As one of the most anticipated new designs going into Interbike, the all-new Rocky Mountain Altitude platform has received its share of hype (from me included). On the surface, the design sure looks like a Horst-Link, but a more detailed look at the pivot location and it clearly falls under Rocky Mountain’s ETS patent.

A few millimeters and this bike would infringe on Specialized’s patent, but as it is, it’s clearly in Rocky’s court. Now that all the hubbub over pivot location is out of the way, we can get on with how this bike rides. A long lap in the desert and I was able to get a good taste for how this bike will perform.

2009 Rocky Mountain Altitude Bike Review

About the 2009 Rocky Mountain Altitude 90 RSL

This is the top-of-the-line full-carbon model with all the goodies. Though the 90 RSL isn’t cheap, $6499 for a full-carbon trailbike equipped like this is a great deal. Aside from the linkage location, the other major feature of the Altitude lineup is the modified geometry called “Straight Up“, which puts your body-weight more forward on the bike than the competition. The result? You can stay right in the middle of the saddle on technical climbs instead of riding the nose.

The Altitude RSL model marks a huge change for Rocky in their mountain bike lineup. It’s the first full-suspension carbon-fiber bike they’ve produced and it replaces the popular ETSX models in the lineup. With a balanced 140mm travel front and rear, the Altitude 90 RSL is built to ride all day long in any condition you can throw its way.

Here’s a few more specs:

  • 140mm rear travel via custom-tuned Fox RP23 rear shock
  • Fox 32 Float RLC 140mm fork with 15QR front axle (15mm is awesome)
  • RaceFace Deus/Next cockpit and cranks (carbon and aluminum mix)
  • Shimano XTR drivetrain (XT front derailleur and cassette)
  • Mavic Crossmax XLR wheelset – very nice!
  • FSA Orbit CS headset
  • Formula R1 discs
  • Crank Brothers Candy pedals
  • 76-degree seat tube angle
  • 69-degree head tube angle
  • 5.5 lb. carbon frame / 26 lbs as built
  • MSRP: $6499

Rocky Mountain Altitude RSL 90 Bike Review

Rocky Mountain Altitude 90 RSL Review

A quick pass by the Rocky Mountain booth at the Interbike Outdoor Demo yielded just the bike I wanted to ride–the top-of-the-line Altitude 90 RSL. Local sales rep, Derek Newton had set it aside just for me. When I got there, the engineer behind the Altitude lineup, D’Arcy O’Connor was there to give me a personalized run-down of all the technology behind this new bike.

He walked me through the strategic use of carbon throughout the frame and the sweet-looking tube designs that make up the Altitude. Looking over the frame, with it’s internal cable routing and smooth transitions, it looks absolutely gorgeous. The carbon-fiber keeps the weight down and provides riding characteristics found only with this material.

With “Straight Up” geometry that puts your body in the perfect climbing position to maximize traction and ergonomics and a suspension design that is just millimeters away from the fabled Horst-Link (clearly within Rocky’s ETS patent), this bike was begging to be ridden hard.

Rocky Mountain Altitude RSL 90 Bike Review

After slipping out of Tent City, the destination was up and away from the crowds. This would take us on a long loop due south of Bootleg Canyon in the beat-down desert heat of the Nevada desert. We’d take Mother to IMBA, then back to Mother and out via West Leg. This loop was a great place to test the climbing prowess of the Altitude. I could instantly feel the added power provided by the “Straight Up” geometry. With my butt smack-dab in the middle of the saddle, I could climb all the technical stuff that was thrown my way. Only once did I find the need to scoot forward to keep the front-end down.

This bike will not be the one holding you back on long, technical climbs and will climb as straight as an arrow with no energy-robbing front-end wander.

On cross-country terrain, the efficient suspension kept things rolling smoothly and efficiently with just the right amount of squish to keep your body happy. Pedal strokes are efficient and the suspension feels completely solid with excellent lateral stiffness for straight tracking.

Going down, the Altitude was pretty confident overall, but not quite the descender I’ve come to expect from other bikes in Rocky’s lineup. In the 140mm travel category, there is an array of styles to suit riders of all tastes. This one happens to be the best climber of the bunch and felt like an adequate descender, but not sled-like. I think a 150mm travel fork would slacken things just enough to make this bike even better–but that might void your warranty (so, don’t say you heard it from me).

Good Altitude

  • Amazing climber… one of the best in this category
  • Active suspension in all conditions
  • Super light at 25.9 lbs.
  • Full-carbon frame (everything but the chainstays) smooths out the little stuff
  • This bike looks sexy
  • Cool, direct-mount front derailleur simplifies setup
  • Awesome build kit
  • Excellent price for a full-carbon trailbike

Bad Altitude

  • Not a downhill sled, but still capable
  • A little carbon chatter here and there (this bike was a prototype, so the chatter should be fixed for production)
  • Tires are a little narrow
  • The stock grips should be pitched

Rocky Mountain Altitude RSL 90 Bike Review

The Bottom Line on the Rocky Mountain Altitude 90 RSL

This bike had a lot of hype surrounding it prior to Interbike and I was excited to swing a leg over it. The “Straight Up” geometry is awesome–putting you firmly in control of the climbs. As a result, this bike climbs amazingly-well. The carbon-equipped RSL 90 is a smooth performer overall, but it is just a tad more twitchy on the downhill than others in this category. For the elite marathon or all-day epic rider, the Altitude RSL 90 will take you higher.

