Rocky Mountain RM7 FR
Price: £3399.95 complete. £1499.95 frame only
From: Madison www.madisonbrandinformation.com
We may only have been out on two rides on the RM7, but we’ve managed to rack up nearly ten hours on the BC beast. Both rides were on and around Surrey’s mini-shore, where there are a profusion of elevated trails, drops, gap jumps and singletrack. By the end of the second ride we’d hit all but two of the biggest drops (15 foot+) and rode all the skinnies without a hitch.What?
The RM7 is an evolution of Rocky Mountain’s ground breaking, nine-inch travel RM9, using the same cantilever beam, linkage driven elements of its predecessor, albeit with slightly stunted travel. It’s probably graced the covers and pages of more bike magazines than any other thanks to the omnipresent antics of those media-savvy mentalists, the Froriders. Richie Schley, Wade Simmons, Thomas Vanderham, Tarek Rasouli, and until recently, the bear-like bulk of Brett Tippie, have all notched up thousands of Air Miles aboard RM6s, 7s and 9s.
For 2002, Rocky Mountain simplified the RM range, ditching the 6, and concentrating on two versions of the RM7, one with a downhill spec and the other with a freeride spec. The primary difference between the two is the provision of a double chainset on the FR, and a chainguide on the DH.
Easton’s cubicly cross-sectioned RAD DH tubing is used for the top and down tube, doing the job of unsightly gussets, before tapering down to standard tubular fare at the bottom bracket and seat stub. An enormous girder-like brace sits between the down tube and seat tube to triangulate the frame and double up as a shock mount for the Fox Vanilla RC.
Suspending the back end is Rocky Mountain’s Thrustlink swingarm and associated shock linkage. It’s a basic single-pivot design, articulating from a point just above and behind the bottom bracket, with the moto-x style linkage employed to extract the full seven-inches of travel from the 2.5inch stroke Vanilla RC shock and achieve a rising rate. While the whole ensemble looks susceptible to flex, the combination of huge, square-section swingarm struts, cold-forged and CNC machined yoke and BB/pivot shell, and double pivot bearings ward off unwanted slack.
Componentry highlights include Marzocchi’s seven-inch travel triple-clamp Junior-T Pro, Titec bar and stem, Hayes discs with eight-inch rotors, Race Face ISIS Prodigy cranks and Shimano drivetrain.Does it work?
Our very first impressions of the RM were cemented as we assembled a team of rugby players to lift it out of the box. At 42lbs, it’s well into fat club territory, approaching the girth of many specialist downhill rigs on the scales of truth. For UK riders, the ‘Freeride’ tag slapped on by Rocky Mountain may be something of a misnomer. It’s really intended for areas where shuttling and chairlifts are commonplace, but with the odd section where a double/triple chainset comes in useful.
Our 18” test bike was big; specifically it felt very tall compared to a similar downhill bike, an effect produced by the very high bottom bracket and big, Fi’zi:k saddle. At odds with the ballerina posture, is the short top tube that places the top of the fork stanchions within striking distance of your knees.
What’s the effect of the geometry? The RM7 FR doesn’t suck the ground through tight switchbacks and sweeping berms like a downhill bike, but it has the ground clearance to take on steep North Shore ramps and trail obstacles that would trip up a dh bike. Freeride bikes have to work on flat and ascending trail as well as downhill pitches, so the full-on laid back attitude of a DH rig wouldn’t work as well as the RM in such a variety of situations.
With sufficient seatpost trimmed to run the saddle all the way down, it is still possible to raise the seat to something approaching cross-country position. This fact, combined with the expansive cush of the Fi’zi:k saddle makes steady climbs and long rides bearable, although not quite enjoyable. To maximise pedalling efficiency, the single pivot system requires you to remain seated. Short, sharp rises, requiring out-of-the-saddle power, leave the Thrustlink rig flapping up and down like a bird with a broken wing.
Thankfully, you soon forget any shortcomings in climbing performance as soon as you start boosting the RM7 off the nearest drop. Solid is the adjective that immediately springs to mind upon landing anything with a less than perfect transition. Despite coming from the, not inconsiderable, bulk of a Santa Cruz Bullit, the rocksteady chassis of the RM was obvious. We had a few fears concerning swingarm stiffness, but there was only a faintly discernible landing shimmy on the flatter runouts.
On the downside, the RM’s brawn requires a riding style bordering on wrestling, and it’s a difficult bike to ride with finesse. The forks don’t have extensive tuning capabilities and the 30mm stanchions look weedy against the vastness of the frame.
Should I buy one?
A better question would be: Can I afford one? More than likely the answer is “no I can’t”, because at £3399.95 it’s a pricey proposition. Of course, Rocky Mountains have never been cheap, but we still weren’t prepared for the shock when we flipped the price label.
There’s little fault to be found in the performance of the RM over the kind of terrain it is designed for, namely slower, technical trails, steeps and drops. On high-speed descents it loses ground to thoroughbred downhill rigs, but what it lacks in velocity prowess, it makes up for in versatility.
When you stack the RM7 against some of its rivals – Bullit, Gemini, Joker, Patriot – there can be little difference in spec, but up to £1000 difference in price. The bottom line is, you pay a high premium for that exclusive ‘handbuilt in Canada’ sticker.