Today is the day we spill the beans on our super-top-secret news. We are talking all about the Rocky Mountain Instinct. That’s right, Rocky Mountain. We are beyond stoked to start working with the Canadian brand. We’re going to kick things off with the 140mm travel 29” trail bike, the Instinct.
Made for going everywhere and doing everything, the Instinct is a very versatile bike. The geometry is very well-rounded and adjustable to fit a wide variety of terrain and riding styles. Rocky Mountain uses Ride-9 adjustable geometry to offer nine different geo settings. I spent the majority of my time on the bike in the neutral and slack settings. The head tube angle is one of the steepest I’ve ridden in a bit at 65.1 to 66.2 degrees. The chainstay length is also adjustable from 438 to 449mm. The short setting combined with the steeper head tube angle makes the overall wheelbase a conservative 1280mm.
Rocky Mountain Instinct Ride Impressions
The Instinct is a very competent climber. It strikes a good balance between traction and efficiency. The rear suspension is a bit more active while pedaling, keeping the rear wheel on the ground. That does mean there is a bit of pedal bob, but I would argue it’s worth the gains in transaction and smoothness. For reference, it’s not quite as efficient as bikes like the SB130, Ripmo, or Occam. It feels a bit more like a Tallboy or Hightower. It smooths out the trail very well and performed surprisingly well on steep, loose climbs.
The reach on the Instinct is 511mm — a number I couldn’t quite believe based on how the bike felt. Normally, when a bike gets over the 505mm mark, it starts feeling pretty big for me. The Instinct fit like a glove. Maybe it’s a combo of the seat tube angle, short stubby stem, and the steeper head tube angle, but the bike didn’t feel huge. It put me in a very neutral climbing position. I felt very centered on the bike, not being too far off the back or too stretched out over the front.
The more nimble geometry combined with the active suspension, make this bike an excellent technical climber. You’re able to dodge and weave through the rocks instead of having to go over the top of everything like you do on a bigger bike. The steering is responsive and allows you to easily pick your line through technical terrain.
Overall on the climbs, I’d say the Instinct gets an A- or B+. It’s an excellent technical climber, it’s efficient enough for long days and it’s very comfortable. I think where it’s going to shine on the climbs is on those big, backcountry days where you’re putting in a lot of miles and vert, but need a bit more capable bike for some tough descents.
The most apparent thing about the Instinct on the downhill is the head tube angle. Like I said earlier, it’s one of the steepest bikes I’ve ridden in a while. I started with the bike in the neutral setting, making the head tube angle 65.7 degrees. At first, I was oversteering in the corners, but it only took a few minutes to adjust. Once I corrected for the quicker handling, the bike started to shine. It’s incredibly responsive and quick around a corner. I think it’s the combo of the wheelbase and head tube angle that makes it feel so agile and maneuverable. If you’re an active rider and not someone who just hangs on in passenger mode, the Instinct is going to be a very rewarding ride for you. It’s going to let you make the most of the trail.
After a couple of years of trying to make them as short as possible, it seems that companies are making chainstays a little bit longer these days. The Instinct has 438 or 449mm stays. In the 438mm setting the back of the bike feels fairly short. It makes it easy to get the bike around a corner and the front wheel off the ground. In the longer setting, the bike takes on a bit more stable feel, although I still wouldn’t call it ultra-planted. It always feels more quick and nimble than anything. The bike really shines in smoother, faster, and flowier terrain. It makes those trails a riot. It does OK in the rougher and steeper stuff, but you’re not able to open it up and let the bike plow over everything. You have to be a bit more selective about your lines, looking for the smoothest options.
The second standout feature on the instinct was the suspension platform. The best word to describe is firm. It’s not harsh and it’s not plush. It’s firm and supportive. It offers good traction and control in the initial stroke, but where it really impresses is in the mid-stroke. There’s a ton of support for pumping, jumping, and cornering. It makes the bike very rewarding when you pump a set of rollers, jump off of every bump in sight, and push through a series of corners. Your effort is rewarded with more speed and more airtime. The bike feels very light on its feet. It wants to get airborne.
When you combine the nimble geometry with the poppy suspension, it makes a bike that is extremely fun to ride. It seems silly to call a 140mm 29er a play bike, but that’s how the Instinct feels on the trail. It wants to play around and not take things too seriously.
Who is The rocky Mountain Instinct for?
The first type of rider that comes to mind is the active rider. Someone who likes to be in control of the bike and not just hangs onto it in passenger mode. It’s going to be very rewarding for someone who likes to jump, manual, jib, and pop off everything in sight.
The second group of folks who I think will enjoy this bike are the people who do big backcountry rides. The Instinct climbs well enough to do huge days in the mountains, yet it’s still capable enough to handle tough trails and steep terrain. It’s a comfortable bike to sit on all day as you make your way from peak to peak.
The last group of riders who I think will enjoy this bike are the XC folks who are looking to ride a more comfortable and capable bike. The Instinct will give you the quick, snappy handling you’re used to from those XC bikes, but in a more capable package.
The bottom line
I’m going to make a bold claim here and call the Rocky Mountain Instinct the most fun 29” trail bike.