“Big wheel keep on turning.
Proud Mary keep on burning.
Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river.” – CCR
Ok, so there were no rivers around as the Rocky Mountain Demo tour rolled into town. Instead sunny weather, the crew from Black’s Cycles in Comox, their bbq and a nice selection of bikes were available for test rides on the Cumberland mountain bike trails.
Lots of riders this season have been rolling at the Island Cup XC races on 29″ mountain bikes so I was interested to check them out for myself.
BC has been slower to adopt the 29 inch wheel bikes than other parts of North America. Maybe we’re just stubborn, but one now sees a much broader selection of forks, wheels, tires and more providing for easier move to this newer format.
Looking around I wanted to find something new and luck would have it a nice 19″ Altitude 29 was ready to go.
Big wheels for big guys.
One common complaint on early 29″ frames was toe to front tire clearance. I wear size 47 cycling shoes, and a few previous rigid 29er bikes I tried, the wheel clearance was very much an issue.
Rocky Mountain spent quite some time in the development of their 29″ bike with 3 models to choose from. The vertex, altitude and element.
The Altitude 29 provides adequate clearance due to the “Straight Up” 76 degree seat tube and a more relaxed 70.5 degree head tube angle. The wheelbase is 1193mm or just about 5cm longer than the equivalent size in the standard Altitude 26″ wheel series. This stretched out cockpit is approx 3cm longer and offers spacious room for knees while the short 110mm tapered headtube allows 120mm of travel, compared to 140mm on the Altitude.
Rocky obviously spends some time searching out their build kit. Easton bar, stem and seatpost create a roomy cockpit. Shimano xt shifters, rear shadow derailleur and slx keep task of shifting. Race Face Deus XC cranks look pro with their machined design and, Formula R1 brakes provide solid stopping power for big wheels.
Front and rear squish is from Fox suspension with a 32mm F29 RL with Fit (15mm through axle) and a Float RP23 custom valved on the rear.
In 2010 the 29 line has one model of the Altitude 29 and 2 models of the Vertex 29.
The Flat black with white and gold accent frame is clean and offers subtle reminders of it’s Canadian pedigree. Two water bottle mounts are a nice find even if one is under the downtube. Welds are clean and the hydroforming leaves adequate standover available to riders.
Behind the Scenes from Rocky Mountain
Rocky Mountain has been making 26 inch wheeled mountain bikes since 1981 and our mission has always been to put ride quality first. No gimmicks. We’ve never been a company to immediately latch on to new trends, always making sure we do our research first. When we launch a platform, we launch it right. On the eve of our 29th birthday (2010), we thought it would be fitting to launch our 29er platforms.
The notoriously technical trails in our Vancouver backyard have always been our testing grounds and we’ve used these same trails to develop our 29ers. Our new 29ers are just as suited to the technical trails at our doorstep as they are the fast, flowy Marin County singletrack, or high alpine Swiss mountain passes. 29ers make sense and now they make sense in all kinds of terrain.
We’ve got your back. With a first of its kind 76-degree seat angle, you’re in a position to defy gravity at every technical uphill climb. The STRAIGHT UP geometry and its bio-mechanically correct seat position allows for maximum horsepower. Not only will you get an efficient ride, it’ll save your lower back and limits pressure on your “sensitive areas”… if you catch our drift.
Our groundbreaking SmoothLink Suspension features minimal pedal feedback so you get a smoother pedal stroke, especially on uphill climbs. How does it work? By placing the rear pivot above the rear hub axle, we keep the average chain torque line parallel to lower link (the line between main pivot and rear pivot), we eliminate pedal bob.
On the Trail
With the trail days in Cumberland lots of great singletrack was at my fingertips for a good test of the bike’s trailworthiness. Starting with a fire road climb, the suspension was quiet with the Pro-Pedal doing it’s thing nice and quietly. Fork lockout was quick and easy and the short head tube, tall fork combo meant the lever was closer at hand.
Once the trail turned to singletrack, the big wheels showed their stuff. Roots, rough terrain and short climbs became smooth under the Continental Mountain Kings.
The bike steering is fairly responsive at slow speeds and stable at higher speeds when the going is straight. The only drawback of this overall large bike is some of our trails which can be tight on a small xc bike are even tighter on this one. Something that one would get used to when picking their lines, just like one gets used to driving an extended cab pickup over a Jeep. Each has their sweet spot.
Another test rider on the same day found tight corners where one would rail a smaller bike is a bit more of a challenge purely due to the taller stature and longer wheelbase of this bike. I found less of this feeling, probably from being a larger rider myself (6’2″), the larger frame, combined with the same larger fork, wheels and only 10mm longer head tube length to leave the bar position essentially the same. In comparison, the head tube length between the small and large Altitudes varies by almost 6cm
I had a great ride on this bike. I hadn’t spent much time on a 29er and this test leaves me with a larger list of potential new bikes. For larger riders on cross country epics such as the BC Bike Race, the Island Cup Series or just enjoying the trails of Vancouver Island, it would be good to check out this bike. For smaller riders, the standard Altitude or Vertex 29 may be a better fit for the improved handling on tight singletrack.
Rocky Mountain is hosting demo days currently with others scheduled through the summer. Come check them out or stop by Black’s Cycle or your local Rocky Mountain Dealer for more info on all their 2010 bikes.
Rocky Mountain may have been later coming to the 29er show, but they came with a great performance.
MSRP for the Altitude 29 is $4499
More specs – http://www.bikes.com
|Frame||RMB FORM 7005 Alu, Hydroformed Seattube, Alu Seatstay /Chainstay|
|Fork||FOX 32 F29 RL FIT|
|Front Travel||120mm, Rebound / Lockout, 15mm Axle|
|Rear Shock||FOX Float RP23 Custom Valved|
|Head Set||FSA Orbit Z1.5 Lower / FSA ZS-4D ACB Upper|
|Stem||Easton EA70 6° 70-90-100-110mm|
|Handlebar||Easton EA70 Flat 31.8mm 685mm x 9° Sweep|
|Brakes||Formula R1 Hydraulic Disc 180mm|
|Brake Levers||Formula R1|
|Shifters||Shimano XT Rapid Fire 9spd|
|Gearing (FR)||Shimano SLX Direct Mount|
|Gearing (RR)||Shimano XT Shadow|
|Cranks & Chainrings||Race Face Deus 170-175mm 42/32/22T|
|Bottom Bracket||Race Face Deus XC X-Type|
|Hubs (FR)||Wheeltech Disc Cartridge Bearing 15mm Axle|
|Hubs (RR)||Shimano M529 Disc|
|Cassette||Shimano 29′er 12-36T|
|Spokes||DT Swiss Competition|
|Rims||Stans ZTR Arch 29|
|Tires (RR/FR)||Continental Mountain King 29|
|Seat Post||Easton EA70 30.9mm|
|Saddle||WTB Silverado Race SL|