2013 Rocky Mountain Altitude 27.5 - First Ride

Aug 24, 2012
by Mike Levy  
 
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  The top of the line Altitude 790 MSL features Kashima-coated FOX suspension and a SRAM X0 drivetrain hung on a carbon frame.

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2013 Rocky Mountain Altitude Details

• C13 Hi Mod carbon frame (aluminum frame on the 750 and 730)
• 27.5 wheel size only
• Rear wheel travel: 150mm
• Uses Rocky Mountain's SmoothlLink suspension design
• Ride - 9 geometry and suspension adjustment
• ABC (Angular Bushing Concept ) pivots
• Tapered head tube
• E-Thru 12 x 142mm rear axle
• Internal routing for rear brake, shifting, dropper post, shock control
• BB-92 bottom bracket shell
• Sizing: XS - XL



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  The graph above shows how the Altitude's Ride - 9 adjustment affects how the suspension performs, especially in the later stages of travel as the bike nears bottom out.





Ride - 9

In a time when many companies seem to be scaling back on the adjustment front, an Altitude rider can pick from nine different geometry and suspension settings in order to tune the ride to their liking. This is accomplished at the forward shock mount via a dual insert arrangement. The offset inserts can be positioned to tweak both the suspension ramp up and the geometry, allowing for 2° of head angle and 20mm of bottom bracket height alteration.

One neat point about this layout is that it allows a rider to generally preserve the bike's geometry while still being able to alter the suspension rate, or vice versa. Like your head angle and bottom bracket height, but looking for more ramp-up at the end of the travel? No problem, just orientate the insert to the forward position and you're set. Rocky Mountain plans on releasing an app shortly that will make tuning easy, although doing it for ourselves made it clear to us that this isn't a trail-side adjustment, but rather one that riders will tinker with a few times in the garage before settling on and leaving it in a postion that makes the most sense for them.


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  Rocky Mountain has positioned the rear pivot above the axle (left). It's hard to notice at first, but the rear shock is driven off of the seat stay, not the rocker link.

SmoothLink Suspension

The Altitude's 'SmoothLink' suspension layout places the rear pivot above the axle, which is a slightly different location than you may have seen on similar designs. Small changes can have drastic effects on performance, though, with Rocky Mountain claiming that the ''lower linkage member is virtually parallel to the Average Chain Torque Line (ACTL), at all points of travel. THIS is the key to bob-free suspension, since the two are parallel, the chain tension cannot act on the suspension.''. All brands seem to go on about how great their designs pedal, but our time on SmoothLink-equipped bikes seems to mostly corroborate Rocky Mountain's claims.



Bushings Are Back

Rocky Mountain first utilized their angular bushing concept (ABC) pivots on the 2011 Element series, and it has spread to other models in their lineup. Made up of two angled contact surface polymer bushings and tapered aluminum hardware, the ABC pivots are said to provide a much more rigid interface than what a sealed bearing could ever dream of, not to mention Rocky claiming that they save 120 grams per bike over a standard setup. But what about wear? Some riders will likely recall, many years ago when bushings were commonly used in pivots, going through them at an alarming rate. We sure do but, after having done many miles on an ABC-equipped RSL 29 BC Edition 29er and experiencing no issues, we're inclined to believe that longterm performance shouldn't be a concern. ABC pivots are employed at the dropout and both rocker arm pivots, but traditional bearings are still used the the main pivot location.




Concealed Cables

Cable entry ports just aft of the head tube make for a smooth look, but internal guides mean that there is no fussing about while trying to feed the cable through a tiny exit hole at the opposite end. The cables - both the front and rear derailleur - exit from a good-sized removable port hidden under the bottom bracket shell. We performed a cable change on our Element RSL 29 BC Edition and found it to be a pain-free process.



The bike also includes internal routing for a Reverb Stealth dropper post, with the cable exit port located on the rear of the seat tube, just above the bottom bracket shell. The three carbon models - 790 MSL, 770 MSL, and the 750 MSL - all come stock with a FOX CTD rear shock that offers three levels of compression adjustment via a bar-mounted remote. Rocky Mountain has taken the extra cable into consideration, though, with a tidy route through the top tube and exiting just in front of the forward shock mount. The result is a nearly hidden CTD remote cable.




Chain Guide Friendly

Rocky Mountain knew that the Altitude is going to be different bikes for different riders; many will keep the stock dual-ring crankset in place, some might even jump up to a triple, and many others will want to fit a chain guide, be it a single or dual-ring version. With that in mind, both the carbon and aluminum Altitude frames feature ISCG-05 chain guide tabs around their BB92 bottom bracket shells. No fussing about with funky clamp-on or direct-mount guides required

The carbon Altitude frames also employ a bit of protection in a sensitive area, with a molded-in stainless steel plate to protect the drive-side chain stay from a wayward chain.







Rocky's 27.5 Altitude On The trail

We spent a solid day aboard an Altitude, and while we always add the disclaimer that a single day aboard a bike doesn't add up to a proper test, our time on the 27.5 Altitude was spent on some very Whistler-esque terrain that certainly gave us some insight into how the bike behaves. Not only did we point the Altitude down some seriously hairball sections of singletrack, we also spent time climbing up both steep access roads and hard, technical pitches.

Our bike for the day was the Altitude 750 (pictured at right), the more expensive of the two aluminum framed Altitudes, and assembled with a mix of Shimano SLX, XT, and Race Face Evolve cranks. The one add-on to make life easier on the challenging terrain was the RockShox Reverb dropper post, a component that is not included in the stock
build. Rocky Mountain does make a smart selection when it comes to the stem, though, fitting the Altitude lineup with short 60 - 70mm stems all around. This gives the 150mm travel bike a decidedly pinner-friendly cockpit from the get-go, a personality that many potential Altitude owners will likely appreciate. B.C. born and raised, clearly.

Photo by Margus Riga
  We felt at home aboard the 150mm travel, 27.5 Altitude.

After a stiff climb to the top of Whistler's Pura Vida trail, we dropped in on some rowdy singletrack that was full of rock steps, roots splaying out every which way, and steep chutes that had us steering more with the back of the bike than the front - in other words, a proper trail that has yet to be molested by those well-intending trail buffers who seem hell bent on filling trails with berms and glass-smooth dirt. The choice of trail turned out to be just the ticket for the Altitude, with its slack-but-still-reasonable angles feeling just right when it mattered most. We never found ourselves asking the bike to step beyond its limits, meaning that the admittedly difficult trail wasn't taxing the bike past what it was intended for. The rear suspension in particular seemed well adjusted, with its forgiving ride on the downs surprising us after giving a very firm and efficient impression during the climb up; for a sporty feeling rig on the climbs, the Altitude did well at muting both small chatter and hard hits on the downhills. The best of both worlds? We're confident that we'd find something to nitpick about if we had the bike for a longterm review, but our first impressions of the Altitude's 150mm travel, SmoothLink suspension, are very positive.

And what do we make of Rocky Mountain's Ride - 9, chip-in-a-chip geometry and suspension adjustment? In truth, we only made one change during our time on the bike, preserving the Altitude's slackest head angle while increasing the suspension's ramp up. To compliment this move, we also dropped 10psi from the FOX Float rear shock, going from body weight plus 10psi to 170psi on the nose. The result was a shade more active ride, but still no hard bottoming to be felt. We suspect many riders will take the set-and-forget route with the Ride - 9 system, but it is a tidy way to build-in an über-adjustable layout.

Photo by Margus Riga
  The Altitude can find traction where other bikes can't, allowing us get up some very technical and challenging climbs.

We came away from our time on the Altitude with one overwhelming thought: it is quite simply a fun bike to ride. The bike's sporty-feeling, yet still forgiving travel irrefutably plays a role in us coming to this conclusion, but there is more to it than that. Sitting at 16.8''/428mm, the Altitude's chain stay length is actually shorter than what is used on many 26'' wheeled bikes. This figure puts the rear wheel well under the rider, meaning that the bike motors up loose climbs instead of feeling like it needs to grope up them blindly. The fun part is that it also made lifting the front of the bike easy as pie, a trait that will allow more advanced riders to to exploit the trail for all it's worth.


Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesAt this point, it is becoming clear that the 130 - 160mm travel bracket is going to be populated with a high percentage of 27.5 -wheeled bikes. Rocky Mountain's Altitude is easily the most sorted of the small group of test bikes we've ridden that employ the 'tweener wheel size. 27.5 bikes are coming whether you want them to or not, and we are, admittedly, still feeling a touch resistant about it, however we'll be more likely to embrace the old-is-now-new wheel standard if the bulk of them are as dialled as the Altitude. - Mike Levy

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Action photos by Margus Riga
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110 Comments

  • + 48
 Looks really good. Carbon, adjustable geo, ISCG tabs, internal cable routing, great colors and 650b. Checks all the boxes as far as I'm concerned. Well done Rocky, well done.
  • + 9
 Don't forget the dropper seatpost, reverb stealth, best around.
  • + 3
 So they pickup the bushings banshee left .
  • + 5
 Gotta get on one of these 27.5 bikes NOW! Beauty bike
  • + 2
 Looks like a win, win, win. Nice job Rocky.
  • + 1
 Elements were very "meh" until they came out with the smoothlink RSL/MSL version, then BOOM superbikes. So RSL/MSL 29er elements, this, what else has rocky not so subtlely (sorry, I haven't been paying the most attention) said they are launching for next year?
  • - 12
 Meh.
  • + 5
 @digital-criminal you have a right to an opinion, but i think you're wrong! this bike looks like a trail slayer!
  • + 0
 They hardly mentioned anything about the new 27.5 wheel size at all... suspension is suspension you dont really know until you've tried it, I wanna hear how the wheels felt
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  • + 14
 This looks awesome. I'm (quietly) hopeful about 650b. The more sorted bikes like this, and the Intense Tracer, make me pretty keen to try one out.

Also, this is the first RM for a while that I've been really into. Well done RM.
  • + 2
 Just demoed a Carbine 275 (conversion) yesterday. I was very skeptical going in, but seriously impressive despite the terrible Nevegals on it... Moar good tyres pleeeeze.....
  • + 2
 I agree you on the Nevegals. I've demoed a few bikes lately with them and Slant 6s. Not a good tire choice for central Colorado. I don't think I have ever laid a foot down on that many corners in one short ride in my life. I was so pissed I went home and swapped the tires off my bike. The difference Night and day. . if I wouldn't have swapped out the tires I would have walked away from that demo thinking a really good bike was just sorta ok.
  • + 4
 I like to drift, but not when the tires make the decision for me...
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  • + 7
 The bike looks beautiful...Please keep the new options, standards and innovations coming...
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  • + 4
 This is fantastic, first Norco then Rocky Mountain bringing out 650b bikes in the past few weeks. I am loving the choices. The altitude has every bell and whistle you could ask for. I can hardly wait for a test ride. Rocky Mountains attention to detail and bombproof build should please nearly everyone. 2012 is going to be a great year to be a rider. Nice job Rocky Mountain!
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  • + 4
 Not only does Pura Vida ride well so did Business Time. For the record Mike stomped by me on the steepest section while I wilted in the weeds. I'd like to attribute that to the bike --- except I was on the same bike!
  • + 1
 How is Pura Vida compared to Business time? There were sections of business time that were fun, but it felt more up than down for a good part of the trail, which I know isn't true.
  • + 1
 Pura Vida's more down than IBT. It's moderate compared to tougher trails on the West Side which include High Society and Cheap Thrills. But they're all great places to test bikes and get a bit loose and rowdy
  • + 2
 As Lee said, IBT has the 3 longer ups (personally, I didn't hesitate to hike them) and then a few shorties that keep ya honest. Pura Vida only has a couple of "punchy" climbs and some traversey stuff, but it is mostly down. I would think the section after crossing Industrial Disease would be perfect for testing different bikes....between the creek crossing and Moose Knuckles is just so rooty and rocky. As much as I love Pura Vida (kudos to MIke on that trail), Cheap Thrills still holds a special place in my heart.
  • + 1
 EB, longer ups? You getting soft? Smile

