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Interbike 2009 – Rocky Mountain Altitude and Vertex 29er Mountain Bikes

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INTERBIKE 2009 – The Rocky Mountain Altitude 29er was one of the first bikes I wanted to ride at Interbike’s Outdoor Demo since seeing the prototype at Sea Otter earlier this year (and, honestly, those close-up frame detail photos turned out better than the ones from the demo day).

Why?  Because it promised upright angles with sharp, race-worthy XC handling while providing a full 120mm of travel…in otherwords, perfect for the tight, curvy East Coast singletrack that typically has a lot of roots and rocks.

Rocky Mountain calls this Straight Up Geometry, and the effective 74.5 seat angle (when sagged correctly) is definitely more upright than most.  Combine that with a shorter cockpit and a short 17.8″ chainstay and you’ve got a long-travel 29er that handles like a 26″ XC bike.

So, did it deliver on the hype?  Was it worth the wait?  Hit ‘more’ for photos, weights and read Tyler’s and Daniel’s ride reviews…


The Altitude 29er comes in at 28lbs 4oz (size XL) spec’d with:

  • Fox 32 F29 RL FIT 120mm fork w/ 15mm QR
  • Fox Float RP23 custom valved rear shock (w/ Boost Valve and ProPedal)
  • FSA Orbit headset
  • Easton EA70 seatpost, handlebar and stem
  • Formula R1 hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors
  • Shimano XT shifters and rear derailleur / SLX front derailleur
  • Race Face Deus XC cranks and X-Type BB
  • Shimano PD-M250 pedals
  • Stan’s ZTR Arch 29 rims on Wheeltech Disc (front) / Shimano M529 Disc (rear) hubs
  • DT Swiss competition spokes
  • WTB Silverado Race SL saddle
  • Continental Mountain King 29 x 2.4 tires


The rear linkage actually puts out 115mm of rear wheel travel, not 120, so you’ve got a bit more cushion in the front.


The rocker arm is nicely machined out to save weight.  The chainstay’s front pivot is located above the rear axle.  RM says this creates a relatively constant chain torque line in parallel to the lower link, which minimized pedal feedback, especially when climbing.


Even though the Rocky Mountain Altitude 29 comes in lighter than other 120mm travel 29ers we’ve seen, there are plenty of places to upgrade this one to drop weight.  The Formula R1 brakes, however, are not one of them.


Rocky Mountain uses direct mount front derailleurs the Altitude 29 to allow a bigger bend in the seat tube, helping keep the rear wheel tucked in nice and tight, leading to the shorter chainstays and wheelbase.  Wheelbase for the XL is 46.97″ (1153mm).


A big tapered head tube with tapered fork steerer tube (1-1/8″ to 1-1/2″) helps keep the front end stiff and steering precise.  The head angle is a somewhat normal-f0r-this-travel 70.5º.

(scroll down past the ride reviews for photos and deets on the Rocky Mountain Vertex 29er hardtail)


TYLER’S RIDE REPORT: Like all ride reviews from the demo day, the following is based on a short test ride of only about two miles on dry, dusty, pebbly trails unlike anything I normally ride.  That said, the Rocky Mountain Altitude 29 rode really well.  There’s plenty of climbing to be had on the test trails…mostly short stuff, but the inclines vary from quick hammers to sustained, steady sections.  With the ProPedal turned off, I recall a little bit of motion, but certainly nothing that struck me as overwhelming or mushy.  The suspension tracked well over the rocks and scree, didn’t bounce around and kept traction when climbing.  Flipping the lever on the rear shock gave it a stiffer platform, and for extended climbs I would definitely use it.  The lever is easy to reach and find by feel, too, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the trail to use it.

Descending, the bike was very stable.  Normally, XC race bikes have taller angles on the front to create fast handling bikes, but as travel increases both the seat tube and head angle move further from 90º (straight up), which creates a more stable bike, but one that steers a little slower.  With Rocky Mountain’s Straight Up Geometry, the seat tube positions you more like a race bike, helping to put power to the pedals, but the 70.5º head angle works well with the 120mm of front end travel when bombing down the trails.

Given the ever increasing shift to marathon and stage racing, I think Rocky Mountain is onto something big here.  I felt like I could put the power down effectively on the XC type stuff, but the travel is long enough to use the Altitude 29 for some aggressive trail riding, too.  For people looking for one bike to ride all year and race the enduro events, I’d say check this one out.  I’m very much looking forward to spending some more time on this bike for a full review.

DANIEL’S RIDE REPORT: As Tyler and I have mentioned, the outdoor demo gave us a chance to test out many bikes on a first impression basis. And the Rocky Mountain Altitude 29 makes a very good first impassion. I have heard good things about Rocky Mountain’s Flat Line DH bike but didn’t know what to think about the Altitude 29er XC bike. While she was a few pounds heavier than would have liked (how many times do you get to say that and not get slapped?), she didn’t ride like there was any extra weight (or that?).

Tyler covered a lot of good points about angles and geometry. And the bike does ride well (here comes the but) but I would like to ride the Altitude 29er again with a racier build. The 2.4″ Continental Mountain Kings tires are just one example of more weight and resistance than I would ride on cross country single track. With the long travel it’s a very capable bike, and with a few top shelf mods it could be a fairly light one too.



For the hardtail crowd, Rocky Mountain offers the Vertex in two trim levels, base and SE (Shown).  The SE comes with a Shimano SLX / XT mix with Race Face Evolve XC cranks and Formula Oro brakes.  Easton EA70 bar, stem and post, Stan’s ZTR 355 rims, WTB Nanoraptor tires and Silverado seat and FSA headset round out the spec.  The base model drops trim down a bit from this.


The Vertex SE 29 weighs in at 25lb 6oz…but I forget which size we weighed.  The frame uses Rocky Mountain’s trademark sloping top tube design


Direct mount front derailleur for improved shifting, but the cable housing comes almost all the way down the seat tube unrestrained.


The Vertex gets a tapered headtube, too, and heavily shaped tubing to increase strength and tune the ride quality.

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