Instinct Powerplay Carbon 70
By Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen
Charged by RISE BREWING
One of the most unique and fun bikes of our 2020 eMTB Roundup was the Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay. Sadly, inventory and then customs issues at the border prevented the bike from showing up early enough to put the bike in contention for an overall award, but we brought the bike home and have been riding it ever since. Rocky Mountain has long been making aggressive mountain bikes inspired by their local British Columbia terrain, so it only makes sense that their new ebikes would ride the same way.
The most unique thing about the Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay, and all of their ebikes for that matter, is the use of their Dyname 3.0 drive system. Designed in Canada, the Dyname system offers a ride unlike any other eMTB motor we’ve ridden. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like there is a strain gauge and the harder you push on the pedals, the more assistance the system delivers. Rocky Mountain claims the Dyname 3.0 delivers 108Nm of peak torque, which seems right since the bike definitely won our drag race. It has just a little bit more juice and the way power curve tapers off is really cool. We also really like how smoothly the power comes on too. It doesn’t just spin tire on super steep climbs when you try to start after a bobble.
The Dyname system relies on its electro-mechanical torque sensor to measure chain tension though movement of a magnetic field. As soon as the chain straightens under load the system reacts and calculates inputs, as fast as 1,000 times per second. It does feel faster, and not in a bad way. Some systems feel like they’ll push you off the back of the seat with their unnatural boost, the Dyname is definitely quick in engagement but rolls on the power smoothly. When our cadence gets to about 65RPMs, our riders really noticed a kick. Riders on Shimano Steps bikes would regularly get dusted once we hit that 70-85RPM spot on the Rocky Mountain. It was literally like a shot of Nitrous hit our legs and we just pulled away.
Admittedly, we haven’t been formally indoctrinated by Rocky Mountain at any media camps, so our education around the system is purely from experience and reading Rocky’s materials. The system has impressive peak power and torque, but we also noticed that it takes a bit more effort to get assistance. Depending on what you’re looking for that could be good or not. Our testers all thought that if you wanted to get the best leg workout, the Rocky Mountain Instinct would be the bike to ride. It requires a bit more of the rider. For example, you can turn a Shimano Steps bike on Boost mode and soft pedal up a fire road and it will spin away. All your legs have to do is keep up. The Rocky Mountain requires torque to operate. So, if you’re super tired, or want a casual recovery ride in Boost mid-week, you will have to work a bit harder. The flip side is, you’ll probably get in better shape and get stronger legs on the Rocky compared to some others.
Geometry on the Instinct Powerplay is sporty and snappy. It makes for a quick-handling and fun bike that suits our riding style and playful vibes. If you’re a long sled kinda rider, this may not be the ride for you. Reach on the size large is 455mm with a 66-degree head tube angle and 74.6-degree seat tube angle with a 621mm stack height. The Instinct has a 443mm rear center length and 1,213mm wheelbase. Of course, as with all Rocky Mountain bikes, the Instinct ebike features Ride-9 geometry adjustment. With just a couple of Allen keys, riders can tune not only their geometry a full-degree (head tube angle), the position of the Ride-9 chip also has changes the bike’s suspension characteristics.
The Instinct Powerplay is available at six different price points from $4,699 to $8,599. We tested the $7,999 Carbon 70 model and felt it was a pretty solid spec and offered everything we’d need out of an eMTB. The Smoothwall carbon fiber front triangle and aluminum rear end neatly house the Dyname drive system and 672Wh battery. A Fox 36 Float eMTB fork with 140mm of travel sits up front and a Fox Float DPS Evol shock handles the Smoothlink suspension. Race Face 170mm Aeffect cranks spin a Shimano drivetrain. We had no problems with the Shimano XT components and enjoyed the stopping performance of the XT Trail 4-piston brakes. Race Face AR35 rims are laced to a DT Swiss rear hub and Rocky Mountain front hub and get wrapped in Maxxis Minion tires. As with all the ebikes in our shootout, we replaced the rubber with Schwalbe’s eMTB specific Eddy Current tires.
Cockpit spec on the Instinct features a Rocky Mountain stem, handlebar, grips and Turbine R dropper post. A WTB Volt Race 142 saddle held our cheeks in place while we put in lots of miles and earned tons of smiles on this trail ebike.
Maybe the Instinct’s late arrival was a blessing in disguise because the Trail category in this year’s ebike shootout was definitely the most stacked in terms of competition. Don’t let the bike not being on our podium sway you at all, we just didn’t feel comfortable giving the bike an award presumptuously for being the “new guy in class.” All of our testers didn’t get enough time to properly test it on all the trails we’d spent so many days riding, and for that reason we decided to hold it back from qualifying for an award this year.
