With the new Rocky Mountain Instinct 2021, the Canadian brand rolls its previous Thunderbolt and Instinct trail bikes into one. We have had the exclusive test of the € 6,500 Instinct C70 2021 with adjustable geometry and size-specific wheel sizes and kinematics. Is the new Instinct the perfect trail bike?

Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 2021 | 150/140 mm travel (f/r) | 14.2 kg (size L) | 29’’ | € 6,500 | Manufacturer’s website

Rocky Mountain combine their previous two trail bikes, the Instinct and Thunderbolt, in the new Instinct 2021 and, in the process, simplify their range. In doing so, the Canadian brand promises to offer the perfect all-round bike for varied trails. With 150 mm travel at the front and 140 mm at the rear, the Instinct offers more travel than its predecessor. The geometry has also been updated and, as is typical for Rocky Mountain, can be adjusted just like the bike’s kinematics. The new Instinct is delivered with 27.5″ wheels for XS and S frame sizes and comes with 29″ tires for sizes M to XL. For the German market, five different builds including both carbon and aluminium frames alongside a frameset only option will be available. Depending on the model, the prices will range between € 3,700 and € 11,500.

This colourway is called “Ice Ice Baby”. Our dress code is party shirt.

The new Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 2021 in detail

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to recognise that the new Instinct and its bigger brother, the Altitude, look very similar. There’s a good reason for that: swap the shock mount of the new Instinct with that of the Altitude and you’ll end up with… an Altitude. But that’s not the only smart feature the Canadian brand has come up with and the new Instinct boasts a whole range of practical and thought-through features.

Swap out the shock mount of the new Instinct and you’ll end up with an Altitude with more travel. Sadly, that’s only possible on the carbon frame.
A sufficiently large chainstay protector ensures peace and quiet in all gears.
This small plastic part protects the frame from avoidable damage from propelled debris.
The aluminium head tube badge elevates the already high-end frame.

The bike has sufficiently large chainstay and seat stay protection to ensure quiet running when it comes to the chain. Just the cable routing produces some noise with the runs not clamped tightly enough, though that’s easily remedied with a little tape. An optional Shuttle Guard for the down tube is provided with the bike. An aluminium head tube badge sits proudly at the front and the frame is resplendent with its high-end paint job and tidy details like the Canadian maple leaf on the top tube.

A Canadian maple leaf adorns the top tube.
Unfortunately, the cables aren’t clamped well enough, resulting in annoying rattling while riding. A little tape solves the issue quickly and easily!
If required, the Shuttle Guard can be stuck to the down tube, protecting the Instinct on the way to the trail.
The diminutive chain guide makes sure that the chainstays where it’s supposed to on properly rough trails.
Only larger riders will get the pleasure of 750 ml of water. For sizes XS and S, only a 500 ml bottle will fit into the frame

RIDE-9 flip chip, geometry and sizes of the Rock Mountain Instinct 2021

The Canadian brand offers its new trail bike in five different frame sizes from XS–XL, with numerous size-specific modifications across the range. That means the XS and S sizes are offered with 27.5″ wheels while sizes M to XL come with 29″ wheels. Likewise, the two smaller sizes have a slightly modified frame shape, shorter shock and tailored kinematics, all intended to make the same amount of travel better suit lighter riders. As is usual for Rocky Mountain, the new Instinct has a RIDE-9 flip chip on the shock mount and by changing the position of two chip inserts, the geometry and suspension characteristics can be modified, It also allows for precise adjustments for sizing the bike, as different settings allow small changes to the reach. Likewise, a flip chip on the chainstays lets their length be adjusted by 10 mm. No additional parts are required, with only the brake mount needing to be turned around – great! If you ride the chainstays in their longer setting, the new SRAM UDH (Universal Derailleur Hanger) can be used. Unfortunately, riding the shorter setting requires Rocky Mountain’s own derailleur hanger.

Alongside the smaller wheels and the shorter shock, the smaller XS and S models also have a reworked silhouette.
The RIDE-9 flip chip allows numerous adjustments to kinematics and geometry to be made.
If you want to ride the longer setting, just turn the flip chip and brake mount and, voilà, you’re ready to go!

