Specialized Hardrock SE review

Flawed thoroughbred

Our rating 
1.5 out of 5 star rating 1.5
GBP £340.00 RRP
Specialized Hardrock SE

Our review

The Hardrock SE has the makings of a decent bike but an awful fork and even worse transmission rule it out of contention. Go for the slightly pricier Hardrock instead
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The Specialized Hardrock is a bike that’s introduced hundreds of thousands of people to mountain biking over the years. It is, in many ways, the bike equivalent of the Volkswagen Golf – affordable, capable and all you really need.


Sadly, the 2012 Hardrock SE doesn’t live up to its illustrious heritage. It shares its cheap, ineffective fork with some of its competitors but its screw-on freewheel wrecks its chances of ever being a useable off-roader. Luckily just £30 more buys you the Specialized Hardrock, which shares the same (actually rather good) frame but adds a useable fork and transmission.

Ride & handling: Good on smooth trails but poor fork and freewheel count it out for proper off-roading

Specialized’s designers know what they’re doing, so the fact that the Hardrock SE has decent handling comes as no surprise. The well thought out frame contributes to low – for the price bracket – weight and a relatively lively ride character.

That’s the good news. The bad news includes the fact that Suntour’s M3010 fork ruins the ride on anything other than middling pace, fairly smooth trails. But the clattery, crude fork pales into insignificance next to the frustration of using the ill thought out gears.

Shimano’s ‘MegaRange’ freewheel features six closely-spaced gears and a huge jump to the 34T sprocket. While this endows the bike with a lower – read easier – lowest gear than most of the competition, it simply doesn’t offer the gear ratios needed for riding off-road.

Huge ratio gaps are a hindrance rather than a help, slowing forward progress and making trail riding on the Hardrock SE a chore rather than a pleasure. Odd sprocket sizes make for exact duplicate gear ratios in the small and middle chainrings – not a good thing

The frame’s good. The handling’s good. But without a better fork and a more capable transmission, this is a bike best left on the showroom floor. Buy the £370 Hardrock instead.

Frame & equipment: Well thought out chassis is light and upgrade-worthy

The subtle twin curves of the Hardrock SE’s variable cross-section down tube hint at the attention to detail that’s gone into the frame. Specialized call it ORE – Optimized Radius Engineering. What it means is that the tube has been carefully shaped to make it as strong and light as possible. Rack mounts and a very neat rear disc mount finish things off nicely.

Plugged into the front is Suntour’s ubiquitous (in this price range) M3010 fork. Specialized spec different springs according to frame size – a neat touch – and there’s a preload adjuster, too. We’d prefer the better built and far more accomplished Suntour XCT, though, as featured on the £370 Hardrock.


Specialized list the Hardrock SE as having a rear cassette mechanism. It doesn’t – it has a screw-on freewheel. That means no sealing against water or grit ingress and a considerably weaker rear wheel (a freehub has widely spaced hub bearings for better strength and durability) – a massive backwards step and a big no-no on a bike that claims to be off-road worthy.

Product Specifications


Name Hardrock SE (12)
Brand Specialized

Description Sizes: 13in, 15.5in, 17.5in, 19in, 21in, 23in
Rear Derailleur Shimano TX35
Weight (lb) 29.1
Weight (kg) 13.2
Stem unbranded, 75mm
Shifters Shimano EF51
Seat Angle 71.5
Saddle Specialized Body Geometry Hardrock
Rims Alex HR
Rear Wheel Weight 2500
Head Angle 70.5
Brakes Unbranded 'V' type
Handlebar Hi-ten steel riser, 650mm
Front Wheel Weight 1900
Front Derailleur Shimano Tourney
Frame Material Specialized A1 aluminium
Fork SR Suntour M3010AL coil, 63mm 2.5in travel
Cranks Suntour 24/34/42T
Chain KMC Z-51
Cassette Shimano 7-speed 14-34T
Tyres Specialized Fast Trak LK Sport 26x2.0in