Words by David Arthur
Photos by Margus Riga/Rocky Mountain
Carbon continues to infiltrate every corner of the mountain bike market and the latest company to turn to the black stuff is Rocky Mountain, with an update of the Thunderbolt they first introduced last year.
With 27.5in wheels and 120mm travel, it looks bang on for the sort of riding that loads of us get up to at the weekends, capable of devouring trail centres and exploring wilder trails away from the confines of a forest. Is it cross-country or trail? or should you worry less about pigeonholes and just savour the ride. We reckon the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt is the latter all the way.
Seems Rocky Mountain think the same thing: “It’s designed for our own special blend of XC and trail riders—people who hammer at the pointy end of the pack, but stay aggressive and stylish when terrain gets rougher,” says Rocky Mountain, adding that it is “equally at home on long, technical climbs as it is flowy singletrack descents, it’ll have you powering through the rough stuff and popping off every trail feature you lay eyes on.”
Legendary freerider Thomas Vanderham was heavily involved in the development of the bike, says the company. The carbon frame will undoubtedly shed a decent amount of weight, but Rocky Mountain don’t offer a frame weight at this stage.
Another change they’ve taken the time to work on in going down the carbon fibre route is updating the pivots with new larger ABC bushings. They aim to reduce stiction and there are now grease ports so it would be easier to keep them smooth.
There is the same SmoothLink suspension platform, a four-bar design, that the bike launched with last year. The shock hangs off the bottom of the top tube with a top tube rocker linkage. There’s the option of nine geometry and suspension changes with their RIDE-9 chips in the forward shock mount. That opens up some very interesting geometry tuning options.
There are a couple of models on offer. The fully blinged top-end model is the Thunderbolt 799 MSL with a Shimano XTR Di2 groupset and Stan’s new Valour carbon fibre wheels. Suspension duties are cared for by Fox.The frame is compatible with Di2 with the necessary routing and battery compartment. You don’t want to even know the price… If you’re not feeling that flush, there will be Shimano XT and SLX models too.
This is the BC edition, which we presume stands for British Columbia. On paper the specification looks pretty sorted. A longer travel 130mm Pike gives the front-end a bit more brunt and also slackens the head angle, along with a SRAM 1×11 groupset, 2.4in Maxxis tyres and RaceFace Next SL 35mm carbon handlebars looking ideally suited. We can’t wait to get our hands on this bike.
Now to the geometry. As we’ve mentioned it’s adjustable by fiddling with chips (not those sort of chips) in the shock mount, with the head angle varying between 67.2 degrees at its slackest to 68.4 degrees in the steepest mode. That opens up plenty of customisation options so you can tailor it for terrain and the style of riding you’re into.
Of the five sizes offer, the large has a 1150mm wheelbase, 25.2mm bottom bracket drop, 422mm chainstays and a 615mm effective top tube. Reach is 443-460mm and stack is 572-580mm.