Bushings (vs. Bearings)
Another noteworthy thing about the Altitude (both the Rally and non-Rally versions) is that they use bushings rather than bearings in all of their pivots. Most bikes these days are using bearings in their main pivots because they rotate smoothly, and it’s not too big a deal to replace them if they go bad.
Bushings, on the other hand, are stiffer, lighter, and potentially less expensive to replace and to use in the first place. Rocky Mountain isn’t the first company to eschew bearings and go with bushings; companies like Turner have taken a similar approach. The pitch for bushings, generally speaking, is that they’re well equipped to take the sort of lateral loads that full-suspension bike pivots experience. Bearings are great if you need something to spin smoothly at high speed—e.g., a hub. But the pivots on full-suspension bikes only move a few degrees, and the rotational forces that the pivots experience are fairly high, so the added friction that you get using a bushing is easily overcome.
My take is that high-quality bushings work well, and there’s no denying that they save some weight (Rocky Mountain claims that using bushings saves 120 grams on the Altitude). That said, the lack of smoothness compared to bearings is noticeable; small bump sensitivity suffers a little bit.
As for stiffness, I’ve ridden both stiff and flexy frames with both bearings and bushings. It’s entirely possible to make a super-stiff frame with bearings, and a super-flexy frame with bushings, so I think that issue comes down to the overall design of the frame. Long story short, bushing have some upsides and downsides, but I don’t find any of those traits to be so significant as to swing my opinion strongly toward one side or the other.
The Altitude (both the Rally and the regular editions, aluminum and carbon) has clean, internal cable routing, including internal routing for a dropper post and shock remote.
With an ever expanding rat’s nest of cables finding their way onto bikes, it’s nice that everything is kept relatively tidy.
Fit and Geometry
The geometry numbers for the Altitude Rally Edition are largely variable; putting the Ride-9 chip in different positions will change everything from the bottom bracket height, to the head angle, to the reach.
Generally speaking, I found the Rally’s geometry to be fairly middle-of-the-road by modern “All Mountain” standards, and I was comfortable on it from the get go.
All of the following measurements are for a size medium, the size I tested:
The head angle is adjustable from a moderately slack 66.2 degrees up to a fairly steep 67.8 degrees.
Reach adjusts from a fairly short 405mm (15.9”) to a more average 422mm (16.6”).
The chainstays are 428mm (16.85”), which is on the short side, especially for a bike with 27.5” wheels.
The horizontal top tube comes in at 586 (23”), which, again, is fairly average.
The seat tube angle on the Rally is relatively steep – adjustable from 73.2 degrees to 74.8 degrees. This isn’t way out of the realm of the ordinary, but it’s on the steep side. I found that this made seated climbing a bit easier – the seat ends up being farther forward, so I didn’t have to get up on the nose of the saddle quite so much to keep the front wheel from wandering.
All in all, I had a really easy time getting used to the fit of this bike. Again, all of the numbers are pretty middle-of-the-road, so while this gives me a little less to talk about here, it also means that the bike doesn’t feel strange and there weren’t any weird attributes that I had to get used to.
The Build of the Altitude 770 MSL Rally Edition
The build of the 770 MSL Rally Edition is what sets it apart from the “regular” Altitude series. The Rally Edition gets a Kashima-coated Fox 34 Fit CTD with 160mm travel (10mm more than the regular Altitude), and a Fox Float X rear shock (with the same amount of travel as the regular Altitude, but it has a piggyback).
It also comes with wider, 785mm Raceface bars (750mm on the regular version), a 10mm shorter stem (50-60mm length, depending on frame size), and wider rims (Stan’s Flow EX on the Rally, Arch EX on the regular).
All of these “upgrades” are appreciated. Pretty much every one of these modifications is something that I would have done to the bike anyway, if I was tasked with upgrading a regular Altitude to fit my tastes. The build on the Rally feels like some product manager at Rocky Mountain decided to spec a bike however he (or she) wanted it, and thus the Rally was born. This is a good thing, and kudos to Rocky Mountain for putting together a sweet build.
And I should also note that many of the “basic” parts are also well spec’d. There’s a stock Rockshox Reverb Stealth that worked flawlessly, a WTB Silverado saddle that happens to be my personal favorite seat option, and some Avid Elixir 9 Trail brakes that I continue to be happy with.
There were, however, two parts of this build that I didn’t get along with. The first was the tires: Continental Mountain King 2.4”. I’ve yet to find a Continental tire that I’ve been super psyched on, and the Mountain Kings were no exception. Whistler is loamy, rocky, and rooty, and in those conditions, I didn’t find the Mountain Kings to do anything well. They didn’t grip well on the climbs, they didn’t bite well on the descents, and they didn’t hook up well in the corners. Maybe there are some other conditions where they do well, but I’m not sure what those conditions would be. The tires are something I’d switch out on this bike fairly quickly.
The other thing I wasn’t entirely excited about was the drivetrain. The components (X9 shifter / derailleur, Raceface cranks, E-Thirteen chainguide) were all fine, and worked great. But Rocky Mountain has made the ballsy move of selling this bike in a 1×10 configuration with a 34t chainring. That means the easiest gear on this thing is a 34t ring in the front, and a 36t rear cog.
On one hand, I applaud Rocky Mountain for having some faith in their customers and specing a drivetrain that doesn’t have anything that even resembles a granny ring. On the other hand, Whistler has a lot of steep climbs, and my legs are not made of steel. The gearing pretty much left me with no choice but to enter the pain cave and hate-fuck the pedals till I reached the top. And on more than one occasion, I just ended up walking. This bike would be a prime candidate for a 1×11 setup, so hopefully now that the less expensive SRAM X1 option exists, we’ll see a more uphill-friendly Rally Edition next year.