2021 Rocky Mountain Slayer – Thomas Vanderham’s custom build
The Slayer was designed to be ridden fast, sent off huge hits, and take the abuse of a bike park lap after lap. The Slayer has become a go-to platform for Rocky Mountain freerider, Thomas Vanderham - especially when it comes to spending time in the bike park. Thomas’ custom-built Slayer has some of what you’d expect, and some that you wouldn’t!
Frame: Slayer, size Large, RIDE-4 Position 2 (second from slackest)
Fork: Fox 38 Float EVOL Grip2 Factory Series 180mm
Shock: Fox X2 230x65mm, with Rocky Mountain shock bearing eyelets
Stem: OneUp Components 35mm reach, 35mm clamp EDC
Handlebar: OneUp Components 790mm width, 35mm clamp, 35mm rise
Grips: SDG ODI Hansolo
Brakes: Shimano XTR 4 Piston | Finned Metal Pads | RT86 203mm Fr | RT86 203mm Rr
Shifter: Shimano XTR 12-speed
Derailleur: Shimano XTR 12-speed
Crankset: Shimano XT
Cassette: Shimano XTR
Chain: Shimano XTR
Chainguide: OneUp Components Chain Guide Top Kit V2
Pedals: Shimano Saint
Wheels: Stan’s No Tubes Sentry 27.5 rims on Shimano XTR hubs
Tires: Maxxis Assegai DD MaxxGrip 27.5x2.50WT Fr / Maxxis Minion DHF DD MaxxGrip 27.5x2.50WT Rr
Seatpost: SDG Micro carbon fibre I-Beam
Saddle: SDG Patriot
Click here to visit the 2021 Slayer builds.
Sam Schultz on Starting the Montana NICA League
In the last few years, I have been putting a lot of off-the-bike effort into getting a National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) League started for the high school and middle school kids in my home state of Montana. It’s been a big project, it has been daunting at times, but luckily NICA has an incredible support structure to help get new leagues up and running, and I have connected with an amazing team of core volunteers throughout the state who’ve made this project super fun. Last year was our first season and we came out of the gates as the largest first-year NICA league with over 300 young Montana rippers taking part in the program!
There wasn’t much of a teenage riding scene in Montana when I was growing up. Luckily, I had incredibly supportive parents, a couple of great friends who were equally obsessed with racing and riding, a cool local bike club, and a support system that didn’t blink an eye at the prospect of driving 6 or 7 hours to compete at regional races with a small handful of other kids. NICA first came squarely onto my radar at the Sea Otter Classic during the premiere of the documentary, Singletrack High, back in 2013. At that time, I was a full-time professional cross-country racer who had taken the sport to the extreme. I was the current US National Champion and had competed in the Olympics the year before. My initial reaction upon learning about NICA’s high school and middle school programs was the same as many adults when they first learn about it-- “How sweet it would have been to have a bike team at my school, regular practices with my friends, and a statewide race series with an amazing community of families camping out and shredding on bikes together… “
Fast forward to last fall, and our inaugural Montana NICA season. I remember holding the starting horn to the air, with more pre-race butterflies in my stomach than if I was racing myself, giving the final countdown before a quick blast of the horn. Watching category after category of young rippers tearing down the track was so much more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. The raw emotion of kids overcoming their fears on the starting line was inspiring and seeing the teams, coaches, and parents hit their stride, building a thriving community of young Montana riders throughout the season was amazing.
Racing bikes for me while growing up has always been a family affair, spending many a weekend loading up into the family van and driving to races across the country. With the recruitment of my Dad as Race Operations, my Mom as Volunteer Coordinator, and my brother as Head Coach of the Missoula team, this project has been no different.
Thomas Vanderham - From The Collective to Return to Earth
The Collective and Anthill Films have made seven full-length mountain bike movies over the last 15 years and Thomas Vanderham has been in all of them. From the opening scene in The Collective to his moto-sized senders in Seasons, following Sam Hill at home on the North Shore to the release of Return to Earth. A lot of the major moments in Thomas’ riding career have been captured in these films.
We first signed Thomas 19 years ago when he was just a kid in high school and at that time the North Shore freeride scene was beginning to gain momentum. Local photographer, Sterling Lorence, had just gotten his first cover shot of BIKE magazine and shortly after he and Thomas began to work together on their home trails.
Sterling has been the main photographer for all three movies from The Collective and stayed with the crew as they restructured for four more as Anthill Films. Being present for all seven films has given Sterling and Thomas a unique relationship. They’ve grown their careers in parallel with one another and documented some of the finer moments along the way.
“The Collective made a big splash when it first came out – and I’m not sure that any of us were really expecting that. The timing was perfect with freeride mountain biking emerging, but until this film, it’d largely been covered through single hits and big features. The fact that The Collective even showed singletrack felt different. I think it was more relatable to riders.
