I’m looking for a new mountain bike and have been needing a new bike for a couple of years now. My current mountain bike is a Santa Cruz Heckler and I’ve ridden it for the past 5 or 6 years and is desperately in need of retiring. The Heckler has been a great bike to me, weighing in at 30lbs with 5 inches of travel front and rear it’s the perfect bike to point down hill and ride as hard and as fast you can. Climbing on the heckler was always a bit of a challenge and took a lot of physical effort.
Looking for a new Mountain Bike I wanted to the best of both worlds, but primarily was looking for something that had about 5 inches of travel but was light enough to climb well and even race some longer endurance races. After the past few months of looking I narrowed it down to the Rocky Mountain Altitude, Giant Trance and the Santa Cruz Blur LTc. I ruled out the Blur LTc as a true contender purely for the fact that I had rode a Santa Cruz for the past several years and wanted a change – not the most logical of decisions, but a decision none the less.
So it came down to the Giant Trance and the Rocky Mountain Altitude and this weekend I was able to take them both out for 3 hour rides to see which one I would ultimately end up purchasing. At this point I have to send out a HUGE thank-you to Jason at the Ski Stop (@theskistop on twitter) for allowing me to take both the bikes out of the shop for the weekend to test ride on actual trails. Typically a bike shop will allow you to ride the bike around the parking lot to see if you’ll like it but it tells you absolutely nothing about how it will handle on the trails.
I rode the Rocky Mountain Altitude first. My analysis of this bike is as follows:
Rocky have created a very different bike with the Altitude, it’s the company’s “all mountain” bike, built for long endurance rides of several hours in length. In order to stand out from the other bikes in this category Rocky redesigned the whole bike. The largest change, compared to it’s competitors is the 76 degree seat angle on the bike putting you right above the pedals for maximum power. This position on the bike makes an incredible difference when climbing, the front wheel feels as though it’s glued to the ground even on the steepest of climbs and the bike climbs like a goat. I’ve never experienced a bike that climbs as well as this bike and responds so quickly when you put your foot down on the pedal. The pay-off for such a drastic change in geometry is that descending quickly on the steeper slopes is a little more tricky. The bike is definitely more twitchy in the front end and you have to work harder to keep the bike in a straight line over steep and fast rocky or rooty descents.
The Giant Trance on the other hand was a completely different feel to the Rocky. Both the bikes I rode were extra-large frames, the Rocky Mountain had a top tube length of 24.2 inches and the Giant Trance had a top tube length of 25 inches. Why do I mention this? The top tube length Giant although only .8 of an inch longer, felt like I was over-reaching to hold on to the handle-bars. The bike was very large and the whole feel of the bike felt heavy and unresponsive. I had to work for every pedal stroke when I was climbing and riding the flat sections of trail and although it climbed substantially better than my Heckler, it could not match the Rocky Mountain Altitude on the climbs. The benefit of this though was that the more traditional angles of the Trance made it a hell of a lot of fun descending on. This bike really amazed me at how well it and how fast you could ride it down steep trails, rocks and roots. In fact I would also say it descended better than my Heckler and until now I’ve only ever had the best things to say about the Santa Cruz Heckler. The Trance is a bike that is an average climber, takes all your effort to get it up to speed and keep it at speed on the flats but excels when descending and allows you the confidence to descend at speed with the knowledge that you will not get bucked around by the roots and rocks that frequent the trails in these parts.
Overall, I was torn between the two bikes but at the end of the day I chose to order the Rocky Mountain Altitude, my goal was to find a bike that could climb as well at it can descend and be light enough to race some longer endurance races. The Altitude ticked all those boxes for me and although it will undoubtedly take a little more finesse to keep it on line when descending quickly, that’s a challenge I have no issues facing. The order for the bike goes in tomorrow and I’m already pumped about the first ride. I had a fantastic weekend on the trails around Canmore having fun on two very different bikes but it sure made it easier to find the ideal bike for my needs, something riding them around the parking lot would never have accomplished.