B'Twin Rockrider XC Pro £1800

Equipped for serious speed or epic distances

BikeRadar score 4/5

The flagship bike from French sports megashop Decathlon couldn’t be better named. Everything about the XC Pro screams maximum race speed, and if you’re not tempted by technical trails it’s an absolute bargain.

  • HIGHS: Light, modern framed but retro-handling race weapon
  • LOWS: Stiff frame, flexy fork and slippery tyres reduce technical trail capability
  • BUY IF... You want a bargain update for an old race bike without losing trad (ie scary) handling values.

You don’t have to shop around much to realise that a carbon frame, RockShox SID fork and full Shimano XT groupset make the Rockrider an absolute bargain – on paper. Pick the XC Pro up and you won’t believe the sub-10kg weight either.

Add this road bike-esque mass to the low inertia of the 26in Mavic wheels and the acceleration of the B’Twin is outrageously explosive and immediate. The frame is impressively stiff, thanks to big squared tubes and a press-fit BB, so there’s little power lost between your pedals and the trail.

The low flat bars create an aggressive front-heavy riding position which keeps the nose on the ground whether you’re climbing or accelerating hard, and the superlight SID fork has a lockout lever on the bars for instant sprint stiffness, and the lock-on foam grips save literally – literally – a handful of extra grams. Imagine that. It’s a serious bike.

The Hutchinson Cobra tyres are proven cross-country race winners, blitzing trails with zero drag and not much more grip, and they’re tubeless ready to match the UST Mavic rims. Add Shimano’s super-reliable XT transmission and the Rockrider is equipped for serious speed or epic distances – few off-the-peg bikes (at any price) defy the basic physics of gravitational pull better than this one, so if it’s straightline speed you’re after this is a stellar choice.

While the frame is up to date with a tapered headtube, press-fit bottom bracket and an easy adjust post mount for the brake, the angles are old school. The steep 72-degree head angle whips round as soon as you even think of changing direction, and the low leverage 660mm bars and distant 90mm stem means we’re not talking a little tweak but a full-on lurch in any direction. Add slippery Cobra tyres and you spend a lot of time firefighting the bike’s random direction changes on damp, rooty or rocky surfaces.

The twisty, flexy QR-axled SID tends to mumble its feedback rather than communicate traction and trail details clearly, and it’s a jarring contrast to the undiluted hammer coming through the back end via the stout carbon seatpost. The fork can be set up to run smoothly on rolling routes, but both it and the smaller tyres rapidly get overwhelmed by impacts with rocks, roots or steps. You know – trails.

Comfort levels can be increased slightly by turning the wheels and tyres tubeless and running lower pressures, but the Rockrider is geared heavily towards masochistic racers rather than weekend wanderers.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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