After a very impressive showing in Palm Springs, CA, we couldn’t wait to bring the Instinct home to ride around Bend, OR for a baseline comparison on our home trails. At both locations our riders were blown away when we told them this bike only had 140mm of travel. It rides like it has much more and gave us the confidence and speed of a bike with more travel.
We addressed the feeling of the motor above and we’ll say once again, it is a unique system that took us a little while to get used to. Some riders loved it initially, then changed their minds and vice versa. After a couple months of riding, most of our riders agree that they like the system and it has some definite advantages over others, but it also doesn’t offer the option of truly “cheating.” This is an ebike that will make you work, and if you’ve ridden many Shimano Steps-equipped ebikes in Boost, you know what we mean.
The looks of the bike were also a bit polarizing. All of our riders loved the higher ground clearance afforded by the Dyname system but felt the looks of the upside-down triangle were a bit weird. Others didn’t mind the look at all but didn’t love the lack of information provided by the on-board electronics. The haptic buttons offer a nice touch but aren’t always noticeable while speeding along SoCals rocky and bouncy terrain. Rocky Mountain does have a nice App where riders can customize and view their bike’s details, and we felt it worked pretty well and had a nice interface.
This bike gets major kudos for being an all-around shredder. We couldn’t believe it rode as smoothly and capably as it did for only having 140mm of front and rear wheel travel. Beyond the smooth and supple suspension, our testers really enjoyed the geometry of the Instinct Powerplay. It’s not the ideal bike for self-shuttle enduro guys looking for the long, slack front end of many new-school bikes. For example the reach is 30mm shorter than the Norco Sight VLT 29 and the wheelbase is 67mm (2.64 inches) shorter! The head tube angle is also two degrees steeper. These are obviously opposite ends of the spectrum but the Norco Sight VLT 29 has 150mm of rear wheel travel, just 10mm more than the Instinct, yet they couldn’t be further apart in terms of riding styles.
Riders who value all-around versatility, a well-rounded machine that can navigate tight and technical trails, climb well and still be a lot of fun will have a great time on the Instinct Powerplay. It does feel a bit short and the headtube a bit steep on the rowdiest and steepest of downhills, but if that type of terrain is less than 20% of your riding, you may want to ask where you’d rather have more fun and conquer more challenges.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Rocky Mountain really surprised us with the Instinct Powerplay 70. We’ve ridden lots of Rocky Mountain’s non-ebikes before and were excited after hearing so many of their fans rave about it. It’s probably got some of the best feeling suspension of any Rocky Mountain we’ve ever ridden. It’s smooth and supple yet doesn’t bog down when you really want to charge down the trail. As we addressed above, the geometry is in what we would call the general consumer to fun-chaser rider category. It is snappy, lively and can handle it all very well. It excels in places where longer, slacker, more gravity-focused bikes have us bobbling or putting feet down trying to navigate tighter terrain.
The Dyname drive unit takes some getting used to and we could imagine it’s not a ride everyone would love, but we quite enjoy the interactive feel. It gives us tons of power and boost, even leaving Shimano Steps-equipped bikes once we hit that 75-85RPM powerband and has an easy to use power delivery for rock crawling efforts where others leave your tire spinning. We wish there was a bit more information visible to the rider in terms of battery life and power modes, but that may not bother some.
Overall the Rocky Mountain Instinct is one helluva a bike. It really impressed us and is a ton of fun to ride!
Frame: SMOOTHWALL Carbon Front Triangle. FORM Alloy Rear Triangle. 140mm
Fork: Fox 36 E-MTB Float EVOL FIT4 Performance Elite, 140mm
Shock: Fox Float DPS EVOL Performance
Battery: Fully Integrated Li-Ion 672 Wh
Drive Unit: Dyname 3.0, 250W | 108Nm
Brakes: Shimano XT Trail, 203mm
Handlebar: Rocky Mountain AM 780mm
Headset: FSA Orbit NO.57E
Saddle: WTB Volt Race 142
Seatpost: Race Face Turbine R
Shifter: Shimano XT
Stem: Rocky Mountain 35 AM
Hubs: Rocky Mountain Sealed Boost (f), DT Swiss Hybrid 370 Boost (r)
Rims: Race Face AR 35
Front Tire: Maxxis Minion DHF EXO+ Maxx Terra 29 x 2.6
Rear Tire:Maxxis Rekon Maxx Terra EXO+ Silk Shield 29 x 2.6
Cassette: Shimano XT 10-51T
Cranks: Race Face Aeffect Cinch 34T, 170mm
Derailleur: Shimano XT
Unique Dyname Motor
Fun to Ride
Looks are Polarizing
Power Mode Remote
Lack of Displays/Info
Could be Too Steep/Short for Some
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