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  1. #1
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    "Long" Term Element 950 Review

    OK...I took delivery of my 950 in early June and here are my thoughts:

    1. BACKGROUND: I am 6'0" tall and weigh 205 pounds. I live in the valley (CA) so the majority of my rides are flat XC "small bump" trails. I am tough on my equipment.

    2. ROCKY MOUNTAIN: These people are top notch! Adam, the demo truck guy, is worth his weight in gold...he has gone over and above before, during, and after the sale. Alex, the product manager, has always been willing to do whatever it takes to make sure me and my bike are happy. There are a few "other guys" at RM that have been awesome when called upon. Great job RM...you just won yourself a lifelong customer!

    3. ROCK SHOX/SRAM: If you have been following my posts, this was an area of concern for me. Before I bought the 950, I wanted Fox suspension and a Shimano XT group. Well...the SRAM X.9 and Rock Shox suspension has been great so far! The X.9/X.7 drivetrain has been solid. I cannot complain about the RS Monarch rear shock. The stock RS Revelation fork did poop out, but SRAM sent out an upgraded replacement fork ASAP...and it is working well. I am happy in this department.

    4. WHEELSET: The RM "Wheel Tech" house brand wheelset is "average." The DT rims with lower end hubs are a little heavy and perform OK. My front hub developed some play and RM is sending out a replacement bearing. I ordered a new wheelset and will keep these as a spare. I totally understand that RM does this to keep the price down and I do not blame them. I could ride them for a few years with few problems, but I sold some stuff and decided to upgrade.

    5. BIKE WEIGHT: It seems as if my size 18.5 will always weigh around 27.5 pounds. I upgraded the handlebar to carbon, converted to tubeless, have a new wheelset on the way (probably just a slight weight savings), changed my tires to a Specialized "The Captain" Control 29x2.0 in the front and a WTB "Nano" TCS 29x2.1 in the rear (slightly heavier than the stock Maxxis tires), changed to a Thomson Elite seatpost and clamp, swapped the stock grips with ESI "Chunky" silicone grips, switched to a Specialized Alias 143 Gel saddle, and am now running a RS Revelation RCT3 fork. I have found this weight to be the sweet spot for my big a$$.

    6. ANNOYING: If you have been paying attention, you know that I encountered an annoying creak within the first week. I have already documented the remedy for a dry main pivot axle...it has been quiet ever since. I am confident that RM will address this in future production runs and it will be a non-issue. Props to them for helping me quiet it down ASAP. There is another mystery "click" on out-of-the-saddle-climbs that seems to be coming from the drivetrain...but it is minor and can probably be silenced with a little grease.

    7. PERFORMANCE: I raced the "Tahoe-Sierra 100" in July on this bike and it performed flawlessly! Check this race out...it is a b!tch...103 miles of more all-mountain than XC. I never thought a 95mm travel frame could do so well on really long techical downhills. But...not just the frame...same goes for the smart component spec on the 950. I switched to metallic pads on the Formula brakes and everything worked out perfectly. If it can handle the TS100, it can handle your XC trails.

    8. HOUSING: I got rid of the stock housing "clips" that were holding the rear brake housing. I switched to regular zip ties because the clips were allowing the housing to "migrate" and this was causing wear to the frame. Simple fix.

    9. NOISE: I am going to replace the red alloy ferrels/end caps on the ends of the housing. For some reason they get dry/dusty and make noise...plain black plastic ferrels don't do this. Simple fix.

    10. SET IT AND FORGET IT: I am a set-it-and-forget-it guy. I have found that the external adjustments and PSI settings on the RS suspension do make a difference in the way the bike rides. I had to spend a little time dialing things in and now I am happy...I only use the DNA floodgate settings on the fork when I am climbing smooth surfaces. The travel adjust on the stock fork was worthless...too many twists of the knob for real-world riding...but my upgraded warranty fork features a 2-step travel adjust that I can actually use.

    11. DERALLUER HANGER: I did snap off the head of the small bolt that secures the hanger to the frame. It seems to have been a freak thing (I promise I wasn't over-doing the torque). RM immediately sent me out a replacement.

    12. TIRES: The stock Maxxis tires are OK for XC racing, but under-gunned for real world trail use.

    13. BRAKES: The Formula brakes have required more attention than I am used to. I am having a hard time getting the rotors true and I have to spend a lot of time centering the calipers in an effort to eliminate noise. They are not horrible...just a bit noisy at times...not a deal breaker though.

    14. OVERALL: My 950 is a dream come true. I have experimented with a super-light carbon hardtail and overly-aggressive trail bikes....29 and 26. Neither worked for me. I am an endurance guy....I like to go long. I like the efficiency of this bike and the minimal travel for control on the downhills and comfort for all-day rides. The aluminum version is light enough and kind to my wallet.

