2017 Rocky Mountain Slayer

Words Andrew Major
Date Aug 28, 2016

After a brief hiatus, the Rocky Mountain Slayer is back for 2017. If you’ve been following new bike releases for the last couple of years I probably don’t need to tell you that it is longer, lower, slacker, steeper, lighter, Boost, and carbon. It also has cartridge bearings at all the pivots, a sleek-and-simple rear axle and derailleur hanger that it shares with the newly announced 2017 Element, and the same new space saving single clevis that I was so impressed with on the Element when searching Crankworx for the small details that differentiate one bike from another.

2017 Slayer

Don’t call it a comeback… the Slayer has been all about balancing climb-ability with maximum DH capability for a decade. Bikes have come a long way and Rocky Mountain’s premier Enduro rig is no different.

It has 170mm travel up front, 165mm travel in the back, lots of neat little details, and it looks good.

Alright. Job done. Time for a… actually, No. For me, the new Rocky Mountain Slayer generates more questions than answers so I asked Rocky product manager Ken Perras to shed light on some of the features that struck me as interesting. Thanks to Ken for accommodating an inquisitive bike nerd wanting more than a media package.

2017 Slayer

Let’s get the geo chart out of the way first thing. Slack HTA, steep STA, low BB, long reach, long wheelbase, short stays. Looks like a modern Enduro bike.

Stack Height

Reviewing the geometry chart, and Rocky’s new bikes in general, the one number that is an outlier compared to many of the long, low, slack bikes on the market are the relatively tall head tubes and stack heights for any given reach. This probably isn’t surprising to anyone who follows Enduro racing as racers are running 20mm or 30mm riser bars and large stacks of headset spacers under their stems on many of the steepest and most aggressive courses.

2017 Slayer

Instead of huge bar rises and a CN Tower’s worth of headset spacers the Slayer’s stack height has been increased in proportion to reach for each size.

According to a past conversation with Ken, this is something that was very noticeable during development and as reach numbers grow the stack height also needs to grow in order to maintain an optimum riding position. If I look at my own bikes, and how a lot of people I ride with are setting up their bikes, it makes sense.

Smooth Link vs. Horst Link (FSR)?

“Each platform is designed with a specific set of characteristics in mind and as such the pivots will end up where they do. I can say that it’s nice to not have that constraint anymore but it’s not a driving factor.” – Ken Perras

I should almost have my bike nerd card for not noticing it immediately at Crankworx, but the new Slayer and the 2017 Element both have their chainstay pivot located below the rear wheel axle. This contrasts with all previous SmoothLink bikes that Rocky Mountain has produced, including the Slayer, where the chainstay pivot was located above the axle so as to not warrant a call from Specialized’s legal department.

2017 Slayer

Sweet lines, cool paint job, and the chainstay pivot of the very clean single sided clevis is quite obviously below the rear wheel axle.

The big question then, of course: will all of Rocky’s bikes be moving to this design going forward? Ken says that “it’s nice not to have that constraint anymore but it is not a driving factor”. The Slayer and Element’s designers chose the pivot placement to work with their desired anti-rise, anti-squat, leverage rate curve, and the Slayer’s vertical shock layout. As each platform they build is designed with different characteristics in mind, the exact pivot placement and its location relative the axle will change from bike to bike.

2017 Slayer

Total aside: Rocky Mountain’s efforts to future proof the Slayer include a provision for clearance for 26+ tires. It isn’t something that riders are asking for yet but it was easy to accommodate in the design. 26 x 3″ tire on the left, 27.5 x 2.5″ center, and overlapped on the right.

Speaking of suspension characteristics, the Slayer’s Ride-4 geometry adjustment has no effect on the bike’s suspension geometry so you can adjust your head tube and seat tube angles for varying applications without having to change your suspension settings.

2017 Slayer

The Slayer’s Ride-4 geometry adjustment has no effect on the suspension geometry meaning you can vary your head tube angle and seat tube angle for different conditions without having to also reset your suspension.

No Aluminum Option?

“Aluminum bikes have always been a major part of our product offerings and we don’t plan to eliminate them from our line-up any time soon.” – Ken Perras

The new Slayer comes in at a variety of price points but it starts off at $5200 (CAD). With an increasing number of more boutique bike brands only offering models in carbon fiber, including Rocky Mountain’s own DH bike, I was left to wonder about riders who are interested in Rocky Mountain’s latest bikes but can’t or won’t spring for a carbon machine. Are they simply not pursuing those riders?

2017 Slayer

The new carbon Slayer is an amazing looking bike, but those without the means or motivation to spend $5200 (CAD) on the starting price point need just be a bit patient.

