2020 Rocky Mountain Slayer Carbon 90 29 Bike

Vital Rating: (Excellent)
Views:
2020 Rocky Mountain Slayer Carbon 90 29 Red and Black
Create New Tag

Compare to other Bikes

Tested: 2020 Rocky Mountain Slayer – Ready for Action

Agile, playful yet very capable, the latest generation Slayer makes a strong case for the single-bike quiver.

Rating: Vital Review
Tested: 2020 Rocky Mountain Slayer – Ready for Action

The Rocky Mountain Slayer has been a mainstay for the Canadian brand for nearly 20 years. Throughout that time it has played the role of Rocky Mountain’s heavy-hitting trail bike, however in recent years it has fallen out of favor with many and the Altitude BC Edition became the brand's flagship enduro bike. In an effort to rekindle the magic of old, Rocky started from the ground aiming to modernize the Slayer for enduro, freeride, and park duties without sacrificing all-day endurance. To see what the new ride is capable of, we have been punishing our test rig for a few months in Squamish, BC - just up the road from Rocky’s office and home to all three members of the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team.

New Slayer in action.

Rocky Mountain Slayer Carbon 90 29 Highlights

  • 170mm travel front and rear
  • Smoothwall carbon front triangle, Form alloy rear triangle
  • Dual crown compatible
  • Smoothlink four-bar suspension
  • The RIDE-4 adjustment system allows riders to quickly fine-tune their geometry with a pair of Allen keys
  • Size specific suspension tuning
  • Internal cable routing
  • Revised chainstay, shuttle guard, and downtube protectors
  • All sizes fit a water bottle in the front triangle
  • Integrated “Spirit Guide” chainguide with 2-bolt ISCG05 mount
  • Press-fit 92 bottom bracket
  • Max tire clearance 29x2.6"
  • Max chainring size 34t (29”)
  • 35.6-pounds (as tested, size large)
  • MSRP: $7999USD

Initial Impressions

The do-it-all freeride, park, and enduro bike is not a new concept. However, until recently it hasn’t always been well-executed. Bikes such as the Specialized Enduro, Pole Stamina, and now the Slayer are proving that long-travel bikes aren’t just for the chairlift. The 2020 Slayer is meant to be “the” bike for riders seeking a long-travel option. Sure, the brightly colored frame and shiny new components call for attention, but our focus is on the smaller details that differentiate between good and great.

It seems silly that we were initially excited about updated frame protection, but that's exactly what we were drawn to with the new Slayer. Sure, the paint and components are great, but unsung heroes such as frame protection and cable management are all too often an afterthought or overlooked entirely. The downtube is completely protected, the chainstay protector is modified to reduce noise, and the seatstay has ample coverage too. Attention to detail is evident beyond the protection as well. Cables are managed neatly, easy maintenance has been a point of focus, and so too have the major details.

The Slayer is a fine example of a no-stone-unturned bike. The frame itself is exactly what we have come to expect from a high-end bike. The tube diameters and bracing of the front end indicate that the Slayer is built for abuse. Rocky Mountain engineered the new Slayer not just as an enduro race bike, but also as a dual-crown capable bike park smasher. Many DH bikes are becoming dedicated race machines, which may not appeal to everybody, so bikes such as the Slayer need to handle the rigors of lift-accessed rides with ease. Rocky Mountain recognized this trend, and made the necessary updates to ensure that the Slayer wouldn’t falter under such extreme riding conditions. Dual bearings at the seat stay and chainstay, plus an aluminum rear end complete the Slayer’s brawny build. Thankfully, Rocky Mountain has made maintenance straightforward too. The frame can be disassembled easily requiring only two allen keys, moving parts are well-protected from the elements, and bolts are all accessed on the same side of the frame.

