B’Twin bikes from French sports superstore Decathlon are always good value, despite the fact that the sterling-euro exchange rate is in the doldrums. The Rockrider 9.1 is the cheapest of their performance range full-suspension bikes.
While most budget full-suss bikes trade rear end travel for weight and singletrack wallow, the Rockrider 9.1 doesn’t. It’s light and sprightly, given its price, and it’s great fun on pedally trails. With a shock lockout lever, it’d be a five-star bike. As it is, it's a proper full-suspension bike for the price of a decent hardtail.
Ride & handling: Lightweight, fast and nimble ride, with effective suspension
All the B’Twins we’ve tested have had a cross-country feel, and the Rockrider 9.1 is no exception. While its 120mm-travel fork sits the front end up a bit, the reach is roomy due to its long stem. At 640mm, the bar is narrower than those of its price rivals.
You wouldn't expect the B'Twin to have the same confident, tackle-anything handling as a taller forked, more trail orientated bike, and it doesn't. We had one or two scrabbly moments on technical descents. Where the Rockrider excels is on more flowing singletrack.
It’s fast and fluid, easily outpacing other bikes at this price. The more we rode it, the more we liked it. The bike is light and roomy enough to spin up to speed when you’re sitting on the saddle, and the relatively plush suspension front and rear swallows the trail chatter that would steal momentum.
Steep climbs and out-of-the-saddle accelerations do show up the oil damped X-Fusion E1 rear shock’s lack of a lockout lever, though. You can feel your pedalling energy dissipating into the rear suspension, and there’s nothing you can do except sit down and try to spin circles.
Braking and gearshifts are as good as you can expect on any £800 bike, and the tyres are a good compromise between grip and rolling performance in all off-road conditions. Overall, the B’Twin Rockrider 9.1 is lighter, better specced and more agile than any £800 full-susser has a right to be.
Frame & equipment: High quality drivetrain; good tyres; shock needs a lockout lever
The aluminium frame features an unusual twin-link suspension design that Decathlon call ‘NEUF’. It’s similar to Yeti’s Switch system, but came first: you’ve got a pivot fixed into a huge annular bearing. This changes the axle path from the simple arc of a single pivot to one where the wheel goes back before coming up.
An oil-damped X-Fusion air shock provides 120mm of travel. That shock is anchored to a top tube that has an unusually angular, lip-edged profile. The benefits are mostly aesthetic, although there is a strength boost at the joints with the head and seat tubes as the weld area is bigger.
The down tube is more conventional, being ovalised vertically at the head tube and laterally at the bottom bracket to stiffen it up. A plate welded to the down and head tube gusset adds strength there too. The rear triangle has quite chunky, squarish section stays and a backwards-projecting seatstay bridge.
The Rockrider’s effective top tube length is on the short side, due in part to a steeper than average seat angle. So even though 100mm stems aren’t in fashion these days, we wouldn’t change it for anything shorter as it would compromise the cross-country reach. As with all Decathlon bikes, the drivetrain is high-spec stuff: a mix of Shimano SLX and Deore that we’d be happy with on any £800 bike.
As a bonus, it even comes with Wellgo SPD pedals. Own-brand rims and JoyTech hubs are nothing special, but they’re shod with good quality Hutchinson Toro Marathon XC tyres. These lightweight all-rounders roll well on hard trails but still hook up in mud and don’t clog. The sidewalls are reinforced to prevent tears.
The fork, a RockShox Recon Solo Air, would be good on an £800 hardtail and is a coup on a full-suspension bike at this price. This one offers 120mm of travel with a fork-top compression lockout. In total the bike is scarcely over 13.6kg (30lb), which is remarkable for a budget full-susser.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike