Rocky Mountain 790 MSL Test Bike

Our Rocky Mountain Altitude 650B test bike arrived two weeks prior to the Fox Enduro Product Launch, where we swapped the stock 2013 Float Fork and CTD Shock for 2014 Talas and Float X long term review units. Since it’s arrived, it’s been dragged out of the stable, abused, and put away dirty on an almost daily basis. This is the bike our friends gawk at and our test riders beg to shred.

Make a checklist of everything hip and the Rocky hits all the marks. 27.5” wheels, adjustable geometry, stealth dropper routing, etc, etc, etc…

Rocky Mountain 790 MSL Handlebar

The Rocky Mountain’s cockpit has cables on cables on cables. Stock, it is sold with a Kashima Fox CTD shock with a bar mounted lockout lever, which brings the cable count to six. Six cables which offer every imaginable convenience at the tips of your fingers. My inner curmudgeon hates all the cables, but my inner slouch adores each one of those levers.

In particular, the bar mounted shock lockout has been a pleasant surprise. With a wide open shock set up for descending, the suspension is very active. A characteristic that is exasperated in the granny gear. So the the ability to adjust the shock on the fly is incredibly useful when bouncing off the rev limiter  (I’m looking at you Strava.)

Rocky Mountain 790 MSL Ride 9

The Altitude is several bikes wrapped into one sleek carbon package. Two concentric squares allow the bike’s personality to deviate from highly capable XC ripper to Enduro oriented shredder. Adjusting the chips allows riders to change the head tube angle by 2 degrees, drop (or raise) the BB by 10mm, and make the suspension more or less progressive. For non-armchair-engineers, Rocky has made set up simple by creating an interactive website. Plug, play, and diddle. Just be careful when you swap settings/shocks or you’ll be playing 52 pick up.

One of our major long term concerns with the Altitude is the possibility of creaking from Rocky Mountain’s innovative Ride 9 system. No issues to report so far, but we received our test bike towards the latter part of It’s Always Sunny in California. Another area of interest is the use of bushings throughout the frame. Previous experience leaves us leery of future squeaking, but Rocky has been using their”ABC Concept” system which uses two sealed preloaded conical bushings on other frames without incident. The engineers also claim that the plastic bushings doubled rear end pivot stiffness and helped drop 120 grams from the frame.

Rocky Mountain 790 MSL Seat and SeatpostThe engineers and product designers behind this bicycle took everything into consideration. The bike even boasts a little rubber booty around the seat clamp to keep mud and grime out of the frame. Even the splash of green on the saddle matches the fluorescent frame accents. If only the stock saddle was as comfortable as it is flashy. “Shammy” or no “shammy,” the Fizik saddle is hard, flat, and mean.

Rocky Mountain 790 MSL Drivetrain
An aluminum piece protects the chain stays in the event a chain drops, an issue we’ve encountered only a few times over the past two months

Drivetrain duties are performed by SRAM’s popular 2×10 group but expect to see a XX1 (or X01) option offered next year. Overall, shifting performance is smooth but we had issues with clicking from the “non serviceable” clutch mechanism. This is a known warranty issue stemming from a lack of sufficient grease in the clutch and was quickly warrantied. Anyone experiencing a similar issue on a 2×10 equipped bike should check for proper chain length before heading to their LBS.

What we couldn’t fix with a quick call to the warranty department was our disappointment with the Avid XO Trail brakes. Despite a full system bleed earlier this month, the brakes are already due for another. While we’re normally a big fan of Avid’s power and modulation, this pair has been all bark and no bite. Braking power is underwhelming in comparison to the recent offerings.

(Editor’s note/update: Rocky Mountain’s website spec’s this model with the newer Trail brakes, which is the right choice for a bike like this compared to standard Elixir brakes, and most of us have found to be pretty stellar.)

