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Two E-species: the Instinctitude

Rocky Mountain Instinct-to-Altitude Powerplay

Photos Deniz Merdano
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Evolution of the Instinct/Altitude Powerplay Species

The goal of this project was to take a trail eMTB, the 150mm /140mm Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay Carbon 70, ride it stock for 10 to 15 rides, make a few modifications and then ride it with each mod another 10 to 15 times. I took notes on bike performance: likes, dislikes, and neutrals for each of the iterations of the bike. In each phase I tried to analyse what type of rider and terrain they were suited for.

The stock Instinct Powerplay Carbon 70 went through the following modifications over the course of the 5 month test period:

1 - Stock Instinct Powerplay Carbon 70: 150mm / 140mm

2 - Instinct Powerplay Carbon 70: 160mm /140mm

3 - Instinct Powerplay Carbon 70 (and each modification): separate commuter wheels with slicks

4A - Instinct Powerplay Carbon 70 converts to Altitude Powerplay: 160mm Fox Float X2/170 Fox 38

4B - Altitude Powerplay converts to mulleted Altitude Powerplay: 160mm Fox Float X2/170 Fox 38

5 - Mulleted Altitude Powerplay with air shock converts to mulleted Altitude Powerplay with coil shock: 160mm Fox DHX coil /170 Fox 38

In a similar project to Andrew’s one platform 4 bikes, I started with the Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay Carbon 70 platform. In my initial review I looked at mods 1 -3.

This article is concerned with 4A to 5B; Instinct becomes Altitude in various formats.


The Instinctitude: the final format with 160mm Fox DHX coil and 170mm Fox 38 fork as a mullet.

Instinct evolves into Altitude

From the Instinct's 160/140 setup, I swapped out the Instinct shock mount for the Altitude shock mount known as the Rocky Mountain Bikes Modular Shock Mount Kit 2 which retails for 94.90 CAD. I swapped the Fox Float X Performance shock for Rocky marketing guy and good times guru Dre's personal Fox Float X2 Factory shock bringing my rear travel from 140mm to 160mm. I removed the 160mm Fox 36 Factory eMTB fork and I installed a Fox Factory 38.


Weight, Ride Characteristics and best Trail Types - Altitude Powerplay vs Instinct Powerplay

Going from a capable Instinct Powerplay trail bike to a bigger travel enduro style Altitude Powerplay was a pleasant change. I felt more confident at speed through big bumps, rocks and roots. The extra travel smoothed out the trails without sacrificing the ride characteristics I enjoyed whilst riding the Instinct Powerplay. Harsh hits and steep rock and roll-over exits were noticeably easier. I found that my traction increased on the steeps as well as in and out of corners. However, flow trail corners were not as fun as they were on the Instinct. The snappy feeling coming out of a berm was slightly muted in comparison. In addition, my ability to pop off small hits was sacrificed on the Altitude. Compared to the Instinct, the bump sensitivity and traction made the Altitude setup much more enjoyable on all the trails I like to ride except bermy flow trails: Sea to Sky steep dirt, rock faces, high speed loam, medium speed jank and fast natural bench cut trails.


Rocky's claimed weight for the Instinct Powerplay is 50.8 lb. without pedals. I weighed the stock first version I rode at 52.9 lb. with inserts and Stamp 1 composite pedals. Rocky does not have a claimed weight for the Altitude. I weighed the final coil shock and mullet version with the Stamps, inserts and fenders at 54.1 lb.

Did I notice the extra weight? Not really; maybe slightly when loading and unloading the bike and on really steep climbs; but wasn't obvious. I think when eMTBs are in between 50 and 55 lb. the difference is not particularly noticeable. However, muscling my 60 lb. Norco range around the trails is noticeably harder than the 54 lb. Altitude.

Who Wants What

The Altitude platform seemed to climb more slowly than the Instinct but it was not noticeable enough to worry about.

Based on my testing, riders who are typically hitting fast flow trails or low lower angle smoother trails, and who like to climb technical singletrack, would prefer the Instinct. The Altitude appeals to riders seeking steeper trails with more rough sections, rock faces, bumpier jump landings, as well as rough and technical steep sections.

