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Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 Review

The Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 is close to greatness but is held back by its controls and components.
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Price:  $5,299 List
Pros:  Smooth and consistent power output, modern geometry,
Cons:  No digital display, wimpy tires and fork, center of gravity feels high
Manufacturer:   Rocky Mountain
By Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens, Chris McNamara  ⋅  Jun 10, 2019
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 7
  • E-Bike Controls - 10% 5
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 6
  • Climbing Performance - 20% 7
  • Power Output - 15% 7
  • Distance Range - 20% 9

Our Verdict

Rocky Mountain is onto something with their Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50. This new e-bike is designed around their own Dyname 3.0 drive system that is cleanly integrated into the frame along with the battery. This drive system is quiet, powerful, and offers a good distance range. The bike has been thoughtfully designed around this drive system with nice modern trail bike geometry and Rocky Mountain's Ride 9 adjustability. It's a comfortable climber with a steep seat tube and plenty of power on tap. On the descents, it performs well at a range of speeds and excels on smoother non-technical terrain. Unfortunately, the Instinct falters a bit when the going gets steep and rough due to the less than adequate fork specification and non-aggressive tires. Testers also found the weight to feel high on this bike, which resulted in awkward handling at lower speeds. The controls are functional, but the display definitely leaves something to be desired. Despite these shortcomings, this is a solid option for the less aggressive rider and moderate terrain.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $5,299 List$5,950 List$5,399 List$5,999 List$4,830 List
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Pros Smooth and consistent power output, modern geometry,versatile, fits water bottle, least e-bike looking, good battery life, low center of gravityGood controls, huge distance range, confidence inspiring at speed, good component specVery nice build, stealthy looks, hard-charging downhill performanceReasonably priced, good distance range, well rounded performance, solid component spec
Cons No digital display, wimpy tires and fork, center of gravity feels highno digital display, more abrupt power assist cutoffHeaviest in test, sluggish at low speedsExpensive, sluggish handling at times, came setup with tubes in tiresHeavy, sluggish handling at times, controls/display are difficult to read
Bottom Line The Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 is close to greatness but is held back by its controls and components.The Specialized Turbo Levo Comp returns to our e-bike test with a well rounded performance that earns it our Editor's Choice Award, again.The Bulls E-Stream Evo AM 4 is a brawler on the descents with an impressive distance range thanks to its large battery storage capacity.The YT Decoy is an aggressive e-bike with an enduro attitude.The Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro is well rounded and reasonably priced earning it our Best Buy Award.
Rating Categories Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 Specialized Turbo Levo Comp Bulls E-Stream EVO AM 4 YT Decoy CF Pro Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro
E Bike Controls (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
Downhill Performance (35%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
