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Sea Otter 2011: Rocky Mountain Element 29er

By:
James Huang
Published:
April 20, 2011, 5:02 BST,
Updated:
May 03, 2011, 2:16 BST
Rocky Mountain showed a prototype 29" cross-country full-suspension bike at this year's Sea Otter Classic. Come this fall, it'll be officially known as the Element 29.

Rocky Mountain showed a prototype 29" cross-country full-suspension bike at this year's Sea Otter Classic. Come this fall, it'll be officially known as the Element 29.

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Rocky Mountain's aluminum full-suspension 29" cross-country bike was still officially in prototype form at this year's Sea Otter Classic but come this fall, it'll officially be offered as the 2012 Element 29.

As we're noticing increasingly often on newer chassis, Rocky Mountain has placed a strong emphasis on frame stiffness for the Element 29. The broad, squared-off down tube takes up nearly the entire height of the tapered head tube up front and then terminates down below at the extra-wide, Shimano-standard, press-fit bottom bracket shell. That wider shell lets Rocky Mountain push the main pivot bearings further apart, too.

A swingarm-mounted front derailleur tracks the chain throughout the travel range for better shift performance but also loosen design constraints for the heavily sculpted seat tube, which is flared down below for additional drivetrain rigidity and offset forward at the bottom bracket to help tuck in the rear wheel.

The direct-mount front derailleur gave Rocky Mountain's frame designers more freedom in shaping the seat tube.

The direct-mount front derailleur gave Rocky Mountain's frame designers more freedom in shaping the seat tube. Photo: James Huang

Even the top tube is notably large in diameter to keep torsional flex at bay for more precise handling while the forged rear dropouts are set up around a 142x12mm RockShox Maxle thru-axle skewer to more solidly tie the stays together.

100mm of rear wheel travel comes courtesy of Rocky Mountain's proven SmoothLink four-bar suspension design, a carbon fiber upper link, conventional cartridge bearings at the main pivot, and the company's slick lightweight angular contact bushings elsewhere - all controlled by a RockShox Monarch rear shock.

Front and rear derailleur cables are routed through the down tube for a cleaner look and better protection from contamination but factory team rider Andreas Hestler tells us the layout will be further refined by the time we see production versions later this year. Though the prototype was shown in raw brushed aluminum, Hestler says each of the three complete bikes to be offered will ultimately be covered in glossy paint.

Rocky Mountain still refer to this bike as a prototype but the hydroformed tubing and carbon fiber upper link suggest it's closer to a pre-production machine since all of the major tooling is clearly already completed.

Rocky Mountain still refer to this bike as a prototype but the hydroformed tubing and carbon fiber upper link suggest it's closer to a pre-production machine since all of the major tooling is clearly already completed. Photo: James Huang

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar.

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