First Impression: Rocky Mountain Element 950

By Shannon Mominee, photos by Adam Newman

Rocky Mountain has been designing frames for more than 27 years and the Element debuted in 1996 as a 26” full suspension rig. Over the last 16 years it has seen some changes, most noticeably the adoption of 29-inch wheels, a tapered head tube, and use of the latest fabricating techniques. The 2012 Element includes three 29-inch models made from hydroformed 7005 series aluminum, and several 26-inch models made from aluminum or carbon fiber.

I’ve been riding the Element 950 29er since November. It’s outfitted with a RockShox Revelation RL 29 fork with 90-120mm of adjustable suspension, lockout, and a 20mm Maxle Lite thru-axle with a tapered steerer. The 95mm of rear travel is provided by a RockShox Monarch RT with rebound and floodgate adjustments.

The Element uses a 4-bar suspension linkage with ABC (Angular Bushing Concept) pivots, which employ angular contact polymer bushings that rotate on a tapered alloy pivot. The two halves of the alloy pivot screw into opposite sides of the linkage, are self-centering, and it bottoms out against itself, so it can’t be over-tightened and cause the bushings to bind. Rocky Mountian claims the bushings are 105 percent stiffer and 20 grams lighter than a sealed bearing. I’ll take their word on it.

The rear pivot is placed 10mm above the rear hub’s axle to combat pedal bob and unless I’m standing and mashing, movement has felt minimal. I was worried about not having a lockout on the rear shock, but the suspension design is such that it’s not required for efficient climbing.

A concern I have is that I weigh 185lbs. without a loaded hydration pack and have the rear shock’s air pressure set at 260psi. The max pressure is 275psi. I’ve taken a few hits big enough to knock the little red O-ring off the end of the shaft, but for the most part it’s been consistently close to the end assuring me full travel has been used. The suspension has been trouble-free, was easy to set up, and the floodgate and rebound knobs are easy to reach to tweak while riding.

At first I had my stem set too high and kept over-shooting turns and had a lot of flopping of the front wheel, but after lowering the stem 10mm handling has improved and I feel like I have control. The travel adjust knob on the Revelation RL is easy to reach and dial the suspension’s travel while riding. For climbs I set it at 90mm and dial anywhere to 120mm to slacken the head tube for downhill rolling.

My size 20 frame has a 70.6-degree head tube angle and 74-degree seat tube angle. It feels like I’m sitting back into the suspension and ready for the trail to decline. The chainstays are 445mm long and the wheelbase 1,146mm.

I’ve put a decent amount of mileage on the Element 950 29er thanks to the mild Pennsylvania winter and a trip to Sedona, Arizona. Look for the full review in Dirt Rag Issue #163 and if you like what you read, don’t forget to subscribe to the magazine.




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