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Rockhopper Range Guide | Which Model is Best For You?

   Words by Tom Worsfold

   on 11/08/2020 12:31:19


Specialized Rockhopper 2021 - Range Guide

Budget pricing, but not budget performance. The Specialized Rockhopper name is synonymous with performance quality, with the model being many riders' first ‘serious’ mountain bike. With impressive tech-specs and class leading features, the Rockhopper is the perfect model for those taking their first steps into the world of MTB. Read on below to find out which model is right for you, and take your performance to new heights.

Excuse the brag, but we've really outdone ourselves here. Proving that true trail-taming capability doesn't have to come at an intimidating price, the Rockhopper Expert is the culmination of 30 years of redefining the relationship between value and performance - Specialized



Discipline: XC/Trail MTB

Usage: Singletrack, trail centres, adventure touring

Models: Five models, two wheel sizes

Unisex “Beyond Gender” models

RRP £424.99 - £998.99


  • - 1x drivetrains on the Elite and Expert models
  • - Radical new look with an all new frame for 2021
  • - Internal cable routing on all models
  • - Size specific suspension travel & wheels
  • - Most progressive Rockhopper to date
  • - Dropper post compatible

Who Is It For?

The budget hardtail is a staple in any brand's lineup, providing aspiring mountain bikers with their first step into the sport. The Specialized Rockhopper is arguably the best hardtail mountain bike in its category, offering unbeatable technology at a smart, wallet friendly price point. It is versatile too, with its tough build kit providing a perfect base for those riding XC, singletrack and even commuting. For an entry level model it quickly establishes itself as much, much more.

The Rockhopper is as comfortable on a day long excursion as it is on the red trail at your local trail centre. Whilst not having the most aggressive geometry available, it stays stable and efficient on technical terrain and would be a comfortable option for someone unsure of where their MTB journey will take them.

Want to hit the trails on your way to work? The Rockhopper is a sturdy, reliable choice for those with a mixed-terrain commute, able to fit a pannier rack and kickstand. Read more about how riding to work can improve your lifestyle here.

The Frame

The Rockhopper name has been around almost as long as the sport itself. Initially a fully-rigid 26” wheeled, CrMo frame MTB, it has evolved to use Specialized’s premium A1 aluminium frame material and a suspension fork. This offers an optimal blend of weight and comfort, ideal for its XC intentions. A threaded bottom bracket allows for fuss-free replacements and maintenance, and internal cable routing further improves longevity by keeping cables safely out of harm's way.


All models in the lineup offer dropper post compatibility, a step that many manufacturers overlook on their hardtail MTB’s. Fitting a dropper is one of the best upgrades you can make to any trail hardtail, adding flow and versatility to your riding by allowing you to lower the saddle for descents and raise it for climbing, all at the push of a button. The 2021 model retains the cross country angles as seen on the Rockhopper in previous years, but with a nod towards contemporary progressive geometry. This sees the introduction of a longer top tube and improved standover clearance, giving a more confidence inspiring ride than ever.


Sizing - What size Rockhopper should you choose?

The Rockhopper has expanded into territory previously held by the Specialized Pitch, a 27.5” hardtail that served as a perfect entry level model for teens and adults alike. This means that for 2021, the Rockhopper is available in a range of sizes and wheel sizes. So which one is perfect for you?

27.5” Wheels

Perfect for shorter riders and those looking for a lively ride, 27.5” wheels are more maneuverable than their 29” counterparts. They accelerate fast and corner well, with their shorter wheelbase giving the bike a nimble feel. The 27.5” Rockhopper is only available in sizes XS-M, with it being recommended that taller riders opt for the larger 29” wheels.

29” Wheels

Ideal for taller riders and for those looking to push their XC boundaries, 29” wheels offer a higher top speed and are often seen as faster than 27.5” bikes. Their larger diameter copes better with rough terrain, offering a smoother ride and allowing you to carry increased speed over rocks and roots. This comes at the sake of maneuverability, with the larger wheels requiring a little more heft in the corners and being less responsive. The 29” Rockhopper is only available in sizes M-XXL, with shorter riders being more suited to the 27.5” version.

Beyond Gender

You may notice that there is no women’s specific Rockhopper available, but this is by design. Specialized’s Beyond Gender approach sees them create bikes for people, not genders. Their research found that there was far more difference between riders of different heights than there were riders of different sexes. Because of this, their bikes feature proportionally sized components for riders of all heights, whether male or female.