The opening shot set the stage for the whole film. It was a candid moment and it happened without me even knowing. We’d gotten up at 4:45am to shoot the opening drop at first light, and for me, at the time I was lining up a big drop. I was so focused on what I had to do and was waiting for the go-ahead from the team, I didn’t even know that the filmer, Jonathan Schramm, was behind me shooting.”
“Before this trip, I’d travelled internationally to Europe to ride and that always felt pretty easy and straight forward. Morocco was my first real adventure to the other side of the world; we all got sick, didn’t know where we were and weren’t sure what would happen if things went wrong – it was a totally different world.
The impact that trip had on me continues to sink in to this day. Mostly because I can’t believe how remote we were. That road gap was so far in the middle of nowhere! I’ll never forget it because we found the spot, built it, and then I spent 4 hours sitting at the top of the run in waiting for wind which eventually forced us to extend our trip. Like my story from The Collective, we had to wake up super early the next morning and drive 2 hours to the gap to get the shot before the wind picked up for the day. Maximum stress.”
“To this day this was one of the most involved projects I’ve ever worked on. I was working with ‘Big Red’ Ted Tempany on the build and we visited five or six ranches around BC before finding a place that would let us build the way we wanted.
It took four separate shoots to get the segment done because I took some really big crashes. The line was moto-inspired which made for some of the biggest jumps I’d hit to date. I wanted to push the limits of how high and far I could go on my mountain bike and I remember it being a huge relief when I finally put tires to dirt. After the first day of practice runs, I finally hit the big step up. I’d put a computer on my bike to look at speed and the highest number I saw during the shoot was 85 km/h.”
“I grew up in North Vancouver and the trails on Mount Seymour descend right to my house. The whole theme of Follow Me was to have riders paired up, and it was pretty cool to be able to show Sam Hill around my backyard. Sam was one of the fastest DH riders in the world at that time.
I’d spent some time building lines for the shoot and it was pretty cool to see Sam riding unfamiliar terrain and one-off features when he was known for smashing race tracks. It was amazing to watch his bike control on the slippery, technical, unforgiving North Shore trails. A lot of people struggle on The Shore the first few times they ride here…Sam didn’t.”
Strength in Numbers
“Aggy and I went down a month early to scope and build for the Utah segment, which basically turned into the two of us rallying quads in the desert. The goal of the shoot was to ride big mountain lines while also incorporating Green River’s natural landscape into big hits.
This shoot happened in November and I ended up taking a massive crash and separating my shoulder quite badly. It forced us to delay the rest of the shoot until February, which was just 2 months before the world premiere. When Aggy and I went back to get the remaining shots, I ended up manning a camera for a shot that got used in the film. I’m pretty stoked to have an ‘additional cinematography by’ credit in closing titles!”
“Concept shoots are hard, and this was one was especially difficult. The idea of dirt falling from the sky was inspired by trail builder and longtime Whistler Bike Park rider, Adam Billinghurst. The Anthill crew had to ‘re-dress’ the frame after every run through, which meant a ton of time was spent distributing fresh dirt, raking out our tracks, re-covering the trees, etc. For us as riders, it meant there was a lot of waiting around and then going from zero to a hundred in order to make the film as entertaining as possible.
The Whistler Bike Park has been an amazing place to have up the road for me. I’ve done countless laps over the years and it’s definitely helped shape my riding to where it is today. I’ve shot many videos in the park, but this one was especially cool as it featured the park in a different way.”
Return to Earth
“Similar to unReal this was another concept shoot that was difficult to make happen. We were shooting the autumn colours in Quebec and needed to re-dress every scene. The major difference between this and the unReal segment was that we were fighting against nature’s clock. Everyday we’d wake up to more leaves that had fallen from the tree branches and throughout the day big wind gusts would leave more branches bare. The whole shoot was a crazy balance of waiting long enough for the colours to be perfect, but not so long that the leaves left the trees bare.
I think the concept of the film really came through in this segment. Return to Earth is all about being aware of the time you have and making the most of it. Living by the moments that are the most important to you.”
Thomas and Sterling have had an incredible ride together through the release of these films. With Return to Earth, Thomas’ riding mixed in with a specific concept has helped bring the imagery we see today to a whole new level.
The Jank Files - Episode 2
For the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team, the long trip and the short stay in Madeira made for a whirlwind trip. Coming from Vancouver, the 8-hour time difference and hot island temperatures had everyone in a daze - and that was before rattling through jagged boulder sections and the loose corners of each stage.
From unforgiving race tracks and talking to parrots, fresh haircuts, and a ridiculous hat for Jesse. This is Episode 2 of The Jank Files.
Presented by Smith Optics
Filmed by Caldwell Visuals
Photos by Dave Trumpore
A big thank you to all our sponsors!
