First Look – Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay 70

Canadians go it alone with in-house ebike tech

With the recent launch of the 2018 Rocky Mountain Altitude trail bike we take a look at the altitude Powerplay – the e-MTB version designed around the same geometry and travel.

Words: Sean White Images: Ieuan Williams

If you’re unfamiliar with the potential of an e-mtb, then take a look at Dirt’s comprehensive study of this increasingly popular category of mountainbike HERE. We’ve been riding e-bikes alongside regular trail and enduro bikes for over two years now and have gained valuable experience, knowledge and opinion on what makes a good one. With this in mind, we check out Rocky Mountain’s Altitude Powerplay, one of the first 2018 e-mtbs to roll into Dirt HQ, along with the revised version of Trek’s Powerfly LT. This Rocky Mountain e-bike is currently only available in Europe.

Designed by Rocky Mountain in Canada, the Powerplay drive system is a sleek, lightweight, and powerful electric assist that they say pushes the boundaries of electric bikes. The compact, low-mounted motor allows Rocky Mountain to design an E-MTB around their suspension and handling standards. They can take into account up to date geometry and sizing along with an ideal pivot placement, rather than working with the (albeit proven) systems from Bosch, Brose, Yamaha and Shimano. Rocky Mountain believes that their proprietary system provides class-leading torque, quiet operation, instant power response, and quick charging times. Powerplay features ‘Instant Start’ technology using a sophisticated torque sensing circuit, which they say delivers a smooth, instant and natural feeling power. We’re keen to see how this newly developed tech compares to our established benchmark e-mtbs (and 2017 Dirt 100 picks) from Trek, Specialized, Merida, Cube and Cannondale. Will this Canadian made bike set a new benchmark for e-mtbs?

‘Rather than bolt on a bulky off-the-shelf system, we struck out on our own to redefine the category. The Powerplay system is the result of designing an electric drive for the suspension and geometry needs of proper mountain bikes’ – Alex Cogger, Rocky Mountain


The all-new Altitude Powerplay is only available with Rocky’s Smoothwall carbon mainframe. This 70 series model (along with the 50) uses an aluminium rear swing arm whereas the top flight 90 is full carbon throughout.

The Powerplay has the same geometry and suspension performance as the unassisted Altitude platform, with the Fox 36 fork (on the 70 and 90 models) being the e-mtb version, with a stronger crown, steerer tube and upper legs.

To work with the added weight of the bike, Rocky Mountain have chosen a standard 27.5” wheel size but spec a 40mm rim and 2.5” ‘Wide Trail’ Maxxis rubber. With the perception of being tougher than most ‘Plus’ tyres, will this combo hit the sweet spot for a heavy e-mtb designed for aggressive trail riding?


As with the regular non-assisted Altitude, the geometry is fine tuned with Rocky’s nine position chip system. Adjusted with a pair of allen keys it allows the head angle to move between 65° and 66.1° with the bottom bracket drop moving through a -1mm (steep setting) to 13mm (slack) zone. The chainstays are short at 426mm (exactly the same as on all the standard Altitude frame sizes), but the bike still fits 2.5” wide tyres as standard. By comparison a Cube Stereo 160 HPA e-mtb has a chainstay length of 468mm across all sizes.

Reach numbers are up to date, the wheelbase a good length (1206mm on a size large) and the four frame sizes will all available here in the UK.


Based on a third generation electric drive system that’s been in development since 2010, here are the key features of the Altitude Powerplay’s drive system.

  • High efficiency, three-phase brushless motor provides class-leading torque
  • Instant, natural power response makes for an intuitive ride, thanks to an in-line torque sensor
  • Very quiet drive operation
  • 48v battery voltage for fast-charging and heat management in high-torque situations
  • To prevent creaking and wear, pedalling forces are isolated from the drive system via a standard bottom bracket shell that’s integral to the frame itself
  • Structural motor casing adds to frame stiffness
  • Compact, low-profile motor design with reinforced casing and integrated motor-brace bashguard
  • Display-free with a low-profile remote for a cleaner handlebar area.
  • Bar-mounted remote displays assistance level (three levels plus a ‘walk’ mode), battery level, and diagnostics
  • Very fast charge times of 1 hour 40 minutes (to 80%) with the 500Wh battery, or 2 hours (to 80%) with the optional 632Wh battery


With a standard BB92 bottom bracket shell it’s good to see a RaceFace crank with a larger mud friendly chainring on this bike. SRAM Guide RE brakes are a favourite of ours (and a 2017 Dirt 100 pick…) along with the e-bike specific SRAM EX1 drivetrain and a Fox Transfer dropper post. A cockpit with good dimensions and suspension that’s fit for purpose show this is a no compromise build, as you would hope at this price point.

FRAME: Smoothwall carbon, aluminium swingarm, RIDE-9 geometry adjustment

POWER/DRIVE: 250 W / 48V Powerplay Drive

BATTERY: Li-Ion 632 Watt/Hr.

FORK: Fox 36 Float EVOL Grip Performance 160mm

REAR SHOCK: Fox Float DPS EVOL Factory 150mm


CRANKSET: Race Face Turbine Cinch 34T

BRAKES: SRAM Guide RE, Centerline 200mm rotors

WHEELS: Sun Düroc 40 rims, DT/RMtn hubs, 27.5″

TYRES: Maxxis Minion DHF WT EXO Tubeless Ready 27.5 x 2.5

STEM: Rocky Mountain 35 AM

HANDLEBAR: Race Face Chester 780mm

SADDLE: WTB Silverado Race

SEATPOST: Fox Transfer Performance Elite dropper

PRICE: £6,499.99

Read our full review of E-MTBs and related tech/hardware HERE

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