By Zach White
Being thrown on a brand new, completely unfamiliar and slightly wrong sized bike, and expected to follow a Canadian cross-country legend on his backyard trails could’ve gone a few different ways. Luckily for me, Rocky Mountain’s new Instinct 29 is an easy bike to adapt to, and maybe Dre Hestler was being nice to me with his pace too. Either way, it was a pleasure to get a sneak peek and quick loop in on the 2018 model.
A relatively quick 2-hour lap on some of Whistler’s valley trails had us climb just under 2,000 feet, and descend a mix of slow tech and semi-fast and flow before the sun called it a day and had us scrambling back to Rocky Mountain’s place at dusk. While the size Large loaner was slightly small for my usual XL taste, it was roomy enough to not feel too cramped for the ride, which points to Rocky Mountain’s effort to make the new line longer in reach and general cockpit.
While climbing with the bike set up in its Ride-9 adjustable geometry in the neutral position, the front end was happy to steer up and over roots, rocks and through tight trail sections with ease. The bottom bracket did feel a touch on the low side, but that could have easily been due to a hasty shock setup resulting in more sag than ideal. Regardless, the Instinct climbed very well and felt more like a 120 mm trail bike than something in the 140 mm class. Most climbing was done with the Fox Float in the middle damping setting, though I did switch it to climb mode for the road and for a few techy trail climbs to cheat the low-feeling bottom bracket up just a hair.
Descending on the Instinct was a breeze and had a nimble, light and natural feel on the mix of BC trails. I did bottom the rear out once, which again points to the idea that the bike was set up with less than ideal air pressure for my weight and style of riding. Otherwise, the 2018 Instinct simply faded into a predictable and fun afterthought while trying to keep Dre in sight on some great little techy trails.
Overall, we’re looking forward to getting a more appropriately sized Instinct for a long term review, with more time to fiddle with setup, including the Ride-9 options. As usual, riding review bikes on home trails allows more focus on the bike, too, so look for a more detailed opinion later this year in Dirt Rag.