The bottom rung of Specialized’s polished and performance-orientated mountain bike ladder has never looked better than this year’s Pro. And its smooth speed is every bit as slick as its appearance, making it a great fast trail bike for the price.
Naturally fast, light, comfortable and well balanced, the Pro is exactly the trail ego boost many riders are after. The fact that it looks great isn’t going to hurt sales either, although you’ll need new tyres for winter.
Ride & handling: Fast, balanced feeling bike that’ll bring out the best of your fitness
With an 80mm fork, steep steering angles and a short rear end, the Hardrock is a fast handling bike. It’s easy to whip in and out of tight singletrack sections, and it doesn’t wander around on climbs.
The combination of a 90mm stem and 26in low-rise bar gives enough leverage and stability to maintain control when the trail starts bullying you about. Fitting a 100mm or even 120mm fork to tilt the angles back would make it a lot more stable and confident on more technical descents though.
The frame’s ride quality is certainly good enough to make upgrading worthwhile. The spring in those curvy tubes cuts back on sting and chatter and keeps you comfortable while you’re cruising.
While the 80mm RockShox Dart fork isn’t super-plush and it twangs around under braking and steering, what it does do, it does consistently. Adjustable rebound also means predictable comfort and control in easy or intermediate situations, and no nasty surprises. Specialized alter the spring weight according to bike size.
The fast-rolling semi-slick tyres and light weight (for the price) keep the Hardrock lively and responsive through the pedals, and there’s a decent amount of breathing space – adding to its easy speed and pedalling efficiency. This makes it a fast bike, as long as you have enough grip to keep the pace up.
When the tyres do fidget, bodyweight is naturally centralised which, in the dry, gives an easily controlled slide, not a sudden smackdown. You’ll still definitely need something more toothy on the front (and eventually the back) in wet conditions though.
Frame & equipment: Smooth riding, sweet handling frame with well chosen kit
The lazy S-curve of the rounded/rectangular section down tube accentuates the curved crossbar for a distinctive frame. Out back the rear stays use subtle shape changes and ankle/crank dodging curves to link up with neat little forged dropouts.
The curved stay bridges will only allow for a low profile 2.3in tyre but the forward-facing seat slot keeps out rear wheel spray. Open gear cables are easy to service, and you get rack mounts for commuting. The Hardrock Pro also comes in more sizes than most, but note that Specialized sizing is generally on the small side.
Specialized have clearly thought about what most mid-range bike owners actually want from their ride. The semi-slick Fast Trak tyres aren’t up to winter conditions that real enthusiasts will plough through, but they're perfect for enhancing the speed and rolling efficiency of less fit riders. They’ve enough grip for trail centre surfaces, which is where a lot of Hardrock riders will spend most of their time.
Our sample bike had a wonky stem that had been mis-forged to such a degree that the bars were diagonal rather than straight; apart from that, though, the kit is all fine for the money.
The SRAM X.4 shifters get little gear indicators so you don’t have to glance back, and the SRAM mechs have a good positive action. The Tektro Auriga brakes are reliable and consistent with pimpy-looking curved-arm rotors. Colour-matched saddle, forks, hubs and rims all contribute to the slick overall appearance.