Blister Brand Guide: Rocky Mountain’s Mountain Bike Lineup, 2021

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.

In our “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand and highlight how each product stands out from the rest to help you find the best women’s mountain bike or men’s best mountain bike 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 making mountain bikes since 1981. They also started Race Face Bicycle Components in 1993. Since then, both brands have had great success in the mountain bike industry. Today, Rocky Mountain only makes mountain bikes, from cross-country to downhill options, and they offer certain models in both alloy and carbon frames.

Rocky Mountain uses their “Ride-9” system, which consists of two flip chips that allow for nine different geometry positions on many of Rocky’s full-suspension bikes. Changing the Ride-9 position also slightly tweaks the suspension rate. They also use Ride-4, a similar system with only 4 positions.  All full-suspension Rocky Mountain bikes (except the Thunderbolt) also feature a size-specific shock tune, meaning that smaller size bikes get lighter-weight-oriented tunes, and vice versa. 

For model-year 2021, Rocky Mountain added two new bikes and has discontinued their XC hardtail, Vertex. Info on the Vertex can be found in our 2020 Rocky Mountain Bike Brand Guide

They are currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Current Warranty (for the original owner)

  • Five year warranty for all carbon fiber and aluminum mountain bike frames
  • One year for paint, decals, and frame hardware
  • Six months for pivots and bushings
  • 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 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

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:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 10: $749
  • 30: $899
  • 40: $1,199 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Chisel
  • Scott Aspect
  • Kona Kahuna
  • Trek X-Caliber
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

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 Element.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 10: $749
  • 20: $839 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Fuse 27.5”
  • Kona Fire Mountain
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

A full-suspension XC bike that features Ride-9 geometry 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 Growler than the Soul.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 50: $4,599 – Best Budget Build
  • 70: $5,799 – Most Performance for the Price
  • 70 XCO Edition: $6,199
  • 90: $7,499
  • Frameset: $2,899
  • Specialized Epic & Epic EVO
  • Santa Cruz Blur
  • Trek Top Fuel
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL
  • 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 & Scalpel SE
  • Mondraker F-Podium & F-Podium DC
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

The Growler can inspire confidence on loose trails thanks to its wide 2.6” x 29″ tires. It comes with a 130 mm fork on the “20” build, a 140 mm fork on the “40” build, and a 150 mm fork on the “50” build. This bike is a great choice for beginners and those on a tight budget who want something with higher-end components and more downhill-capable geometry than the Fusion and Soul.

More like the Thunderbolt than the Element.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • 20: $999
  • 40: $1,599
  • 50: $1,999 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon 27.5”+
  • Kona Big Honzo
  • Devinci Kobain HT
  • Giant Fathom 29
  • Canyon Stoic
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

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

More like the Instinct than the Growler.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Alloy 10: $2,199
  • Alloy 30: $2,499 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Giant Trance
  • Kona Process 134 27.5
  • Ibis Mojo
  • Trek Remedy
  • Evil The Calling
  • Transition Scout
  • Intense Primer 27.5
  • Devinci Troy 27
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

Released March 2021, the new Instinct is Rocky Mountain’s best Quiver Killer. The updated Instinct has longer and slacker geometry, and has updated suspension kinematics. This bike shares the same frame as the Altitude with a different front shock mount. Features Ride-9 geometry adjustment system and 10 mm of chainstay length adjustment.

More like the Altitude than the Thunderbolt.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Alloy 30: $3,129 – Best Budget Build
  • Alloy 50: $4,499
  • Carbon 30: $4,499
  • Carbon 50: $5,549
  • Carbon 70: $6,899 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Carbon 70 Coil Edition: $7,629
  • Carbon 90: $9,399
  • Carbon 99: $10,449
  • Carbon Frameset: $3,549
  • Specialized Stumpjumper
  • Trek Fuel EX
  • Santa Cruz Hightower
  • Yeti SB130
  • Pivot Switchblade
  • Kona Process 134 29
  • Commencal Meta TR
  • Giant Trance X 29
  • Intense Primer 29
  • YT Jeffsy 29
  • Norco Sight 29
  • Devinci Troy 29
  • Evil The Offering
  • Scott Genius 
  • Cannondale Habit
  • Revel Rascal
  • Canyon Strive
  • Ibis Ripmo & Ripmo AF
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

Rocky Mountain’s Enduro race bike. Updated for the 2021 lineup, the Altitude got more travel, rolls on either 27.5” or 29” wheels, got more progressive geometry, and received updated suspension kinematics. Features Ride-9 geometry adjustment system and 10 mm of chainstay adjustment.

More like the Instinct than the Slayer.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Alloy 30: $3,649 – Best Budget Build
  • Alloy 50: $4,489
  • Alloy 70: $5,479 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Carbon 50: $5,739
  • Carbon 70: $7,329 
  • Carbon 70 Coil Edition: $7,329
  • Carbon 90 Rally Edition: $9,499
  • Carbon 99: $10,449
  • Carbon frameset: $3,859
  • Specialized Enduro
  • Trek Remedy & Slash
  • Pivot Mach 6 & Firebird 29
  • Santa Cruz Bronson & Megatower
  • Yeti SB150  
  • Giant Reign 29
  • Intense Carbine
  • Nukeproof Mega
  • Devinci Spartan
  • Scott Ransom
  • Mondraker Superfoxy
  • Kona Process X
  • YT Capra
  • Norco Sight
  • Canyon Spectral
  • Evil The Wreckoning
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down Rocky Mountain's 2021 Mountain Bike Lineup

Rocky Mountain’s most downhill-capable bike. Updated for 2020, this bike got longer and slacker in addition to some changes to the suspension kinematics. Features Ride-4 adjustment system. There is also the “Park Edition” build of the Slayer, which comes with a dual-crown fork.

Consider If:

Don’t Bother If:

  • Alloy 30: $3,759 – Best Budget Build
  • Alloy 30 Park Edition: $4,279
  • Alloy 50: $4,599
  • Carbon 50: $5,539
  • Carbon 70: $6,789 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Carbon 90: $8,359
  • Carbon frameset: $3,239
  • Santa Cruz Nomad
  • Yeti SB165
  • Commencal Clash
  • Revel Rail
  • Transition Patrol
  • Nukeproof Giga
  • Norco Range
  • Canyon Torque
  • Mondraker Dune, & Dune Carbon XR

1 comment on “Blister Brand Guide: Rocky Mountain’s Mountain Bike Lineup, 2021”

  1. No Instinct Alloy Backcountry for 2021????
    That would be a shame as it’s an exceptional spec’d bike for under 4K!

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