Race Face, Maxxis, Fox, Shimano, Smith Optics, WTB, OneUp Components, Stages Cycling, Peaty’s Products, EVOC
Riding in Ecuador with Tito Tomasi
Story by Tito Tomasi
I live for travelling, adventures, and riding new places. The allure of riding new trails and expecting the unexpected has become a way of life for me. When I first began planning my trip to Ecuador, I reflected back on my first visit there which was in 2012. I wanted to revisit some of my favourite places, but I was also ready to go further and sink my tires into something new.
This time around, I was lucky enough to be travelling with one of the best guides in the country, my friend Mateo. Mateo is a passionate rider that loves to explore (like me), and always comes up with crazy ideas for the next big ride. He rides super hard and isn’t afraid of taking on the big epics.
I’ve always loved sketching and painting, and my artwork has allowed me to keep the memories from my trips alive long after they’re over. From brightly colored paintings to simple pencil drawings, my art is a reflection of what I’ve seen and experienced along my adventures.
I started my trip from just south of Quito and was in awe of Ecuador’s beauty from the minute I stepped off of the plane. The first part of my journey would take me towards Laguna de Quilotoa, a stunning lake that shifts in color as the sun moves across the sky. Mateo and I’s were joined by our friend Dani, would join us for the first major ride around the Quilotoa crater rim. The Quilotoa rim trail is both technical and very physically demanding, making it an aggressive way to start off the trip.
Riding at 3900m elevation was slowly wearing us down, and the threatening rainclouds had us worried about overexhaustion and exposure. The clouds were moving quickly, so we dropped in from rim trail and headed towards the town of Chugchilán in the valley far below. Navigating through farm lands and sandy singletrack, it was an amazing experience passing through villages along old roads, and eventually being rewarded with food and shelter.
The terrain in Ecuador is incredible. After Quilotoa, we travelled north from Quito towards the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, an area which was very different than what I expected. As we approached the area it appeared like all the other dry mountains nearby, but the reality was it couldn’t have been more different. When we finally arrived and dropped into the crater, we were treated to a winding singletrack through an endlessly lush rainforest.
Everywhere we went seemed to hold some sort of historical significance. We were riding deep inside a volcanic crater on ancient trails and learned that we were actually riding through lands that belonged to a pre-Incan culture, the Yungos. The Yungos community used this fertile land as trade leverage during colonialism. In between the land they used for farming, they had developed an intricate network of trails and paths for moving through the area, which were now perfect for mountain biking!
The black sandy trail was surrounded by walls of vegetation, and we were navigating what was one of the most unique trails I’d ever ridden. From weaving through the dank humid rainforest to emerging into a dry dusty desert, the dirt under our tires turned from black to red. Ecuador switched it up on us once again. We had gone from rainforest jungle to a desolate crater-like area that was appropriately nicknamed, “the moon”.
From the Pululahua crater we drove south passed Quito and Machachi to the base of Cotopaxi, an active volcano in the Andes. We set up in a mountain hostel for the night hoping for good weather, but this was a story I’d seen unfold before.
Cotopaxi is a very special place to me. When I first came to Ecuador in 2012, I was on a 19-day bikepacking trip and I spent 4 days waiting for the clouds to clear but never actually saw it. I was always drawn to come back but would again strike out on this trip.
The snow was low, but we decided to make the most of it. The soil was incredibly soft, but still ran insanely slightly frozen ground and cold temperatures. The feeling of freedom and happiness from riding these lines surrounded by deep canyons and crazy colors is something I’ll never forget.
Mateo and I tried three separate times to approach and ride Chimborazo, and on the last attempt I had one of the best rides of my life. We descended from Condor Lake at 5100m into the low-lying jungle at 700m. From the volcanic rock field and sand slopes, to the high mountain ridge lines and impossibly thick jungle, we had proven once again that Ecuador has some of the most diverse riding on earth.
After two weeks of riding in Ecuador and visiting many of the places I’ve dreamed of, I once again feel incredibly lucky for getting to travel to ride my bike. Everything from the adventurous riding to the unique culture and passionate people, has made my experience in Ecuador unforgettable. I would like to thank Mateo and his company Ride Equadorfor his help.
Whenever we travel we leave certain expectations in our mind and assume we know how things are going to go, but once your hands are on the bars it’s always a little bit different. Once you’re there, the only thing that matters is the trail in from of you. This is when you know you’re living 100% in the moment.
“Vive la Vie”
Last Fall a group of Rocky Mountain athletes, ambassadors, and friends took a road trip through some of the best riding networks in Quebec and the Northeastern United States. We set each of them up with our new Thunderbolt, to ride the style of trails in which the bike was designed for. Built for technical climbs with the ability to power through the rough stuff, the Thunderbolt is a quick, nimble, trail weapon, meant to excel on demanding trails.