Notable on the Rockhopper is the size specific fork specification. Different sized models will receive varying amounts of suspension travel, allowing Specialized to keep the geometry consistent across the available sizes.

The Models - A Breakdown


Specialized Rockhopper Expert 2021 Hardtail

This top of the range model is perfect for those looking to take their XC riding to the next level. Hydraulic disc brakes, 12 speed SRAM wide range drivetrain and RockShox Judy air suspension ticks all the boxes when it comes to performance. Tubeless ready tyres and wheels open up a whole new world of puncture free riding, all whilst allowing you to improve your grip by running lower pressures.

Why purchase this model? This is your ticket to the big league, ideal if you’re looking to take your first steps in XC racing. The low weight and 12spd drivetrain laughs at the steepest climbs, look to this model if you are serious about your riding.

  • Frame - A1 premium butted alloy
  • Fork - RockShox Judy, Solo Air, Turnkey damper, 46mm offset
  • Drivetrain - SRAM SX Eagle, 12-speed
  • Brakes - Shimano BR-MT200, hydraulic disc
See the Specialized Rockhopper range here Shop now >


Specialized Rockhopper Elite 2021 Hardtail

Offering potentially the best value in the lineup, the Elite packs a punch for its low price-tag. Featuring many of the same components as the Expert, the Elite is the cheapest 1x model in the lineup and carries all the hallmarks of a performance MTB. Tubeless ready tyres and wheels make the switch to puncture free riding a breeze, and the RockShox air fork allows the suspension to be adjusted to your individual weight.

Why purchase this model? Have you seen the spec?! Although missing the 12spd drivetrain found on the premier Expert model, the Elite rolls in as the obvious value choice for any rider keen on pushing their limits.

  • Frame - A1 premium butted alloy
  • Fork - RockShox Judy, Solo Air, Turnkey damper, 46mm offset
  • Drivetrain - Shimano Deore 1-speed
  • Brakes - Shimano BR-MT200, hydraulic disc
See the Specialized Rockhopper range Shop now >


Specialized Rockhopper Comp 2x 2021 Hardtail

Using the same premium A1 aluminium frame as found on the Elite and Expert models, the Comp uses hydraulic disc brakes and Shimano’s Acera drivetrain to offer a high-end experience on a budget.

Why purchase this model? The Comp is your perfect partner to share the MTB journey with, as ideal for taking your first steps into technical riding as it is wheelieing down the street.

  • Frame - A1 premium butted alloy
  • Fork - SR Suntour XCM
  • Drivetrain - Shimano Acera 9 speed
  • Brakes - Shimano BR-MT200, hydraulic disc
See the Specialized Rockhopper range Shop now >


Specialized Rockhopper Sport 2021 Hardtail

The Rockhopper Sport ticks all the boxes at this price point, featuring confidence inspiring hydraulic brakes and a 9spd Shimano drivetrain. Wide, 2.3” tyres give top grip on singletrack trails, making this an ultimate entry level model if you are looking to sharpen your MTB skills.

Why purchase this model? You are looking to get a leg up on the competition with one of the best sub-£500 hardtails available. Hydraulic disc brakes and a 9spd drivetrain make this worthy of the price jump from the entry level Rockhopper.

  • Frame - A1 premium butted alloy
  • Fork - SR Suntour XCM
  • Drivetrain - Shimano Altus RD-M2000 9-speed
  • Brakes - Tektro HD-M275, hydraulic disc
See the Specialized Rockhopper range Shop now >


Specialized Rockhopper 2021 Hardtail

Available in 27.5” only, this model is ideal for teens looking to take their first steps on a ‘proper’ mountain bike. Disc brakes offer great braking performance and a tough, easy to service specification means that it will go the distance. Featuring many of the features found on the higher end models, the Rockhopper is the perfect choice for younger riders.

Why purchase this model? Ideal for teenagers and taller children alike, this model offers top value for money in the trail bike category. At this price point, hardtails easily take the performance crown over cheap, lower end brand full suspension bikes, trumping them on weight and specification.

  • Frame - A1 premium butted alloy
  • Fork - SR Suntour XCE
  • Drivetrain - Shimano Tourney RD-TX800, 8-speed
  • Brakes - Radius CX7, mechanical disc
See