Rocky Mountain Hammer Review – 10 Years On

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In 2002 I bought a Rocky Mountain Hammer mountain bike. It’s now 2012, so with a decade of ragging it senseless behind me, it’s time for a very long term test review!

In 2002, the Canadian built Hammer was a steel framed hard-tail with bang up to date geometry and disc mounts as standard. It came with 80mm of coil / oil suspension courtesy of Manitou, a smattering of Shimano gear train and some Race Face chunky bits (bars / chainset / stem and post)

I took advantage of the disc mounts, junking the V-brakes and selecting Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes before picking it up from the shop, which in 2002 were a revelation of control and power and the frame is designed to cope with the increased braking power.

Rocky Mountain Hammer Logo
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Rocky Mountain Hammer Side
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The Frame is the Star

However, the main product I was buying into was the steel frame. The rest of the components all eventually fell apart and have been replaced, but the frame has hung on in there. It uses Rocky Mountain’s famous ST3 geometry which has been in use since the 80s and is still used today. Sloping Top Tube Technology (ST3) meets the seat tube at a lower height than the seat stays which provides more stand over height during those pedal interface failure moments and spreads the stress at the seat tube providing more longevity. It also brings the front triangle smaller to provide a stiffer, more responsive ride than if it had been joined straight through.

Hammer Rocky Mountain Logo
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The stay width is quite narrow and the tyre to fork gap is also small. I run 2.2×26 Bontrager XR4 Team Issues in the summer which come out pretty wide (they look like a 2.3 or more) but in the winter the frame and forks fill up with mud very quickly on these tyres due to the lack of clearance, so proper mud tyres like the narrower Bontrager XR Mud (Jones MudX), which shed fast, are a must when the weather turns.

It has mounts for a bottle cage and panniers, but I’ve never used them.

Rocky Mountain Hammer Reynolds 725 Steel Frame
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Rocky Mountain Hammer Built in Canada Logo
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The Reynolds 725 in the main tubes and cro-mo on the stays in the rear triangle work together to provide a ride that excels at battering singletrack or tackling an all-day rough ride through the mountains. If you have never ridden a steel frame before, it’s not as stiff or light as an equivalent aluminium frame, but it has a more supple feel that keeps you comfy all day and once rolling, soaks and flattens the bumps on my local trails giving me a huge grin. I have ridden for hours on end, during week long excursions through the mountains in Italy, Switzerland and the Pyrenees. At the end of the day, I was still able to walk and at the beginning of the next day, I was still looking forward to jumping on and doing it all over again. Until 2002 I had ridden a variety of Giant and Specialized full suspension and hard-tails, but the Hammer blew me away with how well it coped with everything I threw at it.

Rocky Mountain Hammer 2002
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2004 when most of the parts were still original

The Corners

After changing the forks from 80mm to 100mm, the increased rake and trail slowed down the steering slightly but noticeably. The only area it really loses out due to this change is in really slow tight corners where it is less than willing to turn in and the occasional unexpected manual up steep hills. However it gains everywhere else and out on the trail I really appreciate the new found abilities while aiming downhill and the more relaxed nature in muddy corners. When I line it up against a similarly equipped modern aluminium hard-tail and session the same bit of downhill, the Hammer keeps an advantage. The Hammer moves around underneath me, flexing slightly as it compresses into the corners, inspiring confidence and letting me just get on with looking at what’s coming next. In comparison the aluminium framed bike is skittish, bouncing around more and losing the rider’s confidence on the edge.

The bars are too narrow for high speed corners and berms, but I added a bit extra by replacing the original grips with lock-ons and leaving an overhang which made it less twitchy and more friendly.

Occassionally the front end steps out in low grip conditions, but you can normally save the slide if you stay relaxed and wait for it to grip again unlike some other bikes that wash away really fast on the same tyres.

Not a function of the frame, but the original Race Face stem was long by today’s standards and a slightly shorter version would help with hustling through berms and switchbacks with more confidence.

