Rocky Mountain's Altitude underwent a re-design for 2021, emerging from the misty forests of Vancouver's North Shore with 160mm of travel, 29” wheels for the larger sizes, and an even more enduro-oriented focus than before. The changes already seem to be paying off – Jesse Melamed took the win at the first EWS race of the season in Zermatt on the new bike.
The creation of the new Altitude allowed Rocky Mountain to consolidate two models into one – the Instinct BC, which had 155mm of travel and 29” wheels, and the previous Altitude, which had 150mm of travel and 27.5” wheels. That morphing was accomplished via a wheel size split - the size small Altitude is now only available with 27.5” wheels, the size medium can be purchased with either 27.5” or 29” wheels, and the large and XL sizes are 29” only.
Rocky Mountain Altitude Details
• Wheelsize: 29" (M, L, XL) or 27.5" (S, M)
• Carbon or aluminum frame options
• Travel: 160mm (r) / 170mm (f)
• 64.4° - 65.5° head angle
• 437 or 447mm chainstays
• Weight: 32 lb / 14.5 kg (size L C90 Rally)
• Price range: $3,500 - $9,999 USD
• Price as shown: $9,099 USD
There are aluminum and carbon framed options, with prices starting at $3,500 for the base model alloy version, and going all the way up to $9,999 for the top-of-the-line Carbon 99. The carbon frame only can be purchased for $3,699. You can view the full range comparison here
I've been spending time on the $9,099 Carbon 90 Rally Edition, which is built with the same parts spec that Rocky's enduro team riders are using. Parts highlights include a 170mm Fox Factory 38 fork, Float X2 shock, Shimano XTR drivetrain and brakes, Race Face Turbine R wheels, and Maxxis Minion DHF / DHR II tires, both with Double Down casings. Frame Details
The Altitude's frame shape has been altered slightly, with a thinner top tube profile, a less chunky head tube, and an overall clean and modern look. It's an effective frame design, one that can accommodate longer travel dropper posts and leaves plenty of room for running a full size water bottle.
Rocky did an excellent job taking care of the little details – there's a very effective chainslap protector on the chainstay, a plastic guard between the chainstsays, and downtube protection to ward off damage from flying rocks or shuttling. The internal cable routing is fully guided to make installation hassle-free, and the ports in the head tube make it possible to run brakes moto-style without sending the hose on a strange path.
Dual bearings are now in place at the chainstay and seatstay pivots, which is said to improve the frame's stiffness and durability. All of the bearings are shielded, which is good news for riders in wet climates.
One interesting feature is the modular shock mount – the portion that hangs down from the top tube is replaceable, which leaves the door partially open for Rocky to make kinematic changes in the future without needing to open a mold for a whole new front triangle.
The little details on the Altitude's frame are all taken care of, from the plastic shield between the chainstays to the ribbed chainslap protector.Geometry
Not surprisingly, the Altitude has grown longer and slacker – the reach on a size large now measures 480mm, with a 65-degree head angle in the neutral setting, compared to 458mm and 65.6-degrees on the previous version.
It's also possible to change the rear center length by 10mm by flipping the chips in the seatstays and switching the orientation of the brake adaptor. It's a welcome feature, and one that will allow taller riders to achieve a more balanced ride, or for others to choose their preferred handling characteristics. Go with the short setting for a quicker, snappier rider, or the longer position for more stability at speed.
Rocky's Ride 9 geometry adjustment system is still in place, which allows riders to quickly tweak the bike's geometry by removing two bolts and changing the orientation of the two interlocking chips at the rear shock mount. On the Altitude the head angle can be changed from 64.4-degrees all the way up to 65.5 degrees in a matter of minutes.
I'm going to step up on my soapbox here for a paragraph or two, so skip ahead if you'd rather not hear my thoughts on adjustable frame geometry...
Rocky has long been a proponent of adjustable geometry, and I don't think it's just because 'Ride 9' is a catchy term. However, I'm not sure why they didn't make it so the Altitude's slackest position was extra
slack. Remember, this is a 160 /170mm bike – I'd hope that most riders considering a bike like this are planning on taking it into steep, technical terrain, areas where a slack head tube angle has very few downsides.
Personally, if I'm on a bike with adjustable geometry I'd rather have the ability to make it too slack versus too steep. I have a hard time imagining many riders will ever run this bike in the steep position, which gives it a 65.5-degree head angle – why not shift everything over so that there's the option of giving the Altitude a DH-bike worthy head angle? Suspension
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.
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. Ride Impressions
My first handful of rides have all been with the Altitude set up in the slackest geometry setting with the chainstays in the long position. I'll try some different positions as testing progresses, but at the moment I don't really have any reason to want to deviate from that configuration.
The bike has a really fun blend of quickness and plowability. Even in the longer chainstay position I haven't had any issues navigating tighter trails, and on rougher straightaways the Fox 38 / Float X2 combo creates a satisfyingly smooth ride. It's nearly silent, too, free of any annoying cable rattle or chainslap. Yes, the XTR pads did make a racket at first, but some strategically placed mastic tape took care of that.
I've been flipping the little lever on the X2 for longer climbs, but the shock stays fairly calm even in the open position, as long as you're pedaling circles and not squares. The effective seat angle isn't radically steep, but the steeper actual
seat tube angle helps keep things in check when the saddle is at full extension, and I'm sure the longer chainstays are helping with the fore / aft balance.
It's easy to imagine using this as a race bike, but it's also easy to envision building it up as a long-legged aggressive trail bike – it seems to be a very well-rounded machine, rather than one that only wakes up in the gnarliest terrain.
Look for an in-depth review and comparison to other bikes in this category later this year.