Buy Now: Visit to Find a Local Dealer

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. Nice review Jason. I read your review of the Santa Cruz Blur Lt and comments on the Mojo in comparison. How do you rate the Rocky against those two? I rode the Mojo and found it to work well but coundn’t get used to the DW link feeling like the bike has a hinge in the middle when going through dips. Also, do you know how much the carbon frame weighs on the Altitude?



    • Mike… that’s odd that you feel the DW is “hinge-like”. Yes, it is different than riding a 4-bar or Horst, but I quite like the way it feels.

      Anyway. As far as rating the Altitude against the LT and the Mojo, I’d have to say it’s definitely one of the better climbers, but it’s hard to beat the Mojo uphill. I don’t feel like it was quite as comfortable at speed as the LT or Mojo as it felt a tad “un-Rocky” in its downhill capability to me.

      I really need to get on one again for a long-term review this Spring, but that’s about all I can recall.

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  3. stuart keshen on

    how do you think this bike or something similar like the altitude 50 compares with the giant trance x2?

    thanks, stu

  4. Stu… good question. Both bikes seem to be well-suited to an all-day marathon-type ride. Both are similarly-equipped, but the Rocky has more travel. However, with that increase in travel, you get the efficiency of the Straight Up geometry.

    The Trance X2 offers a big bang-for-the-buck at nearly $800 less. You will have slightly less travel, but that’s a lot of coin. Hard to say without knowing more about your riding style and intended use.

  5. stuart keshen on

    thanks so much for your reply. I am a weekend warrior who does some moderate trails in the toronto canada area. I am sure either bike will be great, just thought I would get some input from an experienced reviewer. Thanks.

  6. Pingback: 2011 Rocky Mountain Slayer Unveiled -

  7. Hello Jason,

    Similar question to the above, I am trying to decide between the SC Blur LTc and the RM Altitude 90? How much of a better climber is the RM vs. the Blur LTc and is the Blur LTc very noticable better on the downhill? I ride primarily in Kananaskis on longer trails (3-6 hrs)with some steep downhills and am having a hard time deciding between these two…they are so close! Have to admit, the Blur appeals more visually but looks are not everything:) Would really appreciate your feedback if you have a moment.



    • I may have to defer to others who have had longer ride time on both the Altitude 90 and the BLTc. I rode the Altitude 90 as a prototype now two years ago. All I remember (aside from what’s written) is that it did ascend really well, but I felt it was lacking a tad in the downhill.

      I have ridden the BLT2 (aluminum) at length and really enjoyed it on the downhill, but felt it was a little sluggish on the up. I have heard that the BLTc is almost an entirely-different beast than the aluminum version and that climbing and ascending are a dream.

      Really tough call… do you have any shops that can lend you a demo? I’d say the BLTc would likely be my first choice between those two if I had to go into it blind, but if you can ride the RM Altitude and love it, you won’t be disappointed.

  8. Awesome and thanks for the quick reply. My concern was the downhill aspects of the bike and have test ridden both on the street, which isn’t really a test:) They felt similar, thought that the RM accelerated faster but the LTc was very plush indeed. Styling I prefer the LTC, but no water bottle spot which seems lame as I prefer to ride without a back.

    My dilemma is that I have a smoking good deal available on a RM 90 with full XTR, 140mm front fork, etc… that would cost about $500 less than a LTc with an XT, 150mm Talas front fork setup. I am leaning LTc despite the great deal on the RM 90 because is seems to be more versatile in the configuration (XC to Trail/AM), style is sweet and lots of good reviews available. All the RM 90 reviews have made mention of it not being very ‘Rocky’ like on the downhill which concerns me a bit.

    Thanks for the input.

    • Hi Jason
      Thanks for the awesome reviews. I’m 56 and have been riding mountain bikes since 1981. I made my living on a bike for awhile. I have DH (RMX) a nomad and a giant trance xo. I’m doing more enduro riding and find the trance an awesome bike but a bit short on the top tube (medium). I live near Nelson BC and the trails involve lots of climbing (up to 6000′) and technical descents. I have a bad back and need a good climber. I’m leaning towards the Altitude but am also considering the SC blur LT and the yeti 575. I’ve heard the altitudes are twitchy going down but thought a longer 150 fox talas would help on descents and ascents. What would you recommend for a light efficient climber. I’m also after a plush ride. Weight is important too. I do many all day rides (8 hours). Will carbon hold up? Money is not an issue.

      • Pierre

        Looks like you really want the do-it-all “superbike”. Good luck with that. 🙂 Just kidding.

        There are so many great options in that regard and you named a few of them. I’d suggest looking at some of the following:

        Ibis Mojo
        Turner 5-Spot
        Yeti SB-66 (Al or Carbon)

        I’d also throw in there the Niner RIP 9 as an option if you want to go with big hoops.

        AND… if you take care of your bikes, I see no issues with going carbon.

        • Hi Jason
          Thanks for the recommendations. Right now I have two smoking deals. Its between a 2011 Altitude 70 RSL and a 2011 yeti 575.
          Some say the yeti is flexi and has brake jack.
          What would you recommend they have similar components slightly used and both $2000.
          Thanks for the great service you provide.

          • Always a tough call when the deals are similar. Honestly, it’s been several years since I rode the Altitude and the geometry has likely been refined since that time. And, the feedback you’ve heard on the 575 may also be from the older design as well.

            If it’s a 2011 575, then it’s got the tapered HT and re-designed rear triangle, right?

            If it were up to me, I’d likely go 575, but again, the Altitude may not be as twitchy on the down as it once was. Good luck and thanks!

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