Blister Brand Guide: Rocky Mountain’s Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020

Intro

When considering a new mountain bike, there are so many similar-looking bikes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.

So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which bike might work best for you.

In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products. 

Our mountain bike Brand Guides are presented by CBGTrails. Learn more and start planning your trip today at cbgtrails.com, then download the CBG Trails app for info on the 750+ miles of singletrack and 150+ trails in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, Colorado.

See our other MTB Brand Guides

About Rocky Mountain

Rocky Mountain has been producing mountain bikes since 1981. They also started Race Face Bicycle Components in 1993, and you’ll unsurprisingly see a lot of Race Face components on Rocky Mountain’s builds. Today, Rocky Mountain makes mountain bikes and a few gravel and fat bikes, their mountain bikes range from cross-country to downhill options, and they offer certain models in both alloy and carbon frames.

Several of Rocky Mountain’s bikes feature their “Ride-9″ adjustable geometry system, which consists of two flip chips that allow for nine different geometry positions on their full-suspension bikes. They also use “Ride-4,” a similar system with only 4 positions.

Rocky Mountain is currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Current Warranty (for the original owner)

  • Lifetime warranty on all steel frames
  • Five years for all carbon fiber, and aluminum mountain bike frames
  • Three years for all downhill and freeride frames
  • One year for paint, decals, and frame hardware
  • For more information, visit Rocky Mountain.

Rocky Mountain’s suspension design: Smoothlink

(For more on different suspension designs, see our Suspension 101 article)

Before we get into their specific models and build options, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on which build level to go with, and why.

First, when looking at complete bikes, suspension and wheels are going to make the biggest difference in how a bike really rides. Spend money on those before other things like higher-end drivetrain parts, cockpit parts (e.g., stem, handlebars, etc.), cranks, etc.

Tires make an enormous difference in performance, but are cheaper and easier to upgrade, especially since they tend to wear down quicker than other components. Upgrading a lower-end front tire to something better — and saving the original for rear-tire use — can be a good way to improve a bike while still making use of the originals, since front tires are generally a lot more important than rear tires when it comes to traction.

Drivetrain parts can be upgraded piecemeal as they wear out, or if you just want to upgrade down the line. Higher-end cassettes are mostly just lighter, while higher-end shifters and derailleurs get lighter, smoother, and sometimes last a bit longer as you go up in price.

We’ll outline here the different models in Rocky Mountain’s MTB lineup, organized from most cross-country-oriented (XC) to downhill-oriented (DH). In other words, the bikes at the top of the list are optimized to pedal and climb uphill very well, while the bikes at the bottom are optimized to handle very rough, steep, and challenging descents very well.

We’ve included some notable information for each model:

Available build kits & their MSRP

  • Best Budget Build: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people trying to spend the least amount without ending up with a build that’s going to immediately break or need to be upgraded.
  • Most Performance for the Price: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people seeking the best balance of performance and cost. I.e., if you don’t need to get the cheapest bike, but you also don’t need the absolute lightest bike or all the newest bling, this is the build we think makes sense for you.
  • Suspension travel (e.g., 100 mm of travel, 130 mm of travel, etc.)
  • Wheel size (e.g., 27.5”, 27.5+, 29”)
  • Frame material options (e.g., alloy vs. carbon)
  • A brief description of what the bike was designed for and any notable design details.
  • Some of the bike’s most direct competitors from other brands
  • Which Rocky Mountain bike it’s most similar to
  • Reasons why you should buy it
  • Reasons why you should not buy it

Rocky Mountain's Mountain Bikes

(Most Cross-Country-Oriented to Most Downhill-Oriented)

Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 29"
  • Alloy

Rocky Mountain’s entry-level sport XC bike (i.e., not racing oriented), ideal for beginners or those who prioritize low price over top-of-the-line components, low weight, and performance.

Consider If:

  • You are a beginner looking to get into the sport
  • You plan to ride mellow, smooth trails
  • You are looking for a bike that could double as a commuter
  • You are on a budget

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on riding steep, technical, and bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is forgiving on descents
  • You are willing to spend some more money for more overall performance
  • 10: $699
  • 30: $849
  • 40: $1,099 – Best Budget Build
  • Specialized Chisel
  • Giant Talon 29
  • Kona Kahuna
  • Trek X-Caliber
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 27.5"
  • Alloy

This entry-level Trail hardtail is a solid option for beginners on a tight budget looking for 27.5” wheels.

