First Impressions: Rocky Mountain’s Altitude Powerplay C70
Sweeping changes aim for an eMTB that feels natural on trails even with an assist
Rocky Mountain just rolled out a completely overhauled Powerplay eMTB line, including its own Dyname 4.0 drive system. There’s sweeping changes to both the Instinct and Altitude Powerplay models going into 2022, both to the frame and the drive units.
Over the past few weeks, We’ve been testing the Altitude Powerplay, Rocky’s larger, more eEnduro-focused eMTB. The new bike comes in both all-alloy frames and carbon frames with alloy rear triangles. We’re testing the carbon fibire, Altitude Powerplay C70 version.
Here are some first impressions on the next generation of Rocky Mountain’s Altitude Powerplay and Dyname 4.0 system.
10mm of chainstay adjustment
Rocky Mountain's simplified Ride-4 system
Modular shock mounts
Fork bumpers on the downtube
Rocky Mountain keeps the wires clean as possible outside the Altitude, with full internal routing inside the frame
2022 Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay: adjustable geometry comes to electric
Rocky Moutain’s changes to the bigger of its two eMTB’s largely follow the changes the Canadian brand made to its human powered enduro bike late last year. New frame features like a 10mm chainstay length adjustment and a modular shock mount (for carbon fibre models) cross over to the eMTB realm for the first time. Mimicing the unplugged Altitude, the geometry is more aggressive, with a degree slacker head tube angle than the old Powerplay and a steeper seat tube angle. There’s also 10-mm more travel, front and rear, bringing the bike to a 170-mm fork and 160-mm rear travel.
RELATED: Rocky Mountain unleashes next generation Powerplay Altitude and Instinct
All that geometry is adjustable with Rocky Mountain’s new Ride-4 system. Ride-4 is simplified version of the classic Ride-9 chip system. It gives a the Altitude Powerplay a range of 63.5-degree to 64.3-degree head tube angle, which also adjusts seat tube angle from 75.5 to 76.3-degrees. These changes also carry a bottom bracket height change of 10-mm from the steep to slack settings.
Fox 38 E forks
Shimano XT Trail four-piston brakes
Fox Float X2 Performance shock always impresses
Maxxis Assegai 2.5" WT in DD MaxxGrip and with CushCore installed
Maxxis Minion DHR II MaxxTerra DD casing, agin with CushCore.
Altitude Powerplay C70: build kit
Rocky Mountain kits out the Altitude Powerplay C70 with parts that reflect its improved capabilities and added power. Suspension is handled by a 170-mm Fox 38E Float Performance Series, e-rated, and Fox Float XT Performance shock. Shimano’s four-piston XT Trail brakes pull on appropriately large 203-mm rotors, while Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain, with a Race Face Aeffect alloy crank, feed the Dyname 4.0 motor.
The wheels are simple and would be unremarkable if it weren’t for the addition of CushCore tire inserts, pre-installed, on both wheels and full DD casing Maxxis tires. Tire inserts are a perfect match for the added weight of eMTBs, and its excellent to see Rocky Mountain taking the step to include them stock on every bike. Same goes for the Double Down casing for the Assegai, with sticky MaxxGrip rubber, and MaxxTerra Minion DHR tires. eMTB’s put more stress on tires, and you don’t have to worry about climbing, so tougher rubber makes sense. The rim and tire-saving inserts are installed on WTB ST i30 TCS 2.0 alloy rims rolling on a DT Swiss Hybrid 370 rear hub and Rocky’s own front hub.
Race Face Aeffect R 30.9 dropper posts give the saddle a 170-mm range (for Large and XL frames. Smalls get 125-mm posts and 150-mm on Medium frames). With more manufacturers moving to longer dropper posts, this is almost short for an eEnduro bike. (Note: the C90 XL comes with a 200mm post stock, so presumably fit isn’t an issue). Finally, there’s a WTB saddle and Rocky’s own 760-mm wide alloy bars.
All this gives the 2022 Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C70 a price tag of $11,340.00.
On the trail: riding the Altitude Powerplay C70
Since picking up the Altitude Powerplay, I’ve been able to squeeze in a few rides between – and occasionally during – heavy rains from B.C.’s Atmospheric River and Weather Bomb. Part of that window was three days of riding at the MegaVolt, BCBR’s new eMTB event. So far I’ve mixed flowy blue trails with fun little jumps and more technical riding, the later serving a healthy dose of greasy roots and rocks.
So far, I’ve come away impressed with the Altitude Powerplay’s balance. EMTB’s still aren’t light, and my XL test bike tips past the 50lbs barrier by a couple pounds. But with that weight, and at the 160/170-mm travel with 29″ wheels, it still feels maneuverable and reasonably spry on trails. It changes direction quickly in corners and gets airborne (and lands again) with confidence and stability, and little change in technique compared to analog bikes. Maybe this is the effect of the new Mid-High Pivot suspension design, which is more progressive and has a more rearward axle path than before, but it seems to deal with small chatter and breaking bumps as well without sacrificing its ability to take the few larger impacts I’ve dared try so far.
Having CushCore come installed has let me run lower tire pressures for better cornering and grip in the greasy conditions instead of running too-hard tires and worrying about destroying the rims.
I’ve kept the chainstays in the short setting, which has definitely helped the Altitude get around corners. The long setting is supposed to help with stability at speed but, maybe because of the motor’s added weight, I haven’t felt squirrely or unstable enough to want to try change that yet.
