Rocky Mountain Altitude Review – Carrying on with the Rocky Mountain lineup, today we are talking about the Altitude. It’s Rocky’s enduro racing weapon, landing Jese Melamed in third after an entire season of racing. It’s one fast machine, but will it make you faster? Stick around to find out.
The Altitude utilizes the same frame as its little brother, the Instinct. What makes them unique is the Altitude uses a different upper shock mount and subsequent different size shock. This gives the bike 20mm more travel for a total of 160mm of rear travel. The altitude also uses a longer 170mm fork. Both of these things alter the suspension feel and geometry of the bike. These small changes end up making these two bikes feel completely different on the trail.
Quick hits on the bike: First up, the bike has 160mm of rear travel and 170mm up front. We’ve got a 64.4 to 65.5-degree head tube angle, paired to a 75.4 to 76.5-degree seat tube angle. The reach ranges from 504 to 516mm. The wheelbase sits right around 1285 depending on the Ride 9 position. The chainstay is adjustable between 438mm and 449mm.
Rocky Mountain Altitude Ride Impressions
The Altitude isn’t a showstopper on the climbs. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. It’s fast enough and will get you to the top of any hill without too much fuss, but it clearly doesn’t care about being fast uphill. And it shouldn’t — It’s an enduro race bike. It makes all the sacrifices in order to go downhill faster and more reliably.
The seated position on the Altitude feels quite a bit different from the Instinct. Where the Instinct felt just about perfect for me at 6’2”, the Altitude felt much bigger. Remember, the head tube angle and seat tube angles both get significantly slacker on the Altitude. The slacker seat tube angle brought me further away from the handlebars, making that long front center more apparent. The seat tube angle wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s about a degree slacker than I would like. I’m a tall guy with giraffe legs, so I’m rather sensitive to slack seat tube angles. They become more apparent the higher that saddle goes, and mine is pretty high. Despite being on the slacker side of things, I didn’t feel that the front end o the bike wanted to lift or wander all that much. I did most of my riding in the longer chainstay setting and I feel that helped with keeping the front end of the bike down on the steeper climbs. In the short mode, the bike is more likely to want to wheelie.
The suspension is active on the climbs. It feels quite a bit like a bigger, burlier Santa Cruz Hightower. The rear wheel digs into the dirt to keep the bike motoring forward. It’s also very smooth through the chatter on the climbs. The smoothness and traction come at a small cost, though. There’s a decent amount of pedal bob on the Altitude. Personally, I’d take a slightly less efficient bike if it meant there was more traction and control on the climbs. I feel like those two things go further in making a bike climb well than flat-out efficiency. But I know some folks will be reaching for the lockout lever on this thing. Luckily, it’s easy to reach and not all the way down by the bottom bracket.
It’s not nearly as quick and energetic uphill as something like the Ibis Ripmo, but it’s still quite a bit faster than a bike like the Norco Range. So I’d say it falls exactly where it should, given the category. It’s perfectly average and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Here is where the Altitude gets exciting. The suspension performance is top-notch. Pair that with the slightly more moderate geometry and you get a very versatile enduro bike.
Before I even left the garage, I could tell the Altitude was incredibly plush and squishy. I sat on the bike and immediately thought I had way too little air in the rear shock. I thought I was about 30-40 PSI short. Turns out, I was actually under 30% sag. I knew this one was going to be a ground-hugging machine. Out on the trail, all my suspicions were confirmed. The bike is one of, if not the plushest bike I’ve ever ridden. It has a very quiet and controlled ride quality to it. There’s no skipping around in the chatter or getting bullied by the trail. It handles the small bumps as well as the big ones. With how soft the initial stroke is on this bike, I assumed it would also be easy to blow through the rest of the travel. That’s not the case. It handles big hits with a certain dignified composure. I don’t think I ever felt a harsh bottom out during my time on the bike even though I cased enough jumps that I definitely should have.