Climbing Performance (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Power Output (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Distance Range (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
Specs Instinct Powerplay... Specialized Turbo... Bulls E-Stream EVO... YT Decoy CF Pro Giant Trance E+ 2...
Battery Size (Wh) 500Wh 500Wh 650Wh 540Wh 500Wh
Wheel size (inches) 29 29 27.5+ 29 front/27.5+ rear 27.5+
Motor System Dyname 3.0 250w Specialized 2.1, Custom Rx Trail-tuned 250W Brose Drive S (250W) 650Wh Shimano Steps E8000 Giant SyncDrive Pro Yamaha
Motor Power (torque) 108Nm not specified 90Nm 70Nm 80Nm
Measured Weight (w/o pedals, Medium) 52 lbs 4 oz 48 lbs 3 oz 55 lbs 15 oz 50 lbs 10 oz with tubes 52 lbs 3 oz
Fork RockShox Reba RL E-Bike 140mm RockShox Revelation Charger RC 150mm RockShox Lyrik RC Boost Solo Air 150mm Fox 36 Float Performance Elite E Fox 36 Float Rhythm 150mm
Suspension & Travel Ride 9 Adjustable Future Shock Rear (FSR) - 150mm RockShox Deluxe RT 150mm V4L Virtual 4-Link 165mm Maestro 140mm
Shock RockShox Deluxe Debonair RT RockShox Deluxe RT RockShox Deluxe RT Fox Float DPX2 Performance Elite Fox Float DPS Performance EVOL
Frame Material FORM Alloy Aluminum Carbon Fiber ALUXX SL aluminum
Frame Size Tested Medium Medium Large Medium Medium
Available Sizes S-XL S-XL 44/49/54 cm S-XXL XS-XL
Wheelset Sun Duroc SD37 Roval Traverse 29, 30mm internal Formula Hubs/Bulls Rims E*Thirteen E*Spec Plus Giant AM 27.5+ rims/Giant eTracker hubs 35mm internal rim width
Front Tire Maxxis Rekon EXO 2.6" Butcher Grid 29 x 2.6 Schwalbe Magic Mary Snakeskin, TLE, Apex, 27.5 x 2.8 Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 29" x 2.5" Maxis Minion DHF EXO 27.5 x 2.6
Rear Tire Maxxis Rekon EXO 2.6" Butcher Grid 29 x 2.6 Nobby Nic Snakeskin, TLE, Apex, 27.5 x 2.8 Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO 27.5" x 2.8" Maxxis Rekon EXO 27.5 x 2.6
Shifters SRAM GX-1E SRAM S700 Shimano Deore XT SL-M8000 Shimano XT 11-speed Shimano SLX 11-speed
Front Derailleur N/A N/A N/A N?A N/A
Rear Derailleur SRAM NX 11-speed SRAM GX, 11-speed Shimano Deore XT RD-8000-GS, 11-speed Shimano XT 11-speed Shimano XT 11-Speed
Crankset Race Face Ride Cinch 34T Praxis 2D Alloy 32T SR Suntour 38T + Miranda Shimano XT Praxis Wavetm 36T
Crankarm length 165mm not specified, but at least 170 165mm 170mm
Bottom Bracket Race Face BB92 not specified not specified
Cassette SunRace CSMX8 11-46T SRAM PG-1130 11-42t Shimano SLX CS-M7000-11 , 11-speed, 11-42T E*Thirteen TRS Plus Shimano HG-M7000, 11-46T
Chain KMC X11-1 KMC X11ET KMC X11E not specified KMC e. 11 Turbo
Saddle WTB Volt Race Body Geometry Phenom Comp 143mm Selle Royal Seta M1/Bulls SDG Radar Mountian Giant Contact Neutral
Seatpost Race Face Aeffect Dropper X-Fusion Manic 150mm KS LEV-Integra SDG Tellis 150mm Giant Contact Switch dropper
Handlebar Rocky Mountain AM 760mm Specialized Trail 780mm Bulls Renthal Fatbar 35 800mm Giant Contact 35 Trail 800mm
Stem Rocky Mountain AM Specialized Trail --mm x ---mm Monkey Link Renthal Apex 35 40mm Giant Contact SL 35
Brakes SRAM Guide T SRAM Guide RE 4 piston 200mm rotors Magura MT5 hydraulic disk brakes SRAm Code RS Shimano BR-MT5220 4-piston 203mm rotors
Grips Rocky Mountain Lock On Light Specialized Sip Grip Ergon ODI Elite Motion Giant
Measured Effective Top Tube (mm) 590 600 638 590 610
Measured Reach (mm) 446 435 435 435 449
Measured Head Tube Angle 66 65.3 67 65.5 High/65.0 Low 66
Measured Seat Tube Angle 75.9 74.5 74 76.5 High/76 Low 74.5
Measured Bottom Bracket Height (mm) 342 348 354 340 Low 342
Measured Wheelbase (mm) 1194 1200 1230 1205 1215
Measured Chain Stay Length (mm) 448 457 462 443 474
Warranty Five Years on frame Lifetime Five Years on frame

