The gossip usually begins when something new is released on the market. This occurred with 24”-wheeled bikes and is occurring again now: the current subjects of discussion are 26”, 27.5”, or 29”. Which one is the best to go with? Most bike magazines try to empirically prove or disprove the truth with the help of pseudo-analyses and laboratory tests. However, they sometimes fail to see the essential point: there is no absolute truth. Each system has its benefits and drawbacks. It’s not the size of the wheels that’s important, but rather their functionality.
That’s why we don’t raise the question of whether the Rocky Mountain’s 650B wheels ride well, but rather whether the (entire) bike excels on the terrain for which it is designed.
Thus we have a subjective bike test, exclusively concentrating on the functions – without focusing on single parameters or geometry data without context. What really counts is the bike. Not the size of the wheel as part of an overall concept!
End of discussion! Right? At the bike presentation in a small village in Austria, we were able to give the aluminum version of the Altitude 750 a first try. Apart from state-of-the-art technology such as a 142 mm rear through-axle, internally routed cables (including the Stealth solution for Rock Shox Reverb), ISCG05 mount, and seat clamp protection, the Ride-9-System at the forward shock mount seems to be its highlight. Nine different settings via a dual insert arrangement allow riders to adjust geometry and suspension spring curve for the 150 mm of travel according to their own riding style and weight. This is a useful adjustment you would usually just do once during basic setup, because it would be too elaborate to change on the trail. Unfortunately, there is no mark or explanation on the frame.
Uphill, the steep seat angle is evident: We found ourselves positioned quite close to the front, offering an efficient pedaling position while climbing. At the same time, this position brings more pressure to the handlebar, which effectively prevents the front wheel from lifting on steep climbs. The grip – thanks to the sizeable contact patch of the tires – is great even on gravel or loose surfaces.
Having reached the top, we prepared for the downhill. The centered position above the bike provides confidence from the beginning. Despite the 650B wheels, you feel inside the bike. Thanks to very short chain stays (428 mm), the Rocky seems pretty agile and is easy to get onto its back wheel. It is also easy to turn and handle in curves – there are definitely some less agile 26” bikes out there. Another advantage is the great rolling on square-edged terrain. The rear suspension feels very firm at the beginning of the travel and there is only minimal bobbing while pedaling. The mid-stroke, on the other hand, is pretty plush, providing some good bump absorption. The only drawback is the resulting undefined compression feeling – you sometimes get the mushy sensation of having a flat tire. On the other hand, we love the progressive end-stroke. We missed having a height-adjustable seatpost (which is standard on the pricier models) and a chain guide (which can be added easily).
Bottom line: All in all, Rocky managed to design the new Altitude as a very convincing trail bike– clearing out any doubts about 650B. However, you should be prepared to customize it depending on your purposes.www.enduro-mtb.com/en/magazine