The geometry of the new Rocky Mountain Instinct 2021 with the neutral and short setting

Size XS S M L XL
Top Tube 549 mm 577 mm 608 mm 636 mm 670 mm
Seat Tube 355 mm 380 mm 420 mm 445 mm 480 mm
Head Tube 90 mm 100 mm 95 mm 110 mm 125 mm
Head Angle 65.9° 65.9° 65.7° 65.7° 65.7°
Seat Angle 76.9° 76.9° 76.7° 76.7° 76.7°
BB Drop 19 mm 19 mm 36 mm 36 mm 36 mm
Chainstay 427 mm 427 mm 437 mm 437 mm 437 mm
Radstand 1133 mm 1162 mm 1209 mm 1240 mm 1277 mm
Wheelbase 414 mm 439 mm 462 mm 487 mm 517 mm
Stack 581 mm 589 mm 615 mm 628 mm 642 mm

The spec of the new Rocky Mountain Instinct 2021

Rocky Mountain put stock in clear build descriptions, with the letter in the model name designating whether the frame is carbon or aluminium and the number identifying the specific build. As the number increases, so does the level of the components and the price. As such, Rocky Mountain offer the new Instinct in C99, C90, C70, C50, C30, A50 and A30 models and as a frameset. There are also two models specifically for the German market, just as there are for the Canadian one.

The German-market Rocky Mountain Instinct C50 Tour und A50 Tour

The special Instinct Tour models will only be available in German-speaking countries and are equipped quite conservatively – shame on us ;) They come with low-profile Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires in puncture prone Super Ground casings. Braking is handled by similarly weak Shimano XT two-piston brakes. For the suspension, Rocky Mountain fit a RockShox Pike Select RC and Deluxe Select+. The Instinct A50 Tour will be offered for € 3,700 and the carbon C50 Tour for € 4,900.

The Rock Mountain Instinct C50 Tour 2021 in Ice Ice Baby finish | 13.8 kg (Size M, claimed weight) | € 4,900

The new top-of-the-range Rocky Mountain Instinct C99 2021

For their top-end C99 model, Rock Mountain have fitted a RockShox Ultimate RC2 fork in combination with a Super Deluxe Ultimate shock. Race Face Next R Carbon wheels are fitted, though they are shod in thin-walled MAXXIS Minion 3C MaxxTerra EXO+ tires. At the very least, we recommend fitting a tire with a sturdier casing or an insert on the rear wheel to avoid the unnecessary costs of replacing a broken carbon rim. An electronic SRAM AXS XX1 groupset and matching RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post are also fitted. Unfortunately, the SRAM G2 Ultimate brakes are paired with too small 180 mm rotors on the € 11,500 expensive C99. In our experience, they also offer less power than the Shimano brakes of the more affordable C90 and C70 models.

Rocky Mountain Instinct C99 2021 in Violet Hills finish | 13.0 kg (Size M, claimed weight) | € 11,500

The new Rocky Mountain Instinct C90 2021

Rocky Mountain offer the C90 model of the Instinct for € 9,900. This is equipped with a Kashima-coated FOX 36 Factory fork, though unfortunately, it comes with a FIT4 damper. Instead of the lockout, we would much rather have the better GRIP2 damper. The fork is combined with a FOX DPX2 Factory shock. For the drivetrain and brakes, Rocky Mountain rely on Shimano XTR parts. Unfortunately, here too they rely on small 180 mm rotors front and rear. Like the top-of-the-range model, you’ll also find a combination of carbon wheels with thin EXO+ casing tires.

Rocky Mountain Instinct C90 2021 in Violet Hills finish | 13.6 kg (size M, claimed weight) | € 9,900

The Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 2021 – Our test bike

For our test, Rocky Mountain delivered an Instinct C70 with a FOX 36 GRIP2 Performance fork, which isn’t actually available to customers in this configuration. For the series model, Rocky Mountain fit a FOX 36 with a FIT4 instead of GRIP2 damper. That’s a pity because we’d much rather sacrifice the unnecessary lockout in favour of better damping performance. If you want to upgrade to a GRIP2 cartridge, that will cost you around € 580 when sending your fork to FOX for servicing. That aside, Rocky Mountain deliver a solid spec. A sturdy Race Face AR30 wheelset and Race Face Turbine dropper post with 175 mm travel (size L) are fitted. The FOX FLOAT DPX2 Performance Elite shock delivers the same performance as the Factory model even without the added bling. Shifting and braking are taken care of by the current Shimano XT groupset. Only the Shimano XT four-piston brakes with their 180 mm rotors are quickly overtaxed – we would upgrade to 200 mm rotors here. For the tires, MAXXIS Minion 3C MaxxTerra rubber with the thinner EXO+ casing is fitted, which we would swap out for something sturdier at the rear. That said, a dent in an aluminium wheelset is more tolerable than a broken carbon rim. The series bike will be available to buy for € 6,500. However, the “Ice Ice Baby” colourway of our test bike won’t be available to customers for this build.

Rocky Mountain Instinct C70

€ 6,500


Fork FOX 36 Elite GRIP2* 150 mm
Rear Shock FOX DPX2 Elite 140 mm
Seatpost Race Face Turbine R 175 mm
Brakes Shimano XT 4-Piston 180/180 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XT 32/10-51
Stem Rocky Mountain AM 40 mm
Handlebar Race Face Turbine R 780 mm
Wheelset Race Face AP 30
Tires Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR EXO+ MaxxTerra 2,5"/2,4"

Technical Data

Size XS S M L XL
Weight 14,2 kg
Wheelsize 29"

Specific Features

*FIT4 Damper on serial bike

The Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 2021 we tested in “Ice Ice Baby”.

First ride: The new Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 2021 on the trail

Swing your leg over the saddle of the new Instinct and you’ll immediately notice the comfortable and balanced position. This makes the bike well-suited to longer rides. Venture up technical trails and the Instinct offers sufficient efficiency and traction. However, on forest tracks, we did use the easy-to-reach climb switch to eliminate the slight bobbing of the shock.

Business up …
… Party down!

Tuning-tips:200 mm disc rotors | upgrade to a GRIP2 damper when your fork needs a service

With the RIDE-9 and chainstay flip chips, the Rocky Mountain can be ridden in numerous different settings. We spent the majority of our test in the slack and progressive setting with short chainstays. Like this, the new Instinct requires an active rider who knows how to load the front of the bike through corners. On fast and technical tracks the suspension and non-series GRIP2 damping convey a sense of security and calm. With the series FIT4 damper, the bike will no doubt have to accept some compromises. Nonetheless, as the trails get more demanding and akin to rough bike park trails, the Instinct requires a lot of attention and input, reaching its limits. Spot a small ramp or something to jump off and the rear end of the bike offers good support, with the Rocky willingly getting airborne. That means the Instinct delivers a whole lot of fun on the trail, even if the small 180 mm disc rotor generates too little power and the XT brakes often struggle with their wandering bite point.


The new Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 2021 is a successfully conceived all-rounder! Its main area of application is technical singletrail, allowing it to shine on steeper and fast trails. It also cuts a fine figure uphill. The numerous thought-through frame details and high-quality construction and finish are of the highest level. However, the apparent carelessness in the spec results in several compromises, with the brakes and FIT4 damper limiting the potential application and performance of the bike.


  • adjustable geometry and kinematics
  • high-quality and thought-through frame
  • size-specific wheel sizes and kinematics


  • too small disc rotors
  • FIT4 damper on all FOX models
  • Climb switch helpful for the uphills

More information: https://www.bikes.com/de

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Words: Peter Walker Photos: Valentin Rühl

About the author

Peter Walker

As editor-in-chief, Peter is as much a man of action as he is of words. This expert, screw-driver-flexing two wheeled-whizz has many envy-inducing characteristics, including a background in motocross, several EWS race plates to his name, and more than 150 recorded days at Whistler Bike Park. However complex the bike and however steep the trail, he’s probably already nailed it, twice. Oh, and he can do it all on skinny tyres too. When it comes to guiding consumers, Peter cut his teeth at Vancouver’s oldest bike shop and now puts pen to paper on the daily translating this know-how into our editorial plan. When not tearing up Stuttgart’s local trails while testing bikes, he loves nothing more than loading up his self-renovated VW T5 and hitting the road. The fact that he’s a trained paramedic gives his colleagues reassurance out on the trails. So far we haven’t had to call him by his alias ‘Sani Peter’, so here’s hoping he keeps it right side up for the rest of his time here!