It’s amazing what you can pack into a long weekend with a solid crew. Our EWS team rider, Peter Ostroski, his sister Sophie, and Rocky Mountain Sales Rep, Sean Rudzinsky, headed north across the Canada-US border to meet up with the Canadians, Christian Gauvin, Kevin Simard, and Ian Hughes. Christian is based out of Bromont and has been a Rocky Mountain athlete for 10 years, Kevin has been with Rocky Mountain for 5 years, and Ian is a coach working for the Centre National de Cyclisme de Bromont (CNCB). Packing up for the weekend, stop one would be at Vallée Bras-du-Nord.
“I couldn’t believe how hard I could push the Thunderbolt on descents and still make quick work of the climbs. The snappy nature of the bike makes it ride light and is easy to handle, and its maneuverability and quick acceleration allowed me to get creative on the downs!” – Peter Ostroski
Action, agility, and acute adjustments, the trails in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States demand focus and quick corrections. Often overshadowed by the trail lore of the Pacific Northwest and tales of the endless BC backcountry, the east side of our continent doesn’t seem to get enough credit. Riddled with technical singletrack and daunting rock moves, it pays to ride with purpose and precision.
When we re-designed the Thunderbolt, we brought the rear travel up to 130mm, increased frame stiffness, and lowered the suspension rate curve. We also added the option of our BC Edition platform, accommodating a longer stroke shock to provide 140mm of rear travel. Both the Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt BC Edition have RIDE-9™ adjustments, giving you control over the geometry and suspension characteristics, so you can be ready for any trail.
Christian charges hard year-round racing fat bikes in a true Canadian winter, racing XC and enduro in the summer, and helping out with demo days and local ride events. He lives in Bromont, right next to the trails. The mountain biking scene is strong here, and with a passionate drive the community has helped move mountain biking forward through volunteerism, fundraising, and commitment.
“We have an incredibly strong trail building crew here in Bromont, and there’s definitely no shortage of talented riders. The builders are all so passionate about riding, I think it’s their personal commitment to both building and riding that makes the trails here so fun!” – Christian Gauvin
Rocky Mountain has been working with Vallée Bras-du-Nord since they first began developing mountain bike trails in 2007. The trails are the work of an incredibly unique, at-risk youth program where they work in groups of 10 for nearly 6 months at a time, building and maintaining all the trails in their tenure. The vision is that working in nature can be used as a kind of therapy and connecting youth with the outdoors is a way to help them build skills and self-confidence. The dedicated program managers are building out a network that truly represents the riding in Quebec, with trails that breed creativity. The network here is growing quickly, and for good reason.
We’re truly lucky to get to ride and work in such a beautiful place. We have everything from flow trails to the more classic, technical riding you’ll see in Quebec, and have developed the network to weave amongst the natural features of the environment. It’s pretty epic here!” – Mathieu Dupuis-Bourasssa, Operations Manager at Vallée Bras-du-Nord
''I love how hard the trail building community is working to grow our sport in Quebec. There’s so many great networks in close proximity, we as riders have seemingly endless choices of where to ride.” – Christian Gauvin
Peter Ostroski grew up in New Hampshire, and after a 6-year stint in Alaska, moved back to the Northeast settling in Burke, Vermont. He’s been a member of our EWS team since the beginning, starting with a spot on the original Altitude Team alongside teammates, Kevin Soller, and a young Jesse Melamed. But his history with Rocky Mountain doesn’t start there. He first rode a Rocky Mountain at 12 years old, hopping aboard an extra-small Instinct that he reflects fondly on calling it, “his dream ride”. Peter’s known for his ultra-quick precision and solid power on the pedals, both of which he developed as a cross-country racer charging hard on the tech trails out his back door.
The trails of Quebec and Northeast US don’t get the same level of exposure as the West Coast of North America, but things seem to be working just fine. The trail centres have developed a unique culture that’s helping to shape our sport in a meaningful way, and the riding still offers everything one could want.
“The mountains aren't as big as the Alps or BC, but they pack a punch and offer tight, challenging steep terrain if you know where to look.” – Peter Ostroski
Putting in the time: An interview with Peter Ostroski
Peter’s been riding and racing for Rocky Mountain for a really long time. He’s worked his way up from a grassroots hookup to representing our brand proudly at the Enduro World Series. He’s been a member of our North American enduro race team since its inception and isn't slowing down any time soon.
RMB: To start it all off, Peter, where are you from?
PO: I grew up in North Conway, New Hampshire, and stayed there until after I finished University. It was only an hour or so from my hometown. After wrapping up at Plymouth State University I moved up to Girdwood, Alaska for 6 years to ski and ride. Now, I’m back in the Northeast USA living in Burke, Vermont. It’s really awesome being so close to the Kingdom Trails, and there’s a ton of other great riding nearby.
RMB: What first got you into riding?
