2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct First Impressions Review

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A mountain biker rolling down a rock dome in Southern Utah.
Our test pilot, A.J., testing the new 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct out on a slickrock roller at the Guacamole trails.

The brand new 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct is here and available for rent in Southern Utah! Read on for more 2021 Instinct photos, bike details and our full 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct first impressions review.

Rocky Mountain was kind enough to send us the new 2021 Instinct all-mountain trail bike a few weeks before the March 9th official announcement. The new Instinct is a 140mm-travel, do-it-all 29er trail bike designed for, “epic rides and wide-open singletrack.” We took advantage of our early access to get familiar with the bike on a variety of local Southern Utah rides. We also did an action/bike glamor photo shoot at the Guacamole trails with our friend, A.J. He’s a Southern Utah/Zion mountain bike and canyoneering guide and a great choice for our Instinct first ride report. We hope you find this 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct first impressions review fun and useful.

Smiling man in helmet and sunglasses posing with a mountain bike in a Southwestern landscape.
Our friend A.J., a local mtb and canyoneering guide, posing with the new 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct with the cliffs of Zion National Park in the background. A.J. can now add “Action Sports Model” to his resume.

The Rocky Mountain Instinct 29er has been an important part of our rental fleet for a few years. The alloy version has been our standard price-point rental bike at just $50 a day. It’s a comfortable and easy ride for pretty much everyone and there’s almost no trail it isn’t at home on. We’re excited for this update – especially after spending some time riding the new Instinct. As with the previous model, the 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct is going to be a solid cornerstone for our rental fleet and a great mountain bike for nearly any kind of trail Southern Utah has to offer.

Non-drive side suspension linkage view of the new Rocky Mountain Instinct all-mountain trail bike.
A non-drive side view of the 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct’s 140mm-travel 4-bar, Smoothlink suspension system. Note the 10mm adjuster at the axle.

For the past few years, updates to the Instinct have been incremental – more refinements to the platform than a new bike. The 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct is a brand new bike. It has a longer, 150mm fork, aggressive all-mountain geometry and size-specific suspension tune and wheels. The reach and wheelbase are both about an inch longer than the old Instinct, the head tube angle is almost half a degree slacker (65.7° in the neutral position) and at 76.7°, the seat tube angle is over two degrees steeper! The overall package is more in keeping with the old Instinct BC 29er enduro bike than the more trail-focused Instinct. If you want an even longer, more stable bike, there’s a new, flippable chainstay adapter that offers 10mm of wheelbase adjustment (see photo, above). And of course, the new Instinct has Rocky’s RIDE-9 geometry refinement system on the shock mount.

Rocky Mountain’s RIDE-9 system on the 2021 Instinct offers nine different suspension/geometry positions with over a degree of head angle adjustment and 5mm of bb drop adjustment.

Part of the strategy for the 2021 Instinct was to merge and simplify Rocky’s mountain bike lineup. They already did that with the 2021 Altitude all-mountain enduro bike, eliminating the longer-travel Instinct BC 29er, bumping the Altitude’s wheel size to 29 on larger frames and lengthening the travel and geometry to make it an enduro-focused race rig. With the 2021 Instinct, Rocky’s goal was to merge the 27.5 Thunderbolt and 29-inch Instinct into one, more versatile, all-mountain trail bike. Like the Altitude, the new Instinct has two wheel sizes – 27.5 for extra small, 27.5 or 29 for small, and 29 for medium to XL. With 140mm of rear wheel travel, a 150mm fork and aggressive trail geometry, the 2021 Instinct combines the best of the old Instinct, Instinct BC Edition and the Thunderbolt. Rocky calls the new Instinct their, “most versatile platform.” We think they nailed it. We found the 2021 Instinct to be an exceptionally balanced all-mountain bike that excels at pretty much everything.

A mountain biker lunging up a steep, rock face.
A.J. on a punchy, technical uphill. Everyone agrees the new Instinct loves to climb.

We had the new Instinct for a few weeks before launch and a bunch of shop staff got to ride it. The main impression everyone had is it’s an extremely composed bike that loves to pedal. No matter what you do, it feels smooth, planted and confident. Quentin, OTE HU’s owner, called it a, “more refined version of every Rocky I’ve ridden.” Our shop manager, Zach, said it felt, “spry,” and, “like the Instinct BC but lighter and punchier.” Eddie, one of our shop wrenches, loves technical climbs and said the Instinct cruised right up everything he pointed it at. Our test pilot and action model for this article, A.J., also commented on how well it pedals. He usually rides a 27.5 enduro bike and called the 2021 Instinct, “very playful, even with the 29-inch wheel. It rolls over everything like a 29er is supposed to.”

A mountain biker jumps of a mossy rock drop in the Southern Utah desert.
Steep technical descents and drops? No problem for the 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct!

Even though Rocky differentiates the new Instinct as “starkly different” from the longer-travel, slacker Altitude, we all agreed the Instinct felt limitless. Quentin said it’s really, “one bike that can do everything.” And A.J. said he would, “happily roll Flying Monkey, our most difficult downhill, on the Instinct.” To be fair, Flying Monkey is probably more gnar than most people would want to tackle with the Instinct. But that’s a pretty high bar to set. The fact that he would even mention it says a lot.

Black Fox 36 suspension fork on the 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct 29er mountain bike.
With 140mm of travel in the back and a stout, 150mm Fox 36 fork up front, the new Rocky Mountain Instinct has enough travel for nearly any kind of riding.

It often feels like we’re repeating ourselves when describing mountain bikes, these days. They’re all longer, slacker and more versatile. That’s just a fact. The current crop of mountain bikes is ridiculously good. That said, we were all surprised how comfortable we were on the 2021 Instinct and how confident, solid and eager it felt. The longer and harder we rode it, the happier it was. None of us ever felt like we got in over our head on the Instinct. In Zach’s words, “it gobbled everything up and always felt super composed.” It’s going to be a perfect Southern Utah single-bike quiver. However, as we always say – don’t take our word for it. Come rent the new Instinct and make up your own mind about whether it’s the most versatile mountain bike ever.

A mountain biker rolling down a steep rock with red cliffs of Zion in the background.
Steep downhill or technical uphill, the 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct gobbles it all up and asks for more.

Thanks for reading our 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct first impressions review. The 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct is available for rent, now. Our Instinct C50 rental bikes have a carbon fiber frame, Shimano XT/SLX 12-speed drivetrain, Shimano XT disc brakes, a Fox Float 36 fork and Fox Float DPS rear shock. Keep your eyes open for a detailed 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct bike page with more photos, full specs, and pricing. It will up in the next few days. Call (435.635.5455) to reserve your 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct mountain bike rental, now.

A black and aqua-colored mountain bike reflected in a desert slickrock puddle, with red cliffs in the background.
Looking perfectly at home in the Southern Utah desert, the 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct is a real-deal do-it-all trail bike.
A turquoise and black full-suspension Rocky Mountain 29er mountain bike with red Southern Utah cliffs in the background.
Our large 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct C50 carbon 29er all-mountain trail bike.

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