We hate to say that we saw it coming. But hey, we saw it coming.
Indeed after leaking a few out into the wild for the first two rounds of the 2017 Enduro World Series, Rocky Mountain is now ready to officially unveil the all-new Altitude. Described by Rocky as an ‘aggressive trail’ bike, the new Altitude features 150/160mm of travel and 27.5in wheels, which along with its modernised geometry and up-to-the-minute standards, is set to send this bike’s performance well into the future.
We’re going to take you through some of the interesting features on the new Altitude to show just how dramatic of a change this is from the previous model. Oh, and we’re going to talk about that rear shock too…
Before going further though, it’s worth taking your memory back a few years to 2013. Specifically, Sea Otter in 2013, where we first got our grubby mitts on the (then) brand new Altitude from Rocky Mountain. That Altitude was one of the first big 27.5in full suspension bikes to hit the market, with Rocky committing to the mid-sized wheel at a time when it was still very fresh (you may remember that Santa Cruz had released the original Bronson around the same time). The Altitude has certainly earned its fair share of fans since, both from riders simply wanting a capable trail bike for weekend riding in the woods, and for those saddling up at the start line at an enduro race.
Bring yourself back to the present, and some of you will be aware that Rocky Mountain has left the Altitude unchanged for those four long years. Since the launch of the original Altitude, more and more long travel trail bikes have picked up 27.5in wheels (and indeed 29in wheels too), and a whole host of other standards have been both pioneered and widely adopted. Bikes in the same genre as the Altitude have been pushing the geometry envelope, with trail bikes getting slackerer, lowerer, and longerer. Boost hub standards have emerged. Wide rims have arrived. Bigger tyres continue to come. 1x specific designs are growing. Dropper posts are getting longer. Metric shocks have been released.
Yes, a whole lot has changed in those four long years, and you wouldn’t be out of line if you suggested the current Altitude design was starting to look a little long in the tooth.
Over the past 12 months though, Rocky Mountain has been on fire. First there was the new Element full suspension XC race bike, then there was the new Pipeline 27.5+ bike, and then Rocky rolled out the brand new Slayer, which has been so hotly in demand that the brand is having trouble keeping up supply. There’s certainly a load of momentum behind the British Columia-based company, and that momentum has culminated in the brand new Altitude.
“Often imitated but never surpassed, the all-new Altitude pushes the envelope of what a modern trail bike is capable of. For 2018 we’ve designed an all-new frame to increase stiffness, improve pedaling efficiency and small-bump sensitivity, and include a host of next-generation features. Now available in both carbon and alloy models, the Altitude allows for a wide range of RIDE-9™ adjustments to tackle any terrain—from technical BC loam, to clapped out EWS tracks, flowy New Zealand jumps, and Moab slickrock singletrack” – Rocky Mountain.
2018 Rocky Mountain Altitude Features
- Long travel aggressive trail bike
- Carbon and alloy frame options
- Compatible with ‘Wide Trail’ 27.5in tyres and 26+ wheels and tyres
- Clearance for 27.5×2.5in or 26×3.0in tyres
- 150mm rear travel
- Updated SmoothLink suspension design w/sealed cartridge bearings for all pivot points
- Ride-9 geometry adjustment system
- Designed for 160mm travel forks
- Head angle: 65° – 66.1°
- Seat angle: 74° – 75.1°
- Shorter seat tube lengths for compatibility with longer dropper posts
- Internal cable routing w/Di2 and Fox Live Valve compatibility
- 1x only frame design
- PF92 bottom bracket w/ISCG 05 gabs & integrated ‘Spirit Guide’
- 148x12mm rear thru-axle
- 425mm chainstay length
- Clearance for water bottle mounting inside front triangle
- Available sizes: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Claimed frame weight: 2470g (Medium frame w/shock)
- Complete bike claimed weight: 12.88kg / 28.4lbs (Medium sized Altitude Carbon 90)
- RRP: £3199 – £6999
Okey dokes. So you’ve probably guessed that the new Altitude doesn’t share a whole lot with the old frame. If you squint from a distance, they kind of share the same silhouette, but get up close and you’ll start to point out all of the differences.
