A lifelong bike dream came true! (thanks to a great sponsor)

WHAT A COOL OPPORTUNITY!  Huge thanks to Jenson USA and to Rocky Mountain!  Have a peep at the new Altitude C90 Rally Edition here at Jenson USA via my affiliate link: http://bit.ly/RockyMountainJKW

The 2021 Rocky Mountain Altitude C90 Rally Edition! OK, let’s unpack all that jargon… The new 2021 Altitude features 29″ wheels, 160mm of travel out back, the Ride 9 geometry and suspension adjust system, adjustable chainstay length, internally molded cable routing tunnels, and dedicated routing for either right or left side rear brakes. NICE!
An old name gets a new face. And please ignore that adapter-on-an-adapter stack, Rocky sent me a custom, one piece solution a few days after Logan snapped these pics. 
Whomever put these two stumps a perfect couple of bike lengths’ apart had excellent foresight as to how the Altitude C90 Rally Edition would handle while airborne. Tip of the hat, Mr/Mrs/Their Trailbuilder!

Riding some new brands has been a HUGE highlight of 2020, and don’t we all know 2020 needs more positive highlights! I’ve had a 12+ year relationship with Ibis Cycles, which I go over in this video here. I’m extra excited about this most recent turn with my Ibis sponsorship, as it means I get to ride some of my original childhood dream brands- like this one! Now, the real key to this puzzle is my other longtime sponsor, Jenson USA.  Jenson has been supporting my online content for a few years now, and they’ve recently begun offering Rocky Mountain bikes via online sales to the US market.

When I heard that Jenson would be offering Rocky Mountain to the US market, I got pretty excited. This meant I had a chance at riding one!
These rock shelves seemed like the perfect spot to play hotch scotch via bicycle. The stout Fox 38 170mm travel fork helped keep my bike hopping the scotch in the same direction I originally began, and the burly X2 rear shock meant I had plenty of confidence there’d be time for scotch after the ride.

This Rocky Mountain Altitude C90 was an absolute DREAM on rocky, chunky descents!  I have never ridden a 29er with this much travel.  Yes, my Ripmo has a 170 fork and before that, a massive Trust Shout, but the Ripmo is only about 145mm of frame travel.  The new 2021 Altitude is a 160mm chassis, and is set up with a Fox 38 fork at 170 travel.  In the back of my mind, I was a little worried that this would be a tad cumbersome, but I was wrong.  Once I got the geometry dialed in, the bike handled tighter, natural tech just fine.  The travel wasn’t an issue at all.  Yes, it feels big compared to my Chromag 27.5 hardtail, but hey, that’s to be expected, and in the majority of backcountry situations, it’s an advantage.  

Burly, yet still capable of a svelte dance upon a pristine mountain ribbon of sinuous singletrack. The Altitude is the bike if you enjoy a good huck, but aren’t shy about pedaling a few hours through the woods. Indeed, no shuttle required. My bike weighed 32.46 pounds before I swapped a few of my personal parts on it. In true form, I never bothered weighing it once I got it set up. I guess I’d be a better bike journalist if I did that sort of thing, but that sort of thing would then take away from ride time, which would then hinder my ride report. So, ahem, other aspiring bike journalists out there, don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. That is, unless Peter doesn’t do trail maintenance.
Look at that. A red maple leaf on the top tube! Subtle yet rad. This is also the second Canadian bike on my channel in 2020.  Hopefully I can get some more soon here!

Now, before I ever got the bike dirty, I made sure to weigh it.  Hey, if I’m being sent a “media sample”, I should do my best to pretend that I’m a responsible media type, right?  32.46 pounds.  That sounds good to me.  Turns out that is the exact same weight as my HD5!  I then threw on a few parts I’ve been riding for a while now:

My size medium bike came with 170mm cranks. Nice work Rocky! I’ve been on 165mm cranks on my personal bikes, but on a complete, I’m not expecting manufacturers to go to 165s (yet). Also, mega bonus, the One Up bashguard and chainguide worked great.  Rocky even included a few spare bashplates for the guard with the bike. I haven’t pulled the cranks yet to check out the ISCG (or variant), but it has performed great thus far.  
This bike was equipped with a full XTR M9120 groupset.  That’s right, 12 speed!
My riding style is known for “wheelies”. However, I spend a lot of time simply above the trail, rather than on it. Like any self respecting, yet aging, BMXer should do, anything that resembles an upwards face is best repurposed into a jump. As a result, I really appreciate deep drop seatposts. The stock Race Face 150mm post worked fine. But I wanted more! MOAR! So I went to the PNW Components Rainier IR post, which is EXTERNALLY ADJUSTABLE in 10mm increments, and I set it in the 190mm drop position. Not an essential swap, but a very nice one.
A closer look at the blurry bike mid flight.