Our Analysis and Test Results

Rocky Mountain has only recently launched their electric mountain bikes and the Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 is the least expensive full suspension model they offer. This is a good looking bike with very cleanly integrated battery and motor that nearly hides its e-bikeness. It has moderate modern trail bike geometry and plush rear suspension that quietly smooths obstacles in the trail. The drive system is robust and provides a good distance range, but testers were pretty unimpressed with the all-in-one control/display unit. A couple of questionable component specs are also a serious detriment to its downhill performance and make it less confidence inspiring than we feel it should be.

Performance Comparison


The Instinct has potential but the build on the Alloy 50 model we tested isn't great. The fork and tires really detract from its downhill performance.
The Instinct has potential but the build on the Alloy 50 model we tested isn't great. The fork and tires really detract from its downhill performance.

E-bike Controls


The iWoc TRIO remote control on the Instinct Powerplay is definitely a little disappointing. With a name like that we expected a little more from this all-in-one unit. Sure, the controls work, they're relatively simple and have decent ergonomics. We can't really complain about their functionality. The attempt at making the controls an all-in-one unit with a light up display could have been better executed in our opinion. Rocky Mountain integrated small colored LED lights behind the control buttons that indicate the support level and battery life. This sounds good in theory but is less than impressive in practice.

The ergonomics are fine and the controls are simple  but the display leaves a lot to be desired.
The ergonomics are fine and the controls are simple, but the display leaves a lot to be desired.

There are three total buttons on the control unit; a power button in the middle and an up and down button to shift through the drive unit's support settings. The LED lights are just barely visible above and below the power button in the middle of the unit. Similar to the small LED lights on the control of the Giant Trance E+, the lights on this control are difficult to see when riding and in bright light conditions. In fact, we found the lights to be almost entirely useless, though it does blink with a color that corresponds to the output setting you're using. With the Giant's control, you can at least have a decent idea of how much battery life is remaining, not so with the Instinct. We much prefer the controls on the Trek, Bulls, and even the Specialized Turbo Levo.

The cover for the charging port has an annoying tendency to want to stay open.
The cover for the charging port has an annoying tendency to want to stay open.

The charging port on the Instinct Powerplay is on the top of the drive unit near the junction with the seat tube. The charging cord and the port have a good interface, and the plug isn't prone to coming loose during charging. We did notice that the charging port cover prefers to stay open, however, which allows for dust, water, and debris to get in there. This cover could use some improvement.

Downhill Performance


The Instinct Powerplay has the geometry to get after it on the descents, but its performance is undermined by the spec of the RockShox Reba fork that is just inadequate for a bike of this weight. Don't get us wrong, you can and probably will have a fun time on the descents, especially smooth and moderately pitched trails, but when the going gets steep or rough, the fork seriously detracts from rider confidence and the bike's overall downhill performance. The tire specification doesn't help either and further tilts this bike in favor of smooth and less technical trails.

The numbers are all pretty spot on for the Instinct Powerplay and it has a capable modern geometry that's ready and willing to get after it. Rocky Mountain has also included the Ride 9 adjustable geometry system that allows you to make nine incremental adjustments to the geometry using a set of flip chips. We tested it primarily in the neutral position, which we found to the perfect for most situations. The 66-degree head tube angle is appropriately slack while the measured reach of 446mm and wheelbase of 1194mm are on the more moderate side. Despite the moderate length reach and wheelbase numbers, the Instinct remains stable at speed thanks to its heavyweight. Body position on the descents feels comfortable, and the rear suspension design smooths over small to mid-sized chop as if it's not even there. This bike feels calm and composed, tracks well, and performs well up to a point. The RockShox Reba fork is simply not substantial enough to handle the weight of this heavy e-bike. There is noticeable flex in the fork, and it is disconcerting and doesn't inspire the confidence to really get after it. The Instinct also feels like it carries its weight a little higher than some of the competition and along with the less aggressive tread of the tires make this bike a bit less competent in the corners.

The Reba fork is optimized for e-bikes but still feels too wimpy for this heavy bike. The tires also aren't aggressive enough for anything but smooth trails.
The Reba fork is optimized for e-bikes but still feels too wimpy for this heavy bike. The tires also aren't aggressive enough for anything but smooth trails.

The Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 will work well on the descents for the vast majority of riders who take it a little easier and aren't trying to tackle steeper or more technical terrain. People looking to push it a little harder will want to look at other models with beefier fork specifications and meatier tires. The Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro is a good example. Its downhill performance is enhanced by the fact that it has a sturdy Fox 36 fork and a grippy Maxxis Minion DHF front tire. The same goes for the Bulls E-Stream Evo. That bike is much more capable and fun to charge on the descents due to its significantly more capable componentry.

Climbing Performance


The Instinct Powerplay is no slouch on the uphills, but it's not all gold stars. Rocky Mountain has designed the frame with a nice steep 75.9-degree seat tube that puts the rider right up above the cranks. This results in a comfortable upright seated pedaling position that is great for scooting up steep sections and over technical obstacles in the trail. The pedal assist motor also provides plenty of juice, and the rear suspension helps make the rear end of the bike feel glued to the ground.

Plenty of power on tap and the geometry to scramble up most climbs with ease.
Plenty of power on tap and the geometry to scramble up most climbs with ease.

On the climbs, we again noticed that the Instinct Powerplay feels like it has a higher center of gravity than some of the competition. This was most noticeable in tight technical sections or uphill switchbacks where maneuvering this heavy bike felt more awkward and sluggish. The Maxxis Rekon tires also don't provide the best climbing traction, but with the pedal assistance from the motor, it wasn't too bad. The e-bike specific drivetrain was a highlight, and it feels efficient and dialed in for the weight and power of the Instinct. Power output is also quite good, and there aren't any awkward power cutouts like you may experience on other drive systems.

