The 2022 Rocky Mountain Element is a lot like a salted chocolate chip cookie. At first, it sounds like an odd combination. But once you’ve had it, you realize that the two go together extremely well. Except in the Element’s case, we’re not talking about salt and sugar. Instead, we’re talking about all-mountain geometry and cross-country feeling suspension. It has the long and slack geometry of a much bigger bike and the suspension feel of a quick little XC whip. So does it meet in the middle as the perfect trail bike? Or is it just a hot, gooey mess? Stick around to find out.
The Element has some of the most aggressive geometry I’ve seen on a 120mm bike. The geo is right on par with the quintessential all-mountain bikes like the Ibis Ripmo, Santa Cruz Hightower, and Yeti SB130.
It’s as slack and long as those bikes, yet it has way less travel. In fact, it’s slacker and longer than almost every other trail bike, including longer-travel options like the Orbea Occam and Giant Trance X. When you first sit on it, you would think you’re on an all-mountain bike. That is until you start pedaling. That’s when the firm, supportive pedal platform rears its head and makes you think you’re on an XC bike.
I honestly struggled to know how to ride it for the first few days. It confused me more than any bike I’ve ever ridden. Once I got the feel for what it could do, I ended up breaking PRs both up and down the mountain. That would make sense, as Rocky Mountain has always claimed this is the bike designed for the BC bike race. It would make sense that it’s quick uphill without sacrificing stability for rough trails. Now that I’ve spilled the beans, let’s get into how it rides.
2022 Rocky Mountain Element Review
It’s tough to find a benchmark to compare the Element to. Do you compare it to an all-mountain bike? Do you compare it to an XC bike? To be honest I don’t really know where I’d put it. So we’re going to put it in the super general category of mountain bikes. For a mountain bike, it goes uphill fast. It’s the kind of bike that begs you to put the pedal to the metal and give it some gas on the climbs. The suspension rewards those efforts by not wasting any energy. There’s no pedal bob to speak of with the ultra-efficient pedal platform. It doesn’t seem to be lacking in the traction department all that much. It could be due to the tire spec on my test bike. It’s equipped with a Maxxis Dissector on the front and a Maxxis Rekon on the rear. For having a quick-rolling rear tire, the rear wheel traction seemed better than it should have been. EVen when standing up on steep pitches and crawling over wet rocks and roots, the bike stuck to the ground well.
While the Element remains very composed under pedaling efforts, it’s not the most active feeling suspension on the climbs. You feel the rocks and bumps more than you would on other bikes. I wouldn’t call it an overly plush or smooth climber. In rough and rocky sections you’ll need to pick smooth lines.
The body position on the Element feels a lot like an all-mountain bike. It has a long reach, semi-slack head tube angle, and a long wheelbase. It feels pretty big, especially when seated.. The seat tube angle is on the slacker side of what I find comfortable which made the seated position a bit stretched out for my liking. I prefer to sit a little more upright on the bike. I slammed the saddle forward and ran stubby stem which seemed to help quite a bit. Because your weight is shifted a little more rearward on the bike, the front wheel felt a bit light at times. It took a conscious effort to keep my weight over the front end on the steepest climbs.
The handling uphill is very similar to most all-mountain bikes. It feels long and stable rather than short and twitchy. It does make navigating really tight switchbacks a bit harder, but keep in mind that is when you compare it to an XC or trail bike. Compared to trail and all-mountain bikes, it has rather quick handling.
Overall on the climbs, I’m a big fan of the Element. It’s fast, efficient, and provides enough traction. It’s not the smoothest or most comfortable climber, but comfort doesn’t always equal speed. And I think this bike is all about speed uphill.
Downhill is where I liked the Element the most. Again, it’s a really odd combination that ends up working well together. The firm, efficient suspension is great for generating speed, while the geometry is great for being stable at said speeds.
The best way to describe the suspension on the Element is “firm.” It’s not harsh, but it’s not even close to being plush. I ran a whole bunch of different suspension settings and wouldn’t call any of them plush. Plushness isn’t always the best, though. Sure, it’s comfortable, but it’s not always the fastest. The suspension platform is firm throughout the entire stroke which is great for pumping through rollers and berms. It creates a lot of forward momentum. If you haven’t caught on already, the Element is all about speed. Considering the suspension is so supportive, I would have thought that jumping would be really easy and fun on this bike. It may have been a combo of multiple factors but I had a bit of a tough time getting it airborne. The front end felt a little low for my liking when it comes to jumps.
