WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Out of all of the versions in the Element line, it’s safe to say that
the 970 RSL is the workhorse of the bunch, with a full Fox suspension package and Shimano XT build kit. The Fox 34 is one that
we know well, and it performed consistently during our testing.
The 150-millimeter RockShox Reverb gave our test riders plenty of
room to get a little rowdy on the trails. The remote lockout for the
fork and shock were an added bonus on rolling terrain and made
on-the-fly adjustments easy.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Suspension Setup: Most cross-country race bikes lean
towards the stiffer side of things when it comes to sag. Our testers
started with 20 percent in the rear and 10 percent in the fork.
At 20 percent, the rear end felt plush and active, but after a few
rides, some of our testers changed it to 30 percent sag for more
aggressive trail riding.
Adjusting the Geometry: This was one of the more complex
adjustments on the Element. Rocky Mountain has a video on its
website to guide riders through the setup. We started our testing
with the head angle set at 70 degrees but quickly changed it to
the slackest 69-degree setting. After quite a bit of time on the
trail, our testers preferred the slacker setting.
Cornering: With cross-country courses becoming more technical, the descending and cornering ability of XC race bikes is
paramount. Our testers found that the Element ripped through
corners with ease. The long, more-aggressive reach allowed us to
keep our weight low and planted, giving us plenty of stability. We
Geared for speed: Our test bike came with a 1x11 drivetrain
with a 32-tooth chainring up front. Most of our test riders felt
like they had plenty of gearing to roll uphill, but would have
liked a slightly bigger front ring for more downhill speed.
The new XC: Cross-country has had a reputation as a tamer
form of mountain biking, but over the last few years, the courses
have become more technical and challenging. The new Element
addresses the challenges of the modern XC course with a
capable geometry and beefier suspension platform.