Rocky Mountain designs in-house drive unit for Altitude Powerplay e-MTB

The first e-MTB that actually rides like a mountain bike should, company claims

Canadian outfit Rocky Mountain has jumped aboard the e-MTB train with its new Altitude Powerplay pedal assisted trail bike.

While there is no shortage of e-MTBs being launched on a weekly basis, most are based around a Bosch or Shimano drive system, however for the Altitude, Rocky Mountain took it upon itself to design its own pedal assist system.

Altitude Powerplay highlights

  • Powerplay drive unit designed by Rocky Mountain
  • 150mm front, 160mm rear travel
  • Mirrors geometry of standard altitude
  • Available in Rocky Mountain's SMOOTHWALL carbon
  • SRAM EX drivetrain
  • Based around 27.5 wheels and boost hub spacing
  • All sizes said to fit a water bottle inside the front triangle

“Rather than bolt on a bulky off-the-shelf system, we struck out on our own to redefine the category,” said Alex Cogger, Rocky Mountain Product Line Director.

“The Powerplay system is the result of designing an electric drive for the suspension and geometry needs of proper mountain bikes; in fact, the geometry and pivot points of the Altitude Powerplay are identical to those of the new Altitude. In our opinion this is the first electric bike that actually rides like a mountain bike should.”

Housed in the sizable bottom bracket area is a three-phase brushless motor, two idler pulleys, a drive ring, the chainring and a standard crankset. The bottom bracket shell is part of the frame, not the drive unit, which the brand says improves stiffness and prevents creaking and wear.

This design also puts the motor in front of the crank, which allowed Rocky Mountain to keep the chainstays short and establish a low and forward centre of gravity. It also means all the wear items including the PF92 bottom bracket are serviceable with standard shop tools.

Given Rocky Mountain designed the Powerplay system, it's no surprise it claims it offers class-leading torque, massive battery capacity and ultra quiet operation.

The brand has combined a 48v motor with a 632 or 500 watt-hour lithium ion battery that’s said to reach 80 percent charge capacity in two hours. The Canadian brand also says the Powerplay design creates less drag when the motor isn’t engaged.

Rocky Mountain has opted for a ‘display-free’ interface utilising a simple remote that allows for the assist modes to be cycled through and also shows remaining battery life.

For those who are after a bit more info, there is the eBikeMotion app for iOS and Android that connects via Bluetooth and allows for system customisation, reach estimates, ride tracking and more.

Instead of using a Bosch or Shimano drive system, Rocky Mountain designed its own
Instead of using a Bosch or Shimano drive system, Rocky Mountain designed its own

Available in three specs, the flagship Altitude Powerplay Carbon 90 features a full carbon frame and swingarm, while the lower two feature a carbon front triangle and alloy rear triangle.

Like the non-assisted Altitude, the bike is based around 27.5in wheels with Boost hub spacing and 2.5in rubber, though the brand say it’s compatible with 26+ tires (26x3.0).

There is 150mm of squish at the rear and 160mm at the fork, though the suspension kinematics for the Powerplay version have been updated to compensate for the extra torque on the chain from the motor.

The Altitude Powerplay also gets full-length internal cable routeing, including the dropper post, 180mm post mount brakes and, as Cogger mentioned, the bike sees the same geometry as the standard Altitude.

Interestingly, Rocky Mountain gives the Altitude Powerplay the 'Made in Canada' sticker, but for the moment it will only be available in Europe. Pricing is to be announced and limited availability begins in July 2017.

Altitude Powerplay models

Altitude Powerplay Carbon 90

The Altitude Powerplay Carbon 90 sees a full carbon front and rear triangle
The Altitude Powerplay Carbon 90 sees a full carbon front and rear triangle

  • Frame: SMOOTHWALL Carbon
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float EVOL FIT4 Factory 160mm
  • Shock: Fox Float DPS EVOL Factory
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide RE
  • Shifters: SRAM EX1
  • Rearderailleur: SRAM EX1
  • Cranks: Race Face Next Cinch 34T
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-899 11-48T
  • Rims: Rocky Mountain 30AM Carbon. Tubeless ready
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF WT EXO tubeless ready 27.5 x 2.5
  • Dropper: Fox Transfer Performance Elite 30.9mm
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado Race
  • Claimed weight: 49.2lb (22.3kg)

Altitude Powerplay Carbon 70

Sitting second in the lineup, the Altitude Powerplay Carbon 70 has a carbon front triangle and alloy rear
Sitting second in the lineup, the Altitude Powerplay Carbon 70 has a carbon front triangle and alloy rear

  • Frame: SMOOTHWALL carbon front triangle FORM alloy rear triangle
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float EVOL Grip Performance 160mm
  • Shock: Fox Float DPS EVOL Performance Elite
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide RE
  • Shifters: SRAM EX1
  • Rearderailleur: SRAM EX1
  • Cranks: Race Face Turbine Cinch 34T
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-899 11-48T
  • Rims: Sun Düroc 40. Tubeless Ready
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF WT EXO Tubeless Ready 27.5 x 2.5
  • Dropper: Fox Transfer Performance Elite 30.9mm
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado Race
  • Claimed weight: 47.6lb (21.6kg)

Altitude Powerplay Carbon 50

The Altitude Powerplay Carbon 50, like the 70, gets an alloy mullet and slightly more budget friendly suspension
The Altitude Powerplay Carbon 50, like the 70, gets an alloy mullet and slightly more budget friendly suspension

  • Frame: SMOOTHWALL carbon front triangle FORM alloy rear triangle
  • Fork: RockShox Yari RC 160mm
  • Shock: RockShox Deluxe RT
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide RE
  • Shifters: SRAM EX1
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM EX1
  • Cranks: Race Face Turbine Cinch 34T
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-899 11-48T
  • Rims: Sun Düroc 40. Tubeless Ready
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF WT EXO tubeless ready 27.5 x 2.5
  • Dropper: Race Face Aeffect Dropper 30.9mm
  • Saddle: WTB Volt Race
  • Claimed weight: 49.1lb (22.3kg)
Colin Levitch

Staff Writer, Australia
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Colin now resides in Sydney, Australia. Holding a media degree, Colin is focused on the adventure sport media world. Coming from a ski background, his former European pro father convinced him to try collegiate crit racing. Although his bright socks say full roadie, he enjoys the occasional mountain bike ride, too.
  • Discipline: Road, mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Tarmac mountain climbs into snow-covered hills
  • Current Bikes: BMC TeamMachine SLR01, Trek Top Fuel 9
  • Dream Bike: Mosaic Cycles RT-1
  • Beer of Choice: New Belgium La Folie
  • Location: Sydney, Australia

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