Compare-O Bottom Line: Rocky Mountain Altitude brings full-tilt, all-mountain attitude

27.5 Enduro Enduro Compare-O 2014

The man piloting this bike is smiling. This is not an isolated incident. Photo by Tyler Frasca.

This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–http://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014

If we gave out a Chuck Norris award in our Enduro Compare-O, the 2014 Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 770 Rally Edition would win by a tractor pull. Though the fearsome Norco Range gives it a run for the money, the edge would still go to this mega-adjustable, heavy-duty piece of carbon Canadian bike burliness. In fact, we may just have to install some gold-dipped Truck Nutz on this bad boy because it deserves to have its virility—its cojoneson display for all to see.

Informed by the man who envisioned the enduro race format—Frenchman Fred Glo—the Altitude MSL bleeds enduro blue. Big 2.4-inch wide tires, ultra-wide 785mm handlebars, a gigantic 1×10 drivetrain made for pedaling at high speed, and a crazy adjustable shock mount system that can alter the bike’s bottom bracket height by as much as an inch, and tilt the head tube angle from slack to even slacker.

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Flows Downhill Like Maple Syrup

Clearly with its big gearing, big shock—a Fox Float-X CTD—and burly build, Rocky was going for a bike with great downhill acumen, something they certainly achieved according to our test crew.

“This bike gave me a huge grin for the DH,” said one reviewer. “The suspension was so thick and satisfying that I just wanted to boost everything.”

To-a-man the downhilling feedback was complimentary. But as you might expect, there was another side to the coin.

“When looking downhill, it’s a point and smile bike,” said another reviewer. “But when you go uphill, it leaves you dreaming about the next DH.”

For the record, that’s two different riders who independently said the bike made them smile—a fact that says to us Rocky Mountain is doing things right.

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Climbs like Canadian Bacon

Indeed what comes down must go up, and uphilling is not the Rocky’s strong suit. In fact the Altitude MSL 770 had a slightly different smile associated with it during ascents. A sort-of pain grimace/anticipation smile that said “this is eff-ing killing me, but I can’t wait to head back down.”

Like a few of the other bikes in our test, the Altitude MSL 770 came with a remote-adjusted suspension system, giving access to Fox’s CTD—Climb, Trail, Descend—modes from the handlebar. And, as we learned, it was a necessity on the Rocky Mountain. In order to get the suspension suitably plush for the downhill we ran sag in the 35-40-percent range, then relied on the platform settings to firm things up for climbing and rolling terrain.

“Without lock out, this bike was the most bobbish of all the bikes,” commented one reviewer. “Locked out, it worked well, though a bit more of a grind for climbing.”

And while clocking in at just over 30-pounds, the weight—while substantial—was only part of the equation for one rider.

“OK, 30-pounds…I can deal with that, you just lock it out and spin in most cases,” he said. “But between the 34-tooth chainring and 27.5-inch wheels, my knees where crying ‘Uncle!’”

Continue to Page 2 for more on the Rocky Mountain Altitude and full photo gallery »
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About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born editorial director Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and pedaling for Mtbr, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.


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  • Roger says:

    30lbs is light for an all-mountain rig…I guess you XC guys are still adjusting.

  • Benja says:

    It’s 2014, I’d say 30lbs no longer counts as “light” for All-Mtn. You can build a Bronson or an HDR at 26lbs. Full DH rigs are hitting mid-upper 30s.

    • Krash says:

      The Altitude can be built to 26lbs too. The Rally editions are the heaviest of the build options. The Altitude 799 comes out of the box a tad over 26.

  • roger says:

    Yeah, it’s 2014 alright…Enve wheels, xx1cassette, and carbon cranks will get any of these carbon bikes on 26lbs range. No one drops 10K on a mt.bike these days unless they are rich, middle aged men, 30lbs overweight who just started mt.biking.

  • enduropierogi says:

    I hope you guys have a Trek Slash somewhere, this Compare-O won’t be complete without it….

  • Benja says:

    Roger, hate to break it to you, but where I’ve been living and riding for the last 25 years (Bay Area and Portland OR) there are a crap ton of folks who spend $6-10k on bikes regularly, and trust me, they are not overweight or have just started riding (riding since ’86 here). Rich, sure some, middle aged, definitely. Doesn’t mean they can’t smoke riders half their age!

    And you don’t need Enve wheels or full XX1 to build an HDR or Bronson at around 26lbs. But it’s not worth arguing, these are bikes and these are First World Problems. The Rally edition stuff from RM just doesn’t feel like it has a point IMO, but I’m sure Rocky’s Marketing Dept knows better!

