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First Look at 2013 Rocky Mountain Altitude

August 24, 2012


We’ll cut to the chase and let you know  that  the 2013 Altitude is the most complete and best riding Trail bike on the market. Itsthe total Trail bike package. But wait a second, what is this category the bike industry calls “Trail”? Didn’t it used to be just cross-country and freeride? Isn’t most mountain biking done on Trails? How is this a category?

Photo: Margus Riga


Adding definition to its ambiguous name, Trail represents riders who value descending performance as much as climbing efficiency and light weight as much as durability. Trail bikes are for riders who want one bike that can do it all. Or, in other words, Trail bikes are for most of us.  We want  a bike  that we don’t have to make excuses for on epic climbs, or when things get rowdy on the descents.  This is 2013 Altitude.

Rider: Thomas Vanderham Photo: Sterling Lorence


The story of 2013 Altitude is not a new frame material, or wheel size, or adjustable geometry feature, or suspension configuration, or pivot system, or geometry, or carbon construction process that would enable us to make such bold claims about our new Trail bike; It’s all of them combined in one total package. Every T was crossed and every I was dotted in the development of the 2013 Altitude and the result is an entirely new and complete ride.

Rider: Thomas Vanderham Photo: Sterling Lorence



The term ‘Research & Development’  tends to be used loosely in the bike industry. We don’t want to speak to what others do, but for Rocky Mountain  R&D is a cornerstone in our business. Arguably, we pool more resources in R&D per bike than any other brand. It’s this commitment to constant innovation that has elevated our brand to where  we are now – making  some of the most innovative products in the industry.

Our team of engineers in Vancouver has the luxury of a full prototype and test facility just steps away from their desks. An idea can be born in a meeting room, drawn on the computer and turned into a prototype in a matter of days. This close connection to the prototype and testing process allows us to be as creative and move as quickly as we want. It’s not unusual to see one of our engineers holding a welding torch or operating the CNC machine.  We feel that it’s critical to always know how our bikes go together.

Then the really fun part of the R&D process happens: riding.   Our staff is made up of avid mountain bikers and we often head out with our team athletes to put concepts to the test on some of the most demanding terrain in the world.  Sometimes an idea is approved or killed in one short ride and sometimes it takes months.


We pride ourselves on our R&D process that helps us make the innovative products we do, always with the ultimate goal of creating the best riding bikes possible so you can Love the  Ride for years to come.


27.5” WHEELS

From the first minute of Altitude’s  design process, there was never any doubt that we would build it around 27.5” wheels. The rolling advantage of a 29” wheel is indisputable, but the wheel size is limited when it comes to longer travel bikes. Bike weight, wheelbase and other design constraints prevent manufacturers from creating truly nimble and light bikes with long travel and 29” wheels. Although they are arguably the quickest handling, 26” wheels simply give up too much momentum when rolling through the rough stuff. The limitations of both 26” and 29” for this kind of bike made 27.5” a no-brainer for the Altitude.

Although tire casing sizes vary from brand to brand, on average the 27.5” size is almost halfway between 26” and 29”. This means the 27.5” rider gets more rolling advantage than a 26”, while maintaining  a super nimble and agile ride. The 27.5” wheel size is the best of both worlds and it simply makes sense.


Rocky Mountain Altitude 770 MSL



Rocky Mountain’s patented  SmoothLinkhas been referred to by at least one reviewer as the ‘Holy Grail’ of suspension systems, because it delivers active bump absorption without compromising pedaling efficiency. A big statement, but science backs it up, and please bear with us on the techno-speak for a moment.

SmoothLink’s design characteristics mean that a line drawn through the main pivot and the rear pivot is always above the rear axle at all points of travel. This is the key differentiator between SmoothLinkand other suspension systems. The lower linkage member is virtually parallel to the Average  Chain Torque  Line (ACTL), at all points of travel. THIS is the  key to bob-free suspension, since the two are parallel, the chain tension cannot act on the suspension.