A redesigned, simplified remote is smaller Photo: Terry McKall
A (very) long note on Dyname 4.0
The Altitude benefits from Rocky Mountain’s new Dyname 4.0 drive system. It also gets the brand new “Jumbotron” display screen. The Dyname 4.0 is quieter than some systems (though not as quiet as Specialized’ belt drive motor), and has a different, more mechanical noise than the typical eMTB whine. Rocky says this is because the 4.0 system uses a lower motor rpm, reducing the electrical whine. Rocky’s also changed the layout from the 3.0 system, reducing mechanical drag and noise for the 4.0 version.
Instead of an accompanying app, Rocky Mountain decided to make the Dyname system adjustable through the Jumbotron. Using the remote, you get simple but meaningful adjustments. That is, you can actually feel quite a difference between Boost levels 0 (neutral) and +2 (very supportive), and battery levels. It’s easy to set, and then toggle through the three bike setting profiles using just the remote, too, so you can leave your phone at home.
Trail feel: Boost vs Power Levels
With Ride-4, chainstay adjustments, and all the options in the Dyname 4.0 system, there are a ton of ways to adapt the Altitude Powerplay to your personal preferences. So far, I’ve focused my time on the Dyname 4.0 system, leaving the bike in the short chainstay and neutral Ride-4 positions. I’ve experimented with both geo changes on the unplugged Instinct, and I’m keen to see how they work on the Altitude but, with the Jumbotron being a new feature, I’ve focused on how adjusting the motor impacts the bike.
Being able to easily, and independently tune Boost (torque sensitivity) and assistance power helps the Altitude feel more natural. Or, respond in a way that makes it easy to ride in a way that feels like a normal bike. The Boost level adjusts how the motor responds to rider input, with a range from -2, where you have to put in more effort, to +2, which requires very little effort to get to maximum assist within whatever power level you are in.
The four power levels, Eco, Trail, Trail+ and Ludicrous, are measured in percentage of available power, and can be adjusted independently. So if you set Trail+ to 70 per cent and Boost to +2, it takes very little effort to get the motor up to 70 per cent assist. If you set Boost to -2, you have to put in a good effort to get to the same assist level.
I like this for two reasons. First, everyone has different ideas of what feels natural and what they want from an eMTB. Adjustable Boost lets you set what feels good to you, which makes the Altitude more predictable on trails. Second, it lets you have different experiences depending on how you feel like riding, since the three bike profiles are easy to switch between. Some rides, I want to put in more effort and really just want enough assist that the motor overcomes the weight of the bike (and … maybe a little more, if I’m being honest with myself). Other days, when I’m really tired or feeling lazy, I want it to do more work for me faster. Increasing the Boost reduces the wind-up feeling that some eMTB motors have.
In any setting, the Dyname system feels like it responds quicker, and more dynamically, than Shimano’s motor. Which is good if, say, you come out of a slow corner and immediately have to power up a rock. Over three rides on the relentlessly technical old-school trails of Maple Mountain at MegaVolt, not having to wait for the motor to wind up to full support was crucial.
One last note on the Dyname system. Having four support levels is surprisingly beneficial. I didn’t really think this was something I’d need, but I’ve immediately ended up using it a ton, especially on longer rides. Eco’s great for pedally descents, and completely off for steep trails. I used Trail on rolling terrain and Trail+ for hard climbing or more speed. The hilariously-named “Ludicrous” for fire road or paved climbs or that extra kick for really steep pitches. It’s having Trail and Trail+, instead of having to tune down the highest setting, that made the most difference while riding. Who needs four settings? Well, who needs 12 gears? The better measure is if they’re getting used or not. And I found myself switching between Trail and Trail+ frequently.
Dyname 4.0 or no?
In the end, I think the measure of a good motor system – as long as it functions properly – is that it’s easy to use in a way that you can forget you’re using it and just ride. If I don’t have to think about how I need to adjust my riding style and technique to adapt to the motor, I’m happy. In the middle Boost settings, the Altitude blends rider and motor inputs in a way that minimizes the added weight of the bike and lets you focus on the trail, not what’s happening underneath you. In +2 Boost and Trail+ or Ludicrous, the Altitude feels like a bit of a rocket ship, but at least one you’re still in control of and not just along for the ride. I’ve yet to dig into the lower, -2 Boost setting, but it will be interesting to try.
One less positive note on the new motor. During one or two rides, the motor seemed to take a few minutes to warm up. It would provide full power right away, but wouldn’t disengage immediately when going from power to coasting. This wasn’t every ride, and went away after 10-15 minutes of riding, and it wasn’t the warmest or driest weather, but it’s something I’ll be looking into more.
First Impressions: Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C70
With completely redesigned geometry, including two geometry adjustments – Ride4 and a chainstay flipchip – and an updated motor system, there is a lot going in with the new Powerplay. The changes to the Altitude’s geometry, especially in the short chainstay position, make it a fun, snappier ride than some other bikes that push into the e-enduro range. Even when the terrain isn’t as extreme as the Altitude could handle, it’s still a good time. So far I like the Dyname 4.0 / Jumbotron’s simplicity. With Boost and four power levels, there’s enough room to tune the system for most rider preferences, too.
EMTB’s are still expensive, across the board. The Altitude Powerplay C70’s price tag, $11,340.00, is comparable or better than similarly spec’d bikes from to non-direct to consumer brands. Rocky Mountain’s thought through details on the parts kit, including Fox’s very solid e-rated suspension and details like pre-installed CushCore tire inserts. Shimano’s XT drivetrain and brakes are both reliable, with the latter including suitably powerful 203mm rotors to deal with the added weight of an eMTB.
All-in, it’s a promising eMTB. With every generation, eMTBs are getting closer in feel to their analog counterparts, if still heavier. Rocky Mountain is continuing that trend with the Altitude Powerplay.