Steadily over my mountain biking career, I’ve slowly upgraded the quality of bike I ride. I started with a Cannondale M800. With full LX, it was a good entry-level XC race bike, with no suspension at all – full rigid baby, and if I recall it retailed new for $2,200. Then I went and got a Jamis Expert XC, which had full suspension, and the XT/LX kit treated me well for two solid seasons. This rig retailed new for around $3,500. The summer of the Transrockies, I took Ken’s Specialized Epic Marathon off his hands and learned what it’s like to ride a true high-end XC bike. Full SRAM XO. Full FOX suspension, with the ‘Brain’. This bike was light, fast, responsive – it’s an XC machine that retailed new for $5,500. Now, I’ve upgraded one more time to a 2009 Rocky Mountain Element 90.

The race season is about to start here in Alberta. In fact, this weekend, I’ll potentially jump in on two Spring Series races, time permitting. This will be the true test of my new XC weapon of choice, but I have to say that not only does it look H-O-T, but based on the dozen rides I’ve been out on it so far – this is the best bike I’ve ever ridden, never mind owned. I mean, it’s hard to deny the quality and performance of the 3D link rear suspension system, and the Fox Float RPL Pro-Pedal setting. The ride is smooth and solid on high-speed rooted flats and descents, and still manages to be surprisingly rigid and responsive on the climbs – and as an XC racer you know you have to be able to ‘bring it’ on those climbs!

The Formula disc breaks are treat for sure. I remember when I upgraded from my Cannondale to the Jamis and experienced disc breaks for the first time, thinking the breaks were insane! I could ride so much faster, simply because I knew I could stop so much faster. Well I can’t say I’ve come across any disc break better then the Formulas. Breaking power is there for sure, but the modulation is fantastic, providing really amazing control. I think this might be the thing I am excited about most of all. Lastly, I’m going to mention the wheel set. I’ve long ago become a tubeless UST convert. I love the fact that Tubeless UST is so reliable. I’ve flatted once in the last two seasons, and that was due to shale slashing the sidewall wide open. This happened on the 2009 Transrockies and thankfully I also had Stan’s in there just for good measure, because even with that inch and half long slash in the tire, we were able to pump it up enough to ride in the last 2 km. So yeah, love tubeless UST and now that I’m running a set of Mavic Cross Max SLRs, I’m grinning ear to ear. These wheels are light, and strong – bombproof. I’ll need to pray extra hard on those mid-race laps when you’re just suffering and hoping for a flat so you’ll have an excuse to stop the MAdNeSs.

I could certainly go on here, but I just want to also mention the fit. This bike feels like it fits me like a glove. 18″ is the size I should have been riding all these years, instead of the 17″ medium I thought fit me. Moving up just the one mid-size made an incredible difference to the overall comfort and that’s a very, very good thing – especially when the long days of the TR3 come around.

If you’re still looking to upgrade your ride this spring, and thinking of a Rocky, I say do it! Check out RVC. I think they even have another 2009 Element 90 on the showroom floor.