by Marc Basiliere
August 7, 2014
120mm fast trail bike gets added carbon and rad
Equally at home on long, technical climbs as it is flowy singletrack descents
After a few years of ever-increasing suspension travel, it’s exciting to see the industry pulling back a bit and pouring some energy into the sort of bikes that many of us ride. Rocky Mountain’s 2015 Thunderbolt MSL is a perfect example. A not-unexpected follow-up to this year’s alloy Thunderbolt, the MSL takes the 120mm XC/trail platform and adds a healthy dose of lightness.
The Thunderbolt MSL is designed for “people who hammer at the pointy end of the pack, but stay aggressive and stylish when terrain gets rougher.” Aggressive and stylish? That sounds just like us! (Flattery will get you far.)
Like its predecessor, the Thunderbolt MSL rolls on 27.5 wheels. The SmoothLink four-bar suspension design pivots on Rocky Mountain’s second-generation bushings (BC2), which are bigger than the original ABC tapered bushings and include grease ports for easy service. The company’s Ride-9 forward shock mount uses a pair of concentric square chips to allow for countless (OK, nine) geometry and suspension curve combinations.
For those who want to get digital, the Smoothwall carbon frame is Di2 compatible, with a downtube battery hiding port. The acid green Thunderbolt 799 MSL shown at top actually ships with Shimano’s wundergroup and Stan’s 1,200g (!) Valor 650b carbon wheels- that is, it ships to anyone willing to pony up the $11,000 (UK pricing TBC) cost of entry. XT (770 MSL) and SLX (750 MSL) models bring the cost down significantly.
All three are spec’d with sensible trail components and droppper posts, emphasizing the model’s all-around bent.
The 790 MSL BC Edition suggests that Rocky Mountain may well have psychics on staff, spec’d as it is with a 130mm RockShox Pike, 1×11 SRAM drivetrain, XT disc brakes, RaceFace Turbine Cinch crankset, Maxxis 2.4in tyres, and RaceFace Next SL 35mm carbon bars. That’s a pretty sorted spec sheet.