2018 Rocky Mountain’s Little Big Bike – Altitude Carbon 70 Review

A test ride review of the 2018 Rocky Mountain Altitude.
Into the Garbanzo Zone of Whistler’s Bike Park (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

Editor’s note: Read our take on the latest Rocky Mountain Altitude.

Rocky Mountain kindly lent me a brand-new Altitude Carbon 70 for the duration of my stay in Whistler during Crankworx. Over the course of the week, I put 125 miles on the bike while riding singletrack, in the Whistler Bike Park, and beyond.


The Black Tusk looms in the background while descending Lord of the Squirrels (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

Rocky launched the latest generation of the Altitude earlier this spring. Like the Slayer, Element, and now the Instinct and Pipeline, the Altitude received more than just minor tweaks. It keeps the same amount of travel — 150mm rear and 160mm front — and the same 27.5″ wheels, but basically everything else is new.

We’re talking:

  • Revised suspension design with increased anti-squat for improved pedaling
  • New geometry that’s longer, lower, and slacker
  • Stiffer frame
  • Boost spacing
  • Metric shock sizing
  • Blind pivots for improved heel clearance and a sleek appearance
  • Clearance for 2.5″ wide trail or 26+ tires
  • Ride-9 System moves from frame to linkage
  • 1x only drivetrain compatibility
  • Improved internal cable routing

Rocky offers six complete models in the Altitude line-up; three built around alloy frames and three around carbon. Alloy models range from $3,000 to $4,200, while the carbon bikes start at $4,200 and top out at $7,300. The Altitude 70 I tested retails for $5,400. A frame and shock option runs $2,800.


Wading into the geometry waters with Rocky Mountain’s bikes can be a bit dangerous — you may fall into a rabbit hole of numbers. This is thanks to the Ride-9 adjustable geometry system Rocky employs on their full suspension bikes. Two interlocking chips can be set in any one of nine positions, each giving the bike unique geometry figures. I rode the bike in the two extremes — first the slackest, then the steepest positions.

In the slackest setting key geometry numbers were (size large frame):

  • 65° head tube angle
  • 74° seat tube angle
  • 426mm chainstay length
  • 452mm reach
  • 14mm bottom bracket drop
  • 1206mm wheelbase

And in the steepest setting:

  • 66.1° head tube angle
  • 75.1° seat tube angle
  • 423mm chainstay length
  • 464mm reach
  • -1mm bottom bracket drop
  • 1204mm wheelbase

As you can see, there’s a huge amount of variation from one end of the spectrum to the other. Apart from the geometry measurements, moving the chips around also affects the suspension rate. In the slacker settings the suspension is more progressive and in the steeper settings it’s a bit more linear.

Comparing suspension curves (image: Rocky Mountain)


photo: Aaron Chamberlain

The Altitude Carbon 70 is the second-highest model in the line, so it’s not surprising to see a build most riders would be stoked on. It’s got Fox Performance Elite-level suspension front and rear. The fork is Fox’s latest 36 with an upgraded EVOL air spring and FIT4 damper — it’s a Factory-level fork without the Kashima coating. Out back it’s a similar story with a Float EVOL DPS shock. It wouldn’t be out of place to see a piggyback shock on this bike, and Rocky actually specs them on both the Carbon 90 and Alloy 70, as well as the frameset.

Shimano XT brakes, Race Face Turbine R bars (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

Shimano’s XT components cover the rear derailleur, shifter, brakes, and cassette. Race Face’s ubiquitous Turbine cranks complete the drivetrain. The cockpit sees a variety of brands: a 150mm Fox Transfer post, Rocky Mountain stem and grips, Race Face Turbine R 780mm bars, and a WTB Silverado saddle. Stan’s Flow Mk3 rims are laced to a Rocky hub up front and to a DT Swiss 370 hub in the rear. Those wheels are wrapped with Maxxis Wide Trail, 27.5×2.5″ rubber.

Whistler is tough on tires — this is after just a couple days of riding (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

On the Trail

Riding with Wade Simmons in Whistler, no pressure (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

My first ride on the Altitude threw me right into the deep end. I met up with Rocky’s marketing guy (and former frickin’ Olympian) Andreas Hestler, freeride legend Wade Simmons, pro enduro racer Julia Hofmann, and a handful of others for a ride on singletrack across the valley from the bike park. We started with a bit of pavement climbing before hitting a 15-minute near-vertical grunt up loose gravel on the Sirloin and Darwin’s trails.

With the shock in the middle position the Altitude struck a great balance of efficiency and traction, although the front wheel wandered with the Ride-9 system in the slackest position. Rocky spec’d Shimano’s largest cassette (11-46T) paired with a 32T chainring, which should work well for most riders. However, after spending some quality time with SRAM’s GX Eagle group, I missed the additional range. Rocky is speccing several of the new Instinct and Pipelines with Eagle drivetrains, so perhaps we’ll see changes to the Altitude’s build kits in the future.

