2017 Rocky Mountain Slayer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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
170mm travel front. 165mm travel rear. Lots of smart details. Great looking frame design and paint. Yep, definitely want to try it…