It must have been around 2002 when a friend returned from Canada with a Rocky Mountain RM7, and I don’t think I’ve ever coveted a bike quite so much. The RM7 not only blew my mind with its radical looks, it also made my Gary Fisher Aquila hardtail feel pretty inadequate. Back then Rocky Mountain was at the forefront of everything progressive in mountain biking. The Vancouver based company were the undisputed kings of freeride and their riders like Wade Simmons, Brett Tippie and Richie Schley were pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible.
After a relatively quiet period Rocky Mountain has burst back into the limelight over the last couple of years with a stable of exciting new models, and with a pedigree like theirs it’s not that surprising. Now a new breed of riders like Jesse Melamed and Carson Storch are putting Rocky back on EWS and freeride podiums once again.
The Instinct range is Rocky’s go-to mid-travel 29er trail bike and it ticks all the boxes for that category beautifully. One model in the Instinct family caught my attention as a bit of an outlier, with its exciting looking spec sheet—The Instinct BC Edition. The BC edition is a longer travel version of the standard 140mm Instinct, and while built around the same platform, this bigger hitting enduro beast sports an extra 15mm of rear travel and 20mm more up front than its little brother. To achieve the increased travel Rocky have dropped the geometry-changing flip chip off the BC edition.
The BC edition sits on the fringes of the ‘Superbike’ category and as a result is spec’d to the nines with a host of high end components. A Fox Performance 36 and a DPX2 shock make up the suspension platform. This was an instant tick from me as I rate both as almost faultless and very simple to dial in. The new GRIP 2 damper which offers both high and low speed compression damping was a great bonus on the fork, adding that extra fine tuning to the plush 160mm travel. The frame itself is full carbon construction, made with Rocky’s patented Smoothwall technology, and comes with fully sealed bearings. The ubiquitous GX Eagle 12 speed provides the propulsion and SRAM’s 4 pot Code Rs do the stopping. A spattering of fellow Vancouver company Race Face’s components—Turbine Bars and Arc 30 wheels—complete the build. The 30mm wide Arc rims are clad with a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT up front and a DHR II 2.4 WT on the back. Both are timeless performers.
Geometry-wise there’s nothing that really rocks the boat—431mm reach, 1187mm wheelbase, 435mm chainstays and a 65.9º head angle for a medium—just good solid modern numbers that add up to a bike that feels very natural and balanced once aboard.
A long travel 29er like the Instinct BC is undoubtedly built and spec’d to shred downhill fast, and while doing that was one of my first priorities, I was also very interested in how it would perform on the climbs. If it scored high marks on ascending it would have all the hallmarks of my sort of perfect all-rounder. I was confident though, as the full carbon chassis had the BC weighing in at a spritely 13.5kg and having the hill-eating Eagle groupset at my disposal was another huge plus.
Now while I’m not a big proponent of Strava I do use it for testing bikes, as I find while a bike can feel fast uphill, only the absolute certainty of the clock can give you the beta you need to make good judgement. So while the big-wheeled BC felt light and steadfast up the climbs on one of my first rides, it wasn’t till I checked Strava afterwards and saw three PBs—all on climbs—that I realised how much of an uphill weapon the Instinct was.
Now on to those downs. For my first ride I managed to sneak in an early season run down Coronet Peak’s Slip Saddle, and it proved the perfect test piece for the BC. Through the steep top section, the suspension was supple and forgiving and the chassis handled the rough stuff with ease. Then as we hit the high-speed flats along Bush Creek the BC really came alive. Rocky seem to have got the flex pattern of the frame spot on and it hugged the trail as I carved and flicked it right the way to the pub at the end. A hill climbing beast that loves to go fast—so far so good.
The one annoying trait that manifested itself on that ride though was chainslap. While Rocky have provided plenty of protection on the chainstay, my big complaint was the noise; what was fast becoming my new favourite sled sounded like a two-stroke as it rattled through the braking bumps. I’ve since addressed this with a few sneaky mods to the chainstay and a bigger 34T front ring which have both helped. Hopefully Rocky sorts this out for next year.
I’m still riding the BC and it’s still going up hills like a champ but where I’ve found it really excels is the rough undulating flow trail. Its dynamic suspension and insane acceleration make it incredibly quick and fun to ride. With its slightly higher bottom bracket height the Instinct feels and rides more like an XC bike on steroids than a big-hitting sluggish enduro bike.
If you’re looking for superbike level performance without quite as steep of a price tag then the Instinct BC is well worth a look. As I mentioned I’ve still got this one in the garage and will be trying to avoid giving it back in a hurry. For me, it’s as much about at last getting to ride a Rocky —sixteen years later— as it is seeing this iconic Canadian brand back on to and making great bikes.