Finally rode IBT last Saturday, great trail. Glad to see Duncan's trail get finished. Great work guys.
  • + 1
 Getting soft??? Hell, I've been soft a long time, Shirk! Ok, there's really only that one up in the middle (just after the turn off to AM/PM) that could be considered long'ish. If I were just doing IBT as a shorter loop, it'd be no biggie, but we did it after Khyber and Babylon, so I walked the 3 climbs like a total sally. Smile
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  • + 3
 Rocky have got it nailed, superb looking, great angles on paper and super adjustable. Will wait til I can ride a 650b bike, but from the looks of it this could be my perfect bike, has everything (pretty much) I wish my HD had.
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  • + 2
 Gt is one of the pioneers behind the bushing pivot long time ago. The thing that will deteriorate is the yellow polymer. Actually if they use soft metal like copper or the ones used in automotive crankshafts with few lines of cut-outs plus little honing (cross hatch de-burring) with also an oil port using 5w-10 oil will make this bushing system last almost 10 times longer.

They don't want to get messy with oil and wanted to cut cost that's why these options are not included. They just wanted to sell their bikes fast and if there's any warranty ,they knew the bushing might outlast the warranty period set by them.

These bushing thing are good if you want to reduce the size of the pivots and reduce noise.
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  • + 3
 And I thought 29er's were the monster truck of trail bikes. Not only are these gonna spank 29ers, they will be more nimble and responsive. Great work Rocky, you have my full attention yet again.
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  • + 1
 Well I was expecting an Element 650B after RMB let it out that the existing Element MSL will clear the tires six months ago, but an Altititude 650 ? Yes please. Can I have one in the classic yellow/red Altitude colours though? Honestly... bring back the frame only special edition offering guys. Some of us prefer to custom build our bikes and all a complete 650B is going to do for me is leave me with a lot of parts to change (as happened when I bought my Haro Beasley... all that I kept was the XT Shadow rear derailleur).
  • + 1
 yellow and black frame only available for 2799 (not cheap). I got a custom decal maple leaf kit for a bike before to try to duplicate the Rocky scheme from the mid 90s.
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  • + 6
 bye bye student loan
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  • + 1
 Havn't ridden a 650b bike yet but it seems like its gaining traction in the all mountain catagory of bikes. Thats 2 big brands now supporting the wheel size, Norco and RM. I need to get on one, hopefully this bike, looks like a nice simple looking, trail slaying machine!
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  • + 1
 Awesome! Looks like a really graet new trail bike for real bike riders looking for fun and adventure. Honeslty, I recently got back into riding after not since , oh, the late 90s and was a bit surprised and bummed because Rocky Mountain had sorta fallen off the map! I mean all the big boys were still here being Trek, Giant and Spec but other brands had taken over like Santa Cruz, Niner, Salsa, Turner but Rocky was rarely mentioned.They were such a pioneering brand too being THE BC and Canada mountain bike brand when mountain bikes first started and they pioneered many innovations on basic frames. It was the good ol' days of steel hardtails with Rocky, Kona, Brodie and DeKerf being our local quality steeds. Still see some today with Kona , of course, being more popular as they managed to produce bikes with the BC geo at more affordable prices. I myself managed to score an abandoned gem of 92. Specifically, a Rocky "Team Comp" in a beauty Porche grey. Made in Vancouver with a 4 digit serial # this steed was welded of the legendary Tange Prestige Ultimate Ultralight and its actually quite light, I'd guess maybe 4lbs for this 17" model.(too bad its an inch small but I made it fit with a long post and long classic Canadian Syncros cattle prod stem). Unfortuanetly this bike had been stripped and I had to restore it but with non 92 parts yet still great stuff like m952 rear mech , stock front, a Kona triple butted Project 2 from 97, Suntour XC Comp thumbies(awesome action) on a Sunrace 8s cassette. It rides on a pair of modern Mavic cross ride wheels which would be hated by retro grouches but screw em. OK off topic rant over.
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  • + 1
 Wow, I tried a 770msl on one of my favourite trails tonight, it was unreal! I wasn't as tired as I normally am on the climb. You just take off and pull away on the flats and the downhill? I thought this would be the bikes weakness but I descended faster than I ever have on that trail; berms no problem. I was looking at the bronson but at 29lbs for the 750msl I might pull the trigger on that.
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  • + 2
 Next to the Tracer 275 the Altitude is probably the best looking bike released yet... and exactly what I envisioned when I introduced 650b (27.5") wheels to the mountain bike world.
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  • + 1
 Pretty awesome release. Rocky seems to definitely be listening to what riders are looking for as market wants/needs evolve. The adjustable geometry is pretty awesome...and should help Rocky make one bike to please many, rather than the other way around. Now I just hope they release a SE stealth version as i'd love to have a lower-key looking version of this.
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  • + 1
 650B isn't a new standard, neither were 29 inch wheels when they first came out. Smaller, more boutique brands have been playing around with this idea for quite some time. One of the many reasons 650B has been picked up by some more well known brands is the fact that the industry now has more riders who demand products that cater to their specific needs. Of course this is a money grab by bike manufacturers, that being said, if companies didn't come out with new and original products to better meet their customers needs, they wouldn't be in the industry for the right reasons, or for a very long time. I don't see a reason as to why some would avoid buying a product (if it did better meet their needs - and by the looks of things, these new altitudes probably will) just because it isn't common place - yet.
