Specialized's Rockhopper range takes you from 'all you need' stalwart to this impressively specced speed machine. Does getting the top model of the tree make sense though?
The 2007 Rockhopper Pro frame is the same chassis as on £500 versions of the bike. The M4 tubing is elaborately shaped and moulded to produce big top and down tubes, and the latter also gets a pronounced 'ORE' curve designed to spread stress and give fork clearance, while the stout top tube drops away to an extended seat tube.
The seat tube is also large diameter, and while they look skinny compared to the rest of the frame, there's nothing undernourished about the tapered 'A frame' rear stays.
Curved brace pipes give good mud clearance and spread rear brake stress, and there are no less than three bottle mounts.
The 'naked' gear cable routing also generally runs smoother for longer than semi enclosed top tube runs.
Running smooth isn't generally in the nature of the 'Hopper though. This is a proper light-the-touchpaper performance bike from the first firm pedal to the whip crack drive up any long straight or spiralling trail to the summit. With a seriously lightweight overall build at 25lb, the Pro Disc lights up the instant you show any hint of haste. Skinny tread, featherweight tyres spin up to speed rapidly and a good stretch from saddle to bar on our 19in sample means easy breathing when others are fit to puke.
It can make the 'Hopper a real scattergun handful in rougher sections, though, so you'll need to learn to place it accurately on techy terrain to avoid a proper beating in the boulders.
The low bottom bracket had us kicking steps and ruts unexpectedly too. The Reba forks are supplied with 20mm travel reducer spacers if you want to sharpen things up further.
We'd be inclined to leave the Rebas because even at 100mm there's still a fair amount of trail flattening up front. RockShox always get more fluid after a while as well, and Rebas are a great match for the rest of the racey bike.
The Avid Juicy 5 disc brakes chop down speed emphatically for into corner overtaking and the Shimano gear mix of Deore at the front and XT at the rear was flawless.
The reasonably light Mavic wheelpack helps speed as well, and fatter than average 2in Fast Trak tyres give some comfort at lower pressures. Specialized's typically slick finishing kit also feels good (if firm).
Hardtails come in many different characters these days, but Specialized has stuck with the traditional hardwired high performance vibe for the 'Hopper.
An impressively low overall weight underlines the racy character, and it's a great way to keep spinning come the winter bog season and get serious speed for under a grand.