All of the electric mountain bikes we've tested perform relatively well on the climbs thanks to their pedal assist drive systems. In most situations, these bikes are generally easier to ride uphill because of the assistance they provide. This is the case for the Instinct Powerplay which has smooth and consistent power output and offers the most torque of all the models we've tested. This is especially noticeable when compared to the drive system on the Ghost Hybride SL AMR which just doesn't deliver as much power or torque on steeper climbs. The Instinct doesn't have an abrupt power cutoff when you stop pedaling as we've experienced with older models of the Specialized Turbo Levo and the Ghost. This smooth power band and transition helps when riding technical sections of trail where you may stop pedaling briefly.

Power Output


The Instinct Powerplay has a quick pickup, consistent and smooth power output, and plenty of torque. Rocky Mountain developed their own drive system called Dyname 3.0. This system is different than most others on the market with a proprietary design that supposedly allows for greater freedom of frame design. They claim their drive system spins at 1/4 the speed of the competition, which is meant to be more efficient and less noisy. They also claim a max torque output of 108 Nm which is really quite impressive; the Bulls E-Stream is the next highest at 90 Nm.

Its got a great geometry and is a blast to ride on smooth and mellow trails.
Its got a great geometry and is a blast to ride on smooth and mellow trails.

Pedal assistance starts the moment you push down on the pedals, there's no lag, and it almost feels a little jumpy. It comes on smooth, feels muscular, and gets up to speed quickly. It has interesting modulated feel that responds well to the amount of effort you put in, the harder you pedal, the more power it provides. The torque feels great, much more powerful than the motor on the Ghost and roughly the same as the Giant Trance E+. That said, testers found the drive system on the Bulls E-stream Evo to feel even more powerful than the Instinct Powerplay. It also shifts between output settings smoothly, and the power cutoff feels natural and not too abrupt when you stop pedaling. The motor itself isn't really noisy, although the idler pulley that the chain goes through on its way to the drive unit does make a fair amount of noise.

Range


Our testing showed that the Instinct uses its power efficiently, and it had the best distance range of all the models with a similar size battery. On our range test course, we rode the Powerplay for 20 miles and 4,297 vertical feet in the highest output setting. While we do feel this is impressive, it should be noted that our tester felt he had to use more effort than on other models in the same test. Regardless, the Instinct has a good range; you may just have to work a little harder.

You may have to work a touch harder for it  but the Instinct has you covered with a good distance range.
You may have to work a touch harder for it, but the Instinct has you covered with a good distance range.

For comparison, on the same exact range test course the Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro went for 19.02 miles and 4,000 vertical feet. Yes, that is a mile less than Powerplay, but our tester said that he did it with noticeably less effort. The Specialized Turbo Levo is a similar story, it traveled 18.71 miles and 3,949 vertical feet, and again it did so with less effort from the rider. All three of these bikes, the Specialized, Giant, and Rocky Mountain seem relatively evenly matched in terms of their range, and all of them easily go farther than the Ghost SL AMR. The Ghost had the least impressive range of all the models we tested at 16.75 miles and 3,559 vertical feet. The outlier in this test is the Bulls E-Stream EVO which has a 650Wh battery and easily beats the Instinct's range.

Build


The Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 has a functional build that'll get you out on the trail but several components hold this bike back from riding more aggressively. If you're not trying to power through any chunky rock gardens or really lean it over when cornering, then this build might be adequate for you. If you want to rail some turns, smash through some chunder, or hit small rock drops, then you may be disappointed by the tires and the fork spec'd on the Alloy 50.

The build is mostly okay but the fork and tires aren't adequate.
The build is mostly okay but the fork and tires aren't adequate.

The Instinct Powerplay has 140mm of front and rear wheel travel and nice modern geometry numbers. The rear shock is a RockShox Deluxe Debonair RT that works well and helps smooth over small and mid-size chop with ease. The rear end of the bike has a balanced feel, and the shock provides a supportive pedaling platform. Rocky Mountain missed the mark with the RockShox Reba RL E-Bike specific fork. This fork works fine in mellow terrain, but it is noticeably flexy and isn't quite up to the task of suspending the front end of this 52+ lb bike. Testers found the flex of this fork to be disconcerting in rough terrain and any bigger hits on the trail. A fork with a more substantial chassis would be much better on a bike this heavy.

