Return of the Rockies
The iconic peaks of the Rocky Mountains embody a particular wildness, a disdain for the manicured and curated experiences of the modern world. Rocky Mountain Bicycles’ namesake mountain range holds a special place in our heart. We knew this year that we were overdue for a return to our roots - our bedrock.
"Growing up in Edmonton, the Rockies represented the epitome of rugged, large scale terrain,'' says Thomas Vanderham. ''My trips to the Rockies have been few and far between since I left the prairies, so the opportunity to spend time in Fernie on the new Slayer was one I looked forward to all year. It did not disappoint - panoramic views, huge descents, impeccable trail building, and a tight-knit mountain bike community.''
This was my first time riding with Florian Nicolai, and it's easy to see what makes him one of the top EWS racers in the world. He's got natural speed and an eye for ultra creative lines on the trail. We had an incredible time, and I hope that my next trip back to the Rockies isn't too far away.
Elk Valley locals tell a story about William Fernie, who asked a Ktunaxa chief about the black coal rocks hanging on the necklace of the chief’s daughter. The chief showed him the source of the coal on the condition that Mr. Fernie married his daughter, but the prospector backed out of the agreement. The chief then cursed the entire valley, and it would suffer a series of fires, floods, and mining disasters at the turn of the century.
The supposed curse was lifted by Chief Ambrose Gravelle of the Ktunaxa Nation on August 15th, 1964. However, if you look at Mount Hosmer on summer evenings, you can sometimes make out a shadow of the chief’s daughter standing beside the ''ghost rider'' on his horse.
"I was in a window seat, jetting west across the mountains of British Columbia. I stared out at the grandeur of sun tinted snowy crags and knew that what separated my adopted home in Edmonton from the native soil of Vancouver was a massive rock formation called the Rocky Mountains. I thought about naming our new company after these peaks." - Grayson Bain, one of the original founders of Rocky Mountain Bicycles, 1981.
The jagged summits of the Three Sisters peaks that overlook the Elk Valley are massive beds of sloping marine limestone, called the Palliser Formation. Most mountains are younger than what they’re built on, but Fernie’s craggy peaks are literally upside down. 360 million years ago the area that would become the Elk Valley was much further south, close to the equator, and the Pacific Ocean was only 80km to the west.
Dinosaurs roamed the land and earthquakes shook as the tectonic plates smashed into each other, fracturing massive pieces of stone along huge thrust faults. 180 million years ago, the old limestone sea floor was pushed upwards along those thrust faults and over the younger stone - turning the mountains upside down.
''I was excited to have the opportunity to work on this project. The first day I couldn’t believe I was riding with Thomas Vanderham - he’s a legend to me, and I love watching his signature style and whips,'' EWS racer Florian Nicolaï said of his time with the Canadian freeride icon. ''This was also the first time I rode the finished product of the Slayer, but it only took me one run to get used to it. It surprised me how good it is for different trails and terrain.''
The trails in the Rockies are so different from France, or anywhere else I've ridden on the Enduro World Series. The day we rode in the alpine was special. Riding raw freeride trails with Thomas right behind gave me a little pressure, but the views were beautiful and it was so much fun. It was an amazing experience, and I hope to return one day soon!
The scale of the Rockies is sobering. From geological upheavals to megatons of rock carving the landscape as glaciers advanced and retreated, the forces that have shaped these mountains are almost unimaginable. This place has a unique way of making humans feel insignificant and reminding us that today’s landscape is just an impermanent snapshot in the earth’s geological history. It’s an honour to explore this terrain, its stone and loam, on two wheels.
Launching the Maiden
Earlier this month we headed to Retallack Lodge with Thomas Vanderham, Wade Simmons, a bunch of lucky Rocky Mountain staff, and a few key media to officially launch the Maiden.
Arriving in style.
After a quick kool-aid session, we got right to riding.
Rob Potter gets his first taste of Retallack's fast, smashy tracks.
Classic Simmons style.
Night one: egos are crushed at Nageln (aka Hammerschlagen).
From mining ghost towns to old bus graveyards, the Selkirks have a fascinating history.
Simmons brings the vandemonium. And 12 Maidens.
Day two: the best shuttle vehicle ever.