Geometry

More reach, slacker head tube angle, and a longer rear end for aggressive descending, coupled with a steeper seat tube angle for a more efficient position on the way back to the top; without going to extremes, Rocky has ticked all of the mandatory boxes for geometry updates with the new Slayer. With reach numbers pushing 500mm on many bikes, 469mm in the slack setting is somewhat conservative for a bike that may spend a lot of time at high speed. Rocky's Ride-4 geometry adjustment allows for further modification, but we feel that geometry could have been pushed further given that milder options are just a few minutes away. The rear center on our large measured 431mm and is the same across all three sizes. Adding all the numbers together, the Slayer strikes a Goldilocks balance between stability and maneuverability rather than pushing the envelope in either direction.

Smoothlink Suspension

Rocky Mountain’s Smoothlink is their version of a four-bar layout. The design allows each element of the bike’s suspension to be adjusted to suit the desired characteristics, and in the case of the Slayer that meant more traction throughout the entire 170mm of travel, and more room for error without losing the playfulness that we love. The previous version of the Slayer had plenty of room for improvement in the suspension department, so we were anxious to see what changes had been made.

Compared to the previous generation, the Slayer’s suspension curve has been flattened, which makes for a more consistent feel throughout the entire range of travel and plays nicely with the adjustability that many rear shocks offer. In our case, the Fox DHX2 offered plenty of adjustability to fine tune the bike to our preference. At 185-pounds, we rode the 450-pound spring with 17 clicks of high and low-speed compression. We would likely bump up for frequent park use, racing, or during the summer months. We appreciated the neutral and consistent nature of the Slayer’s suspension, which allowed us to fine tune easily, much like the RIDE-4 does for geometry.

On The Trail

Within minutes we noted that the Slayer felt much lighter than the travel, geometry, and the bike’s intentions would suggest. On our brief pedal from the house to the trailhead the bike felt lively, agile, and playful - traits that we continued to note once our tires met dirt. The Slayer has plenty of get-up-and-go, especially for a 170mm, 35-pound, 29-inch bike.

It is hard to believe that 170mm bikes can climb as well as they do these days, and the Slayer is no exception. Several brands cheat their way to climbing efficiency by speccing lightweight tires, but a coil shock and Double Down tires are what the Slayer deserves. In spite of the relatively “heavy” build, the bike remains a comfortable climber. On road climbs the Slayer has a modest amount of pedal-bob compared to similar bikes, and while there are more efficient bikes at no point did the Slayer feel too cumbersome, with or without the pro pedal lever engaged. The rear suspension remains active while pedaling, and as a result the Slayer provides a ton of grip for technical climbing. The moderate wheelbase makes switchbacks more manageable than many of the barges we have ridden recently, and while the seat tube angle could have been steeper we only felt off the back in the steepest of sections. Overall, the new Slayer is on par with the competition when it comes to climbing roads, and among the best on technical climbs where traction is a challenge.

In rolling terrain, the Slayer is a much more lively ride than one would expect from a 170mm bike. The bike is very agile, the front end lifts easily for manuals and wheelies, and the average wheelbase keeps tight corners and janky bits more negotiable compared to some of the longer bikes out there. Rocky Mountain’s office is located on Vancouver’s North Shore, so it wasn’t a surprise that the Slayer rode well on this type of terrain. Big wheels and lots of travel made holding speed easy, but the Slayer also accelerates quickly and outshines most enduro bikes on rolling, technical terrain that isn’t strictly fall-line. The Slayer was right at home on trails with abrupt speed and elevation changes similar to those found on the North Shore and in Squamish.

Rather than feeling like a straight-line thoroughbred, the Slayer is one of the most playful long-travel bikes we have ridden to date. It can swap lines easily, change directions quickly, and accelerates well on backsides and out of corners. While the ride is lively, under no circumstance did the Slayer feel too harsh or exhausting to manage when we dropped our heels or at bottom out. All too often we find that lively bikes sacrifice plowability (VitalMTB Urban Dictionary entry) for liveliness, but the Rocky Mountain has nailed a balance between the two with the Slayer. The four-bar Smoothlink and Fox DHX2 play very well together, and the updated kinematics have reduced pedal feedback dramatically.

