Rocky Mountain Element 970

How’d we pick 'em? Our primary evaluation process took place over seven days in January on the trails and back roads outside Tucson, Arizona. We spent three days on mountain bikes on the rugged and rocky singletrack at

Element 970

Rocky Mountain Element 970    Photo: Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Bicycles

Best For: Anyone searching for the proverbial one-bike quiver. 

The Test: The Element 970 is how a bike is supposed to ride: sprightly on the climbs, quick and playful on scary descents, yet relaxed enough to ride all day. That such a balanced bike is a four-inch, full-suspension aluminum 29er is a testament to how far big-wheel designs have come, as well as to the ever expanding range of quality parts for them. Case in point: the new Rockshox SID RL 29 fork melds lightness and rigidity not seen previously in this category. We would have liked a bit more for the money (a full XO drivetrain, perhaps), though performance-wise the parts pick ranged from perfectly fine to downright impressive (Maxxis Ikon and Aspen tires!). 

The Verdict: “Just plain fun,” raved one tester. 26.8 lbs

Brand: Rocky Mountain Bicycles $4,300
From Outside Magazine, May 2012 Get the Latest Issue