Scotty P aka Pickles touches down on Reco Peak. We supported the Peak 2 Creek trail build here last year, and it was amazing to finally sample it.
Yo dawg, we heard you like Rocky Mountains, so we put your Rocky Mountains on some rocky mountains.
This spring Rocky Mountain product manager Ken Perras crashed and broke three vertebrae, one femur, one hip, his sternum, ten ribs, and punctured a lung. It is amazing to see him back on the bike shredding.
Vanderham was loving the fast, rowdy trails that flowed from the alpine all the way to the lodge.
Night two: we premiered Maiden Voyage, Vanderham's edit with Matt Miles and Anthill films, and toasted the trails with some damn fine whisky. Also, it turns out that Ken is pretty good at Indo board Jenga.
After three days of shredding some of the world's best terrain, eating amazing food, and generally soaking up the lodge life, it was time to drive home and get ready for Crankworx.
Introducing the Maiden
After nearly four years of development, we’re proud to launch the Maiden. With the freedom to design on an extended schedule, it represents the cutting edge of our technology. Its all-carbon frame was designed from the ground up to perform at the highest levels of World Cup racing, bike park blasting, and big mountain freeriding.
- Travel: 200mm (F), 200mm (R)
- Full carbon frame, link, chainstay, and seatstay
- Optimized for 26” or 27.5” wheels with Equalized geometry
- Four bar Smoothlink suspension
- Pipelock collet axles lock into the frame for stiffness
- Oversized Enduro MAX type bearings for longer bearing life and higher load capacity
- Integrated frame protection: molded downtube guard, shock fender, chainstay protector, and bolt-in fork bumpers
- Di2 electronics compatible with internal stealth battery port
- Internal cable and brake routing
- PressFit BB107 bottom bracket, drop-in IS42|52 headset, 157mm axle spacing, ISCG-05 tabs
- Sizing: S/M/L/XL
We tested a wide range of suspension systems during the Maiden’s development. Many four-bar downhill bikes have very low rising rates (<20% slope). They have good support at sag, but require harsh-feeling higher spring rates or progressive air shocks to avoid bottoming under advanced riders. On the other end of the spectrum, some virtual pivot bikes have very high rising rates (>70% slope). They have great small-bump sensitivity and don’t bottom out easily, but they wallow and lack support at sag.
The Maiden’s rate curve sits between those two extremes with a 40% slope. It starts low enough for small-bump suppleness, ends high enough to avoid bottoming, has good rider support at sag, and allows the use of a lighter coil spring. We also tuned the progression to rise at a near-constant rate for more predictable response and more effective shock adjustments. The result is lively, supple suspension performance. It eats up chatter, pops off lips predictably, and reacts well when pushed aggressively.
Pedaling & Chainstay Growth
The Maiden puts power to the ground efficiently, thanks to a high level of anti-squat (75% with 27.5 wheels at sag) and well-supported suspension.
Chainstay growth is minimal (26mm with 27.5” wheels or 21mm with 26” wheels), and we pushed that growth deeper into the travel to further improve small bump performance while achieving the axle trajectory we were looking for.
Our engineering team spent a lot of time improving traction and control under braking, because more efficient braking makes you faster. Our patent- pending Autonomous braking resists both compression and extension under braking—remaining active through the majority of rear wheel travel and allowing the bike to react to ground forces rather than braking forces.
The Maiden achieves its braking characteristics by balancing anti-rise (35%), caliper counter-rotation, and instantaneous inertial brake transfer values. Our virtual swingarm begins far behind the bike, lengthens backwards through infinity as the bike compresses, and ends in front of the bike. This long virtual swingarm is the key to avoiding the “grip-slip” phenomenon displayed by other bikes, especially single pivot designs.
The effect is striking: there’s more travel available to soak up terrain under braking, there’s more traction, and there’s less hand-fatigue. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
We worked closely with our gravity athletes throughout the bike's design and testing phases, and drew on Thomas Vanderham's personal settings for the bike's low centre of gravity, balanced reach, and aggressive geometry.
Adjustability & Adaptability
There are advantages to both 26” and 27.5” wheels in DH applications. Rather than just putting larger wheels into an existing design and compromising steering dynamics, we created the Equalized Wheel Concept. By using a headtube spacer in conjunction with a second rear axle position, this system allows riders to choose their wheel size while maintaining optimal BB height and fork trail.
