At A Glance
Rocky Mountain seems to be having a bit of an overhaul at the moment, with new bikes hitting the trails all over the place. The new Slayer, launched last year, has been snapped up so quickly they are exceptionally hard to get hold of. I count myself lucky to have even touched a Slayer, let alone ride one!Buy Enduro Bikes on
Whilst the dust was settling from one launch another one explodes, this time with the updated Altitude. Having not received a 2017 update, the Altitude was conspicuous by its absence and was ripe for a re-jig.
Sitting into the range one notch below the Slayer, it's a 150mm rear, 160mm front 'Aggressive Trail' bike according to Rocky. Lacking the sheer depth of travel from its larger cousin, the Altitude wants to be more of an all-rounder.
The frame has come up to date with some fresh numbers and moves towards a longer, lower, slacker design which, although isn't ground-breaking, is now current. Large sized frames receive a 458mm reach, a 65.6 head angle and a 7mm bottom bracket drop. In other news, Rocky Mountain has done away with bushings and the whole system now runs on bearings which is great to see.
Those hawk-eyed readers will have noticed some blurry features on the press release that supported the launch, and even now the upper models on their website still have the rear shock defocussed. Only Fox can put an end to this when they finally announce their Fox Live Valve system which will no doubt feature electrical wizardry to control damping on their suspension. It's also rumoured to be linked to the dropper post, but let's wait and see.
Three carbon and three alloy models give a healthy spread of prices and finishing components from Fox and RockShox, Shimano and SRAM. Our model is the Carbon 50, which provides a balanced spec including Fox Performance Elite suspension, a Fox Transfer dropper and a Shimano mix of SLX and XT handling transmission and braking.
Cost savings are visible in the own-brand front hub, bars, stem and grips, but overall things are in the right places, especially the short stem and wide bar combo. The tyres must also get a mention for being bold, and strapping some 2.5/2.4 Maxxis Minions to the wheels for top-level traction.
On The Trail
The Altitude has aspirations beyond just plummeting, and in order to justify its place in the Rocky Mountain line-up it needs to be happy in multiple directions. The new longer and slacker style has to marry up with some climbing capabilities to keep it in this so-called 'Aggressive Trail' Category.
Having spent time recently on the Rocky Mountain Pipeline, it was great to get some of the things I felt were missing. Immediately the roomier top tube feels modern and comforting as longer reach bikes now feel 'normal', and Rocky is now in the game. The other noticeable feel straight away was more suppleness in the rear travel from the bearings, allowing a greater sensitivity in the first part of the travel.
Set up is straightforward, pressures are set and the suspension has limited knob twiddling potential so you're good to go. The only extra tuning to be done is in the geometry. With the Ride9 system now shifted to the rear shock mount it is more subtle, but still allows the same amount of tweaking. For me, there was very little decision, and having tried neutral, I went full slack and didn't look back. A long travel bike like this deserves numbers to match, and a slacker head angle and lower bottom bracket is the way to go. The only aspect I didn't want to change was the seat angle, but this is part of the deal, so I just slammed it forwards on the rails and things felt spot on.
Now, the Altitude is a bike that hides its suspension well, aesthetically it is a clean and sleek looking bike, but more than that, it rides with the energy and efficiency of a shorter travel bike. Shod with 2.5-inch rubber, the Altitude was never going to gain height like a rocket, but it never felt sluggish, and the traction from those tyres was immense. The idea of rounded Plus tyres giving more traction is getting old, if you want grip, get massive knobbly tyres, and with Minions now available as 2.6, this is where real grip can be found.
So, the altitude impressed with its climbing tenacity if not velocity, however a bike like this really wants to show you some skills at speed. Stiffness was apparent and it was happy to take some power and oblige with a rapid turn of speed although too much power and tyre rub was possible on the rear brake hose, suggesting there was some flex after all, but a better-secured brake hose put paid to that happening again.
The Performance suspension doesn't have the softness or lightness of touch off the top like the Factory versions, but provides plenty of composed support through the turns and happily eats up nasty ground casually. The big fork and big tyres working perfectly in rough terrain, confident and predictable.
Full on descending was where a real character emerged, combining the oceans of grip with a playful, rowdy feel that encouraged the most entertaining line rather than the fastest. Even when speeds dropped for dangerously technical corners, the energy was still there to hop a wheel or endo round. Never a dull moment! Bunny hops and wheelies all round, no straight line racer moves for the Altitude.
The components gave a good mix, with some stand out parts such as the tyres, and the Transfer dropper (although a 170mm drop would be nice). The wheels were a little lacking, probably the source of the flex, and the rims took some battle scars despite the heavyweight rubber protection. A mention must go out to the chain guide, or 'Spirit Guide', which is truly a lovely, understated piece of kit, going quietly unnoticed whilst keeping the chain in check.
It's hard to define trail bikes, and Rocky Mountains ‘Aggressive Trail’ category serves the Altitude well. They have hidden a long travel trail bike, capable of enduro duties, into an easy-to-ride, playful package. For so many of us riders, the Altitude represents what we do week in, week out; ride bikes for whoops and giggles.
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This review was in Issue 48 of IMB.For more information visit Rocky Mountain Bicycles
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.