One thing that I’ll need to do a separate video about is the actual Ride 9 geometry adjust of this bike.  In addition to the Ride 9 system, the bike has adjustable drop outs to change chainstay length, and a replaceable forwards shock mount (in case of future shock size changes).  But the details don’t end there!  The internally molded cable tunnels include a spare tunnel in case a rider wants to run a left side rear brake- WOW!  That’s something I’ve never seen on another brand.  Impressive work, Rocky!

The chainstays when positioned in the long setting are compatible with the SRAM universal derailleur hanger.  Cool, but what’s really cool is the use of the Shimano rear axle thread standard.  I swapped the stock bolt-on axle for a Shimano E-Through Axle so I could enjoy the convenience and security of a proper QR 148 rear end.  I do this same thing on all my Ibis bikes as well.

I used my Arrundel bottle cage, which worked OK with that big and heavy Camelbak bottle. There are probably better cage/bottle solutions, but this is what I had kicking around. I dropped my bottle twice with this set up, so I’m not convinced it’s the ideal set up for this bike. But it’s mostly ok! Also, I removed a volume reducer from BOTH the fork and the shock.  I found it super progressive, and never bottomed out despite some big hits on some faster jump trails.  I’ll use the Ride 9 adjustment to play with progressivity from here.  

My new athlete page over at Jenson USA: https://www.jensonusa.com/blog/rider-profile-JKW

There’s always “those people” whom have to state the obvious. Yes, lady, I realize that it is a “hot time of day to go up.” Do you not see me? Gasping for water? Dripping in sweat? But alas, all my witty and snappy comebacks have been saved for a week later, hidden behind a keyboard and some illuminated pixels. The unsung hero of quick replies is neither a hero nor sung.
The set up combinations are quite impressive. The Ride 9 adjustment setting deserves its own video, and I’m planning on that as soon as I can get a moment to start filming! I’m not used to “neutral” settings being more than ready for hucking into chunk like this, but the Rocky is built for the aggressive rider in mind.  

Perhaps my favorite overall feature on the Altitude is the Ride 9 adjustment system.  The bike came in the lowest/slackest and most progressive configuration.  By changing the orientation of the Ride 9 chips, I moved the shock into the most neutral setting.  This raised the BB and steepened the head angle, which was something I needed for my local trails.  Once I went to that neutral setting, the bike rode VERY well on my preferred terrain.  I also removed a volume spacer in both the fork and the shock.  I wanted to be able to bottom the bike on harsh ~4 foot drops to flat, something that the tight and slow backcountry trails will occasionally feature.

Man, do I wish other brands would incorporate this type of adjustability into their designs!

The way I ride is so unusual, and often when I’m riding with other folks for the first time they’ll mention that they never thought their local trail could “look like that.”  We don’t make all riders stick with only 2.8 tires, or only 2.3 tires; we don’t make everyone stick to one handlebar width, compression setting, or tire pressure, so why not have a few options on hand?  The only thing I might say is a downside about the Ride 9 system is that Rocky didn’t ship the bike in the neutral position.  The most aggressive position that it came in will be great for top level riders at a bike park, but for the average buyer, I’d think they’d much prefer the more neutral setting- or perhaps something even steeper and more linear.  Maybe this changes depending on the spec of the bike- I did get the “mega smasher” model after all.  But I am STOKED to play with the adjustability of this bike!

The industrial design of the frame is quite nice and modern.  It still looks like an Altitude, which is a great shape, but it’s got an elegance that photos (at least, my photos) can’t quite convey.  I found the front triangle to be quite stiff, and the rear end was a tad softer.  The swingarm was still stiffer than my Ripmo AF, for instance, but it certainly had more give than my Ripmo Carbon V2.  It was not a hinderance in any way on the trail, in fact, I think it helped hook the bike up more in the loose and rocky stuff.

I’ll do more of a proper ride report in a few more weeks, but for now, I’m pouring over maps, trying to find some more rad backcountry adventures to hit before the snow arrives.

Stay tuned for more!

My riding tutorials posted through June 2020:

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