Force at Rear Wheel Curve:

Every bike manufacturer will show you a different  suspension rate curve for their frame and try to demonstrate to you how their design is superior. However, these curves are all dramatically  different, and unless you have a degree in rocket science, indecipherable.

The question riders should ask is how does each curve really FEEL on the trail? We want to change the conversation, and demonstrate what happens with the force at the rear wheel. This is what you the rider will actually experience on your ride.

With SmoothLink, the force increases steeply at first. This is the platform, giving you a firm  pedaling  sensation.  Once the rear wheel moves through the threshold it flattens out, climbing linearly, giving you that smooth, buttery feeling mid stroke. In the end stroke, the forces begin to climb more steeply again, controlling  bottom out. It becomes more and more difficult to reach the hard, bottom out feel, preventing the rider from getting thrown from the bike under heavy impact.

This is what the rider will actually feel:  the force at the rear wheel. Hard to push through the first 20mm (propedal). Propedal blows off and give smooth, linear feel to 110mm. Suspension ramps from 110-150mm to prevent harsh bottom out, which can throw the rider off.



Riders come in all sizes and ability  levels, and the terrain they ride varies.  Featured  on our  2013 Altitude, our patent pending new RIDE-9

System enables the rider to customize geometry and suspension rate to their riding style and weight, so they can truly Love the Ride.

Nine possible geometry and suspension rate configurations  are possible thanks to two interlocking inserts. By having  two nested shock mounts, we have a much greater range of adjustability. Rotating these pieces manipulates the position of the rear shock affecting the head angle (66.6o-68.3o), seat angle (73.6o-75.3o ), and bottom bracket drop (-10mm to +10mm) of the bike, as well as the force required to bottom out the suspension.

The dual rotating inserts allow for nine different positions. By moving the shock forward, the geometry slackens and the suspension rate becomes more progressive, giving greater bottom out resistance for aggressive downhill trail riding. When you move the shock backwards, the geometry becomes quicker and the suspension more supple, for ripping around on technical singletrack and better climbing traction.

When you move the shock upwards, it requires a higher air pressure to support the rider at sag. This is beneficial to lighter riders, allowing them to run “in the sweet spot” of the shock, and not wind up with an under pressurized shock, which feels overly harsh. Conversely, when you move the shock downwards, a heavier rider won’t need as much air pressure, increasing shock and seal durability, and keeps the damping range usable.



When Rocky Mountain debuted  StraightUp™Geometry with Altitude  in 2009, its characteristic steep seat angle was the first in the industry. However since then it has changed they way the industry looks at longer travel full suspension bike geometry.

Now, imitators  abound. With longer travel full-suspension bikes there is a tendency, once sagged, for the rider to wallow behind the rear wheel, making for inefficient  pedaling and positioning on the bike. Altitude’s  relatively  steep 74.5°  static seat angle ensures that  once sagged, the rider is still  in an optimal pedaling position for optimal power output.  This is just another ingredient in creating the most efficient trail bike possible.



Our patent  pending  Angular  Bushing  Concept™ (ABC) pivots represent a paradigm shift in high performance suspension linkage in the most literal sense.  ABC™ pivots consist of an angular contact polymer bushing which rotates on a tapered alloy pivot. By carefully controlling the tolerance of these pieces, we are able to specify a torque value on the pivot and can eliminate binding, which has been, until now, impossible. The more you tighten  a typical bushing system, the more the pivot will bind. Not so with ABC™ Pivots. And get this; they’re lighter, more durable, and laterally stiffer than a cartridge bearing. On Altitude, we saved 120 grams by switching to ABC™ pivots while increasing rear end pivot stiffness by 105 percent. Yes, you read that correctly; ABC™ pivots are more than twice as stiff than a sealed cartridge  bearing. Plus, they need almost no maintenance– just clean the contact surfaces from time to time.

We first introduced ABC™ Pivots in 2011 on Element   RSL and  MSL and  most of our customers are still riding the same bushings that  came on their  bikes. The technology has been such a success for Rocky Mountain, that  it was a no-brainer  to use them on 2013 Altitude. The result is not only one of the stiffest and lightest trail bikes on the market, but one that also requires less maintenance.



