Rocky Mountain is known for its capable and burly trail bikes, and we have tested our fair share of them over the last couple of years. While this B.C.-base company knows its way around skinnies and freeride lines, its engineers are also able to slap on some Lycra and crush a cross-country racecourse. Last year Rocky Mountain released an updated version of its XC race bike, the Vertex, with a few modern tweaks. We ordered up one of the XC rippers for some hot laps on the racecourse and long days in the saddle.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Vertex is first and foremost a cross-country race bike with an aggressive geometry and minimal travel aimed at efficiency and going fast. Cross-country racers looking for a lightweight hardtail for their local trails and racecourses will expect the Vertex to be ready and willing to handle long days in the saddle.
WHAT IS MADE FROM?
Hardtails are known for their simplicity, and while the Vertex is simple, the details demonstrate Rocky’s commitment to quality design. The Vertex has a full-carbon fiber frame and rear triangle using Rocky Mountain’s lightest Smoothwall layup. Smoothwall is a process that eliminates excess fibers from inside the frame to ensure the lightest possible weight without compromising strength. The Vertex has full internal cable routing and the ability to run a dropper post for more ambitious riders.
Rocky designed the Vertex with some unique tube shapes, each with a specific purpose. The rear triangle has slimmed- down seatstays, along with a 27.2mm seatpost for a smooth- er ride over minor chatter. Rocky uses shorter, overbuilt chainstays to help keep the rear triangle stiff and responsive without compromising the overall ride quality. Up front, the Vertex has an oversized downtube with a larger tapered head tube to keep the front end stiff and stable.
The Vertex uses Boost rear spacing to allow for clearance to run up to 2.35-inch tires for riders looking for a bit more compliance. While some brands have gone with flat-mount brakes, the Vertex uses a post-mount style that is compatible with 180mm rotors. If you want to go with smaller 160mm rotors, this frame won’t accept them. There are two versions of the Vertex available, with the lower-end aluminum builds startingcat $1700. Our test bike is the top-shelf build with a price tag of $5170.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Rocky Mountain put together a competitive component package starting with the SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain. Our test bike came stock with a 34-tooth front chainring that helped ensure we would have all the gearing we needed. The RockShox SID RLC fork has a regressive feel that adds to the efficient ride of the Vertex and its cross-country race prowess. Wrapping up thecbuild was the Race Face Next SL cockpit, which was lightweight and plenty
stiff with oversized 35mm bars.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setting sag: Dialing in the RockShox SID fork took a couple of rides. We started at 15-percent sag, with the rebound set to match our local trails and the low-speed compression (LSC) set about halfway. After a couple of rides, we installed an extra volume reducer in the fork and left the sag at 15 percent. Some of our test riders increased the LSC for a little more support when racing.
Moving out: The Vertex came stock with a pair of 760mm-wide Race Face flat bars that gave us more of a trail fit. The stack height on the Vertex is a touch taller than on other XC bikes currently available. To offset this, we dropped the stem all the way down for a slightly more aggressive position. The stock WTB Silverado saddle fit our test riders well and offered a lot of adjustment.
Pedaling: Hitting our first flat section of dirt, the Vertex proved that it had plenty of cross-country prowess with its responsive ride. Pedaling in the saddle, the frame design provided a smooth ride, with the slimmed-down seatpost and seatstays soaking up the trail comfortably.
Climbing: We spent a fair amount of time climbing on the Vertex—from long grinds to steep and technical singletrack. No matter the climb, the Vertex was up to the challenge and was eager to get to the top of every mountain. Out of the saddle, the overbuilt downtube was stiff and responsive, propelling our test riders quickly. The short wheelbase was easy to maneuver and whip through tighter, technical sections of trail. The stock Stan’s wheels weren’t overly stiff but were responsive when we pedaled hard out of the saddle.
Descending: Cross-country race hardtails aren’t generally known for their descending ability, but the Vertex had a few surprises. Hitting flowy singletrack, the Vertex showed some serious personality and wasn’t afraid to have a bit of fun. The frame soaked up bumps and chatter, with the RockShox SID doing plenty of work up front. At high speeds, the Vertex tracked well and was easy to whip through turns and tight sections of trail. Leaning back over the saddle, our test riders were able to pick their way down chutes and technical bits. The Maxxis Ikon tires provided plenty of speed and traction when descending steep sections of trail.
Cornering: Dropping into corners, the Rocky was easy to lean over and guide through banked turns and berms. While the Ikon tires are fast-rolling, they hooked up well on our hardpack trails, even when leaned over in the corners. On switchbacks and tight turns, the short wheelbase made for easy handling.
TRICKS, TIPS OR UPGRADES?
The stock build on the Vertex worked well for our test riders, but there are a few key upgrades that could be done down the road to lighten up the bike. After a couple weeks of testing, we installed a lighter pair of carbon fiber wheels that saved about a pound off the entire build. We did trim the stock handlebars down to 740mm and installed a more comfortable pair of RedMonkey Karv grips. If you plan on using the Vertex for trail riding, KS makes some lightweight droppers in a 27.2mm diameter that could improve descending without a huge weight penalty.
Hardtails are generally an acquired taste, but the Vertex is a fun bike to ride that is quick and ready for any cross-country race- course or trail. If you are into long days in the saddle and serious about squeezing seconds off your time, the Vertex will reward your hard work and even give you a good time on the descents. www.bikes.com
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