- Price Range: £393.75 - £950
- Discipline: Hardtail 29er MTB
- Usage: Cross country trail riding
- Rapid rolling 29” wheels
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Both women’s and unisex models
- Frame quality is better than component spec
- No dropper post option
- No folding tyre option
Updated: 11th July 2018
The Specialized Rockhopper is a classic hardtail mountain bike that combines efficient climbing ability with stable handling and a confident, snappy ride. The 29” wheels are fast rolling on all types of terrain from the rough to the smooth. In this review, we look at the different unisex Rockhopper models in the range as well as the women’s specific models, each with a high-quality aluminium alloy frame and capable off-road components.
While aimed squarely at rapid cross-country adventures, the Rockhopper’s assured ride characteristics make it a great choice for trail centre loops too. Being a 29er, the bike carries speed incredibly well over both rough and smooth terrain and the nimble geometry means that it is equally at home on tight technical single-track as it is on fast gravel roads.
The Rockhopper gets a new frame for 2019 with A1 aluminium alloy tube shapes that have been optimized to save weight and improve the ride feel. The Rockhopper Sport and Comp are 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 Rockhopper Expert and Pro both feature an A1 SL Premium Aluminium frame which reduces weight still further. These bikes are built with fully-butted tube sets for the optimum strength to weight ratio, and also features a tapered head tube for increased steering precision. All models feature internal cable routing for a much smoother aesthetic.
Specialized’s tried and tested Sport XC 29 geometry remains much the same for the ideal balance between climbing prowess and assured descending. Short chainstays offer nimble handling while the roomy top tube and low bottom bracket height give the bike 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 XCT, XCM and XCR suspension forks on the Rockhopper Sport, Comp and Expert all feature Specialized’s own multi-circuit damping. This enhances suspension performance by offering a premium ride feel that eliminates the ‘pogo effect’ you get on many forks at this price point. The XCR fork on the Rockhopper Expert features a lightweight air spring and includes a remote switch so you can lock the fork out without needing to take your hands off the bars. At the top of the range the Pro is equipped with the very capable Manitou Markhor 29 fork which offers plush suspension performance and also features a remote lockout.
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 X Small has an 80mm travel fork and the Small 90mm. This enhances the fit for smaller riders.
Most of the Rockhopper models now get a ‘two-by’ drivetrain with a double chainring up front. This makes gear shifting far more intuitive and helps to keep the chain in place on rough descents. Combined with a wider range cassette, you still get all the gears you need for taking on off-road climbs and descents. As you move up through the range, the number of cogs on the rear cassette increases for an even wider gear range. Gear shifts also get quicker and slicker.
It’s great to see Shimano hydraulic disc brakes on all models. This gives 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 brakes on the Expert offer an improved feel.
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 Specialized Stout XC SL rims while the other models roll on the equally robust but slightly heavier, standard Stout XC rims. The Specialized Ground Control Sport front tyre is combined with a Fast Track Sport rear tyre for 2019. This combination offers 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 a great hardtail 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 at an affordable price point. All of the models sit under the £1,000 mark, so if you are looking for a commuter bike that will double up as weekend adventurer then these bikes are an ideal choice.
The other great thing about 29” wheels 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.
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