Ask some MTB riders where they feel like they’re ‘in their element’ and most will probably say “When I’m out in the woods on my bike!” Built with pedalling as a top priority, Rocky Mountain Bikes’ 2022 Element has been updated with a shapely new frame featuring revised geometry and suspension. The new Element also offers plenty of on-frame storage for water or accessories, so you can keep your kit light and cool as you chase XC podiums or chip away at your Strava records.
Even with supply shortages, Bikerumor was very lucky to receive a 2022 Element prior to their launch date (it helps that I’m based in Canada). I have only had limited time with the bike, but I pulled off a few rides and I’m happy to include initial impressions of the Element in this article. A huge thanks to RMB’s legendary racer and media man Andreas Hestler for setting us up with this bike!
2022 Rocky Mountain Element frame details:
The 2022 Element is available in Smoothwall carbon or FORM alloy. Most of the Elements roll on 29” wheels, except XS frames which get 27.5”. All models offer 120mm rear travel and run 130mm forks.
With their latest generation of bikes RMB has been combining their model lines, and the new Element now serves as their XC model. With the new Instincts covering the Trail category (and the new bikes offering wheel size splits) RMB has dropped their 27.5” Thunderbolt line.
The Element’s frame has seen a similar overhaul to Rocky Mountain’s other mountain bikes, like the Altitude and Instinct I recently tested. The major difference is how lean its frame is – The Element’s tubes get pretty slim in spots, but feature the same strategic shaping as the other bikes to provide stiffness and strength where required. RMB has ensured their new front ends are strong and stiff for precise steering, and they’ve increased the Element’s stiffness at the chainstay/seatstay pivot to keep those lean rear stays from flexing too much.
While most Elements ride on 29” wheels, the XS frame sticks with 27.5”. This helps smaller riders with initial acceleration, and provides a low standover height. The XS 2022 Element offers 33mm more clearance than the XS 2021 Thunderbolt.
Rocky Mountain has also included size-specific shock tuning with their new bikes, so each frame size comes with a specific tune that should match the intended rider’s weight.
One thing Rocky Mountain wanted to provide was lots of water bottle (or accessory) mounting options, so the Element’s down tube features two mounts, with the lower offering three mounting bolts. Medium to XL frames can fit two large water bottles, a small can fit one large and one small bottle, and even an XS frame can host one large bottle. If tons of water isn’t required, you can run one bottle and have a small frame bag, tool kit, etc. conveniently stored on the bike too.
The Element does not get a chainstay length flip-chip like RMB’s longer travel trail bikes, and does not come with an included chain guide – However, if you wish to add one, the nut in the main pivot is interchangeable with the Instinct and Altitude. Simply replace that piece of hardware and you can throw on RMB’s Canadarm chain guide.
Carbon Element frames get fully guided internal cable routing, while the alloy frames use large easy-access ports. The brake hoses can be set up moto style, and are held securely to prevent rattling. Tire clearance for the 29” or 27.5” frames is the same at 2.6”, and both can run chainrings from 30-36t.
Frame protection includes a down tube guard, noise-cancelling chainstay guard and inner seatstay guard. Built to pedal, the Element forgoes a shuttle guard.
The Element’s main pivot features dual seal spacers to keep your bearings clean and dry, and all frame bearings are shielded (including in the lower shock mount). The frames are also compatible with SRAM’s universal derailleur hanger.
While RMB has mostly maintained their four-bar Smoothlink suspension’s typical qualities in the new Element, they have tweaked the leverage rate to provide plenty of pedaling support throughout its travel. RMB didn’t want to give up good traction, however, so they’ve reduced end-stroke progression to ensure the bike freely uses its 120mm of squish to keep your rear wheel glued. Rocky says riders can run less pressure and damping in their shocks with this tune, making for a very smooth ride. The Element’s anti-squat was also reduced to provide optimal acceleration.
Ride 4 Chip:
The new Element features RMB’s Ride 4 chip, offering four positions that alter the bike’s geometry and suspension characteristics in fine increments. Across the chip’s range key angles only vary by 0.8°, but reach varies by 8mm and BB height changes by 11mm. Other measurements like chainstay length, wheelbase and standover height are minimally affected.
