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Rocky Mountain launches redesigned 2021 Instinct

Canadian brand's core model gets a major refresh for the new year

Rocky Mountain Instinct 2021 Photo by: Margus Riga

Today Rocky Mountain released a major refresh of one of its core bikes, the Instinct. While the silhouette looks familiar, this is a ground-up redesign. The idea of a do-it-all trail bike remains, though. With a raft of changes, from major to minor details, the execution is substantially new.

Since the Altitude stepped in as Rocky’s dedicated enduro race bike, the Instinct is free to focus on just being itself. A trail bike. That’s already a wide range to cover, without adding the demands of enduro, and the new-look Instinct benefits from its more focused purpose.

REVIEW: 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct C50

Rocky Mountain Instinct 2021
Instinct adopts the Altitude’s 10-mm rear axle chip. Photo: Margus Riga

2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct – What’s New?

The short answer? A lot. The iconic Canadian brand is streamlining its product line, again. Like with the Altitude, by offering size-specific wheel sizes – 27.5″ for XS and S frames, 29″ for S, M, L, and XL, Rocky Mountain is able to cut a bike from its line. This time, it is the Thunderbolt going out of service, leaving the Instinct as its primary full suspension trail bike.

Also like the Altitude, the Instinct gets a new 10-mm of chainstay length adjustment, via a flip-chip in the rear dropout. Unlike some frames, which require disassembly to change, Rocky’s is relatively easy to use. If you are comfortable adjusting your own brake calipers, you can make the switch in a parking lot before a ride.

2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct. Photo: Margus Riga
More travel, updated geo

The 2021 Instinct adds 10-mm of front travel to the previous iterations numbers. That gives it 150 mm up front, via Fox’s stout, but lightened 36 fork, and 140 mm at the rear wheel. That’s still less than the previous, now discontinued, “BC Edition” Instinct, but this time Rocky keeps the Ride-9 system.

Geometry is slightly slacker, and longer. The Instinct now ranges from 65.3-degree to a carefully considered 66.6-degree head tube angle on the 27.5″ frames and 65.1- to 66.3-degrees on the 29-ers, depending on what Ride-9 position you’re in. Reach grows substantially, with seat tube angles getting more verticle by about two degrees, again, depending what setting you’re in, keeping rider’s body weight well centered on the longer bike. The wheelbase is also longer, while chainstays either stay the same or grow by 10-mm, via the rear axle flip-chip.

Integrated OneUp chain guide, with the Canada Shield lurking behind. Photo Margus Riga.
Frame details abound

With added travel and more progressive geometry, Rocky Mountain clearly is setting up the Instinct for more demanding riding. Several layers of frame protection and more nuanced details are found in the 2021 Instinct to deal with the added abuse.

First, there’s three long chevrons of downtube protection, running from the BB nearly to the head tube. This provides coverage for everything from errant rocks to shuttle-pad protection. There’s more protection on the chainstays, with the added benefit of quieting the chain, and even a little rubber stopper to close that gap where the chainstay and seatstay meet. Clever.

Rocky Mountain Instinct 2021
Full coverage on the downtube to keep the frame safe.

Rocky’s “Canadian Shield” – removable – keeps unwanted dirt and small rocks out of that space between the swingarm and BB. Nearby, the “Canada Arm” holds a OneUp Components chain guide.

The Instinct doubles up, with dual bearings at the chainstay and seatsatys to add lateral stiffness and some longevity to the frame. All pivot bearings are shielded, to add some protection. The front triangle tubes are reshaped from previous designs to add more strength to the front end.

Rocky Mountain Instinct 2021
A modular, replaceable shock mount on the Instinct. Photo: Margus Riga

With all this added toughness, the top-end C99 still weighs in a hair under 29 pounds. That’s not just fancy parts, either. The mid-range C50, which we’ve been testing for the last few months, just creeps over 31 pounds. 31.1, to be precise.

Last, since this frame’s going to be around for a while with all that protection, Rocky Mountain adds some future proofing. The carbon Instinct’s get a modular, replaceable shock mount. Switch up shocks in the future to keep the frame fresh, or go to coil. There’s even a C70 that comes with a coil stock.

Rocky Mountain Instinct 2021
Ride-9 lets you tune your Instinct to your demands. Photo: Margus Riga

2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct- What’s the same?

With all that change, what carries over from the previous generation? Well, the aesthetic, for one. It still looks like an Instinct. And it is still designed for the same purpose. Rocky Mountain intends the Instinct to cover everything from long, cardio-heavy epic rides to everyday laps. Now, with “trail” riding progressing, the updates expand the platform to cover more technical and demanding terrain.

Not everyone is trying to get more extreme every day, though. And the Ride-9 geometry adjustment system returns, so you can keep your Instinct honed in on epic rides and big days exploring singletrack.

Rocky Mountain still does size-specific suspension tunes. That concept is expanded to add size-specific wheels, with the XS and S sizes rolling on 27.5″s.

Like before, the frames are entirely internally routed for cables and wires, with clean cable ports keeping everything tidy.

2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct launch vide: A Tall Tale

So, is the new 2021 Instinct is good as Rocky Mountain is saying it is? Does the bike live up to the hype? We’ve been riding the Instinct C50 for a couple of months now. Check out the review over here.

Rocky Mountain Instinct 2021
2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct C99

2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct – Pricing and availability

If you’re looking to elevate your trail sensations with the new Instinct, it is available right now. If you want to know more about the new-look trail bike from Rocky Mountain, check out our review of the 2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct Carbon 50.

There’s eight differnt Instinct builds offered, as well as a frameset only option. These range from the dream-build Instinct Carbon 99 to the much more reasonably priced Instinct Alloy 30, at $3,860.

2021 Rocky Mountain Instinct.

Rocky Mountain Instinct Carbon

Instinct Carbon 99: $14,100
Instinct Carbon 90: $12,000
Instinct Carbon 70 coil: $9,400
Instinct Carbon 70: $8,370
Instinct Carbon 50: $7,000
Instinct Carbon 30: $5,950
Instinct Carbon Frameset: $4,180

Rocky Mountain Instinct Alloy

Instinct Alloy 50: $5,650
Instinct Alloy 30: $3,860