By Mike Cushionbury. Photos by Justin Steiner
Rocky Mountain started with a clean slate for its new 150mm travel Altitude 770 MSL. The Canadian company weighed the pros and cons of wheel sizes and decided that for a long travel, do-it-all trail/all-mountain bike with a genetic gift for descending, 27.5 was the ideal hoop size. Like geometry and suspension travel, Rocky now uses wheel size to enhance its bike’s ride characteristics.
Another key component to the Altitude is the Ride-9 adjustment system. By rotating two interlocking chips on the upper shock mount the position of the rear shock changes to steepen or slacken head angle, seat angle, and raise or lower bottom bracket position. It also alters suspension rate at the top and bottom of the stroke. The result is nine possible geometry and suspension rate configurations. The chip additionally provides a “custom tune” for lighter or heavier riders to create a suspension system that performs very consistently in feel and performance for a 135lb rider or a 250lb rider.
The 770 MSL comes with a great parts group including a very reliable Shimano XT drivetrain as well as an internally cable routed RockShox Reverb dropper post—its handlebar mounted remote was poked nearly as much as the rear derailleur shifter on every ride. The Fox Float rear shock CTD shock has a handy but oversized handlebar mounted remote adjuster to toggle between Climb, Trail and Descend damping platforms, which was also thumbed and prodded consistently throughout every ride.
With three solid days of shredding in Pisgah, North Carolina, some things became readily apparent: when pedaling got technical the FOX Float CTD shock’s Trail setting was a mixed bag of efficiency and traction. Climb mode tended to skip off edges too much and lose grip and had a noticeable degree of bob on smooth, fire road climbs (a lover this bike isn’t designed to marry.) Rocky’s SmoothLink suspension doesn’t have much anti-squat in its design so it relies mostly on shock platform to control bob.
When it was time to really push the limits the Rocky Mountain showed its true heritage of aggressive savvy. As its travel suggests, the 770 was a capable climber right at home scaling the slow-speed, technical rock climbs and slickrock of DuPont, N.C., rather than the smooth, fire road grinders right out of our Davidson campsite. For this Trail was the perfect shock setting.
When it was time to rally the big stuff, open the shock to descend and let loose. It’s quick and nimble like its 26-inch wheeled little brother (I often forgot I was on slightly bigger wheels) yet still possessed an uncanny ability to float above rocks and roots like its bigger, 29er uncle. Ultimately the 770 MSL is a great mix of form and function wrapped into a do-it-all package. It’s aggressively tuned to handle big hit descents yet agile enough to be a daily trail bike in most any locale.
Want to read more? Look for a full-length review in the new issue of Dirt Rag.