An Expert Guide to Rocky Mountain's Mountain Bikes

Published on 05/13/2023 · 12 min readRocky Mountain Bikes makes high-quality mountain bikes that can handle even the roughest trails! Cycling Expert Adam L. walks us through their gear below!
By Cycling Expert Adam L.

Photo by Tim Foster

Tl;dr: Rocky Mountain is a Canadian bike brand that specializes in mountain bikes infused with the spirit of the rough and rowdy mountains of Vancouver’s North Shore. They make a complete lineup of mountain bikes for everything from mellow terrain to the steepest and toughest trails. And their variety of builds accommodates any spec level and budget.

There are few things more exhilarating than ripping a flow trail through the woods, pedaling to the top of the next rise, and navigating roots and rocks down a steep chute. That combination of exertion, adrenaline, and all-out fun is unmatched. So as a Curated Expert and passionate cyclist, I’m always searching for the next bike to find this feeling of dirt nirvana.

While there are plenty of great bikes on the market today, I am a big fan of Rocky Mountain Bikes. A large part of their marketing is based around their origins in British Columbia, perhaps the greatest mountain-biking region in the world. And it isn’t just PR: their bikes are fast, fun, and capture the spirit of dirt riding. Plus, they offer some really competitive entry level bikes, as well as models that are raced at the highest professional levels.

In this guide, we’ll learn more about Rocky Mountain Bikes’ history before diving into some common questions about the brand. We’ll break down the different categories of their bikes, and outline some of their special features before wrapping up with some example choices of riders who’ve found their perfect ride from the Canadian brand.

Who Is Rocky Mountain Bikes?

Photo by Tim Foster

Based in the mountain-biking mecca of Vancouver’s North Shore mountains in British Columbia, Rocky Mountain has been manufacturing bikes since 1982. They are unique among many other bike brands in that they are almost entirely focused on mountain bikes.

Their bikes are designed for a variety of conditions, from the steep and technical terrain that typifies Western Canadian riding to smoother flow trails that have grown in popularity in the last few years. Currently, you can find their bikes piloted by pro riders on the Rocky Mountain World Enduro Series Team. In addition to top-level enduro bikes, they offer a full suite of mountain bikes as well as a few fat tire and gravel bike options.

What to Consider When Buying a Rocky Mountain Bike

What’s My Riding Style?

Rocky Mountain makes mountain bikes for just about every subcategory. Although it seems like these categories have exploded in recent years, it's important to remember that they aren’t fixed absolutes. For example, a trail bike can also handle enduro riding, whereas a down country bike will still be fun and fast on a cross-country course. And while any of these models will perform effectively in a variety of conditions, they are each best suited for the style they’re designed for.

Where Am I Riding?

Every region has different types of trails. If you’re already riding, you probably have a pretty good idea of what the trails you’ll ride most often entail. If you’re new to the sport, it’s worth doing some research online or with local riders to get a sense of the conditions where you’ll ride most. Of course, I can’t list everything here, but a few attributes you’ll want to consider include:

  • Vertical gain: How much will you be climbing and descending in an average ride?
  • Techiness: Are there lots of roots and rocks that require precision riding to get over?
  • Flow: Sort of the opposite of techiness—are the trails machine built and buffed out with smooth dirt berms and rollers?
  • Features: Are there jumps and drops you’d like to hit? How big are they?

You also might want to consider your second “local” (a favorite vacation destination or somewhere else you’ll ride frequently). If you’re stuck between two bikes, and one is better suited to another trail system where you often spend time, that can tip the scales in favor of that option.

What Attributes Do I Value Most?

Personal preference goes a long way to determining the best bike for your specific needs. For example, if you’re an aggressive downhiller who isn’t too worried about uphill speed, choosing a more capable bike is a good option. Conversely, if speed and efficiency are the parts of the ride you enjoy most, a lighter and slightly shorter travel bike is the way to go.

What Specs Do I Need?

If you already have riding experience, you might already have ideas on what types of components you want. These preferences include:

  • Wheel size: Most bikes are built with 29” wheels, but some riders prefer the snapiness of a smaller 27.5” wheel. Or, you can ride “MX” (mixed) wheels to enjoy the best of both worlds.
  • Drivetrain type: Electronic drivetrains like Sram AXS and Shimano Di2 use battery power to shift perfectly every time. They’re more reliable (as long as you charge the batteries) but more expensive than mechanical groupsets.
  • Brakes: Sram and Shimano both make quality brakes that have slightly different sensations under load, and some riders prefer one brand over the other. There are also boutique brake manufacturers that produce higher-end options.