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  • + 5
 waiting for the 650B hater comments to come flooding....
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  • + 2
 Lee Lau MTBR USA? Lots of comments do not change your Nationality....The bikes still look a bit awkward on the steeps. Much better compromise though. Prepare to get robbed for parts.
  • - 1
 Yes he's that Lee Lau, and I'm THAT DeeEight. Lee's been on there as long as I have, and while I'm a prick he's more PC so its a no brainer that they offered him a staff job. RC's got a nice gig here and I'm pretty sure he hasn't surrendered his US passport to do it.
  • + 1
 huh? Must have been a mistake
  • + 2
 d8 i don't work there. Matter of fact I don't really work. I still write for PB, MTBR, NSMB and DIrtRag. But I do like writing. Its meant to be a homage to MTBR's home base. But back to the bike - scary versatility
  • + 1
 You still write for NSMB? really?
  • + 1
 Infrequently. Once this year
  • + 1
 I'm just posting to say hi to the old geezer MTBR club! -rideit
  • + 1
 Id be interested in reading it....I must have missed it on the site.
  • + 1
 www.nsmb.com/5307-2012-north-shore-ripper-pt-1 - for some reason Pt 2 and 3 didn't run. Might have been older news by then
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  • + 1
 My GT LTS had a chip that you could change and that was 15 years ago, they're probably the biggest pioneers in mtb with the rts and early use of composites. This RM bike does look mint though and I'd probably buy one.
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  • + 1
 My 2.35 High Rollers on my Cowan measure 27 inches....plus I have 10 inches of ground clearance....it'll roll down pura vida fine...don't have $4 thousand for a carbon Rocky but props to them for making and selling.
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  • + 2
 Amazingly nice looking bikes. Well thought out and great features. I'm a "bury me with my 26'er" kind of guy an gotta, say, this bike has me interested in a 650b!
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  • + 0
 I like it! But I don't understand why only 27,5... I'm not hating, I'd like to have the possibility to eventually change an older frame without having to buy a new wheelset...but probably that's the future! Nice job by the way RM
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  • + 3
 Must say : THat´s the first 650b which actually sells the idea to me....well done Rocky Mountain
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  • + 3
 You gotta admit 650b is a beautiful thing...
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  • + 1
 High end carbon designed specifically for 27.5 already!? Have only seen carbon 26" frame conversions, until this. RM getting the headstart!
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  • + 1
 Another bike to add to the ride list for Outerbike ... and another trail I have to find when I go back to Whistler next year ...
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  • + 1
 the geo chip is slightly confusing, what do I do for being a light rider and wanting slacker geometry? it seems one or the other??
  • + 0
 I think the chip is not as important as they make out , sure you can do slacker/lower/higher/steeper like usual , but surely the wieght of the rider should be taken care of by setting up the shock right rather than relying on a chip ?
  • + 1
 They're not the first to offer such a chip in the shock mount. Specialized had the exact same thing on FSR BigHits a decade ago. Its even an older idea on motorcycle suspension.
  • + 4
 @finnrambo, you can check out our little web-app to see which Ride-9 setting is best for you. Sounds like Position 5 or Position 6 would suit you well. ride9.bikes.com
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  • + 1
 That's a replacement of my Altitude 10 aluminium frame for sure.. ISCG tabs and rear axle should be the feature "by default" in that level bikes !
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  • + 1
 co za pojeby! co to za romiar opon 27,5 cala, a może 28,23 ? jak kiedyś popierdole rozmiar opon w sklepie to przez tych wynalazców
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  • + 4
 altitude looks great
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  • + 0
 Our 27.5 will keep it live. We included a 93mm bb shell for you convenience. Then we put a hidden snickers bar in the down tube. Oh you going to be a hit at the trails with this oddball spec bike.
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  • + 1
 If I were a SOP (ginger) I wouldn't advertise it with more hair i.e. a beard.
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  • + 1
 Awww. It's taken a year to finally get my altitude built up how I want it, and now I dont want it. I want *that* one!
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  • + 1
 Bushings? Pathetic. So is 27.5'' and 650b the same thing? Id rather have the new norco though, it has more travel.
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  • + 1
 Looks nice, plus how can you can you argue with the headtube angle of the beast at 66.6 degrees in the slack setting.
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  • + 2
 Looks awesome! it's the perfect application of 650b wheels.
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  • + 2
 Alexander Keith's - Nova Scotia Represent!!
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  • + 2
 where is the LIKE tab ?
Like Smile
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  • + 1
 I like the look of of this like the adjustable hardware fat fucker mode lol
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  • + 1
 Love my Altitude, looking good RM
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  • + 1
 i like it.... that linkage system is nice
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  • + 2
 bushings are week
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  • + 1
 Good stuff! Wish I could afford one!
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  • + 1
 Morgan Taylors beard. A+

