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Trail Tested: Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition

Now in its third season, Rocky Mountain’s Instinct BC Edition continues to win fans and crush local trails. Not to be confused with the standard issue Instinct, the BC variant pays homage to the bike’s motherland, the root-strewn, fern-choked steeps of British Columbia. To that end, the BC Edition is fitted with all the trimmings of a bike built to tackle the North Shore. It has a slightly longer fork, beefier tires, stiffer wheels, and wider 760mm bars to help lever your way around hard turns.

I’ve been on this bike since mid March and the more I ride it––the more I love it. It usually takes me several rides before my reluctant dance partner and I quit stepping on each other’s toes, but this was not the case with the Instinct. After the usual tweaks to shock and tire pressures, the Instinct and I have been the best of friends.

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An ardent fan of plus-sized bikes, I still prefer to log most of my miles atop 29-inch wheels, so I felt right at home on the Instinct. I also find that my time atop bigger tires has given me a level of trail courage I didn’t have before, and I tend to hammer the rough stuff harder than I used to. With the BC Edition’s 140mm of travel up front and a plush 130mm at the aft end, I feel well equipped to plow into the gnarliness that used to give me pause. The large hoops and longer travel make short work of the typical trail intrusions found here in my Southwestern haunts.

 

Built around Rocky Mountain’s Smoothwall carbon fiber frame complete with carbon seat and chain stays, the Instinct uses the brand’s unique Ride-9 adjustable suspension and geometry chip-set to permit finite tuning of the bike’s trail qualities. With the removal of just one pivot bolt, two independent mounting plates can be rotated to one of nine positions to modify the angles, effect the bottom bracket height, or otherwise make the bike sing your own tune. The Ride-9 system can even modify the shock progression, further adding to the fine tuning. Putting all of that suspension magic into motion is a Rockshox Pike RCT3 140mm fork and a Rockshox Monarch RT3 custom valved shock unit.

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Delivering the 2.3-inch Maxxis Minion tires to the ground are Stan’s hubs and ZTR Flow EX rims laced together with Sapim spokes. The end result is a set of wheels with the level of stiffness Rocky Mountain’s ride ambassadors demanded of a strong and precise wheel package, and they are point-and-shoot accurate.

Rounding out the parts spec is a well thought out assortment of upper echelon parts. Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain bits are paired to the the Race Face Turbine cranks we have come to expect of a typical Rocky Mountain build. If you have a want for a second chainring, and why would you, this bike is a dedicated one-ringer. That suits me just fine. Carbon Race Face bars and a Rockshox Reverb Stealth dropper post dial in the details making this one beautifully assembled machine. I wouldn’t change a single component.

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Ride Performance

On the trail, the Instinct BC Edition has been a thrilling machine. The 2016 model was delivered with a new shock link that is reported to have bolstered stiffness by as much as 15%. I believe it, as the trailing half of the bike feels tight and responsive and once carefully set up, the suspension is capable of attenuating an impressive range of impacts large and small. Pedal bob is mitigated by the unique placement of the chain and seat stay pivots, and further muted by the valving of the Monarch shock unit. A quick flick of a lever moves the shock unit from fully locked to either “pedal” or wide open modes. Unlike many lower level bikes where such features are academic and have minimal effect, the Monarch’s shock––works.

 

During a recent trip to Moab to test the Instinct on the area’s endless ledges and right-angled rocks, the suspension performed exceptionally well, particularly after a full day in the saddle. I found I kept reducing shock pressure, tempting the suspension into a softer repose. One of the concerns I often harbor with any bike built to handle hard knocks is the effect those attributes will have on pedaling efficiency, particularly on my many long and protracted local climbs. An average ride for me includes several thousand feet of gain and while the Instinct is no XC race whip, I am increasingly impressed with how swiftly it accelerates and climbs.

 

It did take me a few rides to settle into the bike’s unique handling. It responds best to more of a back seat stance when carving hard turns. Once I figured out where to place my weight, the front end became more lively and my ability to rail on the edges of the tires improved. When put into a full tilt, the BC Edition Instinct is a hoot to ride.

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It’s at about this time I turn a critical eye towards things I feel may have been missteps or shortcomings. Honestly, I can’t say I really uncovered anything I would dare couch as the slightest nit-pick. I was initially puzzled by the frame sizing as this is a size XL. I haven’t ridden a bike of this labeled size in 30 years of riding, not that it matters as the fit is spot on for my hair over 6-foot build. That larger frame did permit the use of the stock stem, which is a short little bugger. The handling with that small tiller is definitely quicker than it would be with a longer stem.

On the whole, the Instinct BC Edition is a beautiful rig in both form and function. I’m a sucker for color-matching and every little corner of the bike is splashed in dark and fluro-green accents. The internal cable routing is a nice touch and the elegant shape of the carbon frame makes the Instinct look like it’s going fast, even when leaned up against a wall. It’s a fantastic machine, one I can’t wait to ride every day I walk by it.

 

 

MSRP: $6900

 

Bikepacking the Instinct BC Edition

As I am prone to do, I did saddle the Instinct with a small assortment of bags and hit my local circuit for a quick overnighter. As I knew it would, the bike handled flawlessly. With a little extra air added to the shock and fork, the bike was more than capable of shouldering a few pounds with minimal alteration to the ride qualities. I wouldn’t peg the Instinct as the ideal go-to for a protracted romp across a continent, but if you want to hit the trails for a few days, and have a hoot doing it, the Instinct will shuttle your gear at a brisk clip and beg you to ride faster, harder, and further than you might think possible. It’s a very versatile platform if you care to push it into different niches. From your local race circuit to a multi-day in the woods, it delivers.

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Christophe Noel is Expedition Portal's Editor and the Senior Editor for Overland Journal. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.