PO: I was lucky enough to grow up in a family who loved being on the move and doing things outdoors. My folks introduced me to mountain biking, and at that time North Conway had a fairly strong riding community. My buddies and I were pretty competitive, and we grew up pushing each other, chasing around the older riders, and rode mostly on trails which were way above our heads at the time.
From there I got into XC racing at a state level, which included everything from 24-hour solo missions to competing at the cross-country nationals. Mountain biking has always been a passion of mine when there wasn’t snow on the ground. I grew up alpine ski racing and was fortunate enough to compete at the national level and consistently through university. It’s always been exciting trying to balance both sports while dealing with the dynamic swing from season to season.
RMB: So how did you go from XC to Enduro?
PO: Throughout my years XC racing, my goal had always been to race a World Cup in Europe - just to see if I could hang at that level. Once I pushed through the local ranks and had gained enough points to race “across the pond”, well…it was an eye-opening experience. I realized it wasn’t the path for me. My timing was good though, because enduro was gaining momentum in the US and having a new discipline to compete at was interesting to me. I had always trained on aggressive trails for XC racing, riding bikes like the Slayer for most of my rides during my XC racing years. Fortunately, it’s that exact kind of riding which I enjoy most, so it was a natural transition for me. I’ve been a part of the enduro scene for the last 6 years.
RMB: Tell us about your history riding Rocky Mountain Bicycles, it starts long before your enduro racing career.
PO: I’ve been riding a Rocky Mountain since I was 12 years old and first jumped on a 26” wheeled bike (which was the original Instinct). I think it may have been size XS just to make it work for my size, and it was my absolute dream ride. I owe my introduction to Rocky Mountain to the regional sales rep at the time, Mark Jenks. He took me under his wing, showed me some basic mechanic skills, and helped me with my riding as a coach and mentor. Mark had set me up on a regional sponsorship program, which gave me the opportunity to represent Rocky Mountain as a junior with a sweet bike and riding kit. From there, I was introduced to the US sales manager, John Olden, and worked my way up to some larger races and events on a similar program.
Things really clicked when I was on my way to Utah for a race, and I met two guys from Rocky Mountain’s R&D office in North Vancouver. The Product Manager, Ken Perras, and Marketing Manager at the time, Peter Vallance, took me on a ride and gave me the chance to share my background and present some ideas to move the brand forward. It paid off! I was able to make my way on to a more structured program, and a season or two later, Dre Hestler brought me aboard the first enduro team with the new Altitude. The Altitude Team included a young Jesse Melamed, Keven Soller, and myself. We hit a few of the very first EWS races as the Altitude team, and grew into the Rocky Mountain Urge BP team, and now the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro team. It’s been a crazy journey!
RMB: It sounds like it’s been a pretty awesome journey!
PO: Being a part of a strong team with some of the best riders in the world is a special thing. I have learned so much about bike racing over the last 5 years. It’s so important to have teammates that you can trust at the races to talk about the tracks, bounce ideas off of, and keep the energy high. Having the support of the EWS team has been great, and it’s allowed me to bring experience, stories and knowledge back to the regional and national races in the US.
RMB: What do you do in the winter? Tell us about that?
PO: Winter’s always been about skiing! I mentioned I grew up as an alpine ski racer, and then raced at the national level in university. Now, I’m a ski coach, and I keep the passion alive through my career and continued involvement in the sport. This is what led me, besides the amazing skiing, up to Alaska 7 years ago. I began working at a junior program at Alyeska Resort, and it evolved into somewhat of a full-time gig. As with many things in life, it's a balance. I try to give the athletes I coach the best opportunity to reach their potential, while striving to accomplish my own goals as an athlete.
RMB: Do you coach year-round?
PO: I coach skiing mostly in the winter, but there are a handful of summer ski camps I’m involved with. Right now, I’m working at Burke Mtn Academy in Vermont, which is a ski academy that has produced numerous Olympians and successful alpine racers over the past 48 years. It’s been really working at the school that was the first sports academy in North America. My job is somewhat seasonal, which gives me more time to dedicate effort towards both my biking and skiing career, keeping my life dynamic and fun.
RMB: What does your schedule look like for the year?
PO: For the upcoming season I plan to race a few EWS events (Austria, Whistler, Spain and Italy), a handful of Eastern States events, Trans-BC, and the Continental EWS races in North America. The goal is always to podium at national level races, Trans-BC, and try and be up there in the ranks at the EWS races I attend.
RMB: Everybody knows about the PNW trails, so tell us about the northeast US trails.
PO: The PNW gets so much attention, but the Northeast US trails are pretty rad! There is some really amazing riding and super varying terrain. There’s everything from rolling hills to fairly sizable mountains, modern flow trails to raw and technical trails. The mountains aren't as big as the Alps or BC, but they pack a punch and offer tight, challenging steep terrain if you know where to look.
