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