More like the Fusion than the Vertex.

Consider If:

  • You are a beginner looking to get into the sport
  • You plan to ride mellow, smooth trails
  • You are looking for a bike that could double as a commuter
  • You are on a budget

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on riding steep, technical, and bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is forgiving on descents
  • You are willing to spend some more money for more overall performance
  • 10: $699
  • 20: $789 – Best Budget Build
  • Specialized Fuse 27.5”
  • Trek X-Caliber (size S)
  • Giant Talon
  • Kona Fire Mountain
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 29"
  • Carbon

Rocky Mountain’s dedicated XC race hardtail. This bike is compatible with a 27.2 mm dropper post.

More like the Element than the Soul.

Consider If:

  • You ride trails that are relatively smooth and not very steep
  • You ride or race XC
  • You appreciate a lightweight, efficient climber

Don’t Bother If:

  • The trails you ride are steep, bumpy, loose, and/or fast
  • You want a bike that is forgiving on the descents
  • 50: $2,999 – Best Budget Build
  • 70: $3,399
  • 90: $5,499 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Frameset: $1,999
  • Specialized Epic HT
  • Trek Procaliber
  • Giant XTC
  • Norco Revolver HT
  • Pivot Les
  • Santa Cruz Highball
  • Canyon Exceed
  • Mondraker Chrono, Chrono Carbon, and Podium Carbon
  • Scott Scale
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 100-120 mm
  • Rear: 100 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon

A full-suspension XC bike that features the Ride-9 adjustment system. The XCO edition features a 100 mm fork along with a more XC-oriented build kit. Other kits feature a 120 mm fork.

More like the Vertex than the Growler.

Consider If:

  • You like a full-suspension bike that climbs well
  • You want a bike with many geometry settings
  • You race or ride cross-country style on slightly bumpy, steep, and technical trails

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • 50: $4,599 – Best Budget Build
  • 70: $5,799 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 70 XCO Edition: $5,999
  • 90: $7,399
  • Frameset: $2,899
  • Trek Top Fuel
  • Specialized Epic & Epic EVO
  • Santa Cruz Blur & Blur TR, Tallboy / Juliana Joplin Version 3
  • Yeti SB100
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL & Mach 4 SL WC
  • Giant Anthem 29 & Trance Advanced Pro 29
  • Kona Hei Hei
  • Scott Spark & Spark RC
  • Intense Sniper XC & Sniper Trail
  • Norco Revolver FS 100 & Revolver FS 120
  • Cannondale Scalpel Si & Scalpel Si-SE
  • Mondraker F-Podium & F-Podium DC
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 130-140 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 29"
  • Alloy

The Growler comes with wide 2.6” tires. It comes with a 130 mm fork on “20” & “40” builds and a 140 mm fork on the “50” build. This Trail hardtail is a solid choice for beginners who want the extra grip of wider tires and those on a tight budget.

More like the Pipeline than the Element.

Consider If:

  • You appreciate hardtails, but want one that has slightly more aggressive geometry
  • You are a beginner looking for a confidence-inspiring bike
  • You ride trails that have loose surfaces
  • You are on a tight budget

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride very steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • You are looking for a lightweight, cross-country race-style hardtail
  • You are willing to spend more money for more overall performance
  • 20: $999
  • 40: $1,599
  • 50: $1,899 – Best Budget Build
  • Trek Stache
  • Kona Honzo
  • Transition Vanquish
  • Nukeproof Scout 290
  • Devinci Kobain HT
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 140 mm
  • Rear: 140 mm
  • 27.5"+
  • Carbon or Alloy

Stocked with 27.5”+ tires, this bike is designed for a plush ride and increased traction on slippery and loose surfaces. It can also run 29” wheels and tires. Ride-9 allows for fine-tuning of the geometry.

More like the Thunderbolt than the Growler.