We tuned our new RIDE-4 system to adjust geometry while affecting the suspension curve as little as possible. This allows for subtle track-to-track geometry changes in 1/4° headtube angle increments with minimal effect on your shock tune.
Introducing the 2015 Thunderbolt MSL
We are excited to introduce you to our new 2015 Thunderbolt MSL.
A 120mm travel, 27.5-wheeled XC trail bike, we designed it for people who hammer at the pointy end of the pack, but stay aggressive and stylish when terrain gets rougher. Marathon racing? Sure. Triple up those whoops? Why not! BC Bike Race? Of course! Smash every corner? Be rude not to.
The design process went much further than simply making a carbon version of our popular aluminum Thunderbolt; we reengineered it from the ground up to have shorter chainstays, lower standover, RIDE-9™ adjustability, new pivot technologies, increased anti-squat and more.
Global pricing to be announced. Available Fall 2014.
- RIDE-9™ System — Our patented RIDE-9™ technology is the key to our bikes’ extraordinary versatility. It uses two interlocking chip insertsto adjust geometry and suspension characteristics, allowing riders to tune their bikes to their specific riding styles, terrain, and weight.
- SMOOTHWALL™ Carbon — SMOOTHWALL™ carbon uses one of the world’s most sophisticated carbon processes to deliver industry leading stiffness-to-weight, ride quality, and durability. We eliminate excess resin and fibers by using rigid internal molds instead of traditional air bladders. We then utilize different typesof carbon in specific frame areas to maximize stiffness and impact resistance while minimizing overall weight.
- PIPELOCK™ Pivot — Rather than relying on lateral compression for stiffness like traditional main pivot designs, our patent-pending PIPELOCK™ pivot uses a military grade, hard-anodized collet that expands radially to create the widest—and therefore most rigid—pivot stance possible. Using PIPELOCK™ allows us to cut our main pivot weight dramatically while significantly increasing lateral stiffness. PIPELOCK™ Pivots also feature grease ports for effortless maintenance.
- BC2™ Pivots — Lighter and stiffer than conventional bearing pivots, our Bushing Concept 2 (BC2™) Pivots are the oversized next generation of our groundbreaking ABC™ system. Unlike other bushings, our patented system uses a hardened alloy insert that bottoms out to control the contact of the bushing surfaces, reducing the preload that causes stiction and binding. BC2™ Pivots also feature grease ports for effortless maintenance.
- ABC™ Pivots — Our revolutionary Angular Bushing Concept (ABC™) pivots are lighter, stiffer, and require less maintenance than conventional bearing pivots. Like our BC2™ pivots, they rotate on hardened alloy inserts that bottom out to reduce stiction and binding. However, by using an angled bushing surface they increase their relative contact area, optimizing them for compact locations like chainstay pivots.
- SMOOTHLINK™ Suspension — SMOOTHLINK™ suspension stays supple yet supportive through a wider range of gears than conventional single pivot or other four-bar suspension configurations. This patented system reduces both pedal-bob and bottom-outs, while allowing us to fine tune variables like braking and climbing traction across a widerange of intended uses.
- Fully Di2 compatible with integrated battery stealth port in downtube.
- Internal cable, shock, and stealth dropper post routings keep cables neatly stowed.
- Easy internal cable management with downtube stealth port.
- 142mm E-Thru rear axle increases stiffness.
- BB92 pressfit bottom bracket provides maximum lateral stiffness.
- Grease ports on BC2™ and PIPELOCK™ pivots allow for fast and easy maintenance.
Thunderbolt 799 MSL
Thunderbolt 770 MSL
Thunderbolt 750 MSL
Thunderbolt 790 MSL
We’re a selfish bunch, so we couldn’t resist producing a Thunderbolt MSL BC Edition. With its lively, bottomless-feeling SMOOTHLINK™ suspension curve, adjustable RIDE-9™ system, and class-leading stiffness it was the perfect candidate for some additional brawn. Set up the way we set our own bikes up—wide bars, short stem, big tires, stiff wheels, and premium suspension—, the BC Edition translates the Thunderbolt’s agility into true trail bike playfulness and aggression.
