PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Rocky Mountain Altitude
Words by Mike Kazimer, photography by Tom Richards
Up next in the Pinkbike Field Test is the new Rocky Mountain Altitude, a bike that had a strong debut under Jesse Melamed during the shortened EWS season.
The Altitude has 160mm of rear wheel travel with a 170mm fork, with different wheel size options depending on the frame size – there are 29” options for M, L, and XL sizes, and 27.5” sizes for S and M sizes. Rocky also offers full carbon and aluminum framed version of the Altitude, with a total of 8 complete configurations to choose from.
That 160mm of travel is delivered via Rocky's Smoothlink suspension design, their version of a Horst link layout. The Altitude's kinematics changed with the new frame, and the result are numbers that blend the best traits of the old Altitude and the Instinct BC. Anti-squat sits a little below 100% at sag, but it doesn't drop off quite as quickly as before.
• Travel: 160mm rear / 170mm front
• Wheel size: 29"
•Carbon frame (aluminum options available)
• Head angle: 64.4° - 65.5°
• Seat tube angle: 75.4° - 76.5°
• Reach: 474mm (lrg)
• Chainstay length: 438 or 449mm (slack setting)
• Sizes: M, L (tested), XL
• Weight: Weight: 31.4 lb / 14.2 kg
• Price: $9,099 USD
The suspension rate is progressive, with a flatter curve earlier in the travel that ramps up more quickly towards the end of the stroke to provide additional bottom-out resistance. Each frame size has a specific shock tune in order to ensure that lighter riders on smaller bikes are able make the most of the bike's travel, and to keep bigger riders from blowing through all 160mm too quickly.
When it comes to frame details, internal, fully guided cable routing on the carbon frames makes it possible to run regular or moto style brakes without trouble. There's very nice chainslap protection to keep things quiet out on the trail, and plenty of room for a water bottle inside the front triangle.
The Altitude has Rocky's Ride 9 geometry, which, you guessed it, allows for 9 different geometry settings thanks to 2 flip chips. In the neutral setting, the bike has a 65-degree head angle and a 480mm reach, but for this test I ran it in the slackest setting, which is also the most progressive; that gives it a 64.4 degree head angle. I went with the slackest setting in order to give it a fair shake against the other bikes on hand. The chainstay length can be set at either 438 or 449mm, which lets riders pick the handling traits they prefer (for me it was the 449mm position).
I tested the Carbon 90 Rally edition, which is built up with the same parts that Rocky's Enduro team are using. Now, they're not out there racing around the world on entry level parts, which means this is an expensive bike at $9,099 USD. All those dollars get you a Shimano XTR drivetrain and, a Fox 38 fork and Float X2 shock, and Race Face Turbine R alloy wheels. Keep in mind that there are less expensive carbon versions, as well as a range of aluminum framed options with prices starting at $3,500 USD.Climbing
The Altitude has the slackest seat tube angle out of all the bikes here, but thankfully the actual seat tube angle isn't super slack, which meant the climbing position was still very comfortable. Having the chainstays in the longer position also helped to position me over the center of the bike, which makes it easier to find the right weight balance for steep climbs.
The rear end is fairly active under hard pedaling, so I regularly made use of that little blue climb lever. It's easy to reach, and I'm not as opposed to using it as Levy, but it's worth noting that the Altitude isn't the snappiest climber. The Propain Spindrift felt more efficient, even with 20mm more travel and a coil shock, a sensation that was backed up by Levy's pseudo-scientific effeciency test.
It may not be super-snappy under power, but the Altitude is a very easy bike to live with on technical climbs, with plenty of traction, and reasonable dimensions that keep it from feeling unwieldy in the tight stuff. The weight's very reasonable as well, especially for a bike designed to withstand the rigors of enduro racing. It was the lightest out of the five bikes in this category by over a pound, part of the reason that this would be my pick out of the bunch if I was looking for a longer travel, do-it-all machine. Descending
That active suspension that had me occasionally reaching for the compression lever on the climbs pays dividends on the descents – the Altitude has excellent traction, with a nicely damped, ground hugging feel. It doesn't feel overly stiff either; it feels like it contours to the terrain rather than trying to smash it into submission. Those traits are especially evident in wet or loose conditions, where it has an innate ability to grip rather than slipping and sliding.
Early on in the testing I removed one volume spacer from the Float X2 shock in order to take full advantage of the bike's 160mm of travel. Previously there'd been too much end-stroke ramp up for my liking, but that spacer removal did the trick, allowing me to use full travel when warranted while still retaining enough progression to prevent any harsh bottom outs.
Even though I set the bike in the longest and slackest setting, it never felt like a handful, and even with the chainstays in the longer 447mm position it was still easy to snake around tight turns and to navigate tricky, slower speed sections of trail. The Altitude will clearly work well as an enduro race bike, but there's more to it than that. It's a bike that can go up and down without demanding too much from its rider – pro level skills aren't required to have a good time on this machine.
Realistically, I'd say Rocky's geometry numbers are on the more conservative side of the spectrum, considering how good the bike felt in the slackest out of 9 settings, and there's probably a reason their team riders are running an angleset to slacken the bike up a little bit. A -1 degree angleset in the neutral setting would preserve the 480mm reach and give the bike a 64-degree head angle, numbers that are becoming fairly standard for this category.
The top tier components left little to be desired, with the exception of the rattly XTR brake pads. A strip of mastic tape on the caliper underneath the fins solved that, and the bike was very quiet after that, with the exception of the occasional 'twang' from the spokes of the Race Face Turbine wheels.