Altitude Powerplay Mullet

I enjoy mulleted mountain bikes. They work well for my 5'9" bag of bones. All the other eMTBs I have ridden have been full 29rs, which I still enjoy, but I was craving the MX feeling during the first phases of this test. When I installed the Rocky Altitude mullet link I took the bike out on all my usual suspects and I immediately felt at home. This set up fit me better than the full 29'r version. Tight uphill turns became easier, popping the big rig was more enticing and carving turns was a joy. The added bonus of no butt buzz was also a treat. I did notice that I had to lean forward slightly more on steep climbs in order to counter the weight distribution from the smaller wheel. I kept the RIDE-4 chip in the slackest position (1) after two laps of my test trail with the chip in neutral position 3; according to Rocky, position 3 is aimed at a "balanced blend of geometry and suspension performance to cater to a wide variety of trails." I preferred the slacker head tube angle of position 1 with its progressive suspension creating all of the ride qualities I noted above. Graham Driedger reviewed the mullet link on his pedal-powered Altitude.


MX link with RIDE-4 chip in position 1.


The smaller back wheel carved steep turns very well.

Altitude Powerplay specs notes

The Instinct Carbon 70 and the Altitude Carbon 70 have similar specs (aside from the suspension of course). I made a few changes during the Instinct phases: Rocky carbon bar off, One Up carbon bar on; WTB Volt Race 142 saddle off, WTB Devo w/Pickup on; the Race Face AR 30 29" rear wheel came with a big dent that was good for half a dozen rides then it would not hold air so it was swapped for a WTB Proterra Tough i30 wheel with a Butcher Grid Trail T9 instead of the stock Maxxis DHR II MaxxTerra; and finally, a broken XT chain was replaced.

The only spec changes I made to the Altitude were during the mullet phase where I installed a 27.5" WTB Proterra Tough i30 rear wheel with an E13 Grappler Mopo tire.

I noticed a slight lag when on uphills when I installed the 27.5" Proterra wheel. I brought the bike to R & D coordinator Lyle Vallie. He diagnosed the problem and I took his recommendations to wrench wizard Topher at Obsession Bikes. He overhauled the hub with his secret lube sauce and tensioned the wheels which solved the problem.

Another issue was a sticky Race Face Turbine R (by Fox) Dropper. Cable tensioning and slickoleum lubing helped a little but the post still had intermittent lag time extending fast and fully. On a number of occasions I had to pull the nose of the saddle up to get the post to its maximum height. I took the bike into the local Rocky dealer, Lynn Valley Bikes, so I could get the low down on issues with the up/down. LVB co-owner Rick Loader said the only thing you or a shop can do to the post yourself is cable adjustments and the rest has to be sent to Fox for service/warrranty. Rick's cable adjustments were more precise than mine which has solved the issues for now. Most posts can be user or shop serviced so this is a major hassle.

All of the other specs on the bike performed well without any issues.


The medium frame is the best fitting bike I have ridden in the past few years. That includes the large Nomad 5 and medium 6, Enduro S3, medium Yeti SB 135 LR and large Norco Rang VLT. In my favourite and slackest setting, the 457mm reach, 624mm stack, 64.2 degree HTA and 76.2 degree STA combine for my sizing sweet spot.

Screen Shot 2023-09-27 at 12.23.10 PM

Too hot to handle

The only real issue I had with this eMTB was overheating. I first noticed it while I was spinning fast in Ludicrous up the Seymour ski hill road for 8 km on a sunny 23°c day. The bike slowed a little and a message on the Jumbotron said the bike was running too hot at 79°c and the motor would limit output until the temperature went below 75°c. I pulled over to read from the manual and in the 5 or so minutes of resting in the shade, the bike was bike to full power under 75°c. It happened three other times on long steep climbs in Ludicrous: once on 20°c day, another on a 28°c day and most recently on at 21º. Each time the warning went away when I backed off Ludicrous for about 5 minutes. The issue was not a real problem for me, however I did hear from Megavolt participants that several Powerplay riders were having overheating issues in the 30°c Naramata, BC weather.

overheater.original 2

The dreaded message. Am I really too hot?