Firstly, the new frame is available in both alloy and carbon options, and it is much lower-slung. The top tube has been dropped down to increase standover, and the seat tube has been shortened to increase compatibility with longer-travel dropper posts (think 150-180mm drop). There’s still room for a bottle inside the main triangle though, so that’s sweet. You’ll also notice the uber-smooth pivot on the rear of the chainstay, which mirrors the style of the latest Slayer and Element frames. All pivots now run on sealed cartridge bearings, and it would be safe to say that Rocky is likely to continue moving away from using bushing pivot systems on any of its full suspension models.
The new frame has been built around a Metric-sized rear shock, and while the SmoothLink name remains, the rear suspension design has been tweaked to increase initial sensitivity with more progression through the mid-to-end stroke for better big-hit support. Rocky also states that anti-squat has been increased for much improved pedalling characteristics.
Geometry has been raked out and stretched out, with Rocky finally adopting the British trend of long-top-tube-short stem…ness. Reach on a Medium Altitude sits at 435mm in the neutral shock position, so that’s not super long, but it’s much more up to date. In fact, that means a new Medium Altitude has about the same reach as a Large in the old Altitude.
Bottom bracket drop remains at a pedal-friendly height that’s important for mountain bikers trawling around the rooty and technical trails of British Columbia, with only a 13mm drop in the slackest geometry position. However, a 425mm chainstay length tightens up the back end a fraction, all while increasing tyre clearance with a Boost drivetrain offset and 148x12mm thru-axle. Rocky even states the new Altitude is 26+ compatible. While we haven’t been able to confirm max tyre clearance with the regular 27.5in setup, Rocky says it’ll suit ‘Wide Trail’ tyres, so our guess is that means the new trend of 2.6in tyres will slot right in.
Up front, the Altitude has been designed for use with a 160mm travel fork, which will either be a Fox 34 or 36 fork, depending on the model. Rocky Mountain has partnered completely with Fox Racing Shox for all the forks and shocks spec’d on the various Altitude models that will be available.
There’s loads of details in the new Altitude frame, including a neat new integrated chain guide that bolts onto the swingarm just above the main pivot. There’s internal cable rouging, ISCG 05 tabs, a Shimano direct-mount rear derailleur hanger, and integrated armouring used for both the chainstay and downtube.
All good stuff, but hey, what about that blurry rear shock on the bike? Is that a thing?
Yes, it is most definitely a thing, though in the spec list in our press release for the new Altitude, Rocky Mountain is referring to it as “To be announced“. So we don’t have confirmation of exactly what that thing actually is. But while we’re here, here’s our thoughts; that shock to our eyes appears to be of a Fox Float X rear shock shape with an EVOL air can. Pretty standard, so why the need to blur it out?
Well, we think that shock is part of Fox’s new Live Valve system, because there’s another clue hidden down on the inside of the non-drive chainstay, which appears to be a mounting bracket for…something. If you want to know more about the Live Valve system, the concept behind it and why we think this is what Rocky Mountain is trying to hide from us, then check out our separate Live Valve speculative article here.
Aaaaannd back to the 2018 Rocky Mountain Altitude. There will be three carbon models available in the UK from early June. The Altitude Carbon 50 (£3999), the Carbon 70 (£5199) and the Carbon 90 (£6999). All models will be built around the same carbon mainframe, though the Carbon 50 model gets an alloy rear. All models feature wide-range 1x drivetrains, Race Face finishing kit, Maxxis Minion WT rubber, and Fox suspension.
There will also be an Altitude Alloy 50 model available for £3199. It uses the same geometry and suspension design as the carbon models, but packs that into a hydroformed aloy frame to keep the cost more accessible. It gets a Shimano SLX 1x drivetrain and brakes, a Sun Ringle Duroc 30 wheelset, a Fox Transfer dropper post, and a Fox 36 fork up front.
If you’re keen to hear more about how this bike performs in the real world, then stay tuned to singletracworld.com in the coming few days for when we receive one of the only Altitudes available in the UK. We’ll be swinging a leg over the new Altitude in order to bring you a proper full-blown review after finding out how it handles our home turf.
For more information on the Altitude and the rest of the Rocky Mountain range, head through to bikes.com
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