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Hands-on Gear Review
Rocky Mountain Altitude Alloy 50 2018 Review
Cons: Shaken by enduro-grade terrain
Bottom line: Rides very well within the confines of its aggressive-trail application.
The freshly updated Rocky Mountain Altitude caught our attention with its impressive price tag and impressive components. This aggressive trail bike has excellent uphill skills while providing a balanced and predictable downhill ride. This practical rig is comfortable and downright fun on a remarkably wide range of terrain. While the geometry and travel numbers appear to whisper "enduro," we found this 150mm travel rig is disturbed by super rough terrain. For the vast majority of trail-riding, it is difficult to fault this versatile bike, and the solid price point only contributes to our high opinion of the Altitude. The Altitude Alloy 50 produces a superb blend of performance and value with a Shimano XT drivetrain, SLX brakes and a Fox Transfer dropper post at a $3,399 price tag.
Riders looking for a well-rounded bike that climbs like a dream and is ready to rip from day one will be thrilled with the Altitude. The 2017 Santa Cruz Bronson can't compete with the Altitude's climbing abilities but has a higher threshold for attacking burly terrain. The YT Jeffsy 29 is a better value starting at $2,599 but doesn't climb as well and is also shaken in extra-rowdy terrain at high speed. For a more zippy and fun ride, we would reach for the nimble and playful 2018 Ibis Ripley LS X01 Eagle. A big step up in price at $6,999.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Trail Mountain Bikes of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Four of our pro test riders spent a few days ripping the Altitude around our local trails in search of some insight. Then we took a step back and compared it to the other trail bike's we've tested. Here's what we discovered.
The new Altitude is a practical and versatile bike featuring excellent climbing and pedaling abilities. Wide rubber keeps this bike planted through the corners and provides copious amounts of grip when navigating uphill on mixed terrain. Aiming this bike downhill is confident and predictable, but it can get overwhelmed on the super-chunky terrain. The Altitude's blend of efficiency and confidence make it an excellent daily driver for the average trail rider who prefers a little extra squish.
Testers agreed, the Altitude keeps a lighthearted attitude out on the trail. Combining playful manners with all-around capability, this is a very fun bike.
When it's time to aim the Altitude downhill, the easy-riding theme persists. This is not the kind of bike that needs to be driven hard to feel like you're activating the suspension. The bike rails corners with ease and remains composed when ridden at speed.
The bike places riders in a confident attack position when pointed downhill. The 589mm top tube and 435mm reach create plenty of space to allow you to shift your weight rearward when the situation calls for it.
The Altitude attacks the downhills with confidence and capability, allowing riders to slay rock gardens or root-laced sections with relative ease and stability. The running length of this bike works in its favor when the going gets steep or when the speedometer is cranked up. The Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5" front tire hooks up beautifully and feels rock solid and predictable in the corners. The Minion DHR 2.4" rear tire keeps the rear end on track and allows for a substantial amount of braking bite when you're on the binders. Beefy tires allow you to run a slightly lower pressure and enjoy some enhanced grip.
We should mention that while the Altitude is a capable descender, there is a defined limit to how hard you can charge gnarly terrain. The 150mm travel range is an interesting category in the mountain bike world. Many bikes in this travel range roll into the aggressive trail, not-quite-enduro category. As a result, when you are feeding it down gnarly terrain, the limits are evident and pushing beyond them is a sketchy endeavor. The Altitude is not one of those bikes, like the ripping 2018 Santa Cruz Nomad or speed-craving 2017 Yeti SB5.5, that feels better the harder you push them.
High-speed flowy trails punctuated by manageable rock gardens or stairs are a dream aboard the Altitude. There is a certain satisfaction you experience when piloting a bike that is well-suited for the terrain you are riding. This aluminum shredder can attack the wide majority of descents with confidence and comfort.
This bike is a pretty darn good descender. We rank it in the top teir that we've tested.
Working your way up long climbs is a pleasant endeavor aboard the Altitude. We have some preconceived notions about how a 150mm travel bike should climb, and this bike is a delightful surprise. Despite a slack head tube angle, the bike places riders in a neutral and effective climbing position thanks to a 75.5-degree seat tube angle. We didn't venture beyond the neutral Ride-9 setting in our testing. Folks who are ultra-focused on climbing efficiency may be interested in experimenting with a steeper setting.
