Bike Test | Rocky Mountain Instinct 990 MSL BC Edition
With endless kilometers of mind-blowing singletrack and some of the world’s most intoxicatingly beautiful, wild and unspoiled views, Canada is irrefutably a special place. And no part of Canada is more special to mountain bikers than British Columbia (BC). This place rocks, and has quite rightly become a mecca for many riders. Together with their team of legendary riders, Rocky Mountain have created a very special new model in honour of their province: the Instinct BC Edition.
A first glance at the Instinct BC Edition might make you wonder just why this bike was created in the first place. If we try and place it neatly into one of our sport’s bike categories, then surely we’d classify it as a trail bike. However, the BC Edition is bristling with added all-mountain spice, eager to tackle some enduro style riding too. What’s this 130mm bike really capable of, and who the hell is it for?
When the crew in Canada began developing this bright orange Rocky Mountain, they only had one goal: create a bike that they could use on a day-to-day basis on their rugged local BC trails. So they drank some beers, made a plan, and added more aggressive parts and a more competent chassis to the Instinct. The Race Face bars are lower and wider, the ZTR Flow EX 29 wheels are burly and stable, and the RockShox Reverb post is an essential addition. All this extra muscle comes at a price, though, and it’s a big one. €6,500. The bike also gains some weight, bringing it to 12.7kg
Weaknesses? Product manager for the German importer Stefan Götz gives his take on the bike: “You can say what you like. The Instinct frame is bulletproof.” And that’s despite the fact that the Instinct 990 MSL BC Edition is the same as the trail-oriented version.
But enough of the theory — let’s ride! The compact geometry of the size large frame means that it provides a comfy upright position for someone who’s 180 cm tall. However, when the trail pitches upwards, the BC edition starts to lose its cool. On long, steep climbs, if you don’t have calves of iron, you will soon find yourself cursing for a smaller chainring as the standard 32-tooth model might not cut the mustard. Tyres with slightly less rolling resistance would also be welcome at times like this. While the Maxxis Minion DHR II excel on the downhills, they’re a little cumbersome when you’re confronted with a long climb. Despite its steady progress on drawn-out slogs, when it comes to punchy technical climbs the legendary pedigree shows. With an almost stoic composure, the burly 29” wheels monster-truck over every obstacle, digging into the dirt and offering massive traction. Thanks to the steep seat angle (73.5 °) and the long chainstays (452mm), there’s no likelihood of you slipping off the saddle as the front wheel stays glued to the ground.
But the BC Edition is not about climbing, the muscled-up changes to the standard Instinct have been made with one single purpose in mind — to shred every last gasp of enjoyment out of the descents. And that’s where Rocky Mountain has definitely succeeded.
The balanced handling of the bike manifests itself thanks to the mix of the short frame (420 mm reach for the size large), 29” wheels, and long chainstays. While the low Race Face cockpit means the front wheel stays down, the rear initially tended to step out a little until we got the hang of it. Once you’re in its groove, the Instinct is agile and maneuverable, adapting to changes in direction with precision. Admittedly, the 29er is never going to match the agility of the smaller wheel sizes, but the big wheels smashed through rough terrain like a turbocharged bulldozer. With the Instinct it doesn’t matter what line you choose, just point it where you want to go, let the brakes run and hang on — full gas all the way.
With a RockShox Pike fork and the RockShox Monarch rear shock taking the fast, rough terrain in stride, the ride is controlled and fast. It’s only when confronted with slightly larger impacts at very high speeds that the solid kick reminds you that you’re not on a bike with 160mm travel. More travel means more comfort. Fortunately, the cohesive components and the burly wheels keep the Rocky Mountain under control — although if you get too wild you might find yourself gripping a little tighter on certain corners to stay on track.
The Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition is a bike that defies labeling. It’s not interested in setting KOMs or QOMs on climbs or descents; its versatility is where it packs the punch, armed for any eventuality on the trails. With a setup that’s robust, laid back, and well thought out, the Instinct’s comfy position and stylish frame score just as highly. Rocky Mountain’s mission to add some fire to the Instinct has been successful; however, it has come at a cost to climbing ability.
Weight: 12.7kg (without pedals)
Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3
Rear Shock: RockShox Monarch RT3
SRAM X01/Race Face Turbine
Brakes: Shimano XT
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth
Stem: Race Face Turbine 50mm
Handlebar: Race Face Next 760mm
Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHR II
Wheels: Hubs: Stan’s 3.30 Disc/Rims: Stan’s ZTR Flow EX
For more info, visit: bikes.com
Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer