Specialized overhauls classic Rockhopper hardtail for 2021

Loads of sizes, multiple wheel offerings and pricing from £379 on this heritage line of bikes

2021 Specialized Rockhopper Expert

Specialized’s entry level mountain bike, the Rockhopper, has had a full redesign for 2021, taking a cross-country inspired alloy chassis and giving it a few tweaks to make it real-world ready.

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New entry-level bikes rarely get much attention, with press launches and media news-pieces dominated by top-level bikes, dripping in carbon this and electronic that (take its new Diverge, for example). 

Specialized, however, is clearly excited about its latest Rockhopper, a bike that it says has been designed afresh, with ‘dialled up performance’ and an eye on value too.

Specialized has taken the Rockhopper and Pitch models and merged them for model year 2021, and in doing so has broadened the model with eight (!) sizes, 27.5in and 29in versions, a multitude of gearing options and a host of features designed to make the bike as versatile as possible.

With bikes priced from £379 to £899, the Rockhopper will be a key model in the competitive sub-£500, sub-£750 and sub-£1,000 mountain bike markets.

Every which way possible

Making sure there’s a Rockhopper for every rider is clearly important for Specialized.

From XS to XXL, and across the two wheel sizes, there’s a huge range of bike sizes being offered, with seat tubes ranging from 310mm to 560mm, and reaches from 375mm to 485mm.

Different sized bikes also get longer or shorter travel forks, with travel ranging from 80mm on the smaller bikes to 100mm on the larger models.

RockShox Judy fork
A RockShox Judy fork props up the front end.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

The range of bikes starts with the 27.5in Rockhopper at £379 and goes up to the Expert level (with both 27.5in and 29in wheels) at £899 – we’ll go through the models individually below. US and Euro pricing is currently TBC.

In addition to the 27.5in and 29in wheel sizes and frame options available in the UK, we believe Specialized may be offering a 26in wheel frame going down to XXS in some international markets.

Specialized Rockhopper frame details

All the bikes in the range are based around a new A1 Premium Alloy frameset.

A1 Premium Alloy is one of Specialized’s material blends, and in this frame the tubes are double butted to save weight.

What is tube butting?

A tube that is butted has varying wall thickness along its length. This means at either end of the tube the wall thickness is thicker, which can help make a strong join between tubes.

Away from the tube ends, the wall thickness is decreased. This allows the tube to be lighter (because there’s less material) and can also help improve the ‘feel’ of the frame.

Walls can be thinner away from welds because, generally, strength here isn’t an issue.

A double-butted tube will present two wall thicknesses, while a triple-butted tube may have three wall-thicknesses along its length (potentially with different thicknesses at either end).

The frames all feature internal cable routing (where the brake and gear cables run inside the frame’s main tubes), as well as routing for a dropper post, should you want to fit one at a later date.

The bicycle industry seems to be turning back in favour of threaded bottom brackets too, which is no bad thing, because they tend to be easier to service and replace than press fit BBs – and threaded is what you get on the Rockhopper.

Chainstay cables
Cables run externally along the chainstays.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

Disc calipers are held on the chainstays, while there are replaceable alloy mech hangers and 100mm front, 135mm rear QR dropouts on the frame and fork.

These are older standards, which may limit the ‘upgrade potential’, certainly of the pricier bikes in the range, because most new wheels use bolt-thru axles and Boost width hub spacing (110mm / 148mm).

In a further nod towards versatility, the Rockhopper frames will come with both mudguard (or fender) mounts, as well as those for kickstands – both are ‘hidden’, so not obvious with a passing glance.

Rear triangle of the Specialized Rockhopper
The brake caliper sits neatly inside the rear triangle.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

Specialized Rockhopper geometry

Specialized says that the Rockhopper has XC-inspired geometry. This means it’s based around bikes that are designed to be as fast up a hill as they are down, with snappy, reactive handling. 

Specialized Rockhopper logo
The logo sparkles in the sun.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

With multiple wheel diameters being offered, the key geometry figures below are for both 27.5in and 29in models in a size Medium for comparison.

Geometry plays a key part in how a bike rides, so if you want to learn more, read our ultimate guide to mountain bike geometry and handling.

Specialized Rockhopper 29in geometry

  • Reach: 425mm
  • Seat tube: 400mm
  • Head angle: 68.5 degrees
  • Seat tube angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Chainstay length: 440mm
  • Bottom bracket height: 310mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,128mm
  • Stack: 616mm
  • Standover: 754mm

Specialized Rockhopper 27.5in geometry

  • Reach: 415mm
  • Seat tube: 400mm
  • Head angle: 68 degrees
  • Seat tube angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Chainstay length: 440mm
  • Bottom bracket height: 310mm
  • Wheelbase: 1118mm
  • Stack: 589mm
  • Standover: 735mm

Specialized Rockhopper models

The five UK Rockhopper models range in price from £379 to £899, and while they all share the same frame construction, the components fitted to the models differ in places – mostly gears, brakes and suspension.

Finishing kit (saddle, seatpost, handlebars and stem) are the same across the range.