I asked Lyle Vallie (Rocky's R & D coordinator) what's up with that. Here is his detailed response:

"The bike’s peak draw when under full load is a huge amount of Watts from the battery. The majority of that converts to mechanical motion and massive torque at the output pinion, but some becomes heat. Let's say 10% for simplicity. So if we’re drawing 800W, that’s an 80W heater within the motor casing.

Now wrap that heater in a carbon blanket. Then reduce the amount of airflow due to a lower riding speed while climbing. The motor components will heat soak under these conditions. Our motor controller’s temperature regulation is automatic and designed to allow it to continue performing while heat soaked. The motor will not allow itself to reach any sort of critical damaging temperature. Riding the bike continually at full output power and full load through complete heat soak, it is still putting out as much power as many of the mid-power ebikes.

We allow our users to tune the input gain of our system as well as the output power to best manage the bikes performance to the rider’s style of riding and type of ride. The Jumbotron warning when the bike begins to self regulate is a courtesy, simply to let the user know. There’s no need to stop riding.

In our current production firmware it only displays the warning once per ride so it's not too intrusive. We’re almost ready to launch a new dealer update tool as well, to make sure anyone with a Dyname 4 bike can have the latest firmware updates without any headache.

We’ve also got some new motor covers for MY24 that will help increase airflow to the drive at lower speeds."

Evolution complete: coiled up

As soon as I rolled into my favourite test trail with the coil, I felt like I'd found the magic. The coil plays well with the Instinct/Altitude's geometry. Chatter bumps and square edge hits were smoothed out, steep roll exits were easier than with the X2 air shock and the bike felt planted at speed allowing me to ride faster with more control. The coil seemed to give me more traction on loose technical climbs as well. The only area where the coil shock was inferior to the air shock was in the usual popping for air category. Like coils I have ridden in the past, I need to plan ahead and initiate with more force than with an air shock. To me the tradeoff was well worth it. The mullet helped with this ride characteristic a small amount. The mulleted Altitude coil was the best iteration in the evolution of this test.


The Overtime battery pack 2.0 pack is a range extender that gives an additional 314 Wh of battery capacity. When combined with the 720 Wh battery, you have 1034 Wh total. The extra power comes with two costs: 869 CAD and 2 kg of weight at the water bottle mount. I really did not feel the need for the extra battery life even on my big back country rides. Most of my battery draining rides were 20 -25 km total distance /1300ish m ascent coming in around 3 hours. I did appreciate the lack of range anxiety when I rode with the Overtime pack: Knowing I had few hundred added watts gave me peace of mind and the ability to go full Ludicrous mode on all climbs. I really appreciated the extra juice on my 55km round trip commutes. I can do the ride there and back on a single charge but it drains the battery to 3% so I usually bring the charger in my backpack. I prefer getting the charger off my back so the Overtime pack is perfect.

Riders looking for 3 hour plus rides would benefit most from this extra juice.


Where once there was water, 314 Wh for dessert.


At the start of the test in May, I put the Instinct Carbon 70 through about 30 rides in the three different set ups. I concluded that the Instinct Powerplay was an excellent eMTB that works very well as a trail bike. I appreciated its willingness to pop, carve and manoeuvre on almost all trail types other than steep technical descents. I preferred the 160mm/140mm set up as it worked better in steep terrain and over technical rocky rooty sections as well as over steep drops and rolls. In terms of climbing, Rocky's high torque Dyname 4 motor makes any of the 6 iterations the best eMTB climber I have tried.

Having taken the Instinct through transformations into Altitudes with air shocks, mullet mixed wheel set ups and coil shock equipped rides I found the Altitude was much more suited to my style of riding and trail selection. I did enjoy all of the Altitude formats but in the end I preferred the mulleted coil the most.

I enjoyed the whole process of the test and I am thankful to Dre and Lyle at Rocky for facilitating this idea. I think bike companies who have platforms that can be adapted to differing ride categories are forward thinking. I see benefits from the manufacturing side but most importantly, from the consumer side.

Prices are all over the place in bike land these days but I have listed the current Rocky prices at post time for all of the different base set ups and accessories to make the changes.

