Women in Cycling
Marianne Shelawa Adventure
When it comes to mountain bike companies, you can’t get much more Canadian than Rocky Mountain Bicycles, and when it comes to producing a bike that harnesses the incredibly varied terrain along BC’s west coast you would be hardpressed to outdo Rocky’s Element 990 RSL BC Edition. How do we know? Well, after a week of BC Bike Race competition on Rocky’s latest edition of the Element, we have some pretty amazing memories and some solid tire-on-trail evidence.
As one of the original pioneers of the mountain bike movement, Rocky has been fine-tuning and perfecting its off-road offerings for more than 30 years, including their Element line, which was introduced as the Element Race back in 2000. Both Rocky and the technology we enjoy today have come incredibly far since then and this year’s Element 990 RSL BC Edition highlights the benefits of such progress.
Designed specifically with the BC Bike Race terrain in mind, the Element 990 RSL BC Edition provides an excellent marathon stage race bike that balances cross-country finesse with the ability to tame the occasional A-Line temptation.
For 2017, Rocky has refined the BC Edition’s main features, such as the geometry and suspension performance, and “sweated over the small stuff” such as rigidity, handling and the ability to carry enough water bottles on board to survive a marathon stage. The DNA of this 29er machine is carbon, in the form of a Smoothwall Carbon C13 frame with fully sealed cartridge bearings, a press fit BB, internal cable routing and RIDE-9 adjustable geometry and suspension rate. The RIDE-9 adjustment system allows you to dial in your head and seat tube angles using allen keys to nine possible configurations, customizing the ride to your specific sweet spot. Once we had our position set, we ran the configuration throughout the entire seven days without a change or a second thought. The same can be said for the suspension system, which we dialed in on day one of our ride.
Up front, the Element BC Edition is equipped with a RockShox Pike RCT3 120mm fork and balances out with a RockShox Monarch RT3 100mm rear shock. The four-bar Smoothlink suspension system handled every form of trail condition we encountered along the BC Bike Race route. Whether we were on the edge of the saddle powering up steep, loose gravel grades, flowing through rollercoaster-like berms, speeding along root-roughened single track or dropping off an A-line plunge, we never felt out of our element… on this Element.
Shredding the rugged North Shore trails and technical terrain that is offered up during the Squamish and Whistler stages of the BC Bike Race was second nature to the Element 990 RSL, its first nature being that of a cross-country race machine. But, unlike XC rigs of the past, offering 100mm or less of travel on skinny rubber, this BC version of the Element boasts some back-country bonuses, such as 120mm of travel, a RockShox Reverb Stealth 30.9mm dropper seatpost, a Race Face SixC 800mm bar, and meaty Maxxis DHR II 29 x 2.3 / Minion SS 29 x 2.3 EXO TR tires. All performed incredibly well to keep us in control and in line when the descents got gnarly, and sans the odd bar-wedge issues on some narrow bridges and through tight tree lines, we didn’t have an issue and wouldn’t change a thing.
The Element 990 RSL BC Edition also features a solid drivetrain with Shimano at the heart. The XTR shifters and rear derailleur, along with the XT 11-46T, offered a 1x11 system that provided us with all the ratios we needed over the week. While the terrain varied in the extreme from 14% climbs to high-speed gravel-road descents, we never found ourselves searching for more gears – more legs maybe, but not more gears! The Shimano XT brake levers and 180mm brakes also supplied plenty of two-finger control and lived up to the needs of seven days in the saddle without an issue.
While we’re sure some may argue there are plenty of bikes on the market that would be better suited, specifically, to handle the steep climbs or rugged descents you encounter on courses such as the BC Bike Race, few would be as capable of tackling all conditions with such balance as the Element 990 RSL BC Edition.
THE BIKE $7,199 Price:
Components: Shimano, Race Face,
WTB, Stan’s rims.
Frame/Fork: Shock: Carbon C13 with RockShox Pike RCT3 and Monarch
Headtube 69-70° Seat-tube 74.5-75.5°
Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL,
Comments: Blurring the lines between XC race