Rocky Mountain Altitude 50 (2009) – Review

Pro Reviews

Frame highlights

As previously mentioned, the Altitude will replace the ETS-X. Design highlights of the Altitude include; SMOOTHLINK™ suspension; STRAIGHT UP™ geometry, swooping top tubes on the front end for low centre-of-gravity and increased standover, swooping down tubes for shock piggy back and water bottle clearance, 7005 aluminium frames utilizing RMB’s FORM™ design and on higher-end lighter framesets – C12 carbon monocoque frames (rocker links, front end main frame and seat stays).

I’ll expand more on these above concepts further in the review.  Note that the carbon frame is outside the scope of this review so that is all I will mention in this matter.  Please check the RMB site for more information on the RSL (Racing Super Light) carbon framed Altitude 70 and 90

South Chilcotin

Frame material

As expected, the Altitude’s welds are clean. The paintjob on my prototype bike is a nice eggshell white that seems to shed mud very well. The production bike colours will be more of a bright white colour as depicted in the pictures at the end of this review.  The aluminium tubes are designed in a process that RMB calls FORM™. All tubing on the Altitude is custom-made, drawn from 7005 alloy then cold-worked. Every tube is fully butted.

The Altitude incorporates a large hollow head tube area in an effort to increase stiffness. Also of note is the incorporation of aerodynamic leading edges – not to decrease wind resistance but to aid in deflecting rocks. Unfortunately in many of these pictures I put a mud splash guard on the down-tube to help forestall rock damage.

Front End – noting the large head tube and the elliptical leading edge of the down tube with stylish zip-tied mud guard

The Altitude’s seat tube is butted and hydroformed. Note in the pictures below that the centre section of the tube is bulged. By bulging the centre section, RMB eliminated the need to weld on a rocker mount, opting instead for a stronger piercing for the oversized rocker link pivots. The rectangular bias in the seat tube is an effort to also increase stiffness.

Rear linkage – non-drive side

Rear linkage – drive side

Rear drive-side – note the assymetric chain stays

The swooping bends in the seat tube and down-tube are apparently not motivated purely by fashion. According to RMB, the down tube shape was necessary in order to keep the shock (and centre-of-gravity) as low as possible in the frame, and also in order to create enough room for a water bottle in all frame sizes. The down tube shape also allows the rider to run a shock with a reservoir.

Since the Altitude frameset is so well thought-out it was with some relief that I felt I could do my “job” as a reviewer and point out some possible negatives. The water bottle placement mounts do not allow a shock with a piggyback reservoir to be run as the reservoir would impact the water bottle. I am told that RMB will be correcting this in production frames.

Water bottle mount placements will be moved forward in production frames

Under certain circumstances, when approaching technical obstacles (the up and over log-pile in the picture below being a perfect example), the downtube kink on the frame could potentially impact the obstacle well before the large chainring hits the obstacle. This won’t be a huge problem with something nice and soft like a log but could be a tad more damaging if the obstacle is a rock ramp or ledge. Of note, the carbon frame’s downtube will not have such a pronounced kink so RMB is aware of the possibility of damage. This isn’t so much a flaw in the design but a note to the rider to be conscious of using technique when going up and over obstacles at the risk of some inadvertent downtube contact and/or damage.

Curved downtube may impact objects – rider beware! Carbon frame’s downtube will be less radically kinked

RMB designed a pocket in the rear of the seat tube to allow for tire clearance at full rear shock compression, giving the frame set a full 10mm of clearance with a 2.3” WTB from the seat tube. There is also that much clearance in the chain stays with the same tire. I am told (but did not independently verify this claim) that a 2.5″ WTB would fit. Numbers are all very fine. The true test was on my Chilcotin trip when I encountered some very muddy trails. I can state with some relief that there is plenty of clearance with a 2.3″ WTB tire even with the presence of copious amounts of mud.  I further note that production frames will have even more tire clearance then the prototype frame as depicted in the picture below.

Deceptive amount of rear tire clearance

This tire ran just fine despite a lot of mud on the frame

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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  • leel says:

    FYI – I’m in the process of trying to get some approximate pricing for the bikes as built for the North American market and will edit when I have this information. I didn’t know if I could get pricing so thought it best to publish this article and update with pricing for later.

