Rocky Mountain Bicycles have a heritage that is steeped in Canadian coolness. With a new NZ distributor they are making an impact with some dialled bikes that are worthy contenders in the higher-end of the trail bike and all-mountain markets. Two of our testers with disparate riding styles, Kah Chan and Sasha Smith spent a good chunk of time on the Instinct 950 and give their views here.

130mm of Fox Evol controlled travel feels bottomless.


One factor that does not get discussed enough is the performance benefits of a bicycle’s colour. Sometimes it’s the psychological boost of cool that the Yeti turquoise beings to the party, or the stealth factor of an all black machine. The Rocky Mountain comes with the benefit of being a bright candy red. Now, we all know that red is scientifically faster and aesthetically more aggressive, a fact well utilised by the progettistas in Maranello.

Rocky Mountain also comes coated in early 90s mountain bike nostalgia, and is so Canadian I needed a visa, a flannel shirt, a lumberjack beard, and a mandatory shot of maple syrup whisky before I was allowed to test ride it. Rocky Mountain have been in bikes for so long that they own

140 up front from the 34 Float.

Sticking with the internet, there are popular misconceptions floating in the cyber-ether on how bikes would ride based on a single geometry value: be it top tube length, chainstay length, or wheel diameter. The Instinct defies all preconceptions on how we would assume a 29er would ride. The magic mix of geometry, short rear end, relatively short top tube and wagon wheels means that the Instinct is delightfully nimble, and will happily get you out of (and into) trouble while descending. The suspension is nicely balanced and works well together. The bike climbs ridiculously well, flattering this fatty reviewer’s ability up a hill.


On to the spec: I imagine that the product manager at Rocky had asked: “What would someone who works in a bike shop have?” E.g. what would someone who has to sell, install, service, maintain, and deal with potential returns and mechanical failures all day choose to buy with their hard-earned money? You tend to see either some high-end bike components that they have access to that is well below retail, OR you see really reliable, practical products like Shimano SLX range. Forget your little brother syndrome – SLX is a genuinely good groupset, not just a good value groupset. Someone was trying to score bonus points for specifying the vanity XT rear derailleur as a nice visual upgrade.

A few things were weird, and speaks to the ever changing nature of bike “standards”. The Boost front end and non-Boost rear is a bit strange, suggesting that the molds were cut before Boost became all the rage, and then the fork was plugged in to stem the #hashtag bleeding. The extra squishy seat didn’t really do it for me either (but seats / grips / pedals tend to be more personal preferences).

Who is the Instinct for?

The sort of girl or guy who likes riding tight twisty singletrack which require a lot of body english, and is happy to trade off some high-speed stability for some low-speed agility.

Look out for one of Wellington’s fastest ripping by in a red mist past you sooner rather than later.

Expedient shipping.

A+++ will trade again.


Am I the right person to be doing a bike review? Query me on what short chainstays, Boost 148 and slack head angles aim to achieve, and I could probably tell you, but with the help of old mate Google. If I was fortunate enough to test ride five similar bikes of different brands within a particular (high) price bracket, I’d tell you that they are all great, the end. Although most bikes are likely to induce a grin, you have to be lucky to find your one bike that clicks perfectly and eclipses all the rest. For me, the Rocky Mountain Instinct is that bike.

When mountain biking was new to me, getting half a foot of air over a XX ramp or surviving an accidental drift through a deep berm of suction sand at Woodhill would give me a kick that lasted all of the long drive home across the sprawl that is Auckland. I do still love riding. I’m dependent on the drug, but it no longer gives that particular buzz that I used to get when I was first starting out.

The Instinct has rekindled that buzz that had been missing in recent times. It prompts play. I feel like I’m dancing with the bike, I think I look cool. Just like how I thought I looked when I was hucking that XX ramp ten years ago as grom-girl: i.e. really not impressive or cool at all but at least internally I feel like the queen of rad for a moment.

Something about the Instinct’s nimbleness and lightness makes me want to seek creative lines and attempt stupid ones, push to find new skills and little tricks. I find it is still just as capable as a burlier bike when the landing of a chosen lip involves some unexpected chunky bed of roots. Consider the Instinct if your idea of a good day out involves Type 2-fun hard work to find those rewarding Type 1-fun smidgens of raw spicy rooty happiness.

The Instinct doesn’t just go downhill well, it climbs like an XC bike on roids and leaves them for dead on the other side.

One gripe would be the wheels. Not the size – like steel trail hardtails, shorter travel 29ers are the new hashtag bike donchuknow. I’m an advocate for the wagon wheels (they don’t deserve that name anymore). My trouble was breaking spoke nipples and denting the buttery rims, the former sorted kindly by my LBS. You carbon hoop/wide rim fans may want to swap out the wheels.

One of the key features of the Rocky Mountain bikes is the Ride9 chip, which micro-adjusts the geometry of the bike. I couldn’t tell a huge difference between the settings, so I’ll let you Google the Ride9 chip (and the short chainstays, Boost 148 and head angles), and read about how much you need those features from a rider who is more attuned to finer details. None of those features stand out on their own, but as a sum of all of its parts, the Rocky Mountain equals the bike that has been able to reignite my excitement for mountain biking. I’m grateful.

Photos: Brett Kennedy