The rear suspension works great and is surprisingly quiet. The Reba for is noticeably flexy and doesn't inspire confidence.
The rear suspension works great and is surprisingly quiet. The Reba for is noticeably flexy and doesn't inspire confidence.

The cockpit setup on the Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 is dialed and feels suitable for everyday trail riding. They've used a bunch of house-branded Rocky Mountain parts on the front of the bike like a nice short stem, a 760mm wide handlebar, and comfortable lock-on grips. This bar/stem setup is comfortable, feels solid, and steers this bike effectively, although some riders may wish for a wider handlebar. Out back, they've chosen a crowd-pleasing WTB Volt Race saddle mounted atop a Race Face Aeffect dropper seat post. The dropper worked well for us during testing, and we liked the 1x style remote lever.

The cockpit setup feels good  we can't really complain.
The cockpit setup feels good, we can't really complain.

Rocky Mountain spec'd a set of SRAM Guide T brakes with 20mm rotors front and rear to control the speed of the Alloy 50. The "T" version of the SRAM Guide brakes aren't especially well known for their power, but when paired with the 200mm rotors on this bike we found them to work quite well. The drivetrain consists of a SRAM NX/GX-1E e-bike specific combination that testers felt worked very well.

The e-bike specific NX drivetrain works great.
The e-bike specific NX drivetrain works great.

The tires on the Alloy 50 are another place where we feel Rocky Mountain really missed the target on this build. The 29" x 2.6" Maxxis Rekon tires are okay, but they really don't have an aggressive enough tread for a bike of this weight. Testers found these tires to lose traction easily in corners and when climbing and had little confidence in them, especially at speed. This bike could use tires like the popular Minion DHF and DHR II combo to provide better climbing, cornering, and braking traction for a bike this heavy. The wheelset is solid with a nice wide profile and internal rim width to handle plus sized tires.

The Rekon doesn't quite cut it as a front tire on this bike. It doesn't have the tread to corner aggressively and is best suited to mellow and smooth trails.
The Rekon is an okay rear tire.

Best Applications


The Alloy 50 build of the Instinct Powerplay is best suited to less aggressive riders and smooth and moderate terrain. This bike has the geometry to ride aggressively, but the fork and tires that it comes with don't quite cut it on steep or rough trails. If you're a less aggressive rider and your trails are generally smooth and non-technical, then this may be a good option for you. If you aspire to ride aggressively, then you'd be better off checking out the slightly more expensive Alloy 70 build or a different model.

Value


At the Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50's retail price of $5299 this bike falls toward the lower end of the price spectrum for the models in this review. If you're a less aggressive rider, this bike is ready to roll as it is and is a better value. If you want to ride more aggressively, you'll probably want to replace at least the tires right off the bat, and this will cost some additional money. We feel this is a better value than the Ghost Hybride SL AMR, but it can't touch the price to performance ratio of our Best Buy, the Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro.

The Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 is a fine option for the riders on smooth and mellow trails. Those looking for an e-bike with an aggressive attitude should look elsewhere.
The Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 is a fine option for the riders on smooth and mellow trails. Those looking for an e-bike with an aggressive attitude should look elsewhere.

Conclusion


The Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 has an excellent modern geometry and a powerful pedal assist drive system. Unfortunately, this bike is held back from greatness by some questionable aspects of its build, most notably the Maxxis Rekon tires and the inadequate feeling RockShox Reba fork. Both the fork and the tires leave a lot to be desired and are a big part of the reason this bike is outperformed on descents. We were also quite unimpressed with the e-bike controls that have the worst display of all the models we tested. This bike is most at home on smooth and mellow trails.

Other Versions and Accessories


Rocky Mountain makes two versions of the Instinct Powerplay including the Alloy 50 reviewed here.
-The Instinct Powerplay Alloy 70, $6,399, shares the same frame and drive system, but it comes with a 632 Wh battery, a Fox 34 Float Performance fork, A Fox Float DPS Performance rear shock, SRAM Guide RE brakes, Race Face AR 30 wheels, and a Fox Transfer dropper seat post.
-They also make four models of the Altitude Powerplay which has 150mm of rear and 160mm of front wheel travel. It is offered in both carbon and aluminum frames with prices ranging from $5,499 - $9,199.

-The Growler Powerplay 30, $3,899, is currently the only hardtail model in their Powerplay line. It has an alloy frame, 130mm of front wheel travel, and a budget-minded component specification.


Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens, Chris McNamara