I don't think the Northeast gets the exposure like the Pacific Northwest because the culture is just different, and these places have only just recently pushed to become riding destinations. The PNW is leading the charge, but with strong engagement from the NE municipalities and land owners to push for more MTB tourism, I think the momentum is growing around here.
RMB: What bikes are you riding on this season?
PO: I will primarily be riding Instinct, Altitude, and Thunderbolt. I also spend a fair bit of time on the Suzi-Q in the winter, riding on snow and going wherever I can. When the conditions shape up, its actually pretty fun.
The all-new Vertex
The Vertex embodies speed and confidence, sitting at the top of the food chain as our flagship XC-race hardtail.
Its lightweight frame provides incredible stiffness and rolling speed, while its modern, aggressive geometry inspires confidence everywhere on the race course—even technical corners and descents. Available in a next-generation Smoothwall HBO carbon layup for even lighter weight.Intended Use: XC Race Wheel Size: 29" and 27.5+ compatible Front Travel: 100mm Vertex Carbon 90 "The new Vertex is exactly what I need for marathon racing. The re-worked geometry has been designed for improved efficiency, which allows me to push my own capabilities on the trail. Light, stiff, and durable, the Vertex is everyting I want in a hardtail." – Sascha Weber Vertex Carbon 90 frameset
Smoothwall™ carbon uses one of the world’s most sophisticated carbon processes to deliver industry leading stiffness-to-weight, ride quality, and durability. We eliminate excess resin and fibers by using rigid internal molds instead of traditional air bladders. We then utilize different types of carbon in specific frame areas to maximize stiffness and impact resistance while minimizing overall weight.
Next generation features
Comprehensive, evolutionary updates across the platform include features like tooled axles, boost spacing, Di2 & dropper post compatibility.
Smoothwall HBO layup
By incorporating premium 40-ton carbon fiber sheets into our Vertex Carbon 90 and Vertex Carbon frameset, we were able to eliminate more resin than what is usually left from our traditional Smoothwall construction. This process allowed us to incorporate desirable frame features, increase durability, and maintain the ride performance we are known for. Our standard Smoothwall layup that can be found on the Vertex Carbon 70 and Vertex Carbon 50 remains industry leading, without resorting to cost cutting by integrating fiberglass.
Rocky Mountain ride quality
Our Vertex retains all the ride DNA that makes Rocky Mountain Bicycles famous. We’ve focused on XC performance for flat out speed but have not made compromises on ride quality, keeping our bikes fun when out on the trail. We’ve lengthened the reach, slackened the head angle, and shortened the wheelbase, maintaining rear end compliance and a comfortable ride.
Vertex Carbon 70
Vertex Carbon 50
Rider: Sascha Weber and Lukas Baum
Photo: Dennis Stratmann
Location: Cadaques, Spain
Rider: Sascha Weber and Lukas Baum
Photo: Dennis Stratmann
Location: Cadaques, Spain
The Long Way
Sam Schultz has driven south every winter for the past 11 years, leaving Montana’s snow-covered landscape behind to coach mountain biking and road riding in Tucson, Arizona. In those 11 years, he’s switched it up his plan a few times and detoured over to sunny California to ride, but the Sonoran Desert has a certain allure that has always drawn him back. Sam’s road trip always has an end game; to get back on the bike, push his own limits, and get a jump start on the riding season. He’ll be the first one to tell you he loves a good road trip, and that the best ones are filled with deviations, stops, and adventures along the way.
The whole life “van life” movement has really taken off, but it’s nothing new. The entire idea of it is centered around freedom; go where you want, when you want, with the only limitation being the need for a road surface to drive on. Riding a bike is not all that different. They’re an amazing tool for adventure and instill a strong sense of personal satisfaction and excitement. However, on a bicycle there’s no need to stop when the road ends. Sam’s bikes are a natural extension of his van, and he uses them to further explore his current location and bring on a unique perspective to his journey.
“I would say the more time I can have to get from point A to point B the better. Just stop and you have your garage full of bikes, your dresser, your changing room, your kitchen, your bed--everything you need. The best times on a road trip are the days the van doesn’t move at all” – Sam Schultz
Sam grew up racing mountain bikes. He entered his first race at 13 and was ranked at a national level, earning him a spot on the US Cycling U23 development team. After several years of competing internationally against the best in the world, it was announced that he was chosen to represent his country at the 2012 London Olympics. Sam placed 15th on the day, a result that he’s incredibly proud of. The Olympic Games weren’t Sam’s exit from racing, but it wasn’t long after that he began suffering from multiple back injuries that required multiple surgeries. One of the surgeries resulted in a spinal infection, and the other left him with rods and screws fusing his L4 and L5 vertebrae together. For a year before surgery, and a year after each surgery, it was non-stop physical therapy and rehabilitation. He was determined to return to racing.