  • Gunnar says:

    I have the exact same model as tested, and was a bit surprised by the amount of sag used on the testbike. After breaking in the shock i ended up with 20% sag. With that i use all the travel even in the most progressive geo setting. That is also real close to the recommended setting from Fox. Any comments from the testers on that?
    Regarding the weight: the wheelset is real sturdy but crazy heavy and some of the other components are a bit overkill as well. I would have no problem running this bike on a dh track. Will try it with light wheels though, which will be interesting.

    • Dongoose says:

      Gunnar-

      We didn’t get any rides on the Rocky before the test and the bike was brand new from stock, so its likely our shock wasn’t broken in…in fact it did seem to get better the more we rode the bike.

      Curious to hear how you deal with the rebound setting on the shock. We took to carrying a small screwdriver to adjust it.

      We think you could easily drop a few pounds without any durability loss–wheels and tires being the most obvious…crankset too…if you went with an RF Next Sl with direct mount you could cut its weight in half.

      Don

  • Skyno says:

    I was able to test ride this bike and it absolutely shreds – just eats up the terrain – I liked it so much that I am building one up right now. I ran the sag at about 30% with the Float X & that was pretty close to perfect – hucked it as hard as I could & bottoming out was a rare event. Rally edition has an alloy rear triangle and a few components that aren’t particularly light; the full carbon model has a frame weight just over 5 lbs. (about 1 lb. lighter than HDR & 1/4 lb lighter than Bronson).

    • Rene says:

      Do you know what the rally ed. frame weight is?

      • Skyno says:

        I couldn’t find a definitive source on this, but since I am building up one of these, I did bit of research and estimated from measurements I found that the 770 frame was about 250g heavier than the 790 with a comparable shock, but keep in mind that the Rally edition comes with the upgraded Float X, which I believe is about 150 grams heavier than the standard Float, but well worth it for the performance – so you are probably looking at just under 6 pounds

  • Gunnar says:

    Don – Thanks for feedback! Both shock and fork have improved after breaking in and are now real good, a huge improvement over the fox products of the last couple of years.
    I use a small allen key for adjusting the rebound, it works but is still a hassle.
    Already dropped close to a pound by going tubeless and getting better tires on, switching to a SixC bar (same dimensions though) and removing the lower chainguide. The tire-change got rid of all of the vagueness in the corners, it now rails!
    With a rear hub change, lighter spokes and a lighter cassette i think the bike will be spot-on.

    Benja – for riding conditions where i live RM have pretty much nailed it with the Rally edition. They have done most of the changes that riders end up doing anyway. Also for european style racing it is nicely set up. So for some markets and customer groups, this is real good!

  • Jordan R. says:

    Rad review! I’ve been riding this exact bike for the last month or so and I’d have to agree that it’s one of the most fun descenders I’ve ever ridden. So far my only gripe is using a dental pick to adjust my rebound. The flow rims are rather heavy, but I am also riding this as my only bike, so it’ll end up on a chairlift soon enough. I’ve been running the shock at a touch under 30% sag and I definitely use all of the travel, but bottom outs never seem harsh. As far as the climbing I only feel the need to take it out of descend mode for smooth climbs and out of the saddle efforts. On anything technical I like the added traction from leaving the shock wide open.

    The first thing I did when I took it out of the box, however, was take the fork and shock apart to make sure I had proper oil levels. It’s something I do with any new suspension product.

  • Ryan says:

    I have been riding the piss out of this bike since aug. It is awesome. The conti tires started falling apart within the first month. (The stock ones do not have the black chili rubber)
    The 1X10 toughned me up on the climbs. When it gets steep switch it to climb mode and tell your friends you’ll meet them at the top. When they catch up and you can breath again tell them you’ll see them at the bottom because this bike hauls ass. Just be careful of the tight trees, the bars are wide.
    My plan was to buy it in aug and sell it in June. But it’s going to be very hard to replace this bike with something better.
    It is straight out of the box worth it. $5600 for everything you get is awesome.
    I have never been a Rocky fan but my mind has been changed.

  • scott says:

    I’m pretty certain you could build this same bike for around $5,000-but with a carbon handlebar, better tires and xt brakes.

    My 29er Banshee Prime XL weighs in at 32.8 lbs with Flow EX rims, Adent 2.35 tires, SRAM carbon cranks, 1×10 (42t oneup) and I only paid around $4500 for everything on it. . .

  • scott says:

    Oh and for climbing ability-do you think it has a lot to do with going with a single chainring? Older bikes were designed with the pivot placed above the smallest chainring to reduce bob- now that the middle ring is the only one left you are now climbing with the chain well above the pivot. . .

  • Sterling Mudge says:

    How about switching out the front chain ring for a smaller one? I know I can’t pedal a 34 where I live since we climb so much. Anybody know the smallest chainring you can run on the Turbine?

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