Rocky Mountain Altitude 70RSL Carbon - Review

May 20, 2010
by Syd Jacklin  
Bike: Rocky Mountain Altitude 70RSL Carbon
Size: Medium
Rider: Bykguy 5’9” 150lbs/XC & DH race background
Test Location: Moab Utah
Trails: Amasa Back, Porcupine Rim, Sovereign

The anticipation of riding warm dry trails in the sun had us making great time on the drive with only NASCAR like pit stops for gas and snacks. After 19 hours on the road, we were pumped to see sunshine and warm-ish weather in Moab. We had barely unloaded the bikes before we had nailed down plans for our first ride the next morning. We all agreed that Amasa Back trail would be the best choice for the first ride as it offered everything you’d want for a bike test ride —5 miles of technical climbs, including ledges, sand patches and plenty of loose rock sections to challenge your balance and traction — followed by 5 more miles of rough, fast rock strewn trail with plenty of drops of all sizes.

With this being my first real ride on the Altitude, I felt very comfortable with the stock size and fit, The cockpit is just long enough that you can get comfortable on long steep climbs, but not so long that you can’t pull the front end up for surprise drops and up over ledges. Rocky Mountain introduced a new geometry concept with the Altitude called “Straight Up Geometry” and what it does is compensate for the slackening of the geometry once you add the riders weight to the bike. In the past, other bike geometry was based on “un-loaded” suspension — meaning without the riders weight added to the bike, the correct suspension set up requires between 20-30% suspension sag (pre-compression of the shock by the rider's weight). Once you do this it causes the head and seat angle to slacken. By slackening the head and seat angles, you produce a less climb friendly geometry with the rider's weight too far back over the center of the bike and this induces a tendency for the bike's front wheel to lift up or wander on really steep climbs.

The Altitude's “Straight Up Geometry” was noticeable on the steep sections on the Amasa Back trail and made for a very comfortable body position for putting down power and getting fantastic traction on loose or sandy climbs. When the time came to descend, I was concerned that the bike might feel twitchy like many XC race bikes with steep geometry often do. I have to hand it to the Altitude — it performed great on the descent, and the 5 inches of rear suspension felt big and plush on the bigger drops and square edge rock hits without feeling twitchy — just responsive and stable, which is just what you want from a “trail” or “XC Marathon” bike. The end of Amasa Back trail came too quickly for me as I was just starting to explore the limits of the Altitude, so the next day's ride would be the world famous Porcupine Rim trail — which is a must do trail for technical riders.

We all awoke early in anticipation of a big 3+ hour ride on Porcupine Rim and I had the Altitude cleaned and lubed — ready for another day of pushing its limits. The Porcupine Trail starts with some fast rocky sweeping sections, then begins a long climb to the top of the canyon rim. This trail is usually dry, but to our surprise, there was snow and mud on some sections which added another element to the day's test ride. The Altitude continued to impress with great balance, fantastic traction and probably the best body position for climbing I’ve ever experienced on a 5” travel “Trail or XC Marathon” bike. If you’re like me and love going as fast as possible downhill, you will look forward to reaching the lookout point on Porcupine Rim — because it’s all downhill from that point — 11 miles and a drop of 2,700 vertical feet to the end of the trail. This is where I can see the limits of most bikes, as this section of the trail has tons of jagged, exposed rock and ledge drops as large as 5 feet — and combined with speeds of up to 60 kph, you can find a bike's handling and suspension weak points really quickly.

As a point of reference for anyone thinking I’m just taking it easy on this bike, my friend from Switzerland is top level XC and Megavalance racer who was riding a pimped out Intense 6.6. He had a hard time keeping me from passing him on the fast, rocky sections of the trail. The Altitude showed great stability on the fast, rough sections and never faltered on the tight technical climbs. I don’t usually get so excited about a test bike, but this is one that I would be stoked to have as my own. The Altitude is a great all round bike that a rider could do an epic 5+ hour mountain ride on the weekends and still have a fast bike for the weekly race series here in a place like Edmonton.


  • 9 0
 Do it all bikes rule. I love the bike staying on that "thin red line" which lies between ability to give you efficient weekday trail rides, (aka. afterwork bike) at the same time being able to handle Break-Bump-Mountain ( park) on weekend. Evenmore able to cope with proper DHcomp tracks at decent but naturaly not DHrace speed, when you want to hang out with friends with big toys that are into big stuff.

It's cool to have two or more mountain bikes (I mean those that ride mountains not DJ, SS, though, I'm pretty certain this RM can cope with these too) but I tried that and if you are working 8h+ a day and then have family duties 12+ hours a weekend: it just doesn't work. Switching between bikes of totaly different purpose and geometry on that basis is not for me. I prefer to stick with one, being confident on my bike both for XC/trail and gravity riding.

I'm totaly after a bike like this one, not necessarily carbon (too expensive for what you get I believe) but geometricaly and suspension"aly". Good article makes me more confident that I am not the only one believeing in existence of that thin red line.
  • 1 0
 i have personal riding experience with this bike as well. the thing is incredibly light and definitely climbs like no other! i was super impressed with how well it stuck to the trail on technical steep climbs where normally i would normally be knocked out of line by roots and stuff. i wasn't to impressed with it's downhill capabilities though, i felt that when it got steep the geo wasn't quite slack enough to get into a proper aggressive riding position. all in all it's still probably top 3 in my list of favorite xc/trail bikes.
  • 2 0
 perhaps you can put a 160 fox 36 talas into it. Nearly an inch higher Axle to Crown would slack the angle by 1 degree so it should fit your likes I think Smile
  • 1 0
 if i were to buy the bike thats exactly what i would do but for just riding a demo a few times thats a bit unrealistic.
  • 1 0
 yea, I meant just if you buy one. Though Im thinking about buying Blur LT2, and before I do it I just have to try it out with something that has 160mm travel. I love my bike so much that if im to change to something slightly smaller, I just have to be sure it's much better in XC/trail and only slightly worse in gravity riding.

Though it is a heresy to suspect that something might be wrong with a Santa Cruz bike Smile
  • 3 0
 Love Porcupine Rim, I was out there over spring break. Talk about heaven.
  • 1 0
 Whoa - hang on a sec. Your user name is river valley cycle? You work for a shop dude? a shop that sells Rocky Mountain bikes?

what's the deal? Is this just an advert?
  • 2 0
 Ummmm that's an Altitude 50 and it's Aluminum......
  • 1 0
 Sharp eye on the alt 50 image. The review & test were of an actual 70carbon & the image of the 50 was an error. My apolgies
  • 1 0
 A little more on how the carbon handles rock hits and dings please.
  • 2 1
 Carbon down tubes resist structural damage to a greater degree than aluminum when struck with a anvil to accurately simulate impact from rocks kicked up from the front wheel. This experiment was conduced by Trek during the development of the OCLV carbon Remedy bikes. Where a traditional aluminum frame will dent, a carbon frame has the capacity flex, and thus does not change the resulting shape of the tube post impact.
  • 1 0
 Loving the review, I like reviews like this. More bike reviews please Big Grin
  • 1 0
 Yeah.......hmmmm. Still though, bike looks rad, I want one.
  • 1 1
 Ya, Moab ROCKS!

How much does this bike weigh?
  • 1 0
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