The Staycation: A Vancouver Island Adventure
Rocky Mountain's athletes enjoy traveling all over the world to ride their bikes in unique, beautiful locations. Everywhere they go—from the backcountry of Argentina to the Great Wall of China and countless places in between—they hear people share their dreams of one day riding on our home turf in British Columbia. That’s why this year Thomas Vanderham, Brett Tippie, Geoff Gulevich, Wade Simmons, and Andreas Hestler decided to reinvigorate their love for home by exploring Vancouver Island, just a short ferry ride from our North Vancouver headquarters.
Fueled by too much coffee in the mornings and too many beers in the evenings, this was a great trip and one that certainly helped reconnect us all to our roots. There's no question that we'll be back to continue exploring the island’s rich trail networks and connect with the many amazing people we met along the way. Love the Ride!
Words by Andreas Hestler. Photography by Margus Riga.
When XC gets rowdy, the agile and playful Thunderbolt shines. With 120mm of SMOOTHLINK™ travel and 27.5” wheels, the Thunderbolt delivers a great mix of intuitive XC capabilities and pure, playful trail fun.
"The Thunderbolt is my kind of XC bike. It's got a natural feel and tackles the climbs exceptionally well. On the descents it provides the kind of small bump sensitivity usually reserved for longer travel bikes.” -Thomas Vanderham
Rocky Mountain's entire development team unanimously agreed on the need for a fun XC bike that stands on the shoulders of our dedicated XC race bikes. By understanding the attributes of race bikes, we tested and perfected the numbers to arrive at geometry that lends a more playful feeling to riding cross-country. We were able to design a short 426mm rear end on the Thunderbolt, tucking the 27.5” wheel in close to the rider for lots of maneuverability and agility. At the same time, the top tube has been lengthened from traditional Rocky Mountain designs to accommodate today's shorter stems and wider bars. Our Engineers and test-riders like Thomas Vanderham experimented tirelessly to arrive at the bike's 68.5° headtube angle, balancing the unique handling-properties of both XC and trail riding styles.
- No-nonsense FORM™ Alloy frame with 27.5" wheels for agile, playful handling
- 120mm of XC-tuned SMOOTHLINK™ Suspension delivers exceptional climbing traction and a stable pedalling platform
- ABC™ Pivots are lighter, more durable and laterally stiffer than conventional bearing systems
- BB92 pressfit bottom bracket provides maximum lateral stiffness
- 142mm E-Thru rear axle to increase stiffness (Thunderbolt 710 utilizes F/R quick release)
- Internal cable routing keeps cables neatly stowed, with service-friendly ports
- Internal “Stealth” dropper-post routing tucks the housing inside the frame for minimal clutter (with external option)
WHISTLER, BC — The Official Whip-Off World Championships was originally an underground event dreamed up by photographer Sven Martin. With massive popular appeal, Crankworx has since made it official, and every year both the riders and the crowd get more and more rowdy. Thomas Vanderham and Geoff Gulevich were out there having a blast this week.
Photos courtesy Red Bull. See their full gallery here.
More Official Whip-Off World Championships Coverage
Other Events at Crankworx Whistler
Rocky Mountain's riders are a diverse bunch, and we take pride in that. Our Altitude platform is equally diverse, so with this Fourtitude video we set out to explore what four very different riders could bring to the Altitude 790 MSL.
Wade Simmons, Andreas Hestler, Thomas Vanderham and Geoff Gulevich all ride the 5.18 lb Altitude 790 MSL frame in the video. The Ride-9 system allows them to set their geometry and suspension rates up in a variety of ways. Wade runs it slackest; Thomas runs it in slacker & progressive (forward & down, aka "Vanderham Mode"); both Dre & Gully run the bike neutral & progressive (furthest down).
Wade wanted to showcase the kind of "steep & deep" technical riding that he enjoys on a daily basis. These natural steeps lurk on Vancouver's North Shore, but rarely see bikes that aren't full travel downhill rigs. We're pretty sure The Godfather would be stylish on an old 10-speed too, but it's always humbling to see him bring flow to the burliest lines.