    This is pricing from the feedthehabit article linked to in the review. I’m trying to confirm the pricing

    2009 Rocky Mountain Altitude Specs

    Frame, Trim Levels and MSRP (USD)
    Altitude 30 – $2849
    Altitude 50 – $3499
    Altitude 70 – $3999
    Altitude 70RSL Carbon – $4899
    Altitude 90RSL Carbon – $6499
    Altitude 29er – $1599 (single-speed) or $1999 (geared)
    Altitude Ladies 50 – $3499

    Here is Canadian pricing from Rocky Mountain

    Altitude 30

    Altitude 50

    Altitude LO

    Altitude 70

    Altitude 70 RSL

    Altitude 90 RSL

  • Yo… cool to see some rider feedback on the new Altitude platform. I’m looking forward to riding one at Interbike next week! The pricing you show (quoted from my article on was given to me directly from Rocky Mountain, so it should be fairly accurate. Of course, like anything, prices are subject to change.

  • yeahboyeee says:

    The bottom of the downtube looks ridiculous and the tire clearance inadequate. Saving my money for now and hoping they look after these in rev. 2

    Pretty sweet to see them develop a nice 4-bar and essentially throw up a middle finger toward the big red “S”!

  • EGF168 says:

    Thanks, you told us exactly what we wanted to know and that’s one of the best thought out reviews I’ve read in a long time, oh and the pics were very helpful too, it looks a lot nicer in the pics than I thought it would.

  • leel says:


    - Prototype frame’s egg-shell white colour is a one-off. The production frame will be the brighter white depicted at the end of the review.

    - Production frame to be changed to have more tire clearance so a 2.5″ will definitely fit

  • taprider says:

    I like the effort to put the waterbottle inside the main triangle – very important for epic rides to have both camelbak and bottles, and for races like BC bike race it is way faster to use bottles than bladder.

    I like low bottom bracket for better handling and more stability. Striking pedals is not a big deal if you have some skill. 1 cm lower makes a big difference for feel, handling and stability, but makes negigible difference as to whether you strike a pedal or not if you are skilled.

    I like Rockies forward facing seat tube clamp, since it is easier to drop saddle while riding, and the seatpost can be marked in the keyhole cutout and remain visible (marking seattube above clamp weakens post)

    Don’t like bent top tube. Clearance is over rated. I’d rather have long flat surface for long portages. I like the classic look of original Rockies and in the case of Elements I like the ability to have two water bottles.

    Really don’t like bent down tube and the possibility of crushing it.

  • islander says:

    Quality review Lee. Glad to see you took it up on a few epics. For me, the shore-worthiness of a bike like this is a bit of a moot point. I say RMB should focus on the bottle mount(s) and as taprider suggests – stuff like ease to shoulder it etc (I agree standover is overrated in this category). No doubt, this is an improvement over the busy ETS platform. Would be great if RMB would issue a Special Edition with some more traditional paint we’ve long liked from Rocky.

  • Cory says:

    I spent a few hours on the Altitude this past weekend and posted up my thoughts in the Rocky Mountain forum.

    The Altitude is definitely a nice-riding platform.

  • G RANT says:

    Sure is neat, unless I skimmed it, that rear wheel travel is not mentioned. Is it me, or is that something that is important?

    Maybe I’ll check out pinkbike. They can tell me I’m sure.

  • leel says:

    You know, I can’t believe I forgot to mention the rear travel. D’oh! It’s 5.5″ Thanks for catching that.

  • Lee Lau says:

    Interesting post by Johnny Rockall of RMB about the Straight Up Geometry

  • Radam says:

    Great review! I’m in the market for a 140mm epic bike and I’m adding this to my short list.

  • SingleTrak says:

    I’m a proud owner of the retired ETSX-50. Why? Altitude? Bottom is awfull. Adjustement on the front fork is lost. Makes no sense…

  • Rocky Rider says:

    Great report! Thank you very much. What frame size was your test-bike? Would you (your size is 5′ 10″, right?) choose 18 oder 19,5 frame?

  • LeeL says:

    Sorry for the late response Rocky Rider. I was on an 18″ bike. I am 5′ 10″

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