2016 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition

2016 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition

Size Tested: Medium

Geometry: (Here)

Build Overview:

  • Drivetrain: Sram X01
  • Brakes: Shimano XT
  • Wheels: Stan’s Flow w/ 3.30 hubs
  • Fork: Rockshox Pike RCT3
  • Rear Shock: Rockshox Monarch RT3
  • Wheels: 27.5′′

Travel: 130mm Front / 120mm Rear

Blister’s Measured Weight: 26.4 lbs (12 kg) without pedals

Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.

Test Location: Boulder City, Nevada

MSRP: $6,399 as built

Noah Bodman reviews the 2016 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition for Blister Gear Review.
2016 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition


Interbike’s outdoor demo is located at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, Nevada. It’s a fantastic network of trails, and it’s a great escape from America’s neon bunghole (Las Vegas). The trails we spent most of our time on were relatively fast, with a fair amount of sand and some pretty rocky sections.

Having said that…

Riding bikes at a demo is always kind of tricky. For starters, we’re unable to get as much time on each bike as we like–our test durations are measured in minutes and hours, not our preferred time frame of weeks and months. One good ride can tell you a lot about how a bike handles, but it certainly doesn’t allow for the customary, in-depth, Blister analysis.

Demo days also don’t generally permit the time needed to get each bike dialed to our liking. A quick suspension setup and fiddling with the bike’s ergonomics gets it most of the way there, but it’s certainly not dialed. We also ride the bike as we get it, so things like bar width and tire selection may not be optimal.

So while we believe it’s important to be upfront about the limitations of reviewing bikes in such settings, there is also merit in riding a slew of bikes back to back on the same trails. Subtle differences that might not become apparent if our test rides happen weeks or months apart are able to come to light, and each bike’s attributes may be more easily identified.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt BC Edition


The Thunderbolt is Rocky Mountain’s all-around, 120mm-travel trail bike. It’s intended to be light enough to be competitive on climbs, but has geometry that’s still at home on the technical trails of North Vancouver, where Rocky Mountain is based.

The Thunderbolt BC Edition takes that same frame, but bumps up the travel on the fork to 130mm, and it gets some parts that skew it away from the XC side of things and more toward the “trail” end of the spectrum. That means wider bars, burlier wheels, and a 1x drivetrain. This is more or less similar to the concept behind the Rocky Mountain Altitude Rally Edition that we reviewed last year, which is the souped-up version of the Altitude.

The Build

Rocky Mountain says that the BC Edition of the Thunderbolt is set up the way they set up their own personal bikes, which, I’m happy to report, is more or less how I set my bikes, too. The Pike / Monarch suspension combo is fantastic on these type of bikes, and the X01 drivetrain always keeps me happy.

Other highlights include a smattering of Race Face parts, including Turbine cranks and 760mm-wide Next SL bars. I would, however, like to see the Thunderbolt spec’d with even wider bars (since making wide bars narrower is easy, but making narrow bars wider costs about $150).

Noah Bodman reviews the 2016 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition for Blister Gear Review.
Noah Bodman on the 2016 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition

The WTB Silverado saddle is a personal favorite, and while Maxxis Ardents aren’t my favorite tire ever, they at least have the Exo casing so they’ll hold up a bit better. The demo bike I rode had a different wheelset than the stock bike will ship with, but the production BC Edition is coming with Stan’s Flow wheels, which are a decent option and should hold up to some abuse.

Fit and Geometry

The Thuderbolt BC Edition, like a few other Rocky Mountain bikes, has the Ride-9 system. Basically, it’s a pair of interlocking squares that can be flipped around to adjust the geometry into 9 different positions.

I’ve fiddled with a lot of different bikes that have various methods for adjusting the geometry, and honestly, I think this is the best system I’ve used. It’s easy to swap things around relatively quickly (as long as you don’t drop any parts), and it gives you a pretty significant level of adjustability. Just using the head angle as an example, you get almost 2° of adjustability – from 66.5° to 68.2° – plus a number of increments in between. It’s also really nice that Rocky Mountain gives some pointers on how each position will affect the geometry and the ride.

Noah Bodman reviews the 2016 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition for Blister Gear Review.
Rocky Mountain Ride-9 system

When I rode the Thunderbolt BC, the Ride-9 chip was in a middle-ish position, slightly favoring a lighter, aggressive rider according to Rocky Mountain. I don’t weigh that much (155 lbs.) and I like to jump off of stuff, so it was probably pretty close to an ideal position for me.

Since the geometry is fairly adjustable, it’s tough to say anything concrete about the numbers on the Thunderbolt BC. But with the settings I used, the fit on the Thunderbolt BC is very middle of the road. The reach on the Medium I rode was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 420mm (16.5”), and a moderately steep 74° seat tube angle kept the top tube length reasonable at 590mm (23.2”).

As I mentioned above, the head angle is quite adjustable, but even on the steep end of that range, it’s on the slack end for bikes in this category. With the settings I used, it was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 67°. It’s also noteworthy that the Thunderbolt has some of the shortest chainstays out there: 422mm (16.6”).

All of that adds up to a bike that, in terms of sizing and geometry, I felt pretty comfortable on very quickly. Some bikes feel really small, some bikes feel like huge boats. The Thunderbolt falls squarely in the middle, which I think for a lot of people is a good thing.

NEXT: The Ride, Bottom Line

3 comments on “2016 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition”

  1. I purchased a 2016 xl version of this bike. To date I have 343kms on it of mostly single track cross country style riding. To date I’ve had the following issues buyers should be aware of. The xt rear brake failed twice, the rear swing arm bushing absorbed water and dirt into the drainage holes for the grease and the combination ate up the inner of the bushing requiring a new swing arm and rear triangle / chainsray. The rear stans hub has also failed twice and is in the process of being reviewed. The bike is light and stiff and rides well but the bushing design is a poor design which will fail if ridden in wet environments.

    • what are you doing that some of the most reliable components in the industry are failing on you, riding through mud for 20 miles everyday without washing the bike? by the way, you shouldn’t have to replace your whole rear swing arm assembly for busted bushings, all you would need is a new bushing set. For some reason i feel like your lying…

  2. The more water (rain, washing…) a bushing is exposed to increases probability of water getting in. The external o-rings do little to protect against water and ultrafine sediment intrusion and will degrade soon enough. Best defense is regular and generous application of waterproof grease through grease fittings to push contaminants out before they work into the bushing surfaces from the outside. Periodic cleaning of the hard to access external areas hiding around the bushings that are usually missed hosing down after dirty rides may also help a little. Use caution if using high pressure water or air anywhere around all bushings and bearings so you do not push contaminants in. Q tips and moderate pressure water is safer.

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