Rocky Mountain Hammer Left Side
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Now with Rockshox, XT, Cane Creek and Gore Cables

 

Attacking everything

Out of the corners and the aluminium framed bikes pull away with better pedalling efficiency but once rolling the Hammer is easy to keep at speed. It is designed as a cross-country mountain bike, but can cope with most situations. It can get a bit out of hand while pedalling over fast bumps like roots, but rolling through them, heels down, is safe, even in rock gardens, as I discovered at Stoughton freeride downhill. I’ve ridden the Hammer on all sorts of terrain, including teeth chattering 4×4 tracks, deep mud, the PORC 4X course, Welsh trail centres, Gorrick XC races, downhill enduro races, Pyrenees rocky mountain (!) tracks, 5 foot drops, black runs at Aston Hill and it has done them all with confidence. For reference, the only thing I don’t do on it is big jumps. I’m not a heavy rider at 11 stone, but I have certainly put it through the mill over the course of the last ten years and I’ve loved every minute. I’ve crashed it so many times it’s surprising I still function, let alone the bike, but even the paint is durable.

During my years of ownership (thus far), I’ve used the Rocky Mountain Hammer to hone my skills, finding the edge of what this bike is capable of (and beyond – oops), and at the end of every ride I’m grinning my face off.

Edit: Moe asked for this in the comments, so I hope it helps!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJGxdY5CkTQ

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Charles Rodmell

Charles Rodmell has been running and cycling since the 70's, mainly because no one told him to stop. He runs on and off road and occasionally barefoot. He rides mountain bikes as often as possible and sometimes a trials bike. If there's snow, you can find him on a snowboard.

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By | 2017-02-02T21:27:54+00:00 November 7th, 2012|Cycling|30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Moe March 25, 2013 at 22:43 - Reply

    Hey Thank you so much for this post. I also own a Rocky Mountain Hammer 2002 but kept it all original. Unfortunatly the main print based on the top tube got some damage so it needed to be removed. As my interest in restoring it grew, i started to look for some detail photos, to resore it as original looking as possible. It would help me a lot if you could take some pics of it and ad them to your article.
    Thank you,
    greetings, Moe

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    • Charles r March 26, 2013 at 14:49 - Reply

      Hi Moe. I’ve added a vid at the end for you. Please let me know if you need anything further. For example, I could put a tape measure next to the decals if that would help.

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  2. Moe March 26, 2013 at 17:35 - Reply

    Thats brilliant! thank you so much! Pictures with a masure tape would be helpfull aswell i guess… I´m not totally sure how I´m going to restore it maybe there is a way to buy stickers, maybe I´ll have to paint it. any good ideas?

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    • Charles r March 26, 2013 at 17:57 - Reply

      Assuming they are indeed decals / stickers, I’d contact Rocky Mountain first to see if perhaps they have any decals stored. It’s a long shot, but easiest. Or head down to your local art school and see if anyone wants to do it as a project. 😀

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      • Moe April 3, 2013 at 20:26 - Reply

        So finally Rocky Mountain answered my mail to tell me that there are no such stickers avalible. Sad thing. I guess I´ll plot them myselve or paint them. This is going to be some work 😉 I look forward to it! Could you take some more pics with a masure tape next to it? that´d be awesome! Thanks for your support!
        Moe

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  3. Doug April 4, 2013 at 23:05 - Reply

    I am also a proud owner of this ride. I got it in early spring of ’03 with a bomber atom race fork and got it on clearance. It’s a little small for me, but I walked past it once and couldn’t do it twice. I’ve kept it mostly stock, but will be upgrading cranks soon. I did trash the wheels a few years ago, but rebuilt the hubs to a wheelset for the wife. Unlike the author’s, my stem is only 80mm, not too long at all, it’s just right. The frame is a champ, takes a beating but keeps hammering down the trail. I got a NOS blizzard, so it’s been sitting a lil while but I’d never be able to let it go. It’s simply too sweet.

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  4. Montana Harkin August 20, 2014 at 22:11 - Reply

    I also have a 2002 RMH and it is an amazing bike. I’ve had to rebuild the rear wheel, but that has been it. I’m also looking to upgrade to a 100mm travel front and disk set, after owning it for 12 years 😉 It is still a very light bike.