Consider If:

  • You appreciate a good, fast, technical, and / or steep descent, and are willing to climb for it
  • You often ride slippery, muddy, sandy, snowy, or other loose surfaces
  • Plus-sized wheels and tires are appealing to you

Don’t Bother If:

  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • You want a very capable and forgiving bike that crushes descents and are willing to sacrifice some climbing ability
  • You want a bike that is an exceptional climber
  • Alloy 30: $2,799 – Best Budget Build
  • Alloy 50: $3,449 
  • Carbon 50: $4,499
  • Carbon 70: $5,499 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Santa Cruz 5010 / Juliana Furtado 27.5”+
  • Pivot Trail 429 27.5”+ / Switchblade 27.5”+
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 140 mm
  • Rear: 140 mm
  • 27.5"
  • Carbon or Alloy

This bike is designed to be a quick and nimble option for those looking for a do-it-all Trail bike. Comes with Ride-9 adjustment and can run 26”+ wheels and tires.

More like the Pipeline than the Instinct.

Consider If:

  • The trails you ride are somewhat bumpy, steep, fast, and technical
  • You are looking for a well-balanced bike in terms of climbing and descending
  • You want a bike that has quick and nimble handling

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride trails that are mostly flat and smooth
  • You are looking for an exceptional climbing bike
  • You are willing to sacrifice climbing ability for a bike that crushes descents
  • Alloy 10: $2,099
  • Alloy 30: $2,599 – Best Budget Build
  • Alloy 50: $3,399
  • Carbon 50: $4,599
  • Carbon 70: $5,299 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Carbon 90: $6,899 
  • Carbon frameset: $2,799
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 27.5”
  • Santa Cruz 5010 / Juliana Furtado
  • Giant Trance
  • Kona Process 134 27.5
  • Ibis Mojo 3
  • Norco Torrent FS
  • Evil The Calling
  • Cannondale Bad Habit
  • Transition Scout
  • Intense Primer 27.5
  • Devinci Troy 27
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 140 mm
  • Rear: 140 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon or Alloy

Rocky Mountain’s best Quiver Killer, do-it-all Trail bike. Features Ride-9 adjustment system. Can fit 27.5″+ wheels and tires as well. This bike can also be converted into the Instinct BC Edition with a few extra parts.

More like the Thunderbolt than the Altitude.

Consider If:

  • You’re looking for a do-it-all Trail bike
  • You appreciate a good, fast, technical, and / or steep descent, and are willing to climb for it
  • You ride a mix of terrain and styles
  • You like a bike that is well-rounded in terms of climbing and descending

Don’t Bother If:

  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • You want a very capable and forgiving bike that crushes descents and are willing to sacrifice some climbing ability
  • Alloy 30: $2,599 – Best Budget Build
  • Alloy 50: $3,799
  • Carbon 50: $4,749
  • Carbon 70: $5,899 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Carbon 90: $7,299
  • Carbon 99: $9,999
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 29”
  • Santa Cruz Hightower / Juliana Maverick
  • Trek Fuel EX
  • Pivot Switchblade
  • Yeti SB130
  • Commencal Meta TR 29
  • Intense Primer 29
  • Norco Sight 29
  • Kona Process 134 29
  • Scott Genius
  • Canyon Strive
  • Yt Jeffsy 29
  • Devinci Troy 29
  • Evil The Offering
  • Cannondale Jekyll 29
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 160 mm
  • Rear: 150 mm
  • 27.5”
  • Carbon or Alloy

Rocky Mountain’s hard-charging and downhill-capable 27.5” Enduro bike. Compatible with Fox Live Valve and Shimano Di2. Features Ride-9 adjustment system.

More like the Instinct BC Edition than the Instinct.

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You like the nimble feel of 27.5” wheels
  • You race Enduro, like to shuttle to the top of descents, and / or ride lift-served terrain

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an XC-style bike that climbs very well
  • You want the fast-rolling performance of 29” wheels
  • Alloy 30: $2,999 – Best Budget Build
  • Alloy 50: $3,699
  • Carbon 50: $4,599
  • Carbon 70: $5,899 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Carbon 90: $7,299
  • Carbon frameset: $2,899
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 27.5 / Stumpjumper EVO 27.5
  • Trek Remedy
  • Pivot Mach 6
  • Yeti SB140  
  • Kona Process 153 27.5
  • Santa Cruz Bronson
  • Intense Primer 27.5
  • YT Jeffsy 27
  • Norco Sight 27.5”
  • Canyon Spectral
  • Evil The Insurgent LB
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 160 mm
  • Rear: 155 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon or Alloy

This bike is designed to be a more downhill-capable and stable version of the Instinct. Unlike the other full-suspension Rocky Mountain bikes, this one does not feature Ride-9 or Ride-4. This bike can run 27.5”+ wheels and tires in addition to the stock 29″ wheels. Also, this bike can be converted into the standard Instinct (see above) with a few extra parts.

