A dream bike for aggressive trail riding, and a new Freehub favorite.
Few bikes can go straight from the box to the demands of an enduro race or backcountry epics. The Rocky Mountain Altitude, however has the right blend to do both and more. With 160mm travel and 27.5” wheels, it’s one of the few bikes on the market combining the benefits of the larger hoops without lessening the bump-sucking benefits of 6.3 inches of travel. It’s the go-to for Rocky team riders Geoff Gulevich, Wade Simmons and Brett Tippie for light trail to North Shore bashings. And it’s a Freehub office favorite, too.
The Altitude takes design traits from its cross-country, 130-140mm, 29 inch wheelin’ brother the Instinct when it comes to suspension linkage, overall aesthetic and shared design traits like Smoothwall Carbon fiber frame (the front triangle is carbon, the rear aluminum), Ride 9 rear suspension adjustment, tapered head tube, internal cable routing, ABC pivots, press fit BB, and ISCG tabs. The Altitude is simply beefed up with a few geometry tweaks to allow for more travel and smaller wheels.
Low, lean and mean, that’s how this bike felt around corners. With the full DH width (785mm) handlebars powering through turns rolled by with ease. In the slack Ride 9 chip setting the bike was a dream to pivot around in the rear wheel for tight and twisty turns. Even with the 27.5” wheels and generous travel the Altitude had a low feeling that simply felt grounded.
Combined with the ‘climb’ mode in both the Fox Float X CTD Remote Kashima in the rear and 34 Float Kashima FIT CTD up front, it offered a stiff platform to hammer on. The small threshold of travel from both in these modes actually offers better grip in technical climbs than say a hardtail. While you can’t lower the front fork, which changes the geometry for better climbing, the pedaling position still offered a forward placement, which resisted wheeling-out on steep sections. The ease of the remote CTD control for the rear shock was hard to ignore on even on short sections when gravity is working against you. It’s there, so why no use it? Stock with a 34-tooth single ring up front and 11-36 10-speed cassette in the rear definitely makes you work for it on the uphill and keep a high cadence. Depending on your local terrain, front rings are simple enough to swap out to a 28, 30 or 32 tooth for easier climbs. We had no issues climbing with the Ride 9 chip in the lowest, slackest setting, so we can’t imagine it being anything less than a mountain goat on a more climb-friendly setting.
This is where the party starts and the premium Fox suspension and Avid Trail 9 four-piston brakes really shine. The rear suspension stroke is unbelievably smooth and predictable and Fox custom tunes it to the design of this model. Getting in the backseat takes little effort and lifting the front for wheelies, manuals or simply to rake it over technical sections is so fun it’s hard to keep the front wheel on the ground. The Float X CTD Kashima rear shock with the piggyback was capable enough to absorb everything from high-speed chatter to fast and flowy trail and decent sized drops. On a number of trails it was tricky to decide whether to flick the suspension into ‘trail’ or ‘descend’ mode. The ‘trail’ setting was often a surprise, allowing a little stiffer suspension platform for holding speed, yet plenty supple. For known descents, we were happy to let the gates open and leave it in descend though. Laterally, there seemed to be little if any play when stressing the bike under aggressive riding. And with the Ride 9 chip in the lowest and slackest setting, this thing was like a hovercraft.
We truly loved everything about this bike. The look, the feel, the suspension stroke and parts build. Uphill, downhill, the road back to the truck, it was all smooth and swift. It truly fills a niche that few seem to cater to (27.5” wheels and 160mm travel). We spent a good deal of time (40 hours) riding this bike all over the western U.S. After punishing it through a number of different conditions, a few things stood out. Some minor creaking could be heard due to the moon dust trail conditions, common to just about any bike with exposed pivots. The E-Thirteen chain guide plastics cracked rather quickly. While these two are an easy fix, there were a few other little things that caught our attention: the cable routing and chainstay. The stealth post dropper and rear shock remote are flawless, and there were no issues with the external rear brake routing, but the internal rear derailleur routing seemed plagued by a few issues. A significant amount of slack under the BB is needed for the bike to go through the travel without pulling through gears. (If made too tight, any bump in the suspension will not only pull the derailleur into a lower gear, but rub the carbon BB shell.) The necessary extra slack is susceptible to wear by the chain, tires, debris and anything else your crank area may encounter. When we fashioned a chainstay protector (this bike doesn’t have a custom rubber one like many of its competitors) this also seemed to clamp the derailleur cable routing and cause a similar problem. These minor issues are by no means a deal breaker and the overall performance of the bike surely stands out over these. However, we would like to see internal routing that runs through the chainstay and is not inhibited by the suspension stroke and a proprietary chainstay protector. All in all, though the Rocky Mountain Altitude is quite the dream bike and there is more than one in the Freehub bike stable.