It not only feels quiet, but it is actually quiet. The bike hardly makes any noise at all. Instead, you only hear tires digging into the dirt, and do they ever dig into the dirt. If the traction scale goes to 10, the Altitude is at an 11. It’s that weird pre-winter season here in northern Utah. That means conditions can be variable. The corner in the sun will be dusty and dry, and the one in the shade will have the friction coefficient of a soggy banana peel. The Altitude didn’t seem to care. My first test trail started off with three or four patches of mud, just to make sure your tires were nice and slippery for the rootiest bit of trail we have. Somehow, I still set my fastest time ever. The bike hooks up even in the worst of conditions.
I recently rode and reviewed the Instinct. For me, it is the most fun and playful 29er I’ve ever ridden. It gets airborne incredibly easily and can get around a corner with the best of them. The Altitude lost a bit of that playful nature. That makes sense given it has 20mm more travel and more aggressive geometry. It wasn’t as easy to bunnyhop or unweight over a trail obstacle. Granted, I spent most of my time in the longer chainstay mode, which I suspect contributed to this feeling. In the shorter chainstay mode, the bike felt a bit more maneuverable and lively, but still nowhere close to the Instinct. I wouldn’t go as far as calling the bike dull, but I wouldn’t call it poppy either.
The Altitude’s geometry was a little surprising and refreshing. Most other bikes in this category are much more aggressive than this one. The head tube angle is a bit closer to those in the all-mountain category. This leads to a shorter overall wheelbase as well. Compared to the Transition Sentinel (the closest feeling bike I can think of), the Transition Spire, and Norco Range (other new enduro bikes we have at the shop), the Altitude is the shortest and steepest bike of the bunch. This is what I think makes the bike more versatile than most other enduro bikes. The shorter wheelbase makes it easier to get around a corner. Paired with a steeper head tube, the steering feels more responsive than most other bikes in the category. Overall, it keeps the bike from feeling like a tank. It’s still a lot of fun on smoother and flowier trails. When things get really rough in double black diamond terrain, I think the more aggressive enduro bikes are going to be faster. In single black diamond terrain, I think the Altitude is the faster bike.
Rocky Mountain Altitude Comparisons
Rocky Mountain Instinct
It only makes sense to compare these two seeing as they have the same frame. The Instinct is a much more lively and responsive bike. It’s quicker around a corner and easier to get in the air. In the rough stuff, it feels like a completely different bike. It’s not nearly as sure-footed and grounded as the Altitude. It’s a slightly better climber due to the head tube and seat tube angles being steeper. Read the full Instinct Review here.
The Sentinel is the bike that feels the most like the Altitude. It has a little less travel, but more aggressive geometry. They’re pretty close in terms of DH capability and climbing performance. I’d have to say the Altitude is a more capable descender and a slower climber. The Altitude feels a bit better on tighter trails with more corners, while the Sentinel feels better on steep trails. Read the full Sentinel Review here.
I would say the altitude sits right at the border of enduro and all-mountain. That means the Range sits right at the border of enduro and downhill. They almost don’t even feel like they’re in the same category. The Range feels much bigger, longer, and slacker. It prefers the steepest, rockiest, bumpiest terrain around. It’s not excellent in the corners or in the air. The Altitude feels much more well-rounded and versatile. In the nastiest terrain, it will be slower than the Range, but I’d have to say it’s faster everywhere else — especially on the climbs. Read the full Range Review here.
Who is The Rocky Mountain Altitude for?
If you can only have one bike and you never want to be outgunned, the Altitude is an excellent choice. It’s burly and capable, without being a one-trick pony. It will handle the roughest days, but won’t be a chore on the easier stuff. It’s a great option for people who value plushness over everything else. It’s a highly adaptable and adjustable bike for those who like to tinker. Between Ride-9, the two-position rear axle, and the ability to swap out the shock to make it an Instinct, this bike is a chameleon.
The Bottom line
The Rocky Mountain Altitude is the least one-trick pony of all the enduro bikes.