Rocky Mountain is adamant that “aluminum bikes have always been a major part of our product offering and we don’t plan to eliminate them from our lineup anytime soon.” They have a small design team and have to carefully prioritize their projects. In this case a large part of their existing customer base is demanding carbon bikes so that is what we can generally expect to see first; however, “Rocky fans and new customers alike can count on us to deliver more price-points in the future.”

2017 Slayer

The new Slayer looking amazing in plastic fantastic. Aluminum models to follow for riders who want to experience Rocky Mountain’s latest design without the high-end carbon price tag.

Bearing Pivots?

“The biggest driver was increasing heel clearance on our new bikes with Boost rear ends. The single clevis design was simply not possible with our existing ABC or BC2 design so we had to move to bearings.” – Ken Perras

Like the Maiden before it, the 2017 Slayer uses sealed cartridge bearings at all the pivot points as opposed to the ABC and BC2 bushing systems found in many of Rocky Mountain’s bikes. Rocky’s reasoning behind this is two-fold:

1) Heal Clearance. Like the new Element, the Slayer’s use of single sided clevis joints at both the chainstay and rocker pivots allows them to design a notably narrower back end compared to previous bikes even while moving to 148mm Boost spacing. These single sided clevis joints would not be possible but for the use of bearings.

2017 Slayer

The new Slayer uses bearing pivots all around. A big benefit is awesome heel clearance even with Boost spacing thanks to the single clevis joints at the chainstay and linkage pivots.

2) Like the Maiden, the Slayer is designed to be ridden very hard and very often and Rocky recognizes the “abuse that gravity can dish out”. For example, a rider pounding a day of laps in the Whistler Bike Park can easily equal an average month’s trail riding and sealed cartridge bearings simply offer increased durability and lower maintenance intervals.

2017 Slayer

A rider pounding a day of laps in the Whistler Bike Park can easily equal an average month of trail riding and sealed cartridge bearings simply offer increased durability and lower maintenance intervals.

30.9 Seat Post size?

“SRAM made it known to us that they would offer dropper posts in all travel configurations in all 3 sizes, including 30.9, and an astonishing 170mm travel.” – Ken Perras

I just assumed that most new aggressive mountain bikes would be coming with the 34.9 internal diameter seat posts that have been newly re-discovered (Scott was doing this years ago) to provide a larger amount of space to accommodate more robust guts for longer travel dropper posts and the shorter seat tubes they require; however, Rocky’s suspension frames have been running 30.9 seat posts across the board for years.

Rocky had considered other sizes but when SRAM told them they’d be offering both 150mm and 170mm Reverb dropper posts in a 30.9 diameter they chose to stick with 30.9 through their whole lineup.

2017 Rocky Mountain Slayer

The Slayer sticks with the 30.9 posts that Rocky uses throughout their lineup. Both 150mm and 170mm dropper posts are available in this size and the Slayer’s seat tube has been shortened on each size to accommodate them.

Pressfit Bottom Bracket?

“It’s certainly not a cost saving measure as some assume but rather a package design that leads to increased stiffness and reduced weight.” – Ken Perras

There has been a lot of talk about the return of standard threaded bottom brackets (BSA). I know that a lot of the issues that have come up with Pressfit have to do with companies putting out product with crappy tolerances. With the proliferation of BSA BB install tools to allow for 30mm axle cranks in threaded BB shells, Shimano’s new smaller OD HTII cups, and “because King can”, I look at all the tools in my drawer for installing threaded external BBs and I hear the siren call of a headset press for install and a hammer & punch for removal.

2017 Slayer

Pressfit BB provides “considerable benefits” for frame design. The cable port can house a Di2 battery and has room for a dropper post, shifter cable (stainless steel or electric wire) , and rear brake.

Rocky Mountain notes that the threaded (BSA) bottom brackets have their own drawbacks including creaking of their own and many examples of premature bearing death. But the key reason for choosing Pressfit is that they “feel that the BB92 design offers considerable benefits when it comes to frame design” that leads to improved stiffness at a lighter weight.

They say that contrary to popular belief, there is not a cost-saving motivation. That may also depend on the tolerance levels that companies are building frames to, too.

Cartridge Bearing Shock Reducing Hardware!

Instead of a wear prone DU bushing or a f$#^ing needle bearing, Rocky has taken the novel approach of situating a good sized pair of cartridge bearings outside of the shock’s upper eyelet. Unlike other bikes that have tried to execute a similar idea with bearings in the frame linkage and a shaft pressed through the shock eyelet, with this design the expensive eyelet assembly of the shock is not a potential wear item, and the bolts mounting the shock to the Slayer run on the bearings (reducers) in the shock instead of on the eyelet itself.

