If you're only going to be riding gentle terrain, the Hardrock Disc is a good buy, with a frame that's good enough to allow eventual component upgrades. It's crying out for a better fork, though.
Ride & handling: Uncontrolled fork rebound interferes with control on rough ground
Everything about the Hardrock feels conﬁdent, well measured and comfortable – apart from the fork. We’ve experienced worse forks than the SR Suntour XCT but it still took a bit of getting used to. It behaves well on gentle terrain with vaguely rough surfaces because it simply sinks slightly into its travel.
However, on the biggest hits we only got about 50mm of its 80mm of travel. Worse still, the rebound is so uncontrolled and it gives such a thunk every time it returns to full extension that you spend most of your time trying to avoid the bigger hits anyway.
This is distractingly annoying when you’re trying to guide the bike across very rough ground. Any series of impacts disturbs your grip on the bars to the point where you simply avoid that sort of terrain, because it’s a rude reminder of the limits of the bike.
If decent rebound damping in suspension forks could be guaranteed on bikes costing £50-100 more, we’d say spend more. But it’s not. A bike like this is worth considering if you ride gentle terrain or don’t mind looking for a bargain replacement fork when you ﬁnd this one’s limits.
Frame & equipment: Chassis is good enough to warrant keeping and upgrading
The established Specialized Hardrock range offers bikes from £300 to £450. Paying £370 gets you this bike with rim brakes rather than discs, and going up to £450 get you hydraulic instead of cable disc brakes, plus 27 gears rather than 24. The highlight of the range is the ‘Premium Aluminium Butted’ frame – it wouldn’t be out of place on a bike costing twice this much.
Frame detailing is excellent. Tube shapes are aesthetically pleasing and contribute to a sprightly but neutral ride feel, while reinforcement butting adds strength where it’s needed. Standover room is good and there’s full outer cabling to the rear gear and brakes, making them resistant to moisture and dirt ingress. There’s plenty of mud room around the rear tyre, plus bosses for two water bottles. The seat clamp faces forward, out of the rear wheel spray.
Considering the price, there’s not much wrong with any of the parts, apart from the fork. Shimano’s Altus 24-speed gear setup functions perfectly, and the SR Suntour crankset has a range of rings adequate for any terrain. The wheelset is well built, the tyres are grippy but fast-rolling all-rounders and Tektro’s cable disc brakes are ﬁrm stoppers. They offer decent modulation, but they’re initially more grabby than hydraulics. The medium-width Specialized Body Geometry saddle is a comfort highlight, but an upgrade to an aluminium bar instead of this hefty steel one would be worthwhile.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.