Rocky Mountain Altitude 50 (2009) – Review

Pro Reviews

Performance – downhill

As one might expect from my praise of this bike’s ability in technical xc singletrack applications, the Altitude is an extremely capable bike on downhills. Its geometry (exceptional standover, relatively slack head angle) is suited for technical downhills of the more moderate xc, all-mountain variety.   Some bikes that excel in tight, twisty singletrack sacrifice high-speed stability.  The Altitude was not one of those bikes and could rail corners and handle long-straightaways at high speed with aplomb and without trouble.  I note that the Altitude’s wheelbase is approximately 2.2″ longer then the comparable ETS-X which it replaces in the size 19 frame; perhaps this and the lower centre-of-gravity design helps with high-speed manners?

I wasn’t quite as confident on the bike when it was used in steeper terrain in free-ride type applications or in the air, for example in steep rock rolls, ladder bridges or skinnies (see pictures of the Altitude in Action at the end of the article in North Vancouver for guidance).  Acknowledging that it’s even more difficult to separate the frame from its parts when reviewing downhill performance, I felt that the Altitude as I had it spec’ed (conventional front air fork, 100mm stem, light front wheels) approached its limits in those free-ride situations.   Having said that, RMB does not bill the Altitude as a free-ride bike.  A rider is perfectly within his/her rights to customize the Altitude’s spec and make it more heavy-duty and bias it to free-ride applications but it isn’t within the scope of my review to change components to assess that aspect of the Altitude’s performance envelope.

Whistler ~ photo Sharon Bader

Whistler ~ photo Tyler Wilkes

South Chilcotin ~ photo Mark Rowe

Rocky Mountain Altitude 50 frameset – summary

The Altitude delivers on its promise as a bike for epics. It is a multi-faceted platform, a comfortable ride yet a capable tool that can be used to slice and dice singletrack. In its test build, it is a balanced bike but, based on its potential specifications, this reviewer suspects that it will be spec’ed in a way that is biased more towards climbing then descending.  It’s going to be a worthy addition to the RMB franchise.

- Quality finish on the frame
- Bike handles beautifully in tight technical trails
- Well-thought out
with lots of room for customization
- Light


- Downtube kink rides low; prone to hitting frame on objects
- Clearance for a tire bigger then 2.35 is doubtful on the prototype frame.  Production frame to be tweaked so a 2.5″ tire can fit
- Prototype frame water bottle mounts too far back so a shock with a piggyback reservoir would not work with a waterbottle cage.  Production frame to be changed so waterbottle mounts are moved forward.

Specs: N/A
Price: N/A
Ride: 4.5
Overall: 4.5

Rating Guide:
5.0 Outstanding
4.0 Very Good
3.0 Above Average
2.0 Fair
1.0 Poor

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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