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Specialized Rockhopper Review

specialized rockhopper review

Rockhopper mountain bikes from Specialized are a common sighting on the trail. It is one of the most popular hardtail mountain bikes every year because of the many variations and price points. In this Specialized Rockhopper review I’ll break down the differences between all five models, as well as tire sizes available.

The Specialized Rockhopper weight varies by model due to the weight differences between groupsets. It ranges from as light as 30.2 lbs for the Expert and at 32.7 lbs on the high end for the Expert.

Rockhopper 26 vs 27.5 vs 29

The base and Sport models come with a 26 inch wheel option, while all five models offer both 27.5 and 29 inch wheels. For 2022 the Sport is the lowest price model offered.

With 26 inch wheels you are getting a lighter, more playful bike. However, a 26 inch bike will also be the slowest of the three common wheel sizes.

With the 27.5 inch model you get the perfect balance of speed and playfulness. Mountain bikers sticking to the trails will prefer 27.5 inch wheels for their snappy trail feel. They are also better on the climbs than 26 inch wheels.

If you have a need for speed, then go with a 29er. It is the fastest wheel size in the bunch, and is also better at climbing. All three wheel sizes come with a microSHIFT drivetrain and 2×8 gearing.

Rockhopper Sport

The cheapest model in the Rockhopper lineup for 2022 is the Sport. The bike costs $800 and comes equipped with the same SR Suntour front fork as other brands with hardtail options under $1,000.

A 2×9 drivetrain offers plenty of range for climbing, as well as the low end gearing needed for speed. MicroSHIFT derailleurs and shifters will quickly make you question your purchase. This is easily remedied by a chain tensioner like this one on Amazon for just $12.99.

specialized rockhopper review: upgrades needed
Chain Guide

This little piece of hardware acts like a clutch to keep tension on the chain. This prevents your drivetrain from slipping gears when the trail gets rough. They work and are universal fit.

One huge upgrade a lot of beginner cyclists will quickly appreciate are the Sport’s hydraulic disc brakes. They work so well you can carry more speed into corners knowing fast and reliable brakes are there if needed.

Rockhopper Comp

The Rockhopper Comp comes with a price tag of $1,000, and the upgrades over the Sport might be worth the extra $200 to beginner mountain bikers.

The fork is not great with 100mm of travel from SR Suntour’s entry level lineup However, the brakes get a big upgrade to SRAM Level, and the drivetrain simplifies to a 1×9 setup with a built in clutch.

I’d recommend beginners start out on 27.5 inch wheels. This allows you to develop your skills with a lighter and snappier bike. Once your stills have developed, or if you already have experience, go with the 29er for maximum speed capability.

Rockhopper Elite

The 2022 Specialized Rockhopper Elite gets a huge upgrade over the Comp and Sport models when it comes to suspension. Elite bikes come with a Rockshox Judy air fork. This is, in my opinion, the fork that should be standard on beginner mountain bikes. The cost isn’t much greater, and its a better option than the SR Suntour coil forks on other models.

Specialized Rockhopper vs Trek Roscoe and Marlin

The drivetrain is a 1×11 from Shimano Deore. It has a built in clutch and like all drivetrains from Shimano, it is reliable. It is the same drivetrain on the Trek Roscoe, with the Roscoe being a much more capable trail bike. (Read: Trek Roscoe 6 Review). When compared to the Trek Marlin, the Rockhopper has a similar price with better components.

The most interesting move found in this Specialize Rockhopper review was the change from SRAM Level to Shimano BR-MT200 brakes. The debate will never be settled in the SRAM vs. Shimano brakes argument, but the move from SRAM Level to the BR-MT200 brakes feels like a step in the wrong direction.

The drivetrains from SRAM and Shimano are a better value from Shimano, at least at this entry level price point. It is probably why the Comp models get SRAM Level while Elite bikes match the brakes to the better drivetrain.

This Specialized Rockhopper review das determined one thing. The Rockshox Judy Solo Air fork, and 1×11 Deore drivetrain with a built in clutch, make Elite the best value across all models.

Rockhopper Expert

The top of the line offering in the Rockhopper lineup is the Expert. It includes the Rockshox Judy suspension, SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes, and 1×12 SRAM Eagle SX for the drivetrain.

The price for a 2022 Specialized Rockhopper Expert is $1,400, and if you don’t aspire to get a full suspension bike this is the hardtail to last a lifetime.

Truthfully, 100mm of travel in the front fork feels limiting at times, but thanks to a tapered steer tube you have a lot of upgrade options in the future.

Specialized Rockhopper Review Overall Rating

The Specialized Rockhopper receives an 81/100. All models in the Rockhopper lineup should be considered cross country bikes. The Rockhopper is not a trail bike, but it’s as trail capable as any XC mountain bike in 2022.

The Rockhopper gets good when it sheds the limiting SR Suntour front fork, which means serious mountain bikers should look at Elite models and up.

Sport and Comp models will benefit from a chain guide.

Overall, you get what you pay for with the Rockhopper. It’s a hardtail XC mountain bike that gets more capable with each model. For the price, it’s hard to beat this entry level mountain bike from Specialized.

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