Specialized Stout components
Specialized’s Stout components are fitted across the range.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

Specialized Rockhopper spec

The entry-level Rockhopper gets 27.5in wheels and comes in Extra Small, Small and Medium sizes.

Fork travel varies from 80mm on the XS, to 90mm on the S and 100mm on the M. Specialized has also worked with SR Suntour to give size-specific suspension tunes, so the smaller bikes have a lighter spring weight to reflect smaller rider weights.

  • Fork: SR Suntour XCE, coil spring
  • Gears: Shimano Tourney/Altus derailleurs, MicroSHIFT shifters, SunRace cassette, 2×8
  • Brakes: Radius CX7 cable disc brakes
  • Wheels: Formula hubs, alloy rims, Specialized Ground Control Sport 27.5 x 2.3in tyres
  • Price: £379

Specialized Rockhopper Sport spec

The forth tier Rockhopper Sport also gets 27.5in wheels and is available in Extra Small, Small and Medium sizes too.

Fork travel again varies from 80mm, to 90mm and 100mm respectively. The SR Suntour XCM fork has slightly thicker stanchions (upper legs) than the base-level Rockhopper, which makes them structurally a little stiffer.

  • Fork: SR Suntour XCM, coil spring
  • Gears: Shimano Altus derailleurs and shifters, SunRace cassette, 2×9
  • Brakes: Tektro HD M275 hydraulic disc brakes
  • Wheels: Formula hubs, alloy rims, Specialized Ground Control Sport 27.5 x 2.3in tyres
  • Price: £449

Specialized Rockhopper Comp 2x spec

The Rockhopper Comp 2x has 27.5in wheels and comes in Extra Small, Small and Medium sizes. Fork travel also ranges from 80mm to 100mm across the three sizes.

This model’s SR Suntour XCM fork comes with a lockout for improved performance on roads. Locking out the fork prevents it moving when you’re pedalling hard, so less energy is wasted.

  • Fork: SR Suntour XCM, coil spring, lockout
  • Gears: Shimano Altus and Alivio derailleurs and Acera shifters, SunRace cassette, 2×9
  • Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes
  • Wheels: Shimano TX505 hubs, Specialized Stout alloy rims, Specialized Ground Control Sport 27.5 x 2.3in tyres
  • Price: £549

Specialized Rockhopper Elite spec

Specialized’s Rockhopper Elite has 29in wheels and comes in Medium, Large, Extra Large and Extra Extra Large sizes.

Fork travel varies from 90mm to 100mm, with all but the smallest sizes getting 100mm.

RockShox Judy fork
A RockShox Judy fork provides 80 to 100mm of travel, depending on the size of the frame.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

Spec levels jump a bit here, with the introduction of an air-sprung RockShox Judy fork and Shimano Deore 1×10 gearing.

With an air sprung fork, the rider uses a shock pump to adjust the air pressure in the fork for their individual weight, rather than relying on a pre-set coil spring. This makes the fork more adjustable, as well as lighter, and is (generally speaking) seen as an upgrade in performance.

1×10 gearing means a wider range cassette at the back and a single chainring at the front – this is easier to maintain and set up, and in our experience rarely leaves you struggling on hills, despite only a single chainring at the cranks. Specialized has added a hill-friendly 30t chainring.

The alloy rims and the tyres are tubeless ready, so ditching puncture-prone inner tubes should be easy on this bike. Here’s our guide on how to set up tubeless tyres on a mountain bike.

  • Fork: RockShox Judy Solo Air
  • Gears: Shimano Deore derailleurs and shifters, SunRace 11-42t cassette, 1×10
  • Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes
  • Wheels: Shimano RM35 hubs, Specialized alloy offset rims, Specialized Ground Control, Control casing, Gripton compound, 29 x 2.3in tyres
  • Price: £699

Specialized Rockhopper Expert spec

Specialized’s top-level Rockhopper Expert has 29in wheels and comes in Medium, Large, Extra Large and Extra Extra Large sizes. Fork travel varies from 90mm and 100mm.

This model gets a RockShox Judy fork, however, while the Elite gets a fork with a steel steerer tube, this model gets the lighter (but more expensive) alloy steerer. 

You also see the introduction of SRAM’s 1×12-speed SX Eagle drivetrain, with a wide 11-50t range cassette.

If all this talk of drivetrains is confusing, check out our guide to mountain bike drivetrains.

SRAM SX Eagle chainset
The SRAM SX Eagle chainset.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
  • Fork: RockShox Judy Solo Air
  • Gears: SRAM SX Eagle 1×12, 11-50t
  • Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes
  • Wheels: Shimano RM35 hubs, Specialized alloy offset rims, Specialized Ground Control, Control casing, Gripton compound, 29 x 2.3in tyres
  • Price: £899

Specialized Rockhopper ride impressions

With the Covid-19 pandemic on-going, we have suspended our testing process until it is safe and responsible to start again.

Once it is, we’ll get the bike out on the trails and write a review as soon as possible. Watch this space.

For now, let us know what you think of the new Rockhopper in the comments below.

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