I appreciated the slack, 65° head tube angle when we hit our first descent on Working Class, however. It’s essentially a half-mile-long series of rock rolls connected by tight, tricky, blown-out switchbacks. I dropped into near vertical pitches, hit G-outs, and threaded through trees with confidence and precision. The Altitude manages to feel playful and burly simultaneously — an impressive combination.

Riding the Rocky Mountain Altitude in the Lost Lake trail system (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

After Working Class, we had a short, chill climb to our next descent — Bush Doctor. Working Class was near my limit, and Bush Doctor was well over it. Again, the descent was a series of rock rolls, but these were steeper, longer, and sketchier than those on Working Class. Sight lines were nonexistent and there was zero runout — each rock roll ended in a 90° catch berm. I rode a couple of them, but most I had to walk/slide down. The Altitude made for a nice hiking partner.

In the Park

Doing my best Chris Daniels impression. (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

I’ll be the first to tell you that I can’t jump for shit, so there’s a limit to the trails I can ride in the Whistler Bike Park. That said, I took this “little” bike down trails I rode on downhill bikes, and had just as much — if not more — fun. I was faster on most of the trails too, especially the blue jump lines. There were techy black diamond trails that I could have plowed through faster aboard a DH bike, but I picked my way down them just fine on the Altitude. Riding bigger lines on a smaller bike forced me to stay on my toes and added to the challenge. Since technical riding is what I live for, it added to the enjoyment.

photo: Aaron Chamberlain

While I wouldn’t call the Altitude a park bike by any stretch of the imagination, it holds its own on lift-accessed terrain. The frame and fork were plenty stiff for smashing berms and blasting over long stretches of 6-inch-deep braking bumps at speed. Rocky matches the Shimano XT brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear which were plenty strong for trail riding. However, for a rider my size, they were at their limits in the park. Even larger rotors, or better yet four-piston calipers, wouldn’t be out of place for mega-steep terrain.

If you want a trail bike that can pull double-duty as a park bike, Rocky has the Slayer for that. But for a few random days turning park laps each season, the Altitude is happy to oblige.

Into the Alpine

That’ll do (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

My best ride aboard the Altitude — and the highlight of the trip — was up into the alpine on Mount Sproatt. I started from Creekside and rode the paved Valley Trail south to Function Junction where I picked up the Flank trail. The climbing wasn’t technical, but it was steep and gravelly. Again, the front wheel wandered, exacerbated further by a pack loaded down with 3L of water, extra food, and spares. After a half-hour of fighting the front end, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was getting worn out and I still had a long way to go.

I pulled over, got my multi-tool out, and switched around the Ride-9 chips to the steepest setting. That made all the difference in the world. The steeper seat and head tube angles drastically improved the Altitude’s climbing performance. I sat up straighter, improving my breathing and comfort. The wandering went away on all but the steepest of punches. But since I wasn’t struggling with each and every pedal stroke, those sections were totally manageable.

Some three hours after I began climbing, I popped out in a huge alpine meadow, surrounded by absolutely stunning views of the Coast Mountains. After another 45 minutes more of climbing in the alpine, I finally topped out around 6,000′ in elevation. I could have spent hours up there soaking in the views, but I was running out of daylight. I pinned it down the Lord of the Squirrels trail, riding it at near race pace (for me) in some spots, stopping only once for a photo op. It’s a hand cut blue trail with great sight lines; there’s nothing sketchy or scary to catch you off guard.

That’s a view worth stopping for (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

The tighter geo changed the Altitude’s descending manners as well — less cleaver, more scalpel. I felt faster through tight switchbacks and more precise popping around the trail. A higher bottom bracket meant more pedal strokes through the roots and rocks, too. As much fun as I had on the Altitude in the slackest setting, I enjoyed it even more in the steepest setting. I kicked myself for not swapping it sooner.

Finish Line

One of Rocky Mountain’s top enduro racers, Jesse Melamed, won the Enduro World Series in Whistler this year aboard an Altitude. Granted, his was modified with a slightly longer stroke shock and fork, but it gives you an idea of what the platform is capable of. No matter what I demanded from the Altitude, it delivered: janky, tight singletrack; park laps; grueling climbs — all were taken in stride.

Six inches of travel may seem like a lot to some riders, and it probably is too much for some parts of the world, but even in the tightest confines the Altitude never felt unwieldy. The suspension is plush when it needs to be and supportive when pedaling. It has versatile geometry that can adapt to various riding scenarios. The build kit leaves little to be desired, unless you really desire shinier things. And perhaps most importantly, it’s a shit ton of fun to ride.

Thanks to Rocky Mountain for the loaner!