Maxxis-Rocky Mountain team rider Geoff Kabush raced a brand-new full-suspension machine at this year's Sea Otter Classic and while Rocky Mountain sports and product marketing manager Peter Vallance was still mum on key technical details prior to the bike's official launch in two weeks, it's clearly a big step forward from the current Element Team.
Kabush will now have not one but two carbon bikes at his disposal at he heads into the meat of the racing season as this new Element Team RSL looks to be a nearly 100 percent composite structure – even at the hard points where no aluminum or other metal is visible and including the moulded-in housing guides, disc brake tabs, and dropouts.
The swoopy front triangle boasts giant cross-sections throughout, what looks to be a tapered head tube (though a straight 1 1/8" steerer was installed when these images were shot), and a shapely seat tube that all anchors to an 86mm-wide bottom bracket with press-fit cups. In addition, the front derailleur mounts directly to the swingarm and the housing stop is moulded right into the chain stay yoke.
Out back is Rocky Mountain's SmoothLink four-bar suspension system driving a Fox Racing Shox RP23 shock via a top tube-mounted link. Two positions at the top of the seat stays suggest adjustable travel, too – we're guessing between 100mm and a longer-travel setting.
"He likes this one way, way, way more," said team mechanic Gary Wolff. "It's a lot lighter and stiffer and the suspension is more the way he wants it. The old one was good on small stuff but apparently had a rising then falling rate whereas this one has a straight rising rate. He'll probably use the dually in nearly every race except maybe Houffalize."
Sea Otter's highly non-technical course allowed for a particularly lightweight build. While we don't have an official frame weight to report, it's likely right around the 1.8kg (4.0lb) range as the complete bike weighs in at just 9.50kg (20.94lb) – especially impressive given Kabush's 1.9m (6' 2") height and preference for function over gram-shaving.
Wheels are built using Stan's NoTubes ZTR 355 rims laced with DT Swiss Revolution spokes to Shimano XTR hubs, and wrapped around it all are a pair of barely-there Maxxis Maxxlite 285 tires for fast rolling on Sea Otter's smooth – and pavement-laden – course.
Shimano's XTR badge is found on the shifters, rear derailleur, crankarms and brakes while the cockpit is filled out with a range of components from Race Face, fi'zi:k and ODI. Fitted to the ends of the crankarms are Crank Brothers' latest Egg Beater 11 pedals.
Bolted to the front end of the bike is what looks to be a base-level Fox Racing 32 F100 R fork but in reality, it's a camouflaged 32 F100 FIT Terralogic model with the company's recently reintroduced terrain-sensitive auto-lockout feature. Like an increasing number of riders on the pro circuit, Kabush has opted for the stiffer 15mm dropouts for better steering precision but with a custom hex-head thru-axle.
According to Kabush, he and Wolff are taking full advantage of the new technical assistance zones with "NASCAR-style" wheel changes to reduce down time.
Kabush didn't have a chance to try out the wheel change procedure at Sea Otter but the bike enjoyed a successful debut nonetheless, finishing second at this year's cross-country event.