Andreas "Dre" Hestler is an Olympian and has plenty of experience racing TransAlp and Enduro events, so it's no surprise that he coaxes blistering speed out of the Altitude. For Fourtitude he took it to Squamish, where he gunned for some Personal Bests on one of the nicest trail networks around.
Thomas Vanderham likes to take each new bike to Kamloops - a landscape he knows and loves, and the Altitude was no exception. For its maiden voyage he took it out for some true trail blasting, from corner slashing to his patented whips.
Geoff Gulevich is better known for his slopestyle riding, but he was excited to bring his playful approach to the Altitude. He decided to shoot his section on a short road trip through Oregon, where he had a few tricks up his sleeve.
The Road to Rampage
Rampage is, in our opinion, the pinnacle of modern freeriding and words can't describe the intensity of being there in person. Yet, behind all the glamour and media attention of the Finals are countless hours of planning, traveling, digging, testing, sculpting and refining the ridiculous lines that epitomize the competition. This is a short film about all the blood, sweat, and beers that happen behind the scenes of Rampage.
An Argentina Adventure
Sitting on the edge of the Andes, Bariloche is famous for its Catedral ski resort, the biggest in South America, and for its notoriously rugged backcountry terrain. After bouncing around various ideas of where we should take this year's Rocky Mountain adventure, we dug deeper and discovered that Bariloche has a burgeoning mountain bike scene with killer trails and passionate locals. That, and Argentina's warm sunshine in February sealed the deal.
The trip wasn't about finding big hucks, shredding scree slopes, heli-shuttles, or filming for a feature movie. It was about finding a true mountain bike adventure and sharing it with close friends.
So, we pulled together the team of Thomas Vanderham, Geoff Gulevich, Wade Simmons, and Andreas "Dre" Hestler, as well our very talented friends Margus Riga and Ambrose Weingart to capture the trip's visuals, and headed to the Southern Hemisphere. With the help of our amazing guides, Martin "Cepi" Raffo, Bojan Magister, and Gonzallo Serenelli, we found the adventure we had hoped for and much more. From the friendly and welcoming locals, to the jaw dropping natural beauty surrounding Bariloche and its world-class trails, we'll remember this trip for the rest of our lives.
When we travel together with our bikes and gear, we use the term "Shock and Awe" for the airport check-in experience. Seven guys with seven overweight bikes and gear bags is a sight to behold and Air Canada's check-in staff have come to know us well. Our trip down to Buenos Aires was smooth and we had a fun (too fun) night there before heading to Bariloche the next day. There, we met our amazing guides and we had enough time to get a quick rip in to work the cobwebs out from two days of travel.
Our first day of riding had us giddy - we knew we'd stumbled upon something big. It was so gratifying to come so far and be rewarded with such great riding and awe-inspiring terrain. The riding above the Catedral bike park had us feeling like we were riding on Mars with jagged red rock spires in the distance. The next day we climbed for two hours up to a refugio, which is a mountaineer's hut staffed year-round. With epic views of the lake and the Andes, we descended into what seemed like a natural bobsled track full of little drops and rock gardens. Another all-time day and further confirmation we hit the motherlode.
When we were above Catedral, we could see a snowcapped Volcano in the distance. We were told that soon we'd be riding almost all the way up the it in coming days. A three hour climb through rainforest, past huge waterfalls and incredible vistas put us into a glacial moonscape. We climbed and hiked in dense fog over volcanic rock up to over 7000 feet. Out of nowhere a refugio appeared, a welcome sight for a bunch of cold and tired guys. After a late night and lot of red wine, we were greeted by a bluebird morning and the realization we were on the edge of a massive glacier and in the middle of a mountain bike playground.
Right outside of the town of Bariloche is some of the sweetest ribbons of singletrack any of us had ever experienced. Not only that, but directly in town is a top quality shuttle zone that had us saying "one more run" over and over.
With the trip winding down, we simply had to get one dawn patrol ride checked off the list. We ascended in pitch-black darkness with headlamps to the top of a 3000 foot ridge and waited for the golden light to appear. The sunrise was worth the suffering. On our last day, we rode with locals on their home shuttle trails and it turned out to be the most fun day of the whole trip. Their warm spirit and big passion for mountain biking rubbed off on us and it was the perfect end to an unforgettable trip.