It’s not the most comfortable on big hits and rough square-edged bumps, but then again it only has 120mm of travel. It forces you to pick smooth lines or to unweight over nasty sections. There’s enough progression to avoid clattering through all your travel on regular blue and green trail features. You won’t always be sticking to mellow blues and greens on this bike though. The geometry wants much more than that.
The Element’s geometry is the best thing about it on the descents. It is probably the most stable 120mm bike I’ve ridden. I feel like it’s the kind of bike that can get you into trouble. It lures you into a false sense of security with its long, stable wheelbase. Then, you find yourself going faster and riding more aggressively than the 120mm of rear travel can back up. I had a couple of moments on the trail that required some hanging on for dear life as I plowed through rough rocks and chunder at some silly speeds for a bike this size. Not a fault of the bike at all, though. In fact, I bring this up more as praise. The geometry is just that stable and confident. I find the Element is a little more versatile than most other bikes in the category. It opens up harder trails. The geometry allows for rougher riding than most other bikes can get away with.
The Element is really nice in the corners. It’s stable enough that it doesn’t feel twitchy, especially in bumpy corners. It’s still short enough that it doesn’t feel like a school bus. It finds a really nice middle ground. Pair it with the suspension platform that rewards a good pump, and you’ve got a cornering machine.
Overall the Element is all about speed on the downhill. Between the suspension and the geometry, everything seems to work toward one common goal—going fast. It’s not the most fun and jibby bike, but it sure is good at covering ground quickly.
2022 Rocky Mountain Element Comparisons
We have lots of comparisons to make here, so I’m going to keep each one brief.
Giant Trance 29
The Element and Trance 29 feel very similar on the climbs. They both roll quickly and waste little to no energy. The Trance might be a little smoother in the bumps, but only by a hair. On the descents, the Element is far more stable and allows you to ride it harder. The Trance feels a bit more quick and nimble, though.
I think the Ranger will edge out the Element on the climbs. It’s a bit quicker and definitely smoother in the rough. Where the Ranger feels very XC on the descents, the Element feels much more capable. I didn’t feel the need to back off or slow down on the Element, where I certainly did on the Ranger.
Maybe the closest comparison in this review will be the Element and Spur. They both have that “punch above their weight class” type quality to them on the descents. They’re some of the most stable 120m bikes on the market right now. I don’t think I could really differentiate them too much on the climbs, but on the descents, the Element feels a little bit more stable and stout. A lot of it could come down to the difference in specced forks. The Spur comes with a RockShox SiD and the Element comes with a burlier Fox 34.
Santa Cruz Tallboy
The Element is much faster uphill than the Tallboy. I would put them close to each other on the descents, even though their suspension feels very different. The Tallboy is much more plush and smooth, but the Element is probably a bit more stable due to its geometry.
This one may seem out of left field, but hear me out. They have the same head tube angle, nearly identical reaches, and wheelbases within 2mm of each other. The Ripmo obviously does better on the descents as it has a lot more travel to work with, but they have a very similar feeling when it comes to geometry and handling. On blues, I don’t think the Ripmo will feel any faster or more capable than the Element. It’s only on black diamonds and double black diamonds where it will start to pull away. They’re both proficient climbers, but the Element is going to win an uphill battle.
Who is The 2022 Rocky Mountain Element ?
I like the Element for two different types of riders. The first group is riders like me who tend to ride big bikes most of the time. I like the stability and capability that they provide, but I’m not always on trails that require a big, squishy bikie. The Element would be my weapon of choice for tackling long rides on mostly easier trails. It has a very similar fit and feel to what I’m used to, as well as handling and high-speed stability that I’m familiar with. The bonus is that it pedals way better than my big bikes and will allow for bigger days in the saddle.
The second group of riders who will enjoy the Element is the endurance racers. Again, this bike is made for the BC bike race. So if you enjoy riding 35 miles and 3500 feet of climbing every day for 7 days, then you’ll probably really like the Element. It’s fast and efficient without feeling extra sketchy on BC double black diamonds.
One Line Bike Review
The Rocky Mountain Element is all about speed.