The Slayer is advertised as the ultimate big mountain platform. Our experience aboard the 29” version of the bike has been nearly all positives, and while we expected that it would descend extremely well it is the Slayer’s versatility that stood out to us. It is more playful than bikes like the Pole Machine or Yeti SB150, but doesn’t have the same straight line stability. The updated Slayer is an outstanding jack-of-all-trades, and has the angles and suspension to provide confidence in spades whether you’re racing, lapping the park, or going big in Utah like Carson Storch:

Build Kits, Pricing & Availability 

As we noted in our first look, Rocky Mountain is offering the Slayer in two wheel sizes, a myriad of trim levels, and both alloy and carbon options. Our test bike was the top-shelf Slayer Carbon 90, which retails at $7999USD. Just about every component on our bike was faultless. The 150mm travel Raceface Turbine R dropper was our only quibble, as we would have much preferred a longer travel option. When we asked Rocky Mountain about their choice to equip the Slayer with a 150mm dropper post they told us they were trying to keep seat post lengths reasonable and that most dealers will happily swap to the 175mm Turbine R  for those in need.

The Fox Float EVOL fork features the Grip2 damper, which is straightforward to set up and easy to adjust when required. We were disappointed when our CSU developed a creak, but the fork performed well otherwise. The Fox DHX2 Factory shock was predictable, reliable, and performed extremely well. It was responsive to tuning, and as we mentioned already it provided a supportive, playful ride without being harsh on successive impacts or big hits. The remaining bits are a mix of the latest XTR 9100 components, Raceface, and DT Swiss and we cannot express how grateful we are that Rocky Mountain recognizes that bikes like the Slayer can’t get away with less than a Double Down tire casing. The MaxxGrip Minion DHF in the front, paired with an Aggressor in the rear is a great all-around setup that worked well in just about every condition we subjected them to and while the Aggressor isn’t ideally suited to a winter in the Northwest, we’re still all smiles.

Things That Could Be Improved

We mentioned earlier that the geometry of the updated Slayer is modern, rather than progressive. We don’t see that as an area for improvement necessarily, but we are curious as to whether or not a few more millimeters and a degree here or there could provide another level of stability and confidence, with little sacrifice and the understanding that RIDE-4 can dial it back when called for. We felt a little perched on top of the bike, rather than in it. 

The 150mm Race Face Turbine R dropper post did not allow us enough range of motion, especially when it came to leaning the bike for cornering. At 5’11” there was plenty of room for a longer travel dropper and while we resisted swapping the seatpost, a bike like the Slayer deserves the 175mm Turbine R for larger sizes. 

Long Term Durability

If Rocky is encouraging park laps, Rampage visits, and EWS competition it is a safe bet that durability was a priority with the development of the Slayer. Both ends have been strengthened, bearings are larger, frame protection is improved, and the rear shock is a coil. All of this, plus the complete absence of issues on our bike leads us to believe that while no bike is indestructible, the Slayer should be able to withstand many seasons of laps at your local bike park, shuttles, and general abuse. In the event of a frame failure, Rocky Mountain backs the Slayer with a limited warranty for the original owner. 

What’s The Bottom Line?

A handful of years ago the first crop of long-travel “pedal” bikes crashed and burned. They neither descended nor climbed well enough to gain much appreciation and as a result they came and went from the market fairly quickly. But for the last number of years, geometry and suspension have advanced to the point where these bikes have now made a much stronger case for themselves, and they seem to now be here for the long run. The updated Slayer is proving that not only can a 170mm bike climb efficiently and descend nearly as well as a DH bike, it rides lighter than it ought to and is a blast on rolling and intermediate terrain as well. Most long travel bikes come with the caveat that they may not come to life until speeds are extreme and tracks are rough, but the new Slayer is remarkably mild-mannered for such a big bike and does not require an expert pilot or significant rider input to ride playfully. Simply put, the new Slayer is a fun, easy to ride in any scenario, and can be had at any budget. 

Check out https://www.bikes.com for more details. 

