Form tubing is Rocky Mountain’s in-house blend, but like the Colonel’s secret recipe, exact details are hard to come by. Both the down tube and seat tube feature Easton logos, so we know these tubes are cold drawn by the USA manufacturer, but Easton hasn’t replied to our request for more info. Rocky did tell us all aluminium Form tubes are made from 7005-T6 series alloy to its exact requirements, and that each tube is shaped, tapered, and triple-butted. We’ve no reason to doubt this claim but we reckon a bike with every tube triple-butted should weigh a bit less than 26lb.
Anyway, the down tube is bent for fork crown clearance and to allow it to be welded to the top tube before it’s joined to the head tube — allowing both tubes to share the frontal load. The hollow chainstay yoke, 3D dropouts, bottom bracket pivot and pivot mounts are forged for strength and then CNC’d for looks. The carbon seatstays come out of the same mould as the one used on the Slayer SXC and, while not lighter than the old aluminium stays they do filter out some of the high-frequency vibrations.
Rocky Mountain says it’s tweaked the Element’s geometry for ’07 for “more consistent sizing and a better fit”. We measured the bike and this is how it comes out — the head angle is the steepest on test at 70.5 degrees, the bike also has a steep seat angle, which doesn’t normally matter but the Element has a short top tube so to get the cockpit space, Rocky has specced a 100m stem (on our 18in) and an Easton seatpost with lots of layback.
We call the Element a single pivot with a swinglink activated rear shock. The link does several things: it increases stiffness, isolates the shock from side loading and allows Rocky to vary the leverage ratio in different phases of the bike’s travel. In the first part of the travel it has a rising rate for increased pedalling efficiency, but then Rocky says the rate falls slightly “for bump blow-off”. Configuring the suspension in this way seems to make sense if you want a firm feeling bike, but why fit a Fox Float RP23 rear shock with several Pro-Pedal settings and a lockout if the linkage is already taking care of business?
We don’t mind seeing an incomplete Shimano XT groupset on this bike because the rings on the Race Face Deus X-Type crankset will last longer than XT. The XTR rear derailleur is trying to be the cherry on the cake but it’s actually a MK III mech (not the new XTR) and oddly, it’s Rapid Rise which is never good with triggers.
Of the bikes on test the Element has the shortest top tube, steepest seat angle and longest stem, and as a result rider weight is pitched quite far forward. We’d prefer to sit further back just so we could weight the suspension more in turns. We’d also like a bit more compliance in the first part of the travel to absorb all the trail fuzz and also to offer a bit more grip when climbing. The Element doesn’t bob much and accelerates quickly — great for all the road sections you get in marathon events.
Like the Whyte, tyre choice lets this bike down — the IRC Mibro Marathon tyres are quick in a straight line and they have a decent edge, so feel OK cornering, but the low centre knobs offer zero traction across roots or grinding through mud. On steep climbs or gloopy bridleways we’d stall out and end up having to dismount and push. At least with a complete main triangle we could get this bike on our shoulder and it has a proper bottle cage mount.
Of the four bikes tested the Element felt the most traditional in terms of the ride and to some extent the geometry. Rocky has its own take on the type of suspension most suitable for marathon racing, we just think it doesn’t offer that much potential for tuning and is a little dated.
We can see the Element appealing to the sort of rider that likes the idea of suspension but doesn’t want to adapt their riding style from a hardtail.
MBR RATING: 8/10