Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review


Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen

Over the last few months we’ve passed the Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition around to our testers. This was a bike we were really hoping would have arrived in time for our 2021 eMTB Shootout but shipping and COVID-19 delays had the bike show up just days after we returned from our trip. With countless hours on many of the latest and greatest bikes, we were eager to see where the Altitude Powerplay would stack up. Packing 160/150mm of travel front and rear and Rocky Mountain Bike’s own Dyname 3.0 Class 1 eMTB drive unit, it is certainly a unique machine with plenty of style and features for riders looking to get something a bit different.

The Altitude Powerplay is Rocky Mountain’s aggressive trail to borderline enduro offering, loosely based around the well-established analog Altitude. Of course some redesigns are necessary to account for Rocky Mountain’s powerful Dyname 3.0 motor. The system puts out up to 108Nm of torque and 250w of power backed by a 672Wh battery. Available in the Altitude Powerplay range are both alloy and carbon frame options, all rolling on 27.5” wheels with Maxxis Wide Trail tires.

Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review

THE E: When it came to designing the Altitude Powerplay line, the engineers at Rocky Mountain refused to allow the motor to dictate the frame, instead opting to ensure the suspension pivot points and geometry were as they desired. They then created the motor to accommodate these key points. This motor is a separate entity from what is effectively a “standard” mountain bike drivetrain, with the chain routed around a drive pulley on the motor and the frame being equipped with a regular BB89.5 Press Fit bottom bracket that accepts a normal crank with spindle. This is different in that the drive unit isn’t part of the cranks/BB and according to Rocky, offers benefits from reduced creaking to easier service.

The Dyname system meters the power delivered to the rear wheel via a magnetic field sensor which measures the chain position 1,000 times per second. This allows the motor to match the input stroke and reduce the lag that can sometimes be prevalent in some eMTB systems both when applying the power and when letting off. Something our testers noticed about Rocky Mountain’s eBikes is the instant engagement and disengagement while pedaling.

Rocky designed this motor to offer the peak 770W power at around 85RPM pedaling cadence, which they believe to offer the most natural feeling assistance. This power output is class-leading and it is definitely noticeable out on the trail. To help the Dyname 3.0 slide under the radar while passing your buddies on the climb, Rocky Mountain has designed the Dyname motor spins at 1,200 RPMs, roughly 25% the speed of many competitors. Rocky claims this reduces the “whir” when pedaling, which it does, however the system does have its own unique sound, one we feel may be a bit lower pitch and quieter.

Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review

The Li-ion battery unit is fully integrated into the downtube of the frame, boasting a 672Wh capacity and running on 48V. This enables the battery to reach full charging capacity in just under 4 hours, and can hit 80% capacity in just over 2 if the ride can’t wait. Rocky claims the battery life will support a 102kg rider for up to 2,000m of climbing, in part thanks to the increased efficiency of the 48V system opposed to a 36V. This can be boosted further by the addition of Rocky’s 330Wh Overtime pack external battery, which bolts on to the top of the downtube just above the motor and takes the full capacity to over 1000Wh.

Mounted to the bars is the iWoc TRIO V3 remote, which has three buttons to control the system. On/off; the power-assist selection; and activate the walk function for easy walking with the bike. The remote features an array of LED’s to indicate both the mode selected and the battery life remaining. There are three standard modes setup for the Altitude Powerplay: ECO, Trail, and Ludicrous mode for the maximum levels of assistance to climb the steepest of trails.

Further control of the Powerplay drive unit can be performed on a smartphone or tablet using the Ebikemotion app, offering the customization of each mode to fine tune to your preferences. Rocky mountain are so confident in the performance and longevity of their Powerplay system that they are now offering a 36-month warranty on all electrical components, which can be applied retroactively to any existing Powerplay equipped bikes already purchased. The battery carries a 2-year warranty, and the drive unit pulleys and pinions are backed for one year.

Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review

THE BIKE: We were sent the Altitude Powerplay Carbon 90 Rally Edition to test, which is based around a Carbon Fiber frame created using Rocky’s SMOOTHWALL Carbon manufacturing process. This process utilizes solid internal molds opposed to the conventional inflatable bladder, which eliminates the wrinkling on the internal walls of the carbon and removes excess resin in the process. The carbon layup is then tailored to each specific area of the frame to obtain the desired level of stiffness and impact resistance with the least weight. The 150mm travel rear end is controlled by Rocky’s Smoothlink four bar suspension system, which allows them to carry over the ride feel from their non-powered bikes to the Powerplay range. Each of the pivot points in this Smoothlink system spin on fully sealed cartridge bearings.

The rear shock receives size-specific tuning, which helps to ensure riders are given the same ride feel regardless of their height and weight, thanks to a specific tune for each frame size. In true Rocky Mountain style, the Altitude Powerplay’s characteristics are tunable with their Ride-9 chip located on the bottom mount of the shock. This makes for a complicated geometry table, but offers a full degree of head angle change which is accompanied by a 14mm change in bottom bracket height. In addition to geometry modification, the progression levels of the suspension are tuneable to tailor the feel to rider preferences and the trail, requiring only a pair of Allen keys to do so. Cable routing is an all-internal affair, and the lower two ISCG-05 tabs are in place to add a bash guard below the chainring if desired. The carbon frame is sculpted below the shock to allow for a bottle to be squeezed within the front triangle when used without the Overtime battery.

The Altitude Powerplay is available in sizes S-XL, with geometry that is decidedly on the nimble, fun-loving end of the spectrum. Seat tube lengths span from 419mm-521mm; reaches from 413mm-484mm; and stack heights from 579mm-623mm. Common to the range of sizes in the neutral geometry position are a head angle that sits at 65.6 degrees; a reasonably relaxed effective seat angle of 74.6 degrees; a compact 426mm rear end length; and a bottom bracket that sits 7mm below the axles. The size Large tested sports a 458mm reach and 610mm stack, which combine to give a relatively compact cockpit for a Large frame in 2021, with a tight 1,205mm wheelbase to match.

Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review

THE BUILDS: Rocky Mountain offers the Altitude Powerplay in five different guises. There are three spec levels for the alloy frame from the $5,219 Alloy 30 through to the $6,799 Alloy 70; and two spec levels in the carbon: the $8,599 Carbon 70 and the $9,399 Carbon 90 Rally Edition tested. This Carbon 90 Rally Edition features Factory level Fox suspension in the form of their 160mm travel 38 Float EVOL fork with GRIP2 damper, Kashima coated stanchions and 37mm offset with a matching Float DPX2 shock.

The dropper is a RaceFace Turbine R featuring Fox internals, with a 125mm drop on the size Small; 150mm for Medium and Large; and 175mm on the XL. The drivetrain is an all Shimano XT 12-speed affair with a 10-51T cassette, save for the 170mm RaceFace Aeffect R cranks and 34t cinch chainring. Stopping duties are handled by Shimano XT 4-pot brakes with 203mm rotors on both ends. The cockpit is in-house Rocky Mountain components with a 35mm clamp, 40mm stem and 780mm wide bar with 38mm rise. The contact points are handled by Ergon GD1 EVO grip and a 142mm wide WTB Volt saddle, providing the comfort to crunch miles on.  The wheelset is a combination of a DT Swiss 350 rear hub with a Rocky Mountain sealed bearing front hub, laced to RaceFace ARC30 rims using burly DT Swiss Alpine spokes. These are shod in Maxxis Wide Trail rubber, with a 2.5” DHF in the front paired with a 2.4” DHR2 out back, both using 3C MaxxGrip rubber compounds and Double Down casings, which should withstand some hard charging. We think all eBikes should be spec’d with Double Down tires and applaud Rocky for making the right call.

Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review

Starting out with the pedaling characteristics, we’ve always felt that Rocky’s Dyname system offered a platform unlike any of the other options on the market. It has a unique way of giving the rider assistance. More specifically, the harder you push, the more it gives. As stated above and displayed in Dyname’s graphs, the engagement comes on very quickly thanks to all the readings the system takes. It also disengages very quickly, which some of you may love as there’s no delayed boost that’ll unintentionally carry you wide in a switchback. We think that riders who may be after a ride that still demands some leg muscles and fitness will really like the Dyname system. Yes, it does deliver the highest power in class, however based on our finely tuned leg gauges, you need to pedal harder to get assistance on mellower pitches or flatter ground. No soft-pedal boosting at 20mph here, you still gotta work. Take that for what you will based on your riding preference.