  2. #2
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    Sag-o-meter

    Forgot to mention...the cave-man simple sag-o-meter on the shock link is a God-sent!!! Easy to set proper sag every time...even for retards like me.

  3. #3
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    I've just put 400 miles in the last 3 weeks into my new RM element 970 in Durango, Crested Butte, Bend and now in Marin in CA. I encountered the same click noise with the alloy cable end ferrules.

    Apart from that the bike has been flawless - I've switched to a Niner flat wide carbon bar.

    I also need to pay a lot of attention to the Formula R1/RX brakes - they are noisy, but definitely have enough power. Will likely upgrade to Hope Race X2s when they go on sale at Wiggle.

    Will also upgrade the wheelset, but can't complain about the DT470/DT350 wheelset that came on the bike.

    It is my first 29er, and I also have a Blur XC Carbon, Blur TR, Blur LTc. I have to admit, I think I'll be selling my Blur XC carbon! The 970 feels like a 26er with the the climbing advantages of the 29er.

    Chris.

  4. #4
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    I agree...the Formulas brakes feel great. The extra fuss is not a big deal.

    I have a set E.13 TRS hubs laced to WTB i23 rims on the way...not a big weight saver, if any at all. I was going for a wider/stiff set-up.

    I have put a ton of miles on my 950 and the TS100 is as burely as I will ever ride on it...enough of a test period to weed out the minor things. I could not be happier with my 950. I usually start looking at other bikes right away...not with this bike.

  5. #5
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    Update on my 970 build:

    Replaced the stock wheels with Stans Arch EX on Stans Hubs
    Swapped out the Formula brakes for Hope Race X2's with 160mm rotors
    Put on Schwalbe Nobby Nic and Racing Ralph tubeless tires

    Have dropped over 1.8lb in weight as a result.

    Down to 26lb even with XTR pedals and 18.5" frame.

    Oh - and I sold my Blur XC carbon because it can't match the Rocky on my local terrain!

  6. #6
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    I recently purchased a new wheelset and my 950 weighs 28.0 pounds. The rims and tires are a tad on the "stout" side, but I went for performance and durability. With a "racey" tire swap and maybe a carbon crank in the future, I might be able to get it down to 27.25 pounds. I weigh 205 pounds (naked) and have come to realize that a 27-28 pound bike is probably the sweet spot for me. I am not a racer...but if I do race, it's one or two 8-24 hour endurance events per year.

    My bike is running really well after working out a few minor bugs in the first two months...BUT, I do have one issue I am trying to figure out.

    HERE IT IS: The sag indicator on the shock link says I have the correct PSI in the shock. BUT...my Rock Shock Monarch RT is sitting at 50% sag (based on the o-ring). The shock loses 30-40 PSI between rides and I have had my LBS contact RS. RS said to inflate, cycle the shock a few times, then re-inflate. They said this should be done to fill the internal negative air chamber. It does not seem to be working...I do not think a shock should be inflated twice before riding and then lose 30-40 PSI before the next ride.

    Any thoughts?

  7. #7
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    I have had the same problem with my shock. I put 190psi in the shock, go for a ride and after the ride there's only 90psi left (including what the pump takes). The first thing my LBS looked at is the valve in the shock. It was loose. They tightened it, but I still lost a lot of psi on the first ride. Although the second ride, I didn't notice a loss of pressure. Maybe the comment from Rockshox to cycle the shock after inflation holds some truth. It could be a loose valve on your shock too.

  8. #8
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    I checked and tightened the valve core...it is in there tight enough. Is that what you meant by loose valve?

    What did you do? Is it still a problem? Do you still have the same shock? Have you contacted RS?

  9. #9
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    Yes, that's what I meant. My LBS tightened the valve core and were confident it would solve my problem. The first ride after the fix I lost some pressure (195->100psi including the loss caused by the pump which is about 15psi on my current pump). The second and third ride I didn't although I used the middle setting of the floodgate on those rides. Maybe that has some impact?

    The funny thing is that they fixed this a few weeks ago but at that time it didn't work. The mech said it could be the shockpump unwinding the valve core as you unscrew it from the valve. So I'm using a different shockpump now.

    I'm keeping an eye on it, I still have my original shock.

    About your sag problems, I had the same problem in the beginning. I would have to use 240psi to get the correct sag on the shock (I never look at the sag indicator, it's way too inaccurate). But I didn't get full travel on rides that I was sure to bottom the shock. So I gradually lowered the pressure until I got to 180psi. At that pressure I was regularly dropping the O-ring from the shock shaft, So I went up in pressure again and settled on 195psi. I never looked to see what the sag really was.

  10. #10
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    How much do you weigh? How much sag do you get at 195 psi?

    Do you completely ignore the RM sag lines? Do you use the basic o-ring sag method of 30% sag?

  11. #11
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    I weigh 180 lbs. And yes, I completely ignore the Rocky SAG indicator and the 30% o-ring sag measurement. Rocky advised to use body weight + 10 psi as a starting point and that worked for me. Probably the sag measurement is too error prone on this bike?

  12. #12
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    OK...I will take your advice and see how it performs. Thanks for the info.

    I wonder if RM knows that some riders are experiencing this?

  13. #13
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    I weigh 190lb and have 200 psi in my rear shock - the o-ring goes off the end only occasionally, so the body weight + 10 psi guide works for me.

    I had the same pressure loss problem you describe on my SC Nomad with the RS Monarch rear shock. I returned it and it had all seals replaced - that solved the problem.

  14. #14
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    When I had the shock removed, I felt some play in the upper most bushings of the swing link (where it attaches to the frame). Is that normal? Other pivots seem to be ok for now.

  15. #15
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    You should definitely check any bushings that have any play to make sure nothing is wearing unevenly.
    I'm a member of NSMBA and IMBA Canada

  16. #16
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    OK...I initially thought the RM sag-o-meter on the shock link was the best thing since sliced bread. Well, it turns out that it is a good feature to have...but not great.

    I have been experimenting with different shock pressures and the sag-o-meter basically gives the same reading for for 190 psi and 215 psi. That is a lot of range for basically the same reading.

    I have checked around and many people in the know have told me to set sag based on ride feel.

  17. #17
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    I have had the same loss of pressure issues on mine. The LBS said they found a loose valve core.....still same problem. Pump to 200, go on a ride, and by the end of a long ride, it is down to 100. I had my LBS send it back to RS on warranty. RS is dragging their feet, say that it will take 10 days to repair and 5 days to ship back....pissed!
    Getting out there one day at a time.

  18. #18
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    I've had my 950 for 14 months and have a few updates...

    1. Frame maintenance: I have performed considerable maintenance on the frame pivots. I burned a lot of calories learning how to do the work and have been able to complete it successfully. There are a lot of small parts that give me headaches...I have found it necessary to have three people available when mounting the shock to the swing link (this task has me wanting a simple frame design for my next bike). On the other hand, the main and rear pivots are easy to work on. I am irritated with the process of finding replacement o-rings that will require constant maintenance as they dry up, crack, and eventually fall off. I feel like RM needs to do a better job in this area. I am dreading the day I have to spend $100+/- to replace bushings that cost a fraction of that to produce.

    2. Frame noise: My 950 is hard to keep quiet. The main pivot required maintenance within the first week of owning it. For the longest time, I was plagued by a mystery noise that I eventually chased down to the small aluminum block near the bottom bracket shell where the internal cable routing exits to the derailleurs. I had to disconnect the cables, pull the block out, grease it, and re-assemble. I think I would rather have full external cable routing than deal with this. In an effort to chase down various noises, I had my LBS pull and check the press fit bottom bracket. It was installed with absolutely zero grease...the LBS believed this could be problematic and greased it. Of course, some noises come from components. I believe the stock SRAM crankset is also a major noise-maker. Regardless, I completely tore the bike down a month ago and some noises have already returned.

    3. Customer service: RM employs some very good people that have been over-and-above-helpful...thank you Adam! The RM guys I have talked to on the phone have also been very helpful. This is a huge plus for RM!

    4. Overall ride: After 14 months, I have ridden every type of trial I will ever do on this bike. It has been mostly what I hoped for...one bike that can perform well in most conditions, but doesn't excel in any one area. I believe that is all I can expect considering I can only afford one bike. It is best during long days in the backwoods. It also did very well bombing down mountain bike trails at a ski resort in Idaho this summer. To me, the big wheels didn't give up anything in the agility department. On the other hand, I did detect some lateral flex in the rear (as evidenced by the tire marks on the inside of the seat stays). I don't know how to explain this, but my 950 feels "dead" when reacting to small jumps when going downhill. The front wheel wants to take a nose-dive. I know that is a characteristic of 29ers...and I do not like to jump...I am simply trying to get over them as they pop up...and these are not black diamond/DH trails. These are trails that look like what I see these bikes doing on RM promotional videos. I am wondering if the ride would improve if the stock RS suspension received some custom valving for my weight (205).

