Beautifully finished are the words that spring to mind when you cast an eye over the Rocky frame. The ‘Form’ profiled tubing arcs out the short head tube and radically changes shape as it drops into the bottom bracket, providing stiffness in the right directions as it goes. This seems to make for a rock-solid platform, and combined with the oversized seat and chainstays it looks like a real bulldog of a bike. The finishing and paintjob are of course excellent, in line with the Rocky Mountain reputation, it positively glows through the dirt. And above-top tube routing of the cables keeps them all nicely out of the way.
With an expensive frame, the money has to come off somewhere, and it seems that Rocky chose to knock a lump off with the forks. We found the Marzocchi Bomber MX Pro lockouts (the only coil fork on the test) to be a couple of notches lower performing than the RockShox on other bikes, and in a different ballpark to the Fox F series altogether. They also had a lockout feature that still allowed around 10mm of travel, but introduced a nasty top-out clunk when it was activated.
With Deore hubs and WTB Speeddisc rims, handbuilt in Canada, we were expecting no trouble at all. Strangely though, being the only one claiming to be hand built, we found they were the only wheels on test to come loose, showing uneven tension after only half a dozen rides.
More cost savings are apparent on the groupset, where Deore is prevalent throughout, instead of the LX or higher specced on the other bikes.
Of course there is the obligatory XT rear mech which keeps things turning, but the lower spec in the other components showed itself on the ride. The Deore brakes just didn’t cut it at all, fading in the wet and coming a poor second to those on the other bikes.
With Easton EA30 for all the major components like seatpost, bar and stem, it was always going to exude quality, but then when compared to the Mongoose for example, with EA50 throughout, it is consistently a notch down. having sadi that, everything worked just fine, although a bit more of a rise on the bar would have been welcome by some of the testers.
Looks aside, the figures finally spoke for themselves — side by side with other bikes, the Vertex was just too heavy.
The weight was felt as drag when we climbed, and acceleration was noticeably sluggish, despite having a stiff frame to launch off. A few of the riders complained the ride was even a bit on the harsh side, suggesting it would be more suitable for a knock-around short-range trail blaster or racing machine rather than an all-day mile-cruncher. But then it would need some higher end components for either of those jobs. Some interpreted the weighty solid feel as confidence-inspiring on short, sharp rides over jumpy terrain though, so you might find it is just what you are looking for at trail centres. Unfortunately, the low spec penalised the ride even further. Deore brakes were outperformed by all the others on test, becoming noticeably duff in the wet, when they required quite a haul to bring you to a halt.
In the end it was the weight and sluggish feel to the Rocky that was our most abiding memory of this bike. The extra pounds inevitably brought the enjoyment down several notches, with the cost-cutting fork and components just putting a final nail in its coffin for most of the testers. We just didn’t feel the urge to jump on it when heading out, despite the high hopes pinned on the Rocky Mountain badge. If you are after a bulldog of a bike for thrashing round local trails though, it would be fine, but we can’t help but feel that you could get more for your money elsewhere.
MBR RATING: 7/10