Altitude Powerplay C70 11,399 CAD

Instinct Powerplay C70 11, 779 CAD

Overtimepack 869 CAD

Modular shock mount kit for Altitude 95 CAD

Altitude mullet link aka MX mount 136 CAD

Trevor Hansen

Age - 57

Height - 5'9"

Weight - 175lbs

Ape Index - 0.992

Inseam - 31"

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Bukwus

Bar Width - 780mm

Preferred Reach - 465-480mm

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+2 Andy Eunson Velocipedestrian

I remember loving my Fox Transfer post until it started to get a bit notchy after 2 years... looked all over for how to do a simple clean and relube, and the only option was really the $160 send-away-to-Fox option.  Sure, they did an awesome job and it worked like new again, but tough to compare rebuilding your 2-3 year old dropper for $160 vs. simply buying a brand new OneUp for $199.


+2 bishopsmike Andy Eunson

Used to be the case but not any more. I remember having the same experience with a 150mm, felt great for 2 years, got sticky, then I discovered it was basically a "black box". I was disappointed, but I'd moved on from 150mm posts anyways on my other bikes for I ditched it. 

Now fox has posted the full service instructions on their site, and on youtube a guy called "miltonator" demonstrates the steps required for a basic service (ie omits the steps related to taking the cartridge apart.). 

It's more involved than unscrewing the collar on a oneup and jamming some grease in, but my experience with the Fox was it only needed attention after a couple years, where as one up needs it after a month or two (and still is not as smooth as a fox even right after lubing). 

Given the good sale currently I picked up a 200mm. Was tempted by a resolve, but the on sale performance elite is literally half the price, and at leats based on pictures I feel like the fox seat clamp is a nicer design and the stack is low enough for me. I am thinking if it needs a self service everyone one or two years, and maybe a cartridge service every 4 years, that's fine. Fox also note you can pressurize the cartride with air from a shock pump instead of nitrogen, so in theory you can service the whole thing yourself if you buy the fill adapter and the couple other little special tools (I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, but if it's only ebery 3-4 years, will likely just dump it off with my suspension).



Fox seat clamp is a nicer design imo. The barrel nuts in particular are a quite smart design, much easier to work with than the OneUp bolts.

Having said that- I'm a fairly handy home mechanic, and I couldn't reassemble the post. I found it very very difficult to get the pins to stay seated while I inserted the shaft into the lower post (steps 48 through 50 of the instructions). Had to take it to my LBS


+1 Pete Roggeman

Can attest personally to the bell being used on commutes - Trevor has passed me several times on my way to work/school, dang that guy is fast!



@Trevor - what did you feel/notice was the difference between the e38 and 38 forks that warranted the change?



Do you mean the e36 with 160mm travel to 38 with 170mm?



Doh - sorry, I read that as e38 and not e36 which was why I was curious as to what the difference was besides the 10mm in travel.


0 Jotegir Alex_L

Interesting to hear about the heat soak causing a power reduction. Great that it's a reduction and self preservation of the system. Kinda sucks that it can't handle full juice in most all conditions. Do other motor's have many heat issues? 

Would the system be able to run off just the Overtime and remove the main battery? I don't think it's designed this way, but would be an option for people just doing shorter quick hit laps and looking for the lightest weight option.


+1 Jotegir

Makes me wonder if an aluminum frame would be better in this regard, re.: overheating. I would imagine an aluminum frame would act as a much better heat sink than carbon. Would be interesting to see head-to-head comparisons...



Yes aluminum would likely dissipate the heat better.


+5 bullit E-wok Velocipedestrian Timer Pepe

never understood anyone picking carbon for an ebike in the first place....  saving a pound or two with something with a motor and all the abuse it gets.


+1 Dogl0rd

All the other brands of moped are using a Shimano/ brose/ bosch/ Yamaha motor and I have not heard of any overheating issues with these brands,  BUT  Rocky uses a proprietary motor the Dyname  which uses a much higher voltage as i understand it which is why there have been overheating issues so its a design fault, OTOH this design is putting out loads of power

speaking to weight just about any full power E-bike is gona be 52ish lbs, I got used to the weight but I try not to stop on any funky side hills or I might be going over if i have to dab on the downhill side

as for why carbon or aluminium, the end user is already  paying so much and can afford the price of admission so why not hit them for a carbon frame ?



