Updated: 1st December 2016
Fast on the way up, even faster on the way down. The iconic Specialized Rockhopper is a hardtail mountain bike with rapid rolling 29” wheels that combines efficient climbing ability with stable handling and a confident, snappy ride. In this review, we discuss the attributes of the four different Rockhopper models in the range - Sport, Comp, Expert & Pro - and the type of terrain that they are best for riding.
While aimed squarely at rapid cross country adventures, the Rockhopper’s assured ride characteristics make it a great choice for trail centre loops too. The 29” wheels carry speed incredibly well over both rough and smooth terrain and the Rockhopper’s nimble geometry means that it is equally at home on tight technical singletrack as it is on fast gravel tracks. All four models sit under the £1,000 mark, so if you are looking for a commuter bike that will double up as weekend adventurer then this is the perfect choice. You can also buy the Specialized Rockhopper through the Cycle to Work scheme.
There are two different high-quality frames in the Rockhopper range. The Rockhopper Sport is built around an A1 Premium aluminium frame which features some butted tubes, where excess material has been shaved away from low stress areas to keep the weight down while maintaining strength. The other three models in the range feature an A1 SL Premium Aluminium frame which reduces weight still further. This is built with fully-butted tube sets for the optimum strength to weight ratio, and also features a tapered head tube for increased steering precision.
One of the defining features of the Rockhopper is the dialled XC trail geometry. Short chainstays offer nimble handling while the roomy top tube and low bottom bracket height offer a planted feel which inspires confidence on challenging trails.
A feature we really like on the Rockhopper are the bridgeless stays. Not only do they offer tons of tyre clearance, they also make it much harder for mud to collect on the frame. MBR
The remote lockout switch allows you to lock the fork out without moving your hands from the handlebars. You can improve your climbing efficiency and still have your suspension ready for the next descent.
The Sr Suntour XCM suspension fork on the Rockhopper Sport features Specialized’s own multi-circuit damping which enhances suspension performance compared to its competitors. As you move up through the range the performance of the fork continues to improve and includes a remote lockout switch. The Comp gets a lighter weight air sprung SR Suntour XCR fork while the Expert gets a plush Manitou M30. At the top of the range the Pro is equipped with the very capable RockShox 30 Gold fork with one of the lightest air springs on the market.
To offer the ideal feel and fit on all frame sizes, the Rockhopper features size specific front suspension travel. This means that while most sizes have a 100mm travel fork size, the small has an 80mm travel fork to enhance the fit for smaller riders.
From the 3x8 speed drivetrain on the Sport to the 2x10 speed on the other three models, you get a good spread of gears for taking on all the varied gradients on MTB tracks and trails. While the Sport gets a similar spread of gears to the other three models the 2x10 speed drivetrain on the Expert, Elite and Pro offers easier, more intuitive shifting. As you move up through the range, gear shifts get quicker and slicker.
Shimano hydraulic disc brakes on all models give you confident stopping power in all-weather conditions, from dry to covered-in-mud and everything in between. The brakes on all models are more than adequate for confident off-roading but the feel improves as you move up through the range.
The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and drivetrain give you the reliable gear shifting and stopping power you need for tackling proper mountain bike trails.
Faster rolling with more grip in the corners, 29” wheels are simply the best when it comes to cross country riding.
Specialized have long been champions of 29” wheels and once you experience the speed that a 29er can carry over rough terrain, you will immediately see why. As well as being quicker, the ability to roll over bumps with less drama makes for a much more comfortable ride. In addition to this, the larger contact patch offered by the big wheels means that you get more grip, for improved cornering confidence and braking control. Acceleration is a little slower on 29ers but this is a small price to pay for the extra speed and comfort you get once you are rolling.
The Rockhopper Pro gets robust and lightweight Stout XC SL rims while the other models roll on the equally robust but slightly heavier, standard Stout XC rims. Ground Control Sport tyres on all models offer a great balance between rapid rolling performance and grip in the corners.
With its capable geometry, lightweight frame and rapid rolling 29” wheels the Specialized Rockhopper is one of the best mountain bikes for all types of cross country adventures. From trail centre loops to traditional bridleway XC rides, the Rockhopper offers that perfect balance between rugged capability and lightweight efficiency.
The other great thing about 29” wheel is that they are also quicker on the road when compared to smaller mountain bike wheels. This opens the Rockhopper up to urban cycling as well as mountain biking so you can hit the trails on Sunday and commute to work on Monday.