“For me, it’s always been that if I put in the work, I see the result. That’s how my whole bike racing career was, and I feel very lucky that it was like that.” – Sam Schultz
Sam came to the realization that with his plaguing back injury, being a racer wasn’t going to be his future career. Like most people when their entire world is turned upside down, he felt a bit lost. The solution didn’t come to him overnight, but he took the time to try and figure out what it was that actually makes him happy. Sam loves to travel, meet interesting people, and he loves to ride his bike.
“The only thing I have found that compares to doing something yourself, is sharing it with someone else. Most people learn that in kindergarten, but that has been a pretty big epiphany for me.” – Sam Schultz
Sam’s been camping out and travelling with a van for his entire life. From road tripping with his parents’ minivan in high school for racing, to exploring the US with a quiver of bikes and his dog, Pancho. Right now, Sam’s biggest priority is to embrace his adventure, put the van in “park”, and get out for a ride beyond where the road ends.
Sam Schultz' Never-ending Road Trip
From Olympic cross-country racing to a life on the road, Sam Schultz lives for riding mountain bikes. He’s grown up chasing the top spot on the podium and was always driven by the excitement of fierce competition.
Nowadays, Sam’s working hard to launch a youth mountain bike league in Montana, coaching cycling clinics in Arizona, and driving his van around the US with his dog, Pancho, seated in shotgun. Sam’s never-ending road trip has given him a whole new perspective on mountain biking and life.
Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
SS: I grew up in Missoula, Montana and I still call it home. Like a lot of kids, I couldn’t wait to move away when I graduated high school. It didn't take long to come to draw me back and realize that I am pretty dang lucky to have grown up here.
What first got you into riding?
SS: My uncle got my brother and I hooked on riding. Growing up with a sweet trail network out the back door, we were naturally drawn to explore our backyard. Uncle Chuck was an avid mountain biker who showed us what was possible on mountain bikes, so it didn’t take long for me to become obsessed with riding and talking to my parents about taking me to my first race (at my uncle's suggestion).
What was your path to the Olympics? Was racing part of your upbringing?
SS: I entered my first race was when I was 13, and as soon as I finished all I could think about was the next one. It wasn't long until my brother got into it and pretty soon my Dad was racing too. My parents were incredibly supportive; loading up the minivan with bikes and camping gear and traveling all over Montana and eventually the country. In my last year as a junior, I set a goal to make the world championship team and I squeaked my way onto the squad. The following year I was invited to join a U23 development program that USA Cycling had founded, and that program gave me the opportunity to compete on the World Cup circuit. After several years of international competition, I had progressed enough to score my first pro contract. It was a dream come true. I didn't really believe that the Olympics would be a possibility until I was named to the team leading up to the 2008 Games. I didn't make that team, but I knew I had a shot for 2012.
So, you ended up at the 2012 London Olympics. Was it what you expected?
SS: It was amazing to have the opportunity to represent my country on the biggest sporting stage out there. I underestimated the feeling of having what felt like my entire community cheering me on. I was super nervous, and the whole experience was out of this world. I finished 15th on the day - a result I was very proud of. The biggest downside to competing in the mountain bike race was that it happened to be on the last day of the Olympics. I had to miss out on some epic parties that week, but the closing ceremony was truly something special.
What have you been doing at the Cycling House in Tucson?
SS: I work both as a ride guide and a camp director for the Cycling House. I've been working for them on and off for the last 11 years. A high school bike racing buddy, and still one of my best friends, started the company 2 years before I got involved. We run all-inclusive cycling getaways out of a big house in the desert with delicious food, lots of shared hangout space, and great groups of people. They also run trips in Montana and all over the world now. We work like dogs, but we do so alongside great friends and with very interesting clientele. We get to spend a lot of time with our clients--and with bikes as a common connection between people who often times have polar opposite backgrounds, mutual respect, interesting conversation, and new friendships are usually the result.
Tell us about your goal of getting a High School Mountain Bike League going in Montana.
SS: Ever since I stopped pursing racing as a result of some back issues and a couple of ensuing surgeries, I’ve given myself a lot of time living in what I call, “temporary-semi-retirement”. Retired life is great, but I've also been seeking out the next project that will push me to be less self-serving and spread my passion for cycling.
All signs pointed towards a project with the NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) high school and middle school mountain bike racing movement. NICA exists in 22 states across the US now and it is flourishing. Montana doesn't have a league yet, and I see this as an amazing opportunity to make mountain biking more accessible to kids in my home state. I think about how lucky I was to get introduced to mountain biking at a young age, and how much I learned from mountain biking. I would have been through the moon if we had a program like NICA when I was growing up, and I couldn't be more excited to be working on making it happen.
How did you meet your dog, Pancho?
SS: Exactly a year ago, I set off on a little motorcycle trip into Mexico. I had two weeks off and I wanted to see some new country, explore cool roads, and of course eat delicious tacos. Towards the end of my trip I rode past a burning dump--black smoke billowing out along a beautiful coastline. I was fascinated and had to pull in for a closer look.
