Like plenty of manufacturers these days, Rocky Mountain manipulates the profile of both the Slayer’s top and down tube to increase stiffness. Welding them together behind the head tube also offers greater support and strength. Rocky’s form tubing is 7005 series taperwall aluminium, and results in a good overall bike weight of 32lb — a pound lighter than last year mainly due to Rocky rejigging the rear end with a carbon-fibre seatstay and asymmetrical chainstays. The dropouts, yokes and suspension link are all cold forged for strength. Spacing on the pivots has been increased from 24mm to 28mm, again for stiffness.
The interrupted seat tube means you’ve got to be careful when dropping your saddle. There’s no stop at the bottom of the seat tube so the seatpost can clunk the shock’s air can. We recommend chopping a good three inches off this post. A machined shuttle between the shock and frame goes some way to future-proofing the bike from changes in shock length/design.
We felt the geometry on the Slayer was spot on — the chainstays are maybe a tad long but the 67.5deg head angle, 44.75in wheelbase and 26in down tube are all bang in the middle of our sextet.
The Slayer looks complex, but it is, in fact, a single pivot, like an Orange, but with ‘rate adjusting links’. These tune the leverage ratio at various points in the travel, while providing some lateral stiffness and isolating the rear shock from side loading. Changing the relationship of the links has eliminated the Slayer’s tendency to return to its fully extended position. The overall rate has also been tweaked, so the bike is more supple but still achieves full travel.
Redesigning the rear end has allowed Rocky to fit a DHX Air 4.0 with rebound adjustment, ProPedal and adjustable bottom-out resistance. Actually getting the pump onto the air valve to adjust the latter involves unscrewing the cap with one finger half a turn at a time and then screwing on the pump the same way — a hassle if you want to reconfigure the suspension for shuttle runs. The Fox 36 Talas II R fork felt much more compliant than the RC2 version on the Whyte 46. Maybe this demo bike had had a big bloke on it before we got it.
The thin-walled IRC Mibro 2.25in tyres are only here because they’re lightweight, 580g a pop, literally. We pinch flatted the rear tyre on the first ride and twice more on our travels. The tyres also lack a reinforced edge, and the flexible knobs meant they’d skate about on the hard-packed Scottish stone. The bike comes with a solid wheelset, but the rear hub on our test bike did come loose after a week’s riding.
Rocky’s component choices are sensible, but why the 90mm stem, when last year’s bike came with a 75mm?
We did several runs on the Slayer at Cwmcarn. It felt low-slung and stable but through the first few turns the fork seemed to be doing all of the work, almost as if we were riding a bike with 6in of travel up front, but only three or four out back. We thought we might not be running enough sag so we reduced the air pressure and, while this allowed us to get full travel, the bike got all mushy in the mid-stroke. Reducing sag propped up the rear suspension, but it then it felt harsh and clattery. We experimented with different ProPedal and rebound settings but no amount of tuning found a sweet spot. Rocky has redesigned the suspension for the better, but the Slayer still doesn’t offer quite the same bump absorption as the Whyte 46 or Enduro.
We’ve upped the rating a point over last year because, despite the reservations we have with the suspension, it’s still a great all-day bike. And the issue we have with the Slayer is also a problem on the Specialized, albeit the problem there is with the fork and not the rear end.
If you’re looking for a sturdy bike that is a good weight and pedals well enough for extended climbing, but has the right geometry for descending technical or steep UK terrain, then the SXC 70 will tick all the boxes — you’ll just need to ride round the rough, rocky square-edge stuff rather than over it.
MBR RATING: 8/10