There’s a wide range of quality in carbon bicycle construction nowadays and it makes a huge difference in the ride and durability of a bike. It’s difficult for the customer to tell what’s inside the frame. If we could put windows in ours to show what’s going on, we would! Before we get into detailed tech-talk, the take away is that our carbon manufacturing process in conjunction with ABC™ pivots put us at the very front of the pack of the industry in stiffness-to-weight ratio and frame durability. A super light  bike isn’t any good if the rider loses power to frame flex or the frame is fragile in crash situations.

Rocky Mountain’s FORM C13 High Modulus SmoothWall™ construction  is 100% designed, engineered and tested in house by our engineering team. SmoothWall™ construction  is achieved by sculpting the inner surface of the frame as carefully as the outer, with the help of an inner mold, as opposed to the traditional air bladder. This results in no excess resin, fibers or filler, meaning no stress risers or extra weight.

The most important characteristic of SmoothWall™ technology is that it enables us to construct frames with the highest carbon layup density. SmoothWall™’s super high fiber to resin ratio with maximum compression of the pre-preg carbon layers results in the lightest and stiffest construction possible. SmoothWall™ also allows us to use full length (uncut) fibers, yielding a stronger frame. This all adds up to one of the most sophisticated carbon frames in the world.

Altitude MSL utilizes a precise carbon layup schedule, using multiple  types of carbon weaves in specific locations to maximize stiffness and impact resistance while minimizing weight. We’ve taken special care with the Altitude to reinforce the high impact areas (underside of downtube, chainstays, sides of seat stays) with impact resistant carbon weave, negating the need for clunky bolt on protection.



1.  142mm EThruRear Axle
We put a lot of hard work into making Altitude’s frame one of the stiffest in the industry, so there was never any doubt whether to use a 142mm rear axle. Not only is it the stiffest setup possible, wheel changes are easier than ever.

2.  Internal Cable Routing
A bike with such clean lines should have clean cable routing. Altitude’s internal  cable routing  keeps things tidy, and importantly, is very service friendly. No fishing  around with a coat hanger and headlamp needed!

3.   Rear Shock Remote Cable Routing
With many remote options available for the new generations of rear shocks, cable routing is an issue, but we allowed for them with clean routing

(external on alloy and internal on MSL).

4.   “Stealth” Dropper Post Routing
Tired of ripped hydraulic lines or that loop of cable bunching up when you drop your saddle? Both are a thing of the past with Altitude’s “Stealth” routing.

5.   ISCG-05 Chainguide Mounts
For Super-D and Enduro style riders, we spec’d  ISCG-05 mounts so you need not worry about dropping your chain.

6.  Seat Collar Sleeve
We often ride in monsoon-like conditions and it’s a shame when a super light frame fills with water. Our proprietary rubber seat collar sleeve helps keep things dry inside.

7.   BB92
Altitude’s wide BB92 bottom bracket shell provides a stout and stiff foundation for its oversized seat tube and down tube.

8.  In-Molded  Chainstay and Anti Chain-Drop Plate (MSL)
Because carbon fiber  and bike chains don’t get along, we molded in a stainless steel plate at the bottom of the downtube and into the chainstay where an errant chain might find itself.

9.   DRD Hanger (750  and 770 MSL)
The Direct Mount Derailleur hanger eliminates  the upper knuckle on Shimano derailleurs  to improve shift accuracy and consistency through a stiffer  derailleur interface. It also improves  wheel, brake rotor, and derailleur  alignment  when installing the rear wheel, making it the easiest dropout and hanger system on the market to use.


For more info check:  altitude.bikes.com


Marc Landry is a Toronto, Ontario based action sports photographer. Honing his skills on local and World Cup cycling circuits, Marc has since expanded his subject matter to include several outdoor adventure sports. Marc is in his element when surrounded by the energy that top athletes radiate. The relationships he forms with his subjects is apparent in his images and is part of what defines his look. He is most at home in the mountains and his preference for long glass and elaborate lighting setups has become his signature style.

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