SuspensionWerx for the photo." src="/media/original_images/Slayer-2017-NSMB-AndrewM-1.pngw1600" alt="2017 Rocky Mountain Slayer" data-recalc-dims="1" />

You can see the good sized Enduro Max cartridge bearings pressed into the reducing hardware of these Fox X2s being prepped for the Slayer’s release. Thanks to SuspensionWerx for the photo.

This hardware will be available through Rocky’s online store (along with small service parts for all their bikes). Currently, the only size available is 35mm wide and works with 8mm hardware and the reason to offer it is for Slayer customers who want a spare – say for a second shock. Rocky doesn’t guarantee fit or function but there are some other frames on the market with which this system could work.

2017 Rocky Mountain Slayer

2017 Rocky Mountain Slayer

“It pedals incredibly well and it carries a ton of speed, and that extra bit of travel is awesome when you really want to rally. I see myself spending a ton of time on this bike.” – Thomas Vanderham

Zoom!


170mm travel front. 165mm travel rear. Lots of smart details. Great looking frame design and paint. Yep, definitely want to try it…

Trending on NSMB

Comments

michael
0
Michael  - Aug. 29, 2016, 11:54 p.m.

Intriguing… especially the X2 bearing fits, DU bushings just really suck. In fact there is no place for bushings on any mtb, and I think Banshee and RMB learned that lesson the hard way. One more important lesson and I'll buy this rig. Press fit BB on a 4K frame kinda leaves me scratching my head… as in head over to Transition scratch. Also I'm pretty sure down tube protection on any carbon frame should be an automatic, most of my aluminum DT's have rather large dents. Maybe carbon frames have been tested and can stand up to flying boulders, but not paint chips?

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drewm
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DrewM  - Aug. 30, 2016, 8:10 a.m.

Pressfit is interesting. As Ken mentioned it has a lot of positives from a design perspective namely more space to play with when optimizing stiffness and for mountain bikes suspension design. I get why frame designers/engineers like it.

From a shop perspective I can use the same press I have for installing headsets instead of having 50x different tools or adapters for BSA (really, we couldn't just have one f'ing tool that every BSA for 30mm axle BB uses?… Don't get me going again on Shimano changing the size of HT2 or King/Campy having to have an ever so slightly different shape to their interface). It doesn't matter because I have all those tools but if all the bikes at my house were PF there'd be a lot more room in my toolbox.

The big negatives of Pressfit from a bike company perspective is that some people simply will not buy your bike if it doesn't have a threaded BB (whereas no one is not buying a bike because it's BSA)… And you have to make sure tolerances are SPOT ON.

Creaking? I've dealt with lots of creaking BSA BB's as well (bearing in cup, cup in frame) but the advantage is you can take the BB out to inspect, relube, swap the bearings, etc without putting a wear cycle (press-out/press-in) on the frame or having to buy a new BB.

I still maintain most the hate for Pressfit BBs comes down to too many frames with bad tolerances turning people off the system.

Anyways, I'm still generally in the preference for threaded BBs camp but I have to say the BSA evangelism you read a lot these days as if the system is faultless is a bit hard to take. It certainly wouldn't be a defining criteria of my next bike purchase.

The points others have made about preferring no DT protector in favour of Shelter tape are interesting. The moulded DT guards are expensive to make and a lot of them are fairly hokey.

Reply

traildog
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traildog  - Aug. 29, 2016, 10:09 p.m.

Really appreciating the critical thinking/writing here. Will echo David Max's appreciation of a steep actual seattube angle. So many bikes fail this for long legged folks. There's a lot to like about this bike. Also would point out that the convertible geometry would allow a dual position air fork and a reasonable BB height in the high rear/low front position for alpine rides, while still being bike-park compatible in full shred mode.

Ran a quick analysis in linkage and while i'm no professional, it looks like (as a casual glance would indicate) it has a Norco-esque steep downward sloping antisquat curve, roughly 110% at sag in 32×42, with quite low anti- rise, and a super progressive lev ratio. 455 reach on a large might not look too new school, but that's actually the same front center as a 463 reach at 609 stack (given same HA). They're even paying design service to heel clearance! Questionable seatpost diameter but man, so much right about this who cares? I probably don't Need 170mm suspension, so drop a few extra tokens and call it good!

Reply

tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Aug. 29, 2016, 5:27 p.m.

I'm wondering if the revised rear pivot would enable Rocky to run a 12x157mm rear end and keep heel clearance in line - sounds like Rocky has the best solution for that, and if coupled with Ride9would make that the most versatile and future-proof platform for the Instinct/Pipeline family of bikes as travel and capability creep brings those into burlier bikes (I see no reason why the Instinct couldn't become a 140mm travel bike with 55mm stoke shocks).

