2016 Rocky Mountain Instinct 990 MSL BC Edition
Size Tested: Large
Blister’s Measured Weight: 27.9 lbs (12.7 kg) without pedals
- Drivetrain: Shimano XT, 11 speed
- Brakes: Shimano XT
- Wheels: Stan’s Flow EX w/ Stan’s Neo hubs
- Fork: Rockshox Pike RCT3
- Rear Shock: Rockshox Monarch RT3
Travel: 140 mm Front / 130 mm Rear
Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.
Test Location: Whistler, BC
The Instinct is Rocky Mountain’s longest-travel 29er. It’s a bigger bike than the Thunderbolt, but not quite as enduro-ish as the 27.5” wheeled Altitude. The Instinct is also available in a variety of flavors, most of which come with a shorter-travel 130mm fork in the front. But fittingly, since we were in Whistler, I rode the “BC” edition of the Instinct, which gets a 140mm-travel fork and meatier parts all around. The frame itself, however, stays the same, aside from paint.
My time on the Instinct was spent outside of the Whistler bike park on trails that don’t offer the luxury of a chair lift to the top. This gave me a chance to suss out the Instinct’s abilities on some horrendously steep climbs, and also put it through the paces on some of the best descents around.
Rocky Mountain often says that the BC Editions of their bikes are how they would set up their personal rides. While the wide bars, meatier wheels, and extra travel might be overkill in some locales, they’re certainly worthwhile in the Sea To Sky corridor. And, as I found with the BC edition of the Thunderbolt and Altitude, the way the guys at Rocky Mountain like to set up their bikes is right in line with how I like to set up my own bikes.
The 11-speed XT drivetrain is a great option that functions well, keeps the price competitive, and still offers a good gear range. A few years ago, the Altitude I rode came with a pretty big chainring on it, so I was a little nervous about the Instinct. But (thankfully) it comes spec’d with a 30-tooth ring attached to some Raceface Turbine Cinch cranks. That’s an awesome setup, and once the climbing got steep, I was really happy for the smaller ring.
XT brakes take care of business on the way down, and they have a long standing (and well-deserved) reputation for solid performance and reliability. The Instinct is rolling on Stan’s wheels with Flow EX rims, and while those aren’t my absolute favorite rims (I find they burp air a bit too easily), they get the job done and they hold up reasonably well.
Suspension duties are handled by Rockshox front and rear. The 140 mm Pike RCT3 up front is a perpetual favorite and gives great steering precision and performance at a reasonable weight. Out back, the Monarch RT3 functions well, although it’d be nice to see a piggyback shock to match the more aggressive intentions of this bike.
Other highlights include a Raceface Next handlebar — its super light, and one of the few carbon bars that I really trust. Rocky Mountain also specs the Maxxis Minion DHR II tire front and rear, which happens to be one of my favorite tires of all time, since it offers pretty much the most traction you can get out of a 2.3” tire. A WTB Silverado saddle mounted on a Rockshox Reverb make things comfortable on the way up, and you can get the seat out of the way for the descent.
Fit and Geometry
The Instinct BC Edition, like a few other Rocky Mountain bikes, has the Ride-9 geometry adjustment system. Basically, it’s a pair of interlocking squares that can be flipped around to adjust the geometry into 9 different positions.
As I noted in my review of the Thunderbolt, I’ve fiddled with a lot of different bikes that have various methods for adjusting the geometry, and honestly, I think this is the best system I’ve used. It’s easy to swap things around relatively quickly (as long as you don’t drop any parts), and it gives you a pretty significant level of adjustability. Just using the head angle as an example, you get over a degree of of adjustability — from 66.6° to 68.2° — plus a number of increments in between. It’s also really nice that Rocky Mountain gives some pointers as to how each position will affect the geometry and the ride.
When I rode the Instinct BC, the Ride-9 chip was in the low / slack position. Since the geometry is fairly adjustable, it’s tough to say anything concrete about the numbers on the Instinct BC. But with the settings I used, the Instinct’s geometry is on par with other “aggressive” 29ers. At its slack end, the head angle comes in at 66.6° — a bit slacker than a Specialized Enduro 29, but steeper than the Evil Wreckoning.
Reach on the Instinct BC is on the short side; the Large I rode ranges from 409 mm – 426 mm, depending on the Ride-9 position. At 5’9” I felt entirely comfortable on the Large, but people who like longer bikes might be looking for a bit more room. Especially since Rocky Mountain doesn’t offer the BC edition in a XL, tall people might be out of luck.
One of the more noteworthy numbers on the Instinct’s geometry chart is the chainstays; at 452 mm, they’re quite a bit longer than most other trail bikes on the market. For reference, those chainstays are almost an inch longer than the Specialized Enduro 29, and (interestingly), they’re a full 30 mm longer than the Instinct’s little brother, the Thunderbolt. I’ll get into how that translates on the trail, but it’s worth noting that the Instinct is very much bucking the trend of shorter rear ends. This also means that, while the front half of the bike isn’t particularly long, the bike’s wheelbase is still in line with other 29ers that have a far longer reach.
NEXT: The Ride, Bottom Line