Here at CDC, we've got two valuable things going for us; first, we have access to some killer brands and bikes, including Rocky Mountain. Second, we've got experienced riders who really know how to put a bike through its paces. From Bryan's 188 mile SledgeHamr to Bob's shreds right here in West Michigan, we're able to ride what we like, and let you know what you need to get on. This week, Bob's much-anticipated review of the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt. It's a longer-travel-than-you're-used-to full suspension bike that Bob made even more rowdy. See his impressions, and make sure you come check one out for yourself.
I’ve had the pleasure to ride the 2018 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt for the past few months. I’m riding the Carbon 30 model with the NX drivetrain, RockShox Recon fork and Deluxe rear shock.
I put a 2018 Manitou Mattoc Pro 140mm travel fork on the front to slacken it out just a touch and also gave me the ability to get some time on this new product. Manitou has really stepped up their game and are giving other suspension manufacturers a run for their money. And at a pricepoint that is substantially less than most other comparable forks.
My first impression of the Thunderbolt is, on paper, everything that I’ve been looking for in a full squish bike the past 5 years. The geometry is a little slacked out in the front end for stability when hauling ass. The rear features a pretty short rear chainstay length at 426mm to make the bike quick and nimble when ducking through the trees. Riding places like Maple Hill and the Richmond flow trail was super fun on this bike. They target this bike as an XC/trail bike, but it would be more than adequate to ride almost everywhere.
My first ride on the Thunderbolt was at the Wahlfield Trail, just north of Grand Rapids. There are quite a few spots with off cambers, technical spots swerving through trees, a small flow trail, and a lot of pedaling. The bike rode all of those things extremely well. My recommendation is to air the shock to your body weight and add 20psi for initial sag setting. It puts you at about 20-25% sag and works well for the terrain around here. I did also notice that once I started riding the bike, I never touched the lockout functions on the fork or shock. This is something that I was pretty used to doing on the other bikes I’ve ridden. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is awesome not having to worry about hitting the lockout lever on climbs and descents.
Most full suspension Rocky Mountain bikes come with the Ride-9 linkage adjustment to fine tune the geometry. This is an awesome feature to fine tune the bike to the terrain you’re wanting to ride. It’s a feature that goes along with fine-tuning the suspension. Once we get the sag and suspension tuned, we can adjust the Ride-9 chip to tweak the geometry to better suit your riding style and the terrain you ride. That’s pretty awesome.
It’s a quick little bike through the woods, and when it's pointed downhill, it's very stable at speed. Especially for it's gemetry and travel, it still feels like a very efficient bike to pedal, no matter what speed. Pedal bob was far less than many other mid travel full suspension bikes I’ve ridden in the past. Those include the Cannondale Trigger, Scott Genius, GT Sanction, Norco Optic, and YT Jeffsy. That is probably very important to people in our area, where you're going to pedal plenty.
Since getting the bike, I’ve taken it to most of the trails around the area including Merrell, CSA, CSGA, Yankee Springs, Maple Hill/Markin Glen 4 times, and the Richmond flow trail every Wednesday. This bike rides extremely well at all these trails. You can pedal like crazy to keep up with your Strava times or hike a bike and rip the downhill sections repeatedly, all with a smile on your face. I can’t pinpoint the one thing that I like on the bike. I think it’s the fact that you can ride any of those trails, and have a really good time. I never thought about things I’d want to change on it, other than the bars.