04 February 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Rocky Mountain ETSX Team

I have liked something about Rocky Mountain bikes for as long as I can remember. Somehow, I never managed to ride one for more than a few minutes – usually in a parking lot. The Rocky Mountain bike that has most intrigued me for the riding I like to do is the ETSX model. I had the opportunity to pick up a closeout 2007 ETSX-Team this past October and have been riding it since.

As a trail-rider, I thought it would be cool to have a really light trail bike for blasts in the Albuquerque's foothills or for some of the other less-abusive trails nearby. The ETSX Team model frame (which is not offered in 2008) only differs from the ETSX 70 by having a scandium tube-set. Other than that the difference is all in the “spec” (and color). That spec, however, is fantastic. The fork is a Marzocchi XC 700 SL, the shock is a Fox RP23, the drive-train is all XTR, The wheels are Mavic Crossmax SLR’s, the post and bar are nice carbon products from Raceface, and the tires are the hard to find IRC Mibro UST 2.25’s.

The ETSX uses Rocky’s Energy Transfer System which is adopted from Formula One race cars and consists of a “co-rotating wishbone linkage.” I don’t know what this means but it is supposedly similar to virtual pivot suspension. The rear suspension is adjustable using a quick-release – from 4” to 4.5” to 5”- a handy little function.

The Rocky rides like a slightly plusher XC race bike with a little travel held in reserve for those unexpected hits. The ETSX gobbles up the small, medium, and large bumps with equal aplomb. It doesn’t seem quite as plush as many bikes with similar travel but it doesn’t seem harsh or “spikey” as many can, either. It’s biggest drawback is when you encounter medium-to-large bumps in rapid succession on a steep incline. The bike doesn’t float over them- it wallows and looses much or all it’s momentum. Even just a few bumps can do this if the trail is steep enough. Luckily, the ETSX’s strong point is also the remedy to this problem, and it only requires a different riding style. You can, more than any other full-suspension bike I have ridden, pedal the ETSX “out-of-the-saddle”. I mean on a steep, steep uphill too. Most full-sussers don’t like these types of efforts, and have trouble keeping traction. I was able to get off the saddle and mash my way up some serious inclines that I rarely clear anyway- and never without some weight on the nose of my saddle. This of course is the solution to the bump problem. If you see some rough trail coming- you attack it out of the saddle and before you know it, you’re past it. Of course fitness plays a roll in one’s ability to do this (often I can’t), and with a proper racer on it, I see why this bike has been on a number of podiums (one TransAlp).

The steering is faster than the head-angle would suggest though, and I can’t quite figure that out [it may have something to do with that XC700SL, I noticed something similar... -marc]. I know the adjustable rear travel feature of this bike changes the head-angle (in counter-productive manner too – 4” travel = 69˚, but gets steeper than 69˚ as travel increases), but even at the slackest setting, the steering still seems very quick. I don’t ride many bikes with steeper head-angles so it could just be me, but I think that the head-angle would be ideal about one degree less steep. I find myself riding this bike in the 4.5” setting the most. I am planning to put on a 10mm longer fork (the Marzocchi XC 700SL is 130mm) this summer and then I will ride it only in the 5” setting for comparison.

This bike is more of a race/attack bike. I would bet that this bike is as fast uphill as any full-suspension bike out there, and it is damn good on the downhill too. If you are that type of rider and you like fast steering– THIS IS YOUR BIKE. I am a medium speed rider and prefer my steering a bit slower, but I am going to keep this bike around until at least next fall.



1 comment:

Rocky Mountain Bikes said...

Wow! This is an excellent blog related to Rocky Mountain Bikes . I had a wish to ride a bike over hills, rocks, tree roots, and gullies. It's the challenge of control vs. speed. But Rocky Mountain Bikes offers models for the rest of the world that bike for pleasure. Further, ETSX uses Rocky's energy transfer system which is adopted from formula one race cars.