The first thing I saw through the smoke was a puppy peering out of a water jug. I couldn’t think of much to do at that time other than bring some food and water to the pup, but even after I got back to Tucson, I couldn’t stop thinking about that dog. I drove back down in my van a couple days later and what I thought was one puppy turned out to be four--three black and brown puppies, and one scrawny little white one. I was chasing these puppies around through broken glass in a burning dump at sunset and I couldn’t catch them.
It was getting dark quick, so I started going after the smaller, white one. He fell asleep on a pile of trash while I was chasing him, and I scooped him up. He weighed less than 5 pounds, smelled like rotten fish, and was covered in fleas and ticks. I felt guilty after taking him away from his siblings, so I left the van door open to give him the chance to run free. He sat there staring at me. The whole story is pretty long (with getting him across the border and all that). You might have to buy me a beer to hear the rest...
You’ve told us before that your exit from the racing world was not an easy one. What was that like and how have you balanced your competitive drive?
SS: My exit from the racing world was pretty long and drawn out. I went through two pretty serious back surgeries; one that resulted in a spinal infection, and one that left me with rods and screws fusing my L4 and L5 vertebrae together. For a year before surgery, and a year after each surgery, I did physical therapy exercises more obsessively than I’ve done anything in my life. I had the blinders on and I wanted to get back to racing. I guess it’s that stupid, competitive drive I have. I think a rationale person would have thrown in the towel quite a bit sooner. For me, it’s always been that if I put in the work, I see the result. That’s how my whole bike racing career was, and I feel very lucky that it was like that.
I never tested well with VO2 max and lactate threshold. My hematocrit was so low bloodwork always flagged me as anemic. According to the lab, I should be slow, but I stuck with it, had fun, worked hard and the rest is history. Making the decision to exit from racing is probably been one of the hardest, but also the best things I’ve ever done. It was a chance for me to change my perspective completely. I lived in this bubble where I was obsessed with what I was doing, and racing was my whole world. Then I got out of racing, and it’s hard to even find the results.
How have you continued to keep riding as part of your lifestyle? Why?
SS: After finally coming to the realization that being a racer wasn’t going to work due to my plaguing back injury, I didn’t really know what to do. I thought it would be cool to put together an ambassador gig, but there are a ton of challenges trying to sell yourself from that angle as well. I pieced together a couple of low end deals, but nothing big enough to really make it worth doing anything that I didn’t actually want to do. It was a blessing in disguise, because it forced me to put effort into doing my own thing and really becoming that authentic story I was trying to sell. I started doing what I wanted to do and then some sponsor relationships have grown and it’s a cool gig.
Tell me about your pace in the van?
SS: Almost always, I would say the more time I can have to get from point A to point B the better. There are so many things to see along the way, and the van makes it easy. Just stop and you have your garage full of bikes, your dresser, your changing room, your kitchen, your bed--everything you need. The best times on a road trip are the days the van doesn’t move at all. If I stop, park the van, and just get to hang out. That’s the key. Nowhere to be and all day to get there. That’s a good way to be in the van.
What guides you as an evolving athlete?
SS: Endurance athletes that get to a high level of their sport usually don’t really get there without being pretty damn selfish. You have to take care of yourself, and it’s a lot about you to get to that high level. You end up making a lot of sacrifices, and it becomes difficult to what’s best for you with what others are expecting. I’m trying to work on being a little less selfish, because I have trained my whole life to perform at a high level. I say, “a little”, because I know I have a long way to go.
I’ve also really been taking my time to try and figure out what actually makes me happy. If I can get some riding in with interesting people and find some time for myself where I’m able to relax, I’m generally in a good spot. I still really like to push myself physically, and I feel really lucky to be able to do it even after my struggles with injuries. The only thing I have found that compares to doing something yourself, is sharing it with someone else. Most people learn that in kindergarten, but that has been a pretty big epiphany for me.
What advice would you give other people who are thinking about ditching the traditional life and hitting the road?
SS: A lot of people get in over their head trying to keep up with what other people are doing. Everything comes with sacrifices; the grass is always greener. I think being able to truly own what you’re doing at the moment is the best advice I could give.
I certainly don’t have it all figured out. I’m 32, I don’t really have a career right now, and sometimes I’m like “shit, what am I even doing?” but then I realize that I get to ride where I want to ride, work when I want to work, and piece it all together the way I want to. For me, as long as I’m learning I feel like it’s all worthwhile. I don’t think I’ll live the full “life on the road” forever – I kind of hope not – but I’m not going to regret the time I have spent doing it, that’s for sure.
Sam Schultz is splitting his time between riding the Solo, Instinct, and Element this season. He has his sights set on a couple races like BC Bike Race and the Downieville Classic but is mostly looking forward to road trips in his van that lead to amazing rides, and of course with Pancho by his side.