Nobby Nics 650B This test bike was previously on loan to another media outlet. When we received it, the rear tire was beginning to show signs of wear, but after a month of riding – it’s hurting. Side knobbies and braking bumps are beginning to tear and a replacement tire runs (rolls?) $89 MSRP. The matching front and rear tires use Schwable’s uber soft race oriented PaceStar compound, which may explain the unusually fast wear we’re experiencing on the rear tire. At the current rate, the front tire will need to be rotated to the rear by the end of the summer.

While Zach is a big fan of the Nobby Nics in the smooth soil of the Midwest, I found these tires to be predictably loose out here in California. The tires are light weight and roll incredibly fast, but if this were my personal bike – I’d throw on a meatier front. Rocky Mountain 790 MSL Canada Details

As an American, the one thing that consistently drew my ire was all the Canadian Maple Leaf imagery. I know Canada is the best and all, but I think the bike would be greatly improved for the US market by following the suggestions above.

Ride Impressions

Rocky Mountain 790 MSL

Out on the trail, this bike transforms even a rider with mediocre endurance into an enduro racer. The upright seat tube angle, roomy cockpit, and slightly forward bias when seated makes quick work of steep technical pitches. Drop it into the granny and the pedal bob may be unsettling for those accustomed to a DW-Link, but the bar mounted shock adjustment will stiffen the rear shock enough to satisfy both XC whippets and flat pedal laggards.

There are nine different geometry settings on this bike and we haven’t explored each one, but XC riders looking for even more speed can steepen the headtube angle to early 2000 DH levels. For gravity getters (such as myself), flipping between the slackest and stock mode will be worthwhile. Even at it its most raked, the bike preserves a nimble XC personality. Riders looking for something slacker and more aggressive should look to the Slayer. The Altitude is billed as a trail bike and it rips up and down, all day, everyday.

When smashing through rocks and roots, the frame rewards riders with a surge of speed when ridden rearwards. Lean forward and it’s point and shoot through berms. It’s well balanced when descending aggressively and the short(ish) chain stays lend themselves to mini whips over natural doubles and repeated manuals.

The 150mm 27.5” genre is relatively new but Rocky Mountain has done an excellent job at creating a bike with a unique persona, well suited to the needs of a your average trail rider. With its happy go lucky, middle of the road persona, it’s a good fit for the XC oriented rider looking for more travel or the gravity rider interested in keeping up on the climbs.Rocky Mountain Badge

Our top of the line test bike retails for $6,899, but you can get a complete for $2,849. A carbon frame/shock are also available separately. Check out all the options here. Over the remainder of our test period, we hope to explore several of the other geometry positions, and keep an ear out for bushing wear/squeak. Have any questions? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try to follow up in our long term review.






  1. Great article and I feel ya on the knobby nics for sure!! Now send that out to me and let me rip it around the bike path!!

  2. i bet you only eat “freedom fries” and get angry when people arnt speaking “american” when in the USA too

  3. Yep… Rocky has over maple-leafed this one ! : )) They should just include a set of stickers so you can personalize the bike to your own satisfaction. Put the “designed in Canada” memento on the down tube and be done with it !

  4. I’m sure it was probably exasperating when the suspension’s active tendencies were exacerbated in the granny ring.

  5. This is one of the most informative looks at a bike ive read in a long time. Thank you!
    I love Made in America but i like our northern neighbors and am not put off by the leaves.
    If you get a chance review the Instinct msl. preferably the BC edition. I hear good things bout it!

  6. Xris- Nobody in the article said anything about shuddering at buying what obviously is a good product. They just said there were a lot of the leaves. I’m from the US, and would find a bunch of American (or any others) kind of lame from a design standpoint.
    And do you really shudder at riding, say SRAM shifters, because you don’t like US foreign policy, or even Americans in general? I’m planning on getting a Russian frame- bad aspects of Russia like gay pride parades in Moscow getting attacked and so on are things I never think about when buying products from there.

  7. I’m a Canadian and ride a Cannondale. I appreciate the American flag and ‘made in America’ on it as to me made in NA is what counts, not in Vietnam or somewhere. But yeah, I agree with Woof above lol.

What do you think?