While this isn’t a complete list, keeping some “must-haves” in mind can make narrowing down Rocky Mountain’s myriad options easier.

How Much Should a Rocky Mountain Bike Cost?

Rocky Mountain offers models at a variety of price points, including some great entry-level choices and a full suite of mid- and top-tier options as well. Here’s an overview of how much you can expect to pay:

Entry-level: $800–$1500

These bikes are hardtail (front-suspension only) and are a great choice for beginner riders who are trying out mountain biking. They’re also versatile for use as a commuter or city bike.

Mid-level: $2500–$5000

This range features full-suspension bikes and higher-end hardtails. Cheaper options have aluminum frames, while more expensive options offer carbon-fiber frames. These bikes are versatile and are good choices for anyone from beginners to advanced riders.

Top-end: $5000+

These bikes feature top-end components, carbon fiber frames, and sometimes electronic drivetrains and carbon wheelsets, too.

A Note on Rocky Mountain Model Numbers

Rocky designates their models using a number system. 10 is usually their base model, and as the model number gets higher, the specs improve (and the price rises). The 90 for any model is usually the top-of-the-line and best-of-the-best build.

Rocky bikes come built with Sram and Shimano components, and suspension duties are handled by a mix of Fox, Marzocchi, and RockShox forks and shocks. Rocky also makes their own dropper posts, which are included on some models.

What Are the Different Types of Rocky Mountain Bikes?


Cross-country, or “XC”, riding is defined by steep climbs, technical descents, and high speeds. Bikes in this category are lightweight, responsive, and technically capable. Benefits:

  • The lightest and fastest bike for racing.
  • Very fun to climb on.

Be Aware:

  • Not as much suspension travel as bigger bikes.
  • Can be a rough ride on longer days out.


Photo by Tim Foster

Trail is the broadest and most popular category of mountain bike. It’s tough to define exactly, but a good trail bike is versatile, capable in technical terrain, and still fun to climb on. It’s the bike you grab when you need something that can handle the rough stuff, but is also efficient in mellower terrain. Benefits:

  • Versatile and fun on most modern trails.
  • Really comfortable for longer rides no matter the terrain.

Be Aware:

  • Can suffer from “jack of all trades, master of none” syndrome.
  • Slower than an XC bike and less capable than an Enduro bike.


Enduro bikes are built for Enduro racing, which consists of timed downhill segments between untimed flat and uphill “transfer” segments. Enduro bikes need two distinct sets of features: the aggressive geometry to handle rugged terrain, including jumps, drops, and rock gardens; and the climbing manners to preserve energy while pedaling to the top of those extreme trails. Benefits:

  • Long travel soaks up technical terrain and is wicked fast downhill.
  • Can still climb most anything.

Be Aware:

  • Heavier than a similar trail bike.
  • Might be too long of travel to make smoother trails fun to ride.


Another broad category that encompasses everything from high-speed downhill racing to huge jumps on a technical freeride course. These bikes aren’t what you’d want to pedal uphill, but point it downhill and you can feel how it earned its reputation in big-mountain riding. Benefits:

  • The best option for lift-accessed riding.
  • Has the capability to handle extreme terrain.

Be Aware:

  • Generally not used for pedaling uphill.

Features to Look For in a Rocky Mountain Bike

Rocky Mountain has a few unique features that set it apart from other brands. I’ll highlight a few here, including the Ride-9/Ride-4 adjustable geometry chip and SmoothWall Carbon Fiber. Though it’s not a feature per se, I also really like that the brand is totally focused on off-road bikes. This means the entire company is focused on mountain biking and creating the best bikes possible for that use case!

Ride-9 & Ride-4

The most unique feature on Rocky Mountain Bikes is the “Ride” adjustment chip on the rear suspension linkage. The first iteration of this chip was called Ride-9, and offers nine different adjustments to fine-tune suspension performance.

Recently, Rocky introduced the Ride-4 chip, which offers similar features in a slightly simpler configuration. With either chip, adjustment can slacken or steepen the geometry. And with many different positions, it can take some time to dial in the ideal position for your riding style and terrain—but this level of personalization is unique on a factory-produced frameset.