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    • Charles R August 21, 2014 at 10:33 - Reply

      Cool! The 100mm travel lets you hammer the downhills in a more relaxed way, but if I was doing it again, I’d get an 80mm SID to keep the geometry as intended. I have a different bike for all-mountain jaunts, so I’d like to get the Hammer back to being fully XC focused.

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  5. Adrian Dean October 21, 2014 at 19:34 - Reply

    I am also the proud owner of a Hammer race ’99. It’s been ragged in North WalesCheshire regularly and been rebuilt a few times. The frame is pretty battered now to be honest, but looks great for it. No new decals going on this frame. I’ve had a few other hardtail bikes, but none really compare to that ride. That subtle feel particularly on tight technical singletrack is really something to make you smile. Just waiting for the RM 27.5 Hammer?
    Enjoy for many years to come……:)

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    • Charles R October 22, 2014 at 10:18 - Reply

      Cool! Got any pics?

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  6. Moe November 12, 2014 at 18:48 - Reply

    Finally! The Hammer Project reached its next level! I learned how to use Adobe Illustrator and designed the sticker by myselve. In a few weeks i´ll have my frame sanded and painted. Than I´ll put the sticker on it and add a clear layer of paint over it. Its not a 100% identical with the original but I think noone will notice when there is no direct comparrison to the original. https://abload.de/img/alles4gut8.png I´m pretty sure i´ll post some pics when I have finished the Project. Thanks again für the Video, without it this would not have been possible!!!

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    • Charles R November 12, 2014 at 18:49 - Reply

      Smart!

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  7. Wayne March 18, 2015 at 15:23 - Reply

    I really enjoyed your write up – the pictures are great !!! nice bike you have there!
    I agree ,well i would as i also own a Rocky mountain Hammer Race 1999 in shredded silver ,frame is 21″ and Reynolds 525 ,still ridden most days,great for long xc tours. no disc tabs but i run magura hydrostops ..
    I am lucky to own Rocky Mountain Blizzard 2002 size 19″ in classic black/white maple leaf ,Reynolds 853 ,best bike ive owned ,a true x-country rocket .this bike i built with 90mm fox f-series forks , handles amazing
    both my bikes are loved equal amounts

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    • Charles Rodmell March 18, 2015 at 19:16 - Reply

      Smart! Email me some pics of your 1999 and I’ll add them mentioning you.

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  8. Moe April 15, 2015 at 18:12 - Reply

    Finally =) =) My Rocky Mountain Hammer is ready! I plotted my designed stickers, put them on the frame and added a layer of clear lacquer over it. bought new parts and built up the bike. The result is worth all to time I spent into this project. Still one of the best frames i have ever seen!
    https://abload.de/img/p11102632osxv.jpg
    https://abload.de/img/p11102646xsp9.jpg
    https://abload.de/img/p111026579s55.jpg
    https://abload.de/img/p1110266xosl3.jpg

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    • Charles Rodmell April 16, 2015 at 07:12 - Reply

      Wow! Looks sensational 🙂

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  9. Phil August 31, 2016 at 06:41 - Reply

    HI, am looking to upgrade the fork for this same bike at the moment, having very little technical knowledge, what specs do I need to know to source this? Headset type steerer length? Thanks in advance.
    Phil

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    • Charles Rodmell August 31, 2016 at 11:40 - Reply

      Hah, sorry, no idea. I take mine to the local bike shop for any work. What I can say is that Rocky Mountain told me it’s designed for an 80mm travel fork. If you go to 100mm (like I did), it will be more fun on the downhills, but loses a little steering response due to the increased fork trail. I’ll be changing back to 80mm at some point.

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  10. Jimmy August 5, 2017 at 12:34 - Reply

