Our crew has been paying a lot of attention to 650b bikes lately. And for good reason – it looks like the 27.5-inch wheel is poised to roll over (see what I did there?) other wheel sizes and become the standard for aggressive trail riding and enduro racing. One bike that has been missing from most of our 650b coverage is the 2013 Rocky Mountain Altitude. That’s too bad because it looks like a top-level competitor. It has a light carbon frame, 150mm of travel, great trail geometry and Rocky Mountain’s “SmoothLink” suspension, which they say “delivers active bump absorption without compromising pedaling efficiency.” I’m actually in the market for a new bike so I made a point of visiting the Rocky Mountain booth at Sea Otter so I could get a closer look at the new 650b Altitude. I wasn’t able to ride the bike but I did get more information along with a bunch of photos. I also got us set up for an Altitude review in the near future, so keep your eyes open for that.
One of the things that set the Rocky Mountain Altitude apart when it was introduced in 2009 is its “StraightUp Geometry;” essentially, a steep seat tube angle that makes the bike a lot more comfortable on the climbs. The 2013 design adds adjustable geometry via an eccentric linkage system Rocky calls Ride-9. It has two nested “chips” on the shock mount that can be rotated for nine different geometry positions. The head tube angle is adjustable from 66.6 to 68.3 degrees, the seat tube can be set from 73.6 to 75.3 degrees, and the bottom bracket height can be tweaked plus or minus about 6mm. The Ride-9 system complements the Altitude’s StraightUp Geometry by allowing the rider to fine-tune the geometry to perfectly fit their riding style – or totally screw it up.
The 2013 Rocky Mountain Altitude looks like it splits the difference between the new Santa Cruz Bronson (Santa Cruz Bronson review) and the Norco Sight Killer B (Norco Sight Killer B review), two of the Mtbr test team’s current 650b favorites, which have 160mm and 140mm of travel, respectively. The Norco has a 67.5-degree head tube angle and 70-degree seat tube angle; and the Santa Cruz measures 67 degrees at the head tube with a climb-friendly 73-degree seat tube angle. With the Ride-9 system, you can make the Altitude’s head tube angle either slacker (by 0.4 degrees) or steeper than the Norco Sight and the Santa Cruz Bronson. And the Altitude’s slackest seat tube angle (73.6 degrees) is steeper and better for climbing than both the Santa Cruz and the Norco. Accurate frame weights are hard to come by but according to my Rocky Mountain source, the top-of-the-line Altitude 790 MSL frame is considerably lighter than the Santa Cruz Bronson. The guys at Rocky compared the Altitude to the Bronson with a comparable shock and hardware and it weighed almost 400 grams less (about 3/4 of a pound). Light weight isn’t everything, though. We’ll have to get some actual saddle time on the Altitude before we can really pass judgment. Check the specs table below to see how the Altitude’s geometry matches up with the Santa Cruz Bronson and the Norco Sight.
Our friend Lee Lau did get a chance to preview the Altitude in Whistler, BC, when it was introduced, last summer. His initial impressions of the Altitude along with a video of the bike in action are here. I’m really looking forward to riding one myself as well as seeing what Francis has to say about it after he gets one for review, since he’s gotten to ride most of the current 650b bikes. Check out our 650b All Mountain Bike Round Up article for more information on available 650b bikes and the pros and cons of the 27.5-inch wheel size.
Rocky Mountain sells the Altitude complete, at five different spec levels. The 730 and 750 have hydroformed aluminum frames, the 750 MSL and 770 MSL have carbon front triangles with aluminum rears, and the 790 MSL is all carbon. Prices range from $2850 for the aluminum 730 MSL, to $5400 for carbon and aluminum 770 MSL, and $6900 for the completely pimped-out, top-of-the-line 790 MSL. The 790 MSL is also available as a frame-only for $2800.