SmoothWall Carbon Fiber

SmoothWall uses a unique carbon-fiber molding process. Instead of air bladders inside the carbon fiber tubes at layup, Rocky builds their tubes around models—which allows them to use less resin and fiber for a smoother, lighter final product. This also allows Rocky’s engineers to fine-tune ride quality by changing thickness at different points on the frameset.

How to Choose the Right Rocky Mountain Bike for You

Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s dive into a few real-life scenarios to better illustrate how to choose the perfect Rocky Mountain bike. We’ll get to know three sample customers, assess their needs, and then find the right Rocky Mountain model(s) for their specific situations.

Ben: An Intermediate Rider Ready to Upgrade

Ben has been mountain biking for several years and really enjoys the sport. He’s based in Colorado’s Front Range, but has a family vacation rental in Moab, Utah, that he visits often.

After taking a mountain biking skills course last summer, he’s ready to upgrade from his 2015 full-suspension bike to something modern and capable. He doesn’t plan to ride large jumps and drops, but would like something that can handle rough terrain. Pedalability is important to him too, since he likes long rides in the Rockies and taking on the bigger loops around Moab. He’d like to spend around $5000, or a little more for the right bike.

Features Ben should look for:

  • A trail bike has the versatility to ride the different types of terrain and trails Ben enjoys.
  • A cross-country bike might be a little short on suspension travel, but would be a good choice if he wants to focus on speed and climbing prowess.
  • A mid-level or upper-level model will be a significant upgrade from his older bike. The Ride-9/Ride-4 geometry chip will also allow him to fine-tune the suspension performance.
  • A carbon fiber frame will save weight and make those long alpine climbs a bit easier.

Bike examples: Instinct Carbon 50, Instinct Carbon 70, Element Carbon 70

The Instinct Carbon 70 with Fox suspension and a Raceface wheelset

Pamela: A Gravity Hound

Pamela just moved to Killington, VT. She’s been mountain biking all her life, and already has a hardtail and a full-suspension trail bike. She’s really looking forward to taking advantage of the lift-serviced riding at the Killington Bike Park, and wants a bike specifically designed for gravity riding. Pamela doesn’t plan on racing, but wants to build her skills and confidence and hit large jumps and other technical features in the bike park. Since she already has a few bikes, she doesn’t want to break the bank on this one.

Features Pamela should look for:

  • A downhill/freeride bike is the perfect choice for gravity-assisted riding in the bike park. She doesn’t need a pedal bike since she already has two other mountain bikes.
  • Long suspension travel will be essential to handling the huge jumps and drops she’ll encounter.
  • An aluminum frame is a great choice for two reasons: it will help keep the cost down, and will be more durable for rough downhill riding.

Bike examples: Rocky Mountain Slayer Alloy 30, Slayer Alloy 30 Park

Rick: A Dirt-Curious Roadie

Rick is a longtime cyclist in Northern California who enjoys group road rides and bike commuting. Some road-riding buddies have encouraged him to try mountain biking, and after borrowing a friend’s bike for a few rides, he wants a shred sled of his own. He doesn’t plan on riding anything too crazy, but his friends have convinced him a full-suspension bike will be the most fun option for their rolling and moderately technical local trails. Since this is his first mountain bike, he doesn’t want to spend too much but he also doesn’t want something that will hold him back as he builds his confidence off-road.

Features Rick should look for:

  • Something in the XC category is probably a good match for his moderate local trails and road-biking fitness.
  • An aluminum frame will provide the lowest price point for a full-suspension bike.
  • 29” wheels will roll fast and provide additional obstacle clearance as he develops his skills.

Bike examples: Element Alloy 10, Element Alloy 30

Final Thoughts

Photo by Tim Foster

Rocky Mountain Bikes offers some of the most fun and capable mountain bikes on the market today. They’ve stayed true to their Canadian roots, and the spirit of the North Shore Mountains can be found in each of their models. So whether you’re a new mountain biker or an experienced dirt hound, there’s a Rocky model to suit your needs.

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Written by:
Adam L., Cycling Expert
Adam L.
Cycling Expert
My background is in road and offroad racing, but I'm also into bike packing and bike commuting year-round. I love helping riders of all levels find the perfect bike at the best price!.Let's talk bikes and find your next ride!
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