Oh, and the bike looks good as well.
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  • + 1
 already ordered one!!!! stoked!!!!
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  • + 0
 Before we get too excited... what is the MSRP? and total weight of each model?
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  • + 1
 i want a 650b Smile but mite wait a year or 2
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  • + 0
 I don't get what the purpose of the 650b wheel size is. What is its strengths?
  • + 1
 Rolls over stuff better than 26" without the frame clearance / geometry / fit issues of 29ers among other things. Also handles better if you like to pop wheelies, do jumps or pump terrain features than 29ers.
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  • + 1
 Any idea of complete weight?
  • + 0
 31lbs size med carbon without pedals.
  • + 1
 Roughly 5.13lbs for the carbon frame. Probably 1/2 pound or so more on the aluminum.
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  • + 1
 Very Nice! Anyone want to buy my 2012 Slayer Smile
  • + 3
 I'll buy it if you trade me for my xbox and 5 games, my old BMX, and an old Z2, but not until October when I get my allowance. Can you hold it for me until then?
  • + 2
 add me to MSN! Please please please?
  • + 1
 Okay Gooch but you gotta throw in your skateboard and you still have paid me for those last 2 pairs of underwear.
  • + 1
 Yeah but they were used so I don't think I should have to pay full price!
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  • + 1
 looks like a sweet dialed bike! good job RM! Smile
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  • - 2
 I think with the edition of a new wheel size and lots more new 'standards', biking is taking a step into the gimicky money-grabbing market.
  • + 7
 And here.. We.... Go.
  • + 3
 I'll wait a year or to for dust to settle and all these standards take a chill pill! for now i'll just simply enjoy mo Treacer 2! Smile
  • + 2
 I'm sorry but that's just wrong. Bicycles have constantly evolved in technology and doing so has required new standards to be developed. Otherwise we'd still all be riding penny farthings.
  • + 2
 A valid point indeed and i'm all for it. TBF i'm tempted in the 650B/27.5 wheel size. Once it's settled and more mainstream like the 29ers have, then i'll upgrade to the Tracer 27.5. Might aswell get my moneys worth out of the current Tracer 2! Since 05 onwards, the evolution of bikes has just rapidly increased compared to the 90's where it was just gradual. Smile
  • + 2
 It would be nice if Intense offered replacement dropouts for the Tracer 2 26" like they're doing for the Carbine, so owners could convert their existing frames.
  • + 1
 yeah i was thinking that to or even a swingamr replacement maybe? Cause stumping up around £1800 for a new frame isn't easy for average working class people. i'm on my 2nd Intense frame, i was lucky to get a decent bargain on the Tracer 2 frame!
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  • - 3
 wooopty dooo!! nobody cares! its the same as the one before! theres nothing special about it. it looks like you can buy it at wal-mart
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