The concept of what makes an ‘all-mountain’ bike varies greatly. At one end, it can mean light bikes with enough travel to handle extensive backcountry terrain. At the other, the name implies heavy-duty construction and the toughness to survive a life of enduro racing or bike-park abuse.
Rocky's Altitude 770 has 150 millimeters of travel suspending the rear wheel of its feathery-light 5.25-pound carbon frame. This, paired with a 160-mil fork, puts it unapologetically at the 'ride far, rip big trails' end of the spectrum. We initially tested the Altitude in the all-mountain category, riding it back-to-back with the other all-mountain bikes–but then we reconsidered. Compared to some of the other all-mountain bikes, it felt downright ethereal. This was refreshing and liberating when it came time to hump uphill, and the Altitude has the steep seat angle and clean suspension kinematics to hustle upward with an ease that will endear it to XC racers and all-day climbers alike. The absence of heft and sense of balance persisted when pointed downhill too, making for a nimble ride aided by neutral handling and an effective, supple suspension. The rear end ate up everything thrown at it, but when on critical sections of the all-mountain course, testers generally voiced a desire for something more substantial beneath them.The parts spec was well-thought-out and on par for a bike at this price. It features a Shimano XT 1×11 drivetrain and XT brakes, Fox 34 FIT4 fork and Float shock (with a remote compression-damping lever) and Stan's ZTR rims shod with Maxxis Minion/Ardent tires. Gripes were limited to taller riders wishing for a 150-mil Reverb post instead of the stock 125-mil version.
The bike's Ride-9 system offers the ability to tune head and seat angle in a nearly 2-degree range and bottom-bracket height in a 20-millimeter window. You can also tweak shock rate. Even on the slackest (66.6/73.6-degree head and seat angle) and lowest configuration, it still climbed like a homesick angel. Given that, and that any further change would only make the Altitude climb better, we think it's best described as an aggressive trail bike. If you also find yourself between categories, this bike might be your match.
Q&A with Rocky Mountain
Before this year's test bikes rolled into our barn, we had questions about them–some of the same questions that you might be asking yourself when you start poking around at a new bike. Or maybe we're just OCD. Either way, here's something to read while you should be working.—Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
Vernon Felton: This bike can do a lot of things—what kind of rider did you have in mind when you were designing it?
Rocky Mountain: The Altitude is our go-to bike for regularly climbing to trails where you need a bike that you are confident can handle whatever you run into on the way down for more emphasis on fun times descending. On our home turf of the North Shore mountains where you're climbing up, but have steep terrain that is littered with technical features all the way down, the Altitude is a staple of our office bike stable. Our roster of freeride athletes (Thomas Vanderham, Geoff Gulevich, Wade Simmons and Brett Tippie) rely on the Altitude when they travel the world on photo and video adventures. When the Altitude puts on its Rally Edition purple pants, it's raced at the top level of enduro by our Rally Team.
VF: There are a lot of good, all-purpose 6-inch travel bikes out there—what sets the Altitude apart from some other bikes in this niche that readers might be considering in 2016?
RM: Altitude is another bike in our line-up equipped with Ride-9, which not only separates it from other 6-inch travel bikes, but takes the bike from one category to another. From all-day pedaling trail bike to enduro-ready race machine. Our EWS Rally Team has been the 2nd place team in the Enduro World Series standings two years in a row aboard the Altitude! Our Smoothlink suspension design keeps the wheel tacking while efficiently handling pedaling inputs, making for a seriously capable climber for a 6-inch bike. The Altitude is also one of the lightest frames and builds for the price point in the 6-inch-bike category.
VF: Are there conditions in which you feel this bike really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that so?
RM: All-day rides where you travel across a variety of terrain and during which climbing and descending are equally important traits. The suspension reduces fatigue and lets you hit all your lines.
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you guys are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
RM: We're proud of all of our bikes, but the Altitude comes to 2016 with a new swing-link "the Lyle-Link" (our house engineering technician made some vital improvements) that sports new BC2 pivots and grease ports for simplified servicing. The link is also 15 percent stiffer, making for a noticeable increase in rigidity. As mentioned earlier, Ride-9 is a huge benefit on a bike that can be used for such a variety of riding. The 770 MSL light, coming in at 27.5 pounds without compromising spec. ie. Wide bars, Tubeless ready Maxxis tires, Fox 34 160mm, Stan's Notubes Rapid 28 rims, Reverb Stealth dropper post, etc.
VF: What were you guys aiming for with the spec on this bike?
RM: We wanted to keep the bike light to promote that although it rips downhill, it's a great climber as well. The 2016 Altitude was all about best value to performance ratio with Fox Factory suspension, tubeless wheels and tires, Shimano 1×11 drivetrain, Rock Shox Reverb dropper post. We wanted parts that were reliable and weight-conscious at this price point.
VF: Are there any details/features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked by consumers at first glance?
RM: Smoothlink suspension may look like a Horst Link at first glance, but our take on the 4-bar design allows us to dial in the right amount of anti-squat to balance supple suspension and climbing performance without sacrificing grip. Paired with Ride-9, you can tune in progression and get the right tunability out of your suspension, depending on whether you are a more- or less-aggressive rider.