The review I DIDN’T want to publish: the Rocky Mountain Altitude!!!

This bike came at a bad time for me.  

When I should have been riding a bunch of different test bikes, from various other brands, I simply didn’t want to stop riding the Altitude.  So, I just kept riding the Rocky, Mountain, and  sure enough, found myself enjoying it more and more.  And now I’m so addicted to the long wheel base, balanced carbon layup, and sprightly suspension that I’m looking for any excuse I can find to delay returning this loaner test bike back to Rocky Mountain!

This is it- the 2021 Rocky Mountain Altitude C90 Ralley Edition 29“. Long title, big wheels, and amazing.

As most of you know, a key supporter of my channel in the online retailer Jenson USA.  I had never before ridden a Rocky Mountain, so thanks to Jenson’s support, I was able to get this bike before it came out, do an unboxing video, and now Jenson has also supported me in bringing my review of this bike to all of you here.  As always, I have an affiliate link over to Jenson USA, down in the youtube description below, where you can learn all about the various Altitude models.  Before we do get into my review of the Altitude, I wanna let you know that I’m also supported by Industry 9, PNW Components, and Shimano.  

Jumping into greasy chutes, full o’ muddy roots? You got it. Long alpine rides with minimal oxygen and even less water? Not a problem. Big ol bike park style jumps? Sure thing! This bike was a treat in a lot of different scenarios.

This bike has made me a bit of a hypocrite.  After my huge wreck this past summer, I wanted to orient myself more towards shorter travel bikes and hardtails.  The idea was to do more with less, and hopefully avoid any more hospital visits.  But the Altitude quickly made my eat my words.  Even when ridden in less than extreme environments, it was still a canoe load of fun.  

Slick roots? Well, these can be dicey on the hardtail or the short travel rig. But with a full 170mm on tap up front, I ended up being able to find a good amount of grip in this stuff.

This is the longest travel enduro bike that I’ve spent much time on.  With a 170mm travel Fox 38 fork and 160mm of rear travel, I came into this expecting the bike to frankly be waaaay too much bicycle for my needs.  Long travel bikes can often end up being a real chore to get airborne.  They can “dumb down” trails and remove the challenge of riding some of our favorite technical singletracks.  This means you might have to go really extra fast and huck mega huge in order to have fun.  Luckily, that hasn’t exactly been the case, so maybe I’m not such a hypocrite after all?  I sure hope not!  

Notice how I’m always on the rear wheel? It’s just my style- but with the nice bit of progression, the bike feels very supportive when subjected to my style.

The geometry of the Altitude had me a little intimidated at first.  Primarily, the wheelbase is quite long.  It’s the longest bike I’ve ridden*.  Turns out a YouTube subscriber (thanks Dave!) asked about comparing it to the HD5, and sure enough, the Altitude has a 1217 wheelbase, and the HD5 a 1218.  I found that on the trail, the Altitude felt a TON bigger.  I think that’s due to the 29″ wheels along with the extra rear travel. 

While I was expecting a “canoe with a row boat paddles” feel with the Altitude on tighter trails, it turned out that the bike rode phenomenally well.  More like a freestyle kayak, but with a substantial safety margin.  I had no idea that this would be what I want in a bike, but hey, you learn something new every day!  

I thought a long, sled like wheelbase would mean minimal aerial acrobatics. And honestly, I was wrong. This thing handled air time quite well.

A big part of why I like this bike so much is the suspension design.  The Horst link 4 bar is fairly traditional, and it pedals well, but it really shines when it’s time to get airborne. If you’ve seen my riding video, you’ve probably noticed that I waste a great deal of time and energy hitting all sorts of goofy jumps.  It’s exceedingly easy to pop this bike off any and every bump in the trail.  

The bike has three geometry settings, as well as three suspension settings, which Rocky calls the Ride 9 system.  I just call it awesome, and I did a whole video about how I found the best setting for my own style.    

Being able to get in the air, and then having the support of a slightly progressive suspension curve, combined to give me more confidence on this bike than anything else I’ve ridden to date.

Progressive suspension is a jumper’s best friend. The extra support helps get the bike airborne, and it also helps control those landings.

Enough about the love for this bike, everyone knows that complaining gets more clicks here on the internet.  So what kinds of problems did I have?  Well, despite not wanting to ride any of the other bikes in my shed, I only had a few small component nitpicks. 
First up, with how jumpy this bike can be, I needed to go to a longer travel dropper post.  My sponsor PNW Components makes the 200mm externally adjustable Loam Dropper post, which was a great upgrade from the stock 150mm post.  I use a full PNW cockpit set up on all my bikes, so I swapped those parts over as well, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the stock cockpit.  

