In February, Rocky Mountain’s eMTB lineup, which has seen substantial European success, launched at home. The company itself engineered a motor-drive-and-battery system to fit neatly in and around its desired pivot and shock locations. By not having to build the frame around an outsourced motor, the company didn’t have to make compromises with its geometry. As a result, the Altitude Powerplay, a nearly 50-lb. bike, feels surprisingly nimble and quite easy to manoeuvre through all but the most techy trails, especially when trying to get the front wheel up over obstacles.
Altitude Powerplay models have proper ebike-specific components including a stiffer more robust Fox 36 fork,
SRAM Guide RE four-piston brakes and the wide-range EX1 drivetrain. The full carbon frame on the top model, the Carbon 90, helps keep flex minimal. Most people who picked the bike up were surprised it was not heavier. The 1 x 8 drivetrain works very well; it’s designed to shift only one gear at a time, reducing the chance of a broken chain with all the torque that motor could deliver. That said, the sensitivity with which the power assist operates is impressive. When you need to finesse the output over slippery rooted climbs, the system reads your input well to keep you from spinning out. If I ever found myself stalled out, not able to get restarted on a tricky climb, the integrated walk mode was helpful as pushing the 47.6-lb. bike uphill is not a fun task. In this mode, you can change gears while walking along, which adjusts the speed that the bike moves.
The controller for the system sits tidily above the dropper lever on the left side of the bar and gives basic information to the rider, such as battery level and current assist level. For more detailed GPS-based data, including maps and speed, a phone bar mount and a free download of the Ebikemotion app will pair most smartphones, via Bluetooth, to the system. This feature also allows you to adjust the motor maps to your own liking, instantly. During early testing, I needed to turn down the full power slightly as there was still ice and snow on the trails. I found the Ludicrous setting, as they call it, too much for those conditions. Once things dried up, it was a different story. I raised all the power settings up from stock. I found myself being able to fit rides into much shorter time windows and would always finish with lots of charge leftover. You will be fresher in the legs. I found, however, the extra weight of the bike did show my lack of upper-body work this past winter. I was knocking out 15-km trail rides with 600 m of climbing and black-diamond descents in around 50 minutes, after doing five hours of trail work that day and having no real desire to get on my unassisted bike.
For some riders, the eMTB category is still a bit contentious. There are fans and haters. Still, anyone who threw a leg over my test bike had a pretty big grin after a few pedal strokes.