More like the Altitude than the Slayer.

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You race enduro and / or like to shuttle to the top of descents and / or ride lift-served terrain
  • You want the benefits of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • You enjoy pushing your limits on fast, steep, chunky, and technical terrain

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an cross-country-style bike that climbs very well
  • You want a more freeride style long-travel bike
  • You’re looking for a long-travel 29er with geometry that is more long, slack, and low
  • Alloy 50: $3,899 – Best Budget Build
  • Alloy 70: $4,699 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Carbon 70: $5,999 
  • Carbon 90: $7,199
  • Carbon frameset: $2,899
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 29 / Stumpjumper EVO 29
  • Santa Cruz Megatower
  • Pivot Switchblade / Firebird 29
  • Trek Slash
  • Yeti SB150
  • Kona Process 153 29
  • Scott Genius
  • Transition Sentinel
  • Intense Carbine
  • Nukeproof Mega 290
  • Ibis Ripmo & Ripmo AF
  • Evil The Wreckoning LB
  • Cannondale Jekyll 29
  • Canyon Strive
  • Mondraker Foxy
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 180 mm (27.5") or 170 mm (29")
  • Rear: 180 mm (27.5") or 170 mm (29")
  • 27.5" or 29"
  • Carbon

Rocky Mountain’s most downhill capable, uphill-pedaling bike. Updated for 2020, this bike is longer and slacker in addition to some changes to the suspension leverage ratio. Features Ride-4 adjustment system.

More like the Instinct BC Edition than the Maiden.

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You race Enduro, like to shuttle to the top of descents, and / or ride lift-served terrain
  • You enjoy pushing your limits on fast, steep, chunky, and technical terrain

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an XC-style bike that climbs very well
  • Alloy 30: $3,299 – Best Budget Build
  • Alloy 50: $3,999
  • Carbon 50 (29″ only): $4,999
  • Carbon 70: $5,999 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Carbon 90: $7,999
  • Carbon frameset: $3,099
  • Specialized Enduro
  • Santa Cruz Megatower & Nomad
  • Pivot Firebird 29 & Firebird
  • Yeti SB150 & SB165
  • Giant Reign SX 29 & Reign SX
  • Commencal Meta AM 29 & Clash
  • Scott Ransom
  • Transition Patrol
  • Nukeproof Mega 290 & Mega 275
  • YT Capra 29 & Capra 27
  • Norco Range
  • Devinci Spartan 27 & Spartan 29
  • Cannondale Jekyll
  • Canyon Torque
  • Mondraker Superfoxy Carbon, Dune, & Dune Carbon XR
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2020 Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: n/a
  • Rear: 200 mm
  • 27.5"
  • Carbon

Available as a frame only, this DH rig is designed to be built from the ground up to meet the rider’s needs and preferences. Can run 26” wheels and tires instead of the stock 27.5″. Features Ride-4 adjustment system.

Consider If:

  • You often ride lift-served bike parks or like to shuttle to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride are fast, steep, technical, rocky, rooty, and / or have large jumps
  • You like agile 27.5” or 26” wheels

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on climbing to the top of descents
  • You want the advantage of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • The trails you ride aren’t very fast, steep, technical, and bumpy
  • You want to buy a complete bike, not just a frameset
  • Carbon frameset: $3,599
  • Specialized Demo 8
  • Santa Cruz V10 27.5”
  • Pivot Phoenix
  • Trek Session 27.5
  • Commencal Furious & Supreme DH 27
  • Kona Operator 27.5”
  • Transition TR11
  • Intense M16
  • Nukeproof Dissent 275
  • YT Tues 27
  • Norco Aurum & Aurum HSP 27.5”
  • Devinci Wilson 27
  • Canyon Sender
  • Mondraker Summum

1 comment on “Blister Brand Guide: Rocky Mountain’s Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020”

  1. Pretty solid but you should note that the Instinct and the Pipeline are the same frame. Pipeline has a lower headset cup extension to compensate for the slightly smaller diameter of the 27.5+ wheelsand the Instinct comes with it if you want to try that wheel size later.

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