For the wheelset, I didn’t even get the stock RaceFace wheels dirty.  I threw on my favorite wheels, which are made by another sponsor of mine, Industry Nine.  I’ve been using these wheels on all my other bikes this year.  They use the Hydra hubs, which have 690 points of engagement, and are laced to the carbon WR1 rims.  The stock Maxxis tires in the Double Down casing are REALLY good, but I’ve been using WTB tires primarily the last decade.  I used to work at WTB, and my pals there were kind enough to set me up with a 2.6 Vigilante up front and a 2.6 Trailboss in the rear.  

Even in the desert, the WTB 2.6 tires hooked up really, really well. The knobs are pretty tall, which means a deep bite into anything soft. Speaking of soft, the side knobs of the fast rolling rear tire and all the knobs of the high grip tire are super soft, which means sublime grip. Are they really fast? I have no idea. But they work awesome for me.

It’s worth mentioning that at the “neutral” geometry setting, my WTB tire combo has slackened the bike out significantly, and it actually measures a 64° head tube angle in the neutral geometry position.  Yep, the Vigilante 2.6 is that much taller than the Trailboss, resulting in a much slacker than stock geometry.  

The stock Shimano XTR groupset is the same as what I have on a few of my own bikes, and performed as you’d expect.  And even with the long, 170mm cranks, I didn’t find myself catching too many pedals.  

The X2 rear shock worked fine, and the 38 fork felt amazing.  While initially I thought that stiffness would be the main difference, instead I noticed the improved small bump compliance the most.  

Constantly hucking into sections like this took a number on the stock FSA headset, as well as on my replacement Cane Creek 40 series unit.

The biggest actual problem I had with the bike was with the stock headset.  While riding in Alaska, the headset would be loose in various positions, then tight in others.  This is exactly what happens when bearings are going out.  As soon as I got home, I threw a Cane Creek 40 series headset in there, but after a couple more months, that headset also started to have similar issues, creaking more than my pelvis on a rainy morning.  

Since these issues happened after sustained riding, I simply think the burly, long travel fork and long wheelbase allow for bigger impacts than what the headsets are rated for.  Not a huge deal, as a decent Chris King or Cane Creek 110 series unit should fix this, but worth mentioning.  

But that’s it- not really many issues at all.  

Before I’m done praising this bike, I want to mention the carbon layup of the frame.  The rear end has a tiny bit of flex to it- not so much that it felt sketchy, but just enough that it seemed more forgiving when traction is low.  The front triangle is quite stiff.  The resulting ride characteristic of the bike is VERY pleasant- stiff where you want it, and forgiving where it needs to be.  

Ah yes, the formidable Ibis Ripmo V2. Also a great enduro bike, but quite a bit different than the Altitude. Probably the better bike for those that aren’t able to have daily access to steep ‘n deep gnar.

Now, what you’re all probably waiting for: comparing this to the Ibis Ripmo V2.  The Altitude is a bigger bike, better suited for steeper or more rugged trails.  It’s also more suited to a riding style like mine.  The Rocky suspension excels in the parts of the ride where I want my bike to perform best- that’s landings, popping, and cornering.  While both bikes pedal well and with no noticeable bobbing, the Ibis will pedal on a smooth climb a little more efficiently.  On the flip side, the Rocky has more available traction while pedaling, and I have found myself making it up a few technical climbs that really surprised me.  On the descents, the DW link is more forgiving on the square edged impacts, but that will often mean going real quick and then having to deal with 15mm less travel on the biggest impacts.  I started to feel safer on the Rocky, and eventually, more confident.  

I notice that the requisite body positioning in corners is different between the bikes.  With the shorter wheelbase and steeper head angle of the Ripmo, I have to get my weight further back in corners.  On the Rocky, I stay more centered.  I can’t pump the Rocky quite as well, but when I’m not putting in 100% effort, the turns are more predictable.  That’s great when I’m getting fatigued.    

The Altitude feels longer than the Ripmo. But according to the stock geometry charts, it’s actually shorter. I can’t explain this difference, and I even ran the Ripmo primarily with a 180mm fork. Maybe other folks who have ridden both bikes can let me know if they agree about the feel, or not?

If I had to give you an analogy between these two great, but very different bikes, it would be this- the Ripmo is the Toyota Tacoma of the mountain bike world.  It’s a great option for just about everyone in just about every location.  It can get a little rowdy, but you can still commute with it daily and in comfort.  Now, the Altitude is more like the Ford Raptor.  It’ll be more adept in the extreme situations, but you’ll also have a much bigger vehicle the rest of the time.  

I’m a terrible bike reviewer, as I have a very unusual riding style, and I tend to only ride in the gnarliest, best trails.  What works for me in Bellingham is not necessarily what’s going to work in flatter, mellower terrain.  But I’m not here to tell you what to ride, I’m here to tell you what my experience has been with this bike.  And this bike feels a lot like my soulmate!

Slamming the bike into corners felt awesome!

 

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