Reply

drewm
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DrewM  - Aug. 29, 2016, 7:50 p.m.

I vastly prefer Ride-4 as it lets Rocky optimize the shock tune and suspension performance (suspension geometry is consistent) for one set of variables and then lets the rider alter the bikes geometry to their preference and terrain. I think its the best combination of engineering and personal preference.

I can definitely see what you are getting at re. "super boost" and having seen how narrow their boost bikes are with the new dropout pivot I'd think you'd find they could do 157mm while keeping the chainstays reasonable.

It will be very interesting to see the next generation Instinct assuming it borrows from the Slayer and Element. Personally, I'd love to see a 29″ Slayer but that may just be me.

Reply

gdharries
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Geof Harries  - Aug. 29, 2016, 9:50 a.m.

I'm simply happy to see a proper sized head tube length on the XL. So many bike companies build their largest frame sizes with overly short head tubes (120mm or less) and us taller riders end up bent way over the front and adding a pile of spacers to compensate, which looks goofy and rides even weirder.

Reply

david-max
0
David Max  - Aug. 28, 2016, 11:53 p.m.

It's a beautiful looking bike and one I would love to take for a spin! As a tall rider that usually rides an XL frame a high note for me is the steep actual steep tube angle instead of just a steep virtual angle that's actually still quite laid back once you're running 180-200mm of post. I'm also really stoked on the higher stack numbers as someone who is running a 35mm riser bar and a 25+mm stack of spacers under my stem. I'm not sure about the press fit BB; I trust that ocky had their reasons for going that route, but I really do like the ease and simplicity of being able to thread a BB in and out.

The one thing that absolutely puzzles me is the lack of any kind downtube protection on a $5000+ carbon enduro race bike! If you're travelling at the speeds that this bike is designed for it's inevitable that you'll be kicking up some rocks and chunder and some of that is going to be bouncing off the downtube of your very pretty, very expensive carbon frame. I can't think of another carbon bike in this category that doesn't come with some sort of downtube protection and it seems like a weird oversight on Rocky's part. The Maiden seems to come with a decent downtube protector and it just makes sense for the Slayer to have something similar. As a side note I would love to see it offered in the same colours as the world cup version of the Maiden! I know that there's no accounting for taste when it comes to colour schemes, but I think that it would look super hot on the new Slayer…

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Aug. 29, 2016, 7:31 a.m.

When I was talking to Rocky at CrankWorx one of things that came up was the chainstay guard which was made out of 3m Mastic Tape. It's an awesome material for the application and on the production Elements they'll have nice machine cut and logo stamped pieces of the same which will also be available on their online store (with all their small parts) if you should wear one out.

I would think 3m Mastic would be awesome for down tube protection as well but I've followed up with Rocky to confirm.

It's funny as most people I mentioned the taller stack height to who are on longer bikes (reach) than previously are also running their bars higher.

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craw
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Cr4w  - Aug. 29, 2016, 9:06 a.m.

Stack is back!

Reply

Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Aug. 29, 2016, 7:37 a.m.

If I bought a Slayer I'd Shelter Tape the crap out of it to make it crash friendly in the rocks. That would include the DT.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Aug. 29, 2016, 9:06 a.m.

I put shelter tape on my seat stays, bottom and sides of chainstays and under my down tube. It's amazing stuff, way tougher than that clear 3M stuff (which is great for abrasion protection. But doesn't do much for impacts).

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Aug. 29, 2016, 9:08 a.m.

Yes. I would rather have a bare DT than the typical OEM protective stuff that goes there. Shelter Tape is better, but you can't apply it over an OEM DT protector.

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craw
0
Cr4w  - Aug. 29, 2016, 11:04 a.m.

The OEM protector on my Wreckoning is pretty good so I just ran shelter tape the rest of the way to the head tube.

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speedster
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Speedster  - Aug. 29, 2016, 8:40 a.m.

I put a Trek rubber downtube protector on my carbon Altitude, that works perfectly. Actually their rubber chainstay protector works well too. I also covered it in 3M clear mask tape for vehicles. I should have put more clear mask material on my Maiden, I've got a few scratches and paint chips that could have been avoided.

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awesterner
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awesterner  - Aug. 28, 2016, 10:43 p.m.

I think a future aluminum frame option is a smart move. For one, they could offer an aluminum option with a mid level spec as their entry model. Pike RC, piggy back shock, NX/GX for a similar price to the carbon frame with a Yari, and non piggy back shock (surprised the later is on a bike of this kind honestly). IMHO. Other than that, it's a looker of a bike for sure!

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Aug. 29, 2016, 7:40 a.m.

Yes, an aluminum frame would remove a bit of price point pressure when spec'ing the lowest end carbon bike.

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