Sitting down and spinning uphill is comfortable, with no noticeable pedal feedback. The climb switch on the shock is largely unnecessary save for paved roads and super buff double track. Standing up on the pedals is slightly less effective, yet we still felt more power transfer than average for this travel range. The 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHF front tire and 2.4" Minion DHR rear tire offers excellent grip without causing any noticeable drag. The benefit of the extra rubber manifests itself on the sandy and loose areas of the climb.
Despite the long wheelbase, measured at 1167mm, the Altitude navigates uphill switchbacks with ease. Steering is impressive and piloting this bike through technical rock gardens doesn't require excessive amounts of planning or anticipation. The front end, despite a 65.5-degree head tube angle, is content on the ground and does not want to wander. Punching up and through rock gardens doesn't require herculean strength although the bike's heft is noticeable. Hammering the pedals to accelerate into a tricky section and lifting the bike up onto rocks requires some "oomph". While the aluminum Altitude is not a tank, 31 lbs 4 oz isn't exactly light.
Climbing performance among modern trail bikes is impressive. The Altitude is no exception, it ranks in the top half of our test bikes.
Ease of Maintenance
It is important to examine key factors such as performance, price, and components when making a purchase decision. It is also a good idea to consider the cost of maintaining your bike. All of those bearings and links in your full suspension frame need love. Your brakes, fork, rear shock, drivetrain and dropper post do as well. We rank the bikes below. Find out more about our ease of maintenance ranking methods in our trail bike review.
Rocky Mountain full suspension bikes use proprietary bushing/grease ports that tend to wear quickly. In addition, there are a particularly high number of washers and hardware that make up the assembly. Its Fox fork and rear shock have longer recommended maintenance intervals than most RockShox alternatives. Multiple mechanics report that they often need to service Fox products more frequently than is recommended, however. Monitor your components' performance and sounds. Shimano brakes are easier to bleed than SRAM and use simple mineral oil as fluid. We rate them higher as a result.
The Altitude debuted in 2013 and received a major facelift for the 2018 model year. This aggressive trail bike still features 150mm of rear wheel travel provided by the Smoothlink suspension system. Rocky Mountain moved towards slacker angles and more durable sealed bearings for the suspension, added stiffer linkages, and relocated its adjustable geometry chips. Tire clearance has increased, and the new Altitude can even run 26+ tires if that's your bag.
The new Altitude follows the long and low trend that has taken over the industry. This bike sports Rocky Mountain's Ride-9 geometry adjustment system, which utilizes two interlocking chips to offer a whomping nine geometry settings. The head angle can be adjusted from an already slack 66.1-degrees, down to a mightily slack 65-degrees. Two of our testers rode a medium frame while two rode a large frame. The Altitude fits true to size. For the sake of our measurements, we used the medium frame. Of the nine geometry positions, we tested our demo bikes in the "neutral" position, which we measured to have a 65.5-degree head tube angle. The head tube angle works with 424mm chainstays to create a 1167mm wheelbase.
Rocky Mountain Altitude Alloy 50 Highlights
Rock-solid performance meets an impressive price point with the 2018 Altitude Alloy 50. $3,399 buys you an aluminum frame paired with Fox 36 Performance fork with a Grip damper, Fox Float DPS EVOL shock, and a super crisp Shimano XT drivetrain. Trail-slaying abilities, quality components and kind on the bank account we call this a fantastic value.
Build Highlights — Alloy 50
Have an extra $3,500 laying around? $6,500-$7,000 buys you on a high-end carbon frame with a 1x12 drivetrain, more powerful brakes, and more tuneable suspension. In addition, you will also save a few pounds along the way. The $7,299 Altitude Carbon 90 enjoys these advantages. At $7,099 the Yeti SB5.5 X01 Eagle Turq is more suited to tackle burly rock gardens at speed than the Altitude.
Rocky Mountain's 2018 Altitude is a splendid long-legged trail bike with exceptional climbing abilities. Its profound pedal efficiency is paired with stable and confident downhill skills. While it is possible to push this bike beyond its limits on gnarly terrain, it is comfortable on the overwhelming majority of trails. Wide rubber, 150mm of travel, and slack angles are a recipe for fun, and the new Altitude gets it right.
— Pat Donahue
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