It's not a "much higher voltage". They use a 48v system vs most older systems being 36v. Many are now moving towards a 48v system.



I supose one can argue if 25% higher is " much higher " but it is much higher enough to cause overheating, high(er) voltage is  the thing that is very much different from the other motors i listed so one could argue its also much  different as oposed to modern or not  but I don't read of any other E-bike makers using the Dyname or any of the other motor brands listed running 48V ?


+1 Alex_L

Just as one anecdotal piece of evidence - I can reliably overheat my EP8 on a certain local climb if I have it in boost and pedal hard. It's a 2000+ft straight up with no rests, so not really that surprising. Similar to Trevor's experience with the Rocky, it cuts power down to what feels like less than standard trail mode. It also emits a burning smell, so I try to avoid it happening!



"The Altitude platform seemed to climb more slowly than the Altitude but it was not noticeable enough to worry about."

One of these is supposed to be the Instinct, no? Sorry



Thanks for posting the weights.


-1 E-wok dhr999 Dogl0rd Timer Hardlylikely

I think the intense industry push amounts to  some sales rep asking shop bro " so how many of these do you want to order ?"  

The % of e-bikes sold by bike stores is as high or higher than acoustic bikes  so that "e-bikes are evil" ship has long sailed and they aren't going away

Your feelings are just your feelings which mean nothing to the sales figures of any bike brand so if you don't like E-bikes put your feelings in a thread on the  gear forum where you can  jerk each other off

but some of us are interested in reading these tech articals about  E-bikes and discussing these articals which you are wanking up


-1 Alex_L

Isn’t e-bike power output limited to max 500w by law?

The 800w output quoted by RM doesn’t strike me as particularly legal.


-1 Alex_L

I'm not sure how they get around this, something to do with nominal vs peak power. I would agree though, on paper it looks like this motor shouldn't be legal.



pretty sure "official" motor rating is based on nominal (which is 250w) rather than peak.


-1 Alex_L

Still seems off. If the motor puts out so much more power than allowed for long enough to overheat the system, that doesn't look like a momentary power spike.

Just because companies sell stuff doesn't mean its legal. (see VW, Microsoft, etc.)



Reminds me of Hi-Fi / stereos. A cheap system would proudly proclaim 500 watts with spectrum analyzers, graphic equalizers, bass boost etc, yet a decent system would be rated at 50 watts and just have bass / treble controls, and blow the '500 watt' system out of the water.


-2 IslandLife Hardlylikely bishopsmike dhr999 XXX_er Alex_L

Didn't read the motor bike article. 

Because you can skip right to the comments .

Apparently North Shore Motor Bike is still getting the hate from the meat powered crowd . 

Cam ,s response is polite and classy .

Thank you for your opinion.  

The question people are asking is not about a part that improves performance,  saves weight or adds or reduces longevity. 

It's about the idea of motor bikes on mountain bike trails . 

It's not hate it's genuine concern .

Giving a negative response to genuine concern is rather ignorant.  

Ask NSMBA about there stance on motorized mountain bikes on trails . 

Do meat powered cyclist ride with the motor bike crowd ? 

Probably not .

It's like two separate user groups using the same trails . 




@GB - If ebikes really are a critical issue for you, what are you doing about it besides shouting into the wind on an internet website? Are you making the effort to organize with others in your community to bring your concerns to the people who are responsible for managing the land the trails are on? Are you attending local council meetings to raise your concerns? Are you raising these concerns with any sort of data or rational explanations of the issues you see with ebikes? If you're not doing these things then maybe you don't care about the issue as much as you think you do.


-6 OldManBike Joseph Crabtree Dogl0rd bullit IslandLife Hardlylikely Chris turd_alert Sandy James Oates Mark rusm Morgan Heater Matt Cusanelli dhr999 Alex_L Ride.DMC E-wok rolly

Damn motorcycle nonsense.


+8 bishopsmike Sandy James Oates Merwinn Matt Cusanelli XXX_er Pete Roggeman Ride.DMC dhr999 E-wok Alex_L Joseph Crabtree bullit

And Yet. You took the time out of your day to click on the Article, expended thought and energy to scroll down the whole article to leave a pithy, on brand for BarryW, comment. Solid Work.

