Rocky Mountain Altitude 50 (2009) – Review

Pro Reviews
Performance – xc and uphill

Enough with the numbers, on to the ride. My test bike as built with a mix of heavier and lighter parts (XTR, Fox Talas upfront, DHX Air in rear) weighed about 30lbs – not a featherweight but a good balance of light yet strong for my purposes. The xc trail riding test component took place in the South Chilcotin, an area of rugged sub-alpine and alpine beauty with a variety of trails ranging from smooth-and-fast to technical rooty singletrack to faint tracks through scree.

The Altitude incorporates RMB’s STRAIGHT UP geometry. This geometry incorporates a radically steeper seat tube angle of 76°. Head tubes are more conventional at 69°. When the rider sits on the bike, the seat tube angle is designed to sag to 74.5°. The theory is that this riding position allows someone climbing to stay on the middle of the saddle (as opposed to sitting on the nose) thus allowing the rider to maintain comfort while continuing to harness max legpower.

Bottom line – this bike is a terrific climber. I was able to literally crawl up climbs and maintain traction in many situations where I was hoping that the rear tires would cut loose thereby giving me an excuse to walk and take a break. Perhaps it was the tires but this happened a lot of times on many sections of trail. I couldn’t say that the seat tube angle played a part in this; I tried climbing steep, loose trail sections seated mid-saddle and on the nose but this did not alter the superior traction characteristics. The frame has that intangible quality of confident climbing.

Fire-road climbing is …. fire road climbing. The Altitude as I had it built is not particularly light so one sits down and grinds away. I didn’t particularly feel the need to engage ProPedal on the Fox DHX Air rear shock as I had set the shock with fairly stiff setting in any event so the bike didn’t bob much. It’s a competent doubletrack or fire-road climber.

Rocky Mountain’s have long been known to be fast, capable singletrack bikes – a trait common to bikes designed in British Columbia. The Altitude is no exception to this rule. Generous standover lends itself to manoeverability; dancing in and out of cambered loamy corners, this bike felt right at home. I expected the bike to give up a bit of comfort in rooty sections given that I had set suspension up fairly stiff but this wasn’t the case. Instead I was able to charge rooty sections. The superior rear-wheel traction combined with the expected agility of the bike gave me the ability to attack technical singletrack with confidence.

South Chilcotin ~photo Iori Kokatalio

Squamish ~ photo Sharon Bader

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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