Rocky Mountain and the Dyname system have a few great things going for them, however we have a couple issues to address in this current version. The drag, friction felt by the design is felt through the feet, and if you’re really paying attention all the way up to the saddle. It’s a slight vibration that reminds us of the old-school DH days of the 90’s when brands like AC Components (or other chainstay mounted polymer rollers) existed and chain tensioners were used to help keep chains from bouncing off three-ring bikes. Did I just date myself? While the motor itself may indeed be quieter, that friction and reverberation is distracting, and perhaps a future version of the Dyname system will address this.

Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review

Climbing power is impressive, as is the range offered by this 672Wh battery. We rode this bike up some very steep, technical terrain and long days on the trail. The short reach (452mm) on our size large made the bike comfortable for climbs and long days as we could maintain a pretty upright riding position, but mean it wasn’t quite as composed or confident at high speeds or super steep bits of trail. Not everyone rides full-speed trails or vertical chutes, so if that’s you, you’ll appreciate the shorter nature of this bike as it’s snappy, playful and a lot of fun to whip around on tighter technical terrain. Combined with a smooth suspension platform, the Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay is a pretty versatile electric mountain bike.

Rocky Mountain’s Ride-9 adjustability further adds to the bike’s versatility and adjustability. Depending on your local terrain, rider weight and how you like your bike to feel, you’ll be able to take advantage of the plethora of settings. We have had some issues with blowing through travel on drops or big hits with Rocky Mountain’s bikes in the past, and the Altitude also had us adding some volume reducers for assistance on big compressions. Our testers like the sensitivity of the rear end over rough chunky terrain and liked the added traction and comfort the bike provides.

Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review

The Wolf’s Last Word

Rocky Mountain’s Altitude Powerplay 90 Rally Edition can keep up with aggressive riders wanting to push hard yet is equally at home cruising trails under riders who just want to explore and have fun. The short reach will be an issue for riders who are tall and prefer long bikes for high speed and steep terrain however as the 452mm reach on the size large will definitely be a talking point. We really like the delivery of torque and power of the Dyname system and Rocky Mountain’s eBikes as a whole, but they do have a bit of a vibration that can be felt through the pedals and we look forward to seeing what may be next as there are some really neat features about their eMTBs. We’re also not huge fans of the LED display in the power mode selector buttons as they are hard to see in bright daylight and don’t give a very accurate or quickly discernable battery percentage from the cockpit.

When it comes time to stop analyzing the bike and shred, the Altitude is a lot of fun to ride. If you are looking for a solid option in the 160/150mm eMTB category but don’t want the length and sluggishness many new school bikes come with, the Rocky Mountain Altitude could be worth a test ride. It climbs well, snaps corners with the best of them and is comfortable for long days out.

Price: $9,399
Weight: 51.37 lbs

Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review


Frame: SMOOTHWALL™ Carbon | 150mm
Fork: Fox 38 Float EVOL GRIP2 Factory | 160mm
Shock: Fox Float DPX2 Factory

Motor: Dyname 3.0 | 250w | 108Nm
Battery: 672 Wh Fully Integrated Li-Ion
Remote: iWoc TRIO V3 Remote w. ANT+ LEV

Brakes: Shimano XT Trail 4 Piston | 203mm
Shifter: Shimano XT
Handlebar: Rocky Mountain AM | 780mm
Headset: FSA Orbit NO.57E
Stem: Rocky Mountain 35 AM
Saddle: WTB Volt Race
Seatpost: Race Face Turbine R | 150mm

Hubs: Rocky Mountain (f), DT Swiss Hybrid 350 Boost (r)
Rims: Race Face ARC 30
Front tire: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT 3C MaxxGrip DD
Rear tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4 WT 3C MaxxGrip DD

Bottom Bracket: Shimano SM-BB71
Cassette: Shimano XT 10-51T
Cranks: Race Face Aeffect R Cinch 34T | 170mm
Derailleur: Shimano XT

Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay C90 Rally Edition Review

We Dig

Supple rear end
Nimble and snappy
High torque/power!

We Don’t

Short reach will be an issue for many
Vibration/drag while pedaling


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