If you dont like it, just dont engage with it. You get to choose where your energy goes, and devoting energy to hating a toy is pretty sad my dude.   Go ride your bike and touch the grass.  Namaslay 🤙

ETA: Trevor this review series is wonderful and helped get my 58yr old ex Paratrooper dad back on a bike and on the trails. He's really enjoying the Instinct he picked up. Cheers! 🤟


-2 Joseph Crabtree BarryW Vik Banerjee Dogl0rd bullit OldManBike IslandLife Hardlylikely bishopsmike turd_alert Merwinn Matt Cusanelli XXX_er Alex_L Ride.DMC dhr999 E-wok rolly

I, along with Barry and others, have opinions on the relentless push towards the motorization of bicycling. This does not make us "haters"- the stock reply of e-bikers when we voice our legitimate concerns about where this might be headed. Let's hope that North Shore Motorized Bikes does not become the reality in the next decade.


+1 Merwinn Alex_L dhr999 BarryW Dogl0rd

Not sure how a review article about someone's good time on an e-bike constitutes a "relentless push"?  Where did you feel the push?


+7 GB BarryW Vik Banerjee bullit Velocipedestrian Andy Eunson Andrew Major IslandLife Hardlylikely dhr999 Alex_L

The push is coming from industry, fed by the very human desire to have more, more, more, and wanting to make things easier. For the record- I don't hate pedal assist bikes, and like Kyle- I know several people, older than my 68 years, that have had their riding life extended by e-bikes, after suffering injury or illness. More power to them! Maybe I'll get there too, someday. However, "who are you to mess with my good time" is the exact response from the SurRon riders who were ripping around this summer on the non-motorized (pedal assist allowed) trails that I maintain. THAT is where my e-concerns lie- what is all this leading to?


+1 dhr999 E-wok BarryW

I think it's obvious that "industry" doesn't push very much, and they are super weak at doing it. The push comes from consumers, who buy things. Let's see, the entire mtb industry is tanking post-Covid, but e-bikes are still selling well? What should we build?
Sounds like you don't have anything against NSMB or "the industry", but against douchebags who break the law. That makes complete sense, I'm against them too. As Kyle said, I think your efforts could be better directed elsewhere.

+10 bishopsmike Mark Gage Wright Matt Cusanelli Andy Eunson XXX_er Alex_L Pete Roggeman dhr999 abuxton

Im not an eBike fanboi, mainly cause Im still spry enough to pedal my laps and also the cost as Affording an eBike on a Sgts Pay is a pipedream. But that said, it got my Dad back outdoors enjoying MTB again after years of injuries accrued in service, so thats pretty cool and I can see the merit of the platform from an accessibility aspect.   

That said, If you and BarryW dont like the way things are headed, as they say on the Basic Parachutist course: Do Something...About It!

Get engaged with the local scene, engage with your politicians, demand regulations based on power outputs or whatever. Do Something tangible with a measurable outcome towards your desired end state. Remember when A Bunch of Dudes wanted to Preserve the Trails on the Shore cause the DNV was bustin out the chainsaws. They did something about it. They formed the NSMBA. And we have such radness to ride because, they didnt sit and piss and moan on the web. They took action. 

People Making little shitty snide comments on every eBike article does nothing to stem the e-Tide. Its Just a childish tantrum wasting energy yelling into an uncaring void my Dudes.


+3 Kyle Dixon E-wok IslandLife

wherever its headed its headed at 32kph by an every increasing pool of old folks


+1 Vik Banerjee IslandLife Hardlylikely dhr999 E-wok

unless they mod it and it goes any speed


-1 Hardlylikely

32kph on a gravel road seems pretty slow so I could use more speed on roads  but I just did 2 yrs and 3700 kms all on real singletrack  at an average speed of <13kph so I don't see where I need more top speed but if I had more power I could thro bigger roostertails


That is great to hear Kyle.


+1 Matt Cusanelli BarryW dhr999

Damn you were fast with this one Barry! You were a tad slower on the last few articles, I was beginning to get concerned you were unwell or something. Glad to see you're still on your toes!


-1 BarryW Dogl0rd IslandLife dhr999 E-wok Matt Cusanelli Alex_L



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