Adjusting the Ride 4 chip also affects the suspension rate. The steepest position (Pos. 4) is the most linear, and the suspension curve gets a bit more progressive as you move towards the slackest position (Pos. 1).
The Element is just what you’d expect a modern XC bike to be – It offers a lengthy reach, short chainstays, a very low BB and pretty slack steering that boosts the bike’s capabilities on steeper, more technical trails. Check out the chart above for all the details, and for smaller riders note the 27.5” XS frames have slightly different angles and shorter rear ends.
With four models of carbon Elements, a carbon frameset and three alloy builds there are tons of specs to pore over, so visit RMB’s website for full details on each. Photos of each model aren’t yet available, but pricing and color options are listed below.
- Element Carbon 90 – $9589 – Matte Carbon UD/Gloss Black Dog
- Element Carbon 70 – $6819 – Matte Carbon UD/Gloss Black Dog or Gloss Cinnamon Girl/Gloss Volcano/Gloss Black Dog
- Element Carbon 50 – $4899 – Matte Carbon UD/Gloss Black Dog or Gloss Cinnamon Girl/Gloss Volcano/Gloss Black Dog
- Element Carbon 30 – $4259 – Matte Carbon UD/Gloss Black Dog
- Element Carbon Frameset – $3199- Matte Carbon UD/Gloss Black Dog
- Element Alloy 50 – $4049 – Matte Carbon UD/Gloss Black Dog or Gloss Cinnamon Girl/Gloss Volcano/Gloss Black Dog
- Element Alloy 30 – $3089 – Gloss Cinnamon Girl/Gloss Volcano/Gloss Black Dog
- Element Alloy 10 – $2559 – Matte Carbon UD/Gloss Black Dog
Before diving into my impressions, please note the bike I was riding was not a stock build. Due to limited availability I was actually borrowing a RMB employee’s bike, so my notes here are all focused on the Element frame only. With limited time I rode the Ride 4 chip in Position 3, which is one notch away from the steeper/longer end of the adjustment range.
Right away I found the Element’s frame geometry very comfortable. I’m about 5’10” and the size medium’s 455mm reach (in Pos. 3) felt perfect. The Element’s wheelbase feels fairly long, and even with the short-ish 435mm rear end I felt well centered and very stable aboard this bike. Given that, I think RMB was wise to skip the chainstay flip-chip; It’s an awesome option for enduro bikes like the Altitude, but not really necessary on the Element. In fact, I found the Element’s rear end length maintained fairly snappy handling through the corners, so I wouldn’t want it any longer.
Even with a shorter fork than I usually ride, the Element’s steering felt great with its 65.5° head tube angle. I really didn’t feel like the steering was too steep for anything I rode, and my local trails definitely push beyond XC-levels of technicality.
Even in Pos. 3 the Element’s BB rides very low, so you will have to watch those pedals on rougher trails. I tagged a few roots on my climbs and dinged my pedal off a rock on one descent (which scared me a bit!).
The bike I borrowed had a three-position Fox Float Factory shock, which seems ideal for this bike. On an enduro rig I’m OK with a two-position shock, but for an XC machine that spends more time on fire roads or smoother trails having the ‘near-lockout’ Firm mode is great. Riding in Firm, I could only dip down to about half travel on the Element so I found it awesome on roads or pathways but a bit too stiff for singletrack climbs.
Riding in pedal mode offered a lot of support against pedaling forces, but the shock blows off nicely under impacts. This is the setting I would use for most trail climbs, as the frame’s linear linkage provides enough comfort and traction but the shock’s support keeps the bike moving forward very efficiently. In wide open mode the Element freely dives into its travel, yet it still pedals better than the longer travel bikes I usually ride.
With its short travel and light weight the Element is a playful bike on whoops and small hits. The suspension may be a bit more linear than other RMB’s but the Element still pops nicely off bumps, and its slack steering encourages you to play rough and ride technical terrain you might not have enjoyed on an older XC bike.
The medium Element frame weighs 2300g/5.07 lbs including the rear shock, seat collar, axle and frame protection. The complete bike I rode weighed 27.9 lbs with carbon cranks, carbon handlebars, alloy wheels, and no super expensive gram-shaving components.
The 2022 Rocky Mountain Element is available to order as of today – check out RMB’s website for complete details.