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing – 4 Stars
  • Descending – 4 Stars
  • Fun Factor – 5 Stars
  • Value – 4 Stars
  • Overall Impression – 4 Stars

About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood – Age: 36 // Years Riding: 20+ // Height: 5’11” (1.80m) // Weight: 185-pounds (83.9kg)

Joel’s unique coaching background and willingness to tinker with products bring an objective perspective to testing. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest simply exploring the limitless trail networks surrounding his home of Squamish, BC. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products while exposing any shortcomings. 

Photos by Jessie McAuley

Specifications

Product Rocky Mountain Slayer Carbon 90 29 Bike
Model Year 2020
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Freeride / Bike Park
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
M (Slackest, Steepest), L (Slackest, Steepest), XL (Slackest, Steepest) View Geometry
Size M (Slackest, Steepest) L (Slackest, Steepest) XL (Slackest, Steepest)
Top Tube Length 600, 595 628, 623 657, 652
Head Tube Angle 65.5° Slackest, 65.7° Steepest 65.5° Slackest, 65.7° Steepest 65.5° Slackest, 65.7° Steepest
Head Tube Length 95 110 125
Seat Tube Angle 76.5°, 76.7° 76.5°, 76.7° 76.5°, 76.7°
Seat Tube Length 420 445 480
Bottom Bracket Height (34 drop, 18 drop) (34 drop, 18 drop) (34 drop, 18 drop)
Chainstay Length 443, 441 443, 441 443, 441
Wheelbase 1220, 1215 1249, 1244 1286, 1281
Standover 830, 833 830, 833 830, 833
Reach 442, 453 469, 478 492, 503
Stack 622, 614 635, 627 649, 641
* Additional Info All measurements in mm unless otherwise noted.
Measurements with 2 values represent RIDE-9 geometry's Slackest and Steepest configurations. See Rocky Mountain's website for additional RIDE-9 adjustable geometry options.
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Smoothwall carbon, FORM alloy rear triangle
Chainstay, shuttle guard, and down tube protectors
Rear Travel 170mm
Rear Shock FOX DHX2 Factory, 2-position lockout, SLS spring, 400lb on M, 450lb on L, 500lb on XL
Fork FOX 36 FLOAT Factory, EVOL, GRIP2, 44mm offset
Fork Travel 170mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset FSA Orbit No. 57E
Handlebar Race Face SixC, 820mm
Stem Rocky Mountain 35, CNC
Grips Rocky Mountain Lock On XC
Brakes Shimano XTR Trail 4-piston with Shimano RT86 203mm rotors
Brake Levers Shimano XTR Trail
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano XTR, 12-speed
Front Derailleur None
Rear Derailleur Shimano XTR, 12-speed
ISCG Tabs ISCG 05, 2-bolt
Chainguide Rocky Mountain Spirit Guide, integrated
Cranks Race Face Next R Cinch
Chainrings 32 tooth
Bottom Bracket Race Face BB92, press-fit, 30mm
Pedals None
Chain Shimano XTR, 12-speed
Cassette Shimano XTR, 12-speed, 10-51 tooth
Rims Race Face ARC 30
Hubs Front: Rocky Mountain Sealed, Boost 15mm
Rear: DT Swiss 350, Boost 148mm
Spokes DT Swiss Champion 2.0mm
Tires Front: Maxxis Minion DHF WT DoubleDown MaxxGrip 3C TR 2.5"
Rear: Maxxis Aggressor WT DoubleDown TR 2.5"
Saddle WTB Volt Race 142
Seatpost Race Face Turbine R (by FOX)
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Standard single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12mm x 148mm
Max. Tire Size 29" x 2.6"
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Red and black
Gray and black
Warranty 5 years limited
Weight 32 lb 15.3 oz (14,950 g)
Miscellaneous Smoothlink suspension design
Full sealed cartridge bearings
RIDE-4 adjustable geometry
Size specific suspension tune
Internal cable routing
200mm dual crown compatible
Price $7,999
More Info

Rocky Mountain's Website

More Products