    Hi Charles. I realize that this is an older post so I am not sure if the thread is still available for comments but I will post one anyway. This may seem weird but in 1998 I went into a local sporting goods store and noticed that one area of the showroom was dedicated to Rocky Mountain bikes. The year prior, I purchased a 1997 Klein Attitude Race, so I had no intention’s of buying another bike. Showcasing the room was a 1998 Rocky Mountain Hammer Race. It was black with yellow and red detailing and it had the Judy T2 Rock Shox front suspension. It was probably the nicest looking bike that I had ever seen, and unlike my Klein, it was made in Canada. Since there was only one in the showroom, I left the store that day with a beautiful Rocky Mountain Hammer Race. Now the weird part is, I drove the bike home that day and it has been in my basement in storage for the past 19 years and has never been driven. I admired the bike so much, I couldn’t bare to see it get dirty or full of mud. I rode it this summer for the first time and may have logged 50 kilometers on the bike, if that. It is in mint condition and still has the little rubber pieces on the side of the tires. I live in a small city and have never seen a duplicate model and after taking it for its first ride, it runs the same as the first day that I rode it, almost 20 years ago. The only blemish is the rubber is cracking on the sides of both tires and I am thinking this is due to age. Nothing has seized or rusted and by looking at it, you would think that it just came out of the box. I just thought I would pass this on to you and thank you for sharing your story.

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    • Charles Rodmell August 5, 2017 at 13:14 - Reply

      Pics please!! And yeah, change those tyres immediately or you’ll do yourself an injury.

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  11. Jimmy August 8, 2017 at 09:57 - Reply

    Hi Charles. I will send you some pics this week. Could you please advise me as to what would be a good trail tire, My rear tire is different from the front. The front tire has a V pattern where as the rear is horizontal. I will send pics of the tires as well and thank you ever so much. Your input is very much appreciated and highly respected. Jimmy.

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    • Charles Rodmell August 8, 2017 at 17:07 - Reply

      I’m possibly not the right person to ask because I’ve not been riding much (took a year off to train for a marathon and only just getting back into the riding). On my Hammer I use either Bontrager MudX if it’s muddy, or XR3 Team Issue if it’s more dry. They are on sale at the moment direct from Trek. Don’t go bigger than 2.2 though. For my other bike (Remedy), I use XR3 TI (tubeless) at back and Continental Baron Black Chilli on the front. I don’t use those in the mud though.

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  12. Jimmy MacDonald August 16, 2017 at 14:48 - Reply

    Hi Charles. Thank you ever so much. My rear tire is Kevlar so I will bring it to the dealer and take your recommendations with me and try to match up what you suggested. I have some pictures that I would love to show you but I cannot figure out how to attach them. I have tried every possible way, but no luck as of yet. Any suggestions please. Best of luck with your marathon. I have done many half marathons but never a complete one. I seem to peak out at the 20 mile mark but then with work and family commitments, my time allotment does not allow me to train properly, so I am happy doing my 10k runs on a regular basis. Thank you very much again for your expertise and if there are other means of sending you some photos, your guidance would be greatly appreciated. Jimmy.

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    • Charles Rodmell August 18, 2017 at 19:16 - Reply

      Things like photobucket and Flickr let you host pics for free. Or send them to me with wetransfer.com and I will add them to the article

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    • Charles Rodmell August 18, 2017 at 19:18 - Reply

      Oh and my email is charles@ the site url

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  13. Nic October 16, 2017 at 19:40 - Reply

    Lovely bike…have any of you found a true measurement of a Rocky Mountain Hammer frame with the Reynolds 725 tubing?

    Again great article so much worth the read.

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    • Charles Rodmell October 16, 2017 at 20:15 - Reply

      Hi Nic. Thanks! I’m not sure what you are asking. Please let me know what you’d like me to do and I’ll get the tape measure.

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  14. Nic October 17, 2017 at 15:46 - Reply

    Hey wow quick response…what I left out is if you could give me a weight on your bike build. It’s been said that the hammer is in fact lighter than the far more expensive Blizzard of the same year (853 Reynolds) I’m looking at getting an old hammer myself. It’s not terribly important to me as steel is steel but it’s nice to know. If you ever weighed your frame that would be cool to. Thanks so much Charles.

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    • Charles Rodmell October 17, 2017 at 19:22 - Reply

      I’ve never stripped it down, but it’s not particularly light in the build I have. 30lb including mudguards and MudX tyres. Don’t be expecting me to figure this out for you 😀

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  15. Nic October 19, 2017 at 15:26 - Reply

    I was in the market for an older Blizzard (2003-2005) to get a Reynolds 853 frameset but reading an article such as yours has me leaning more towards building a Hammer. It was such a pleasure to read and the more I find out about these lovely bikes the more it makes it an easy choice. Thanks again.

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