Snobs knock ubiquitous bikes like the Specialized Hardrock range, but they’re a benchmark in their class for a reason. The Comp Disc is fast, light and engaging, and neither looks nor rides like a budget bike.
Specialized haven’t compromised the frame or fork, and that means that when you’re riding you can forget about the bike – something you can’t do when you’re nursing a bad one along – and focus on the trail. With better brakes and tyres, this would be up there with our 'best buy' in this price range, the £500 Decathlon Rockrider 8.1.
Ride & handling: One of the best riding hardtails at this pricepoint
One problem we’ve encountered with previous Hardrocks is being too sat up, cramped by a short reach. We upsized to a 19in frame from a 17in to open up the cockpit and the ﬁt was spot-on.
We've also had issues with dubious forks on past Hardrocks, but the Suntour XCR provided here is active, plush and well behaved. It only has 80mm of travel but that's no bad thing at this price – longer stanchions commonly ﬂex more.
The bike is light to begin with – 27.7lb without pedals – but it’s the more subtle bump absorption quality of the fork that ensures it rides light compared to many of its price rivals. This means it's easy to pick up the pace on.
Bottom bracket height is on the low side, in part because of the short fork. But the pedal strikes we suffered were caused more by us cranking it through level corners than by any ground clearance issues.
Slacker frame angles should make face plants less likely when you try to push your speed downhill, and there’s just enough control from the mid-width bar.
Frame & equipment: Light but strong frame and decent fork, but we'd ditch the tyres
Specialized dropped the big-tubed dirt jump build for their Hardrock range in 2009. Now the bikes are leaner and lighter to suit cross-country riding.
A curving top tube visually complements the now fashionable curved down tube that Specialized popularised, and which is there for structural reasons: to add strength without the extra weight of external gussets of thicker walled tubes.
Weight and metal are saved from the head tube because Specialized sensibly use an external headset. The stays are skinny too, although there’s no danger of them being bent by the disc brake because there’s support from a reinforcing strut.
A hydraulic Speedlock lever on the Suntour fork lets you adjust the compression or lock it out, providing a level of control that's comparatively rare on sub-£500 bikes.
The 2in Specialized Fast Trak tyres are strictly for ﬁrmer tracks, though. There’s a place for lightly treaded tyres with a hard rubber compound. It’s called America. In the UK, these tyres are ﬁne for caning it along ﬁre roads, but will slide sideways through the ﬁrst muddy corner.
The Avid BB5 cable disc brakes provided some interesting moments too – until we took the time to readjust them carefully, after which they began to bite hard.
They'll work pretty well so long as you lavish some attention on them. Just adjust the ﬁxed pad as needed – it doesn’t require tools – and keep the cables lubed and properly tensioned.