2013 Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 650b Preview

27.5 All Mountain Trail Enduro


Rocky Mountain Bicycles is no stranger to trying new things. In 2009, they resurrected the venerable Altitude line; the name gracing a 140mm travel dual suspension bike. In 2010 this morphed into a 29er version with 120mm of travel. In 2009, the Altitude was described as “XC Marathon“. In 2010, the 29er version was also identified as “XC Marathon” but with technical ability pretensions. The 2013 iteration of the Altitude is a rework, is now graced with the “trail” moniker (whatever that term means) and among other things gains travel to 150mm (front and rear) and simplifes the product line; doing away with the 29″ and 26″ wheel size and presenting just the 27.5″ size.

Overwhelmed? The Altitude is shiftier than greased lightning with even more innovations like the Ride-9 system (convertible seat tube angle, head tube angle, BB drop and suspension tweaks using a 9 position “chip”); tweaks to its Straight Up geometry and custom tuning of its ETS – based Smoothlink suspension. Rocky was kind enough to put on a media clinic where I had a chance to take the Altitude MSL on some of my home Whistler trails to get a flavour for how it all comes together.

To summarize, Altitude demonstrates how shockingly versatile bikes are becoming. Jack of all trades, master of none it clearly is NOT. Superb climber, more than above average descender; I’d have to bandy trivialities to find a weak spot. The price for the carbon version certainly reflects anticipated consumer lust but look for (relative) value in the alloy versions. Read on for more…

Lee Lau’s biases

I’m 160 lbs, 5’11″ and have had over 15 years experience riding bikes in North Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, the Chilcotins and many other areas in B.C. and Alberta. I’ve also made many bike trips to Switzerland, Utah, Washington, Oregon, California and the Yukon (for example) so I’ve had some experience biking in a variety of terrain. My bias is towards pedalling up and unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, I actually enjoy riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.

My personal bikes are a Santa Cruz Tallboy, Pivot Mach 5, and a Specialized Demo 7. I’ve had very little experience in the 650b category (going to buck Rocky and not call it 27.5) and, in that tire size have ridden the Rocky Mountain Altitude, the Norco Range and the Norco Sight but only for short rides. I am not sponsored by Rocky and have no commercial association with Rocky.

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About the author: Lee Lau

Lee Lau calls North Vancouver and Whistler BC home. He's had over 15 years experience riding bikes mainly in western North America and in Europe. Unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, he actually enjoys riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.

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  • Izzy says:

    dayum… First Norco, now RM. If I had the money, I’d be going crazy trying to figure out which to pick… A Sight or an Altitude?

  • MJ says:

    More great 650b choices. Thanks for making my day Rocky Mountain. This will give more riders the choices they’re looking for. The altitude looks amazing.

  • Izzy says:

    The suspension rate curve graph doesn’t account for sag. Wouldn’t a 150-mm travel bike need 30-40mm sag? In which case, the “platform in the initial stroke” would be moot.

  • LeeL says:

    izzy I’ll bounce that one off RMB. I had questions too about the linear nature of mid-stroke Note that its a force curve which is meant to explain the force required to load the shock at a specific travel rate. Bear with me as everyone’s at Eurobike.

  • Ben says:

    what size frame did you test?

  • LeeL says:

    Ben size 18

  • groovastic says:

    So what’s the difference in climbing and descending on Sight and Altitude?

    • leel says:

      groovastic – honestly I’d have to say that they’re both equally balanced climbers and descenders. The difference would be in component builds and there’s not much choice in 650b specific parts so you’d have to look at the other things (brakes, tires etc)

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