the top few I have ever been on." -Tony Ballantine, Magura USA
So, does it climb like a goat? In a word: Yes.
Rob was immediately smitten by the climbing ability. The initial climb out from the trailhead is a 800' climb that changes from buff, to loose, to loose over hard, and finally steep ledges that challenge your inner MacAskill. After clearing a particularly difficult section of off-camber rocks and two back-to-back ledges, his immediate response was a glowing "Wow, this bike works."
It's not the pure efficiency that is surprising, but rather the level of traction. The active rear end doesn't bob like other bikes in this travel category. Instead, the rear seems to find a faultless balance of finding traction, travel, yet a firm pedaling platform. The stiff chassis and reinforced linkage really shine. Color us impressed.
In fact, by the end of the day the final words were "this is the greatest climbing bike I have ever ridden."
Quite the endorsement for a man famous for lack of excitement.
While the climbing was a revelation, pointing it downhill proved to be harder to measure.
The Pike and Monarch work seamlessly together with all the same tired cliches like buttery smooth, progressive, yada yada. Really though, in particular on this bike, the balance feels remarkably well achieved.
With the dropper down and ass near tire, the long top-tube and relatively steep head tube angle (highest setting is 68'), it became a bit of a handful. More than once Rob commented on the bikes struggle to navigate tight, steep turns with any sort of grace. "It takes more focus than expected", sums up his experience well.
Out of the tight and twisty, though, and the Instinct becomes a rocket. More than once Robert found himself running out of gears pushing the bike to the edge of what the terrain would allow. Loose rocks, sweeping turns, and quick descents were eaten alive by the very active and planted suspension. Even airborne there was an intrinsic confidence. Between the stiff carbon frame, 29er hoops, and supple suspension, it's hard to find any fault with fast, chunky descents.
Having spent the entire day on the trail, Rob felt he had a good chance to find the best and worst of this bike. Surprisingly, he echoed the familiar words of others who have ridden the Instinct "if I had to live with one bike, this would be it". Given, though, that many of us have more than one, where does that leave us? "It wouldn't be my go-to for racing, but for every other type of riding I do, this would be my choice". Maybe we have a convert from the stinky 'S'.
Who is this bike for? This one is pretty clear. The Instinct shines for those looking for an all day monster that can take on just about any terrain, yet still fly up long, sustained climbs. Unlike some recent 6" travel 'enduro' sleds that have been getting all the press, the Instinct doesn't feel overkill for the majority of trails in our area. Rather, it feels right at home on Dale Ball, Galisteo, or in this case, Otero making this an excellent option when considering the 'one bike quiver 'solution.
Hats off to Rocky Mountain. Although you don't get the attention like some bigger brands, you sure do make one damn fine mountain bike.