    5. The verdict (so far): I like this bike and plan on riding it for another 4+ years. The new crop of 27.5 bikes have caught my attention. I wonder where they will be when it comes time for me to replace my 950. Initially, I said I would buy this bike again. Now...I'm not so sure. I haven't given up on RM, but I may want to try the more nimble 27.5 wheels on a brand with fewer small parts and less maintenance. We'll see how my 950 behaves over the next 4-ish years...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by historeeteacher View Post

    -- snip --
    1. Frame maintenance: I have performed considerable maintenance on the frame pivots. I burned a lot of calories learning how to do the work and have been able to complete it successfully. There are a lot of small parts that give me headaches...I have found it necessary to have three people available when mounting the shock to the swing link (this task has me wanting a simple frame design for my next bike). ...

    -- snip --
    Reassembling the swing-link+chainstay+shock was a bear for me too the first time around. The trick is to wrap a bungee cord around the seatstays, so there is a bit of pressure to hold all the bits together. I can now do the reassembly on my own - mucho better.

  20. #20
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    This sounds good, but I'm not quite sure what you mean/how you go about this. Could you please give me more details and maybe even some photos? I'm more visual...this would help/save me from losing my mind. I just don't get how this job could possibly be done by one person.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by historeeteacher View Post
    This sounds good, but I'm not quite sure what you mean/how you go about this. Could you please give me more details and maybe even some photos? I'm more visual...this would help/save me from losing my mind. I just don't get how this job could possibly be done by one person.
    I'll take some photos next time I do a service. Or rather, I'll have someone else take photos.. I don't think I could do that and a rebuild!

    It will probably be mid October before I get to it, and the bike is due.

  22. #22
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    RE: "Long" Term Element 950 Review

    After about a year I'm loving my 950 more than the day I got it. Coming from a sxc the geo took some getting used to but it is such a capable climber even up steep rocky technical sections.

    I'm contemplating switching the OEM Ikon/Aspen tires even though I have been pleasantly surprised at how capable they are for their low minimalist tread. The other options are MK IIs front and rear, NN/RaRa, or maybe even the eXC series for the same Ikon/Aspen again. Any other experiences out there with Schwalbe? I read a lot of side wall tears and rocks are not uncommon where I ride. Also the NN/RaRa combo seems close in tread pattern to the OEM Ikon/Aspen (although a little more pronounced than the Maxxis pair) so would I be gaining anything for the extra dough I'd shell out for them?
    Sent from my Lumia 920 using Board Express

  23. #23
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    Also look at Specialized Fasttrack 2.2. I went from RaRa/RaRa to the Fasttrack and I noticed a substantial increase in cornering speeds that are possible with the big-S tires.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonoskar View Post
    Also look at Specialized Fasttrack 2.2. I went from RaRa/RaRa to the Fasttrack and I noticed a substantial increase in cornering speeds that are possible with the big-S tires.
    Thanks for the tip Z but I can't in good conscience put a Specialized branded part on a non Spesh branded bike. I know its my loss, yadda, yadda, but that's the way I roll.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr.Zoidberg View Post

    I'm contemplating switching the OEM Ikon/Aspen tires even though I have been pleasantly surprised at how capable they are for their low minimalist tread. The other options are MK IIs front and rear, NN/RaRa, or maybe even the eXC series for the same Ikon/Aspen again. Any other experiences out there with Schwalbe? I read a lot of side wall tears and rocks are not uncommon where I ride. Also the NN/RaRa combo seems close in tread pattern to the OEM Ikon/Aspen (although a little more pronounced than the Maxxis pair) so would I be gaining anything for the extra dough I'd shell out for them?
    Schwalbe combos work really well for me, but I almost always run SnakeSkin, not regular sidewalls. My normal set-up for XC and races is Rocket Ron front/Ralph rear, both 2.25. The RoRo seems to roll about as fast as the RaRa, but hooks up a little better on soft surfaces. On hardpack it's a wash; I'd take the Ralph but it's close. For wet, rooty courses I run a 2.25 SS Nic up front.

    The downside to Schwalbes, for me, is that the side knobs wear and rip off rather fast. That is what causes me to retire most tires, not rips. Given how well the Schwalbes roll and grip, I can live with the fairly short lifespan.

    The Ikon EXO is great tire too, but the Nic and even Ron definitely hook up better in the corners. One thing that keeps me coming back to Schwalbe is they almost always win rolling resistance tests, and I geek out on that stuff. This is more about the casing than the tread: They have very pliable casings which don't dissipate much energy when deforming around obstacles on rough surfaces.

    FWIW, I'm 170lbs, my setup is tubeless, usually on Notubes rums, and my riding is eastern Canada, Quebec, Pisgah, UT and CO, and the US north east.

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