With a balanced approach to both climbing and descending, the Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay A50 is one of the most versatile ebikes I’ve ridden. It doesn’t really care if it’s going uphill, downhill, or sidehill as long as it’s in the hills. The Instinct Powerplay is the most expensive bike in the test but is it the best? Stick around to find out.
Instinct Powerplay Geo and Details
The Instinct Powerplay rolls on 140mm of rear wheel travel. That’s paired with a 150mm fork to handle suspension duties. Both wheels are large and in charge without the added chainstay length that usually comes with a 29” rear wheel on an ebike. The location of the motor allows Rocky to keep things nice and tidy at 436-439mm. The geometry is adjustable using Rocky’s Ride-4 chip. The head tube angle has a large range from 64.2° to 64.9°.
I’ve been a pretty big fan of the Dyname 4.0 drivesystem since I first rode it on the Altitude Powerplay. In fact, it’s my favorite drivesystem to date. It’s not only the most powerful with 108Nm of peak torque, but it delivers that power smoothly and naturally. The dimmer switch feel of the motor kicking in, almost makes you forget you’re on an ebike.
Out of all our test bikes, the controls and display unit are the sleekest and nicest as well. The Giant Reign’s integrated display is similar, but the Rocky’s Jumbotron screen located on top of the top tube, allows you to make all the adjustments to the settings and motor without the need for an app or phone. That alone puts it on top of my list.
The Instinct comes with a 720Wh battery. While that’s bigger than all the other batteries in the test, the motor also uses more juice than any other bike in the test. Despite the bigger battery, I don’t think the range is any better.
The Dyname system can be a bit of a fickle beast, however. It really hates it when you power on the bike while you’re sitting on it. It’s probably best practice with any ebike to power it up while standing off to the side, but it’s an absolute necessity on the Instinct. It also doesn’t like you to keep a foot on the pedal while you’re stopped for water or enjoying a nice view. Pro tip: if the motor is ever acting up, or you feel like the power just isn’t there, get off the bike and do a quick calibration within the menu settings. It will take you 20 seconds and gets the motor back to normal.
Instinct Powerplay A50 Review
It doesn’t surprise me at all that the Instinct is probably the best climber in the test. It has more power, which rarely hurts climbing performance. It also has great geometry that allows for a very neutral seated position and a lot of control over the bike.
The geometry on the Instinct lands smack dab in the middle of the all-mountain category. It’s aggressive without going overboard. Rocky didn’t pigeonhole the bike. Instead, they made a rather versatile machine that doesn’t seem to care what type of trail it’s on, it’s just happy to be in the mountains. I’ve rarely felt more comfortable while seated on the climbs. The body position is pretty perfect for keeping both wheels weighted properly. I would imagine a lot of that comfortable feeling comes from having “normal” length chainstays. Most eMTBs, especially full 29” eMTBs, tend to have pretty long chainstays. I’d imagine that’s why so many eMTBs use a mullet setup. The location of the Instinct’s motor allows for the same length chainstays as the pedal version.
The shorter chainstays and average wheelbase length lend themselves to technical climbing. While the Instinct isn’t as nimble as a bike like the Rise, it certainly beats the Reign in this department. I didn’t have a difficult time making the bike go where I wanted it to go, even on some of the tighter and more technical sections of our test trails.
The suspension mirrors the philosophy of the geometry as well. It isn’t a one-trick pony. It is more efficient than some of the other bikes in the test without completely ignoring the need for traction on an ebike. Again, “balanced” is the word that comes to mind. I think the Reign does a better job of providing traction, and the Rise does a better job of providing efficiency, but the Instinct is the perfect blend of the two.
Overall the Instinct is probably my favorite bike on the climbs in the test. With the balanced geo and suspension feel and all 108Nm of peak torque, this thing goes uphill with the best of them.
If “balanced” was the word of the day on the climbs, we’ll be sticking with that theme for the descents. The Instinct is the type of bike that’s up for any task, whether big or small. If bikes like the Hightower, Ripmo, and Rail 29 get you excited, stick around. This is the e-version of that category.
I’ve always been a fan of Smoothlink suspension. It has a way of staying active under braking forces and letting the rear wheel move out of the way of obstacles. On the Instinct, the main pivot has been moved to a mid-high position which I feel enhances these traits even further. Bikes with high pivots allow for a more rearward axle path. You can imagine how this would help the wheel move out of the way of rocks and roots better than a purely vertical path. The downside to rearward axle paths is that the bike gets longer as you move through your suspension. That can tend to make cornering and unweighting a little tougher. The Instinct’s mid-high pivot seems to make a great compromise between the added stability of a high pivot without as many drawbacks.
The Instinct ate up all of the little trail chatter as well as the bigger hits on our test trails. It’s not as plush and composed as the Reign E, but it’s quite a bit more maneuverable. I’d argue the average speeds were as high or higher on the Instinct because of its ability to get around a corner and navigate the trail.
The Instinct’s geometry is plenty long, slack, and stable for tackling pretty much any trail you’d like. It’s not so extreme however that it makes easy trail boring. I wouldn’t hesitate to ride rough and rugged southern Utah trails on it, nor would I hesitate to take it only easy, cruisy trails. It feels at home no matter the terrain.
Overall on the Descents, the Instinct tends to fade into the background so all you have to focus on is your riding. I really like bikes that do this. The last thing I want to worry about as I’m careening down a mountain is my bike. I’d rather worry about not hitting every tree in sight.
Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay A50 Value Score
Up to this point, everything about the Instinct has been pretty positive. It’s easily one of my favorite bikes in the test. However, you do pay a pretty penny to get your hands on one. It’s almost $1000 more than the next most expensive bike in the test. I certainly don’t think you get $1000 more from the components either. The build kit is comparable to the far less expensive bikes in the test. I guess you could argue that the extra $1000 gets you some intangibles like versatility, ride quality, suspension design, and geometry. But you could also argue that all of those things come on the A30 version of this bike which is still as expensive as any other bike in the test and has much cheaper components. All of this is to say, there are other bikes in the test that offer far more value. I have to give this one a 3 out of 5.
Who is THe Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay A50?
I could easily recommend the Instinct to anyone who wants an eMTB. You just can’t go wrong. It handles a huge variety of terrain and riding styles. In my mind, it’s the Hightower (the most all-mountain, all-mountain bike) of ebikes. I can recommend it to dads out with their kids for a fun lap, as well as shredders looking to find the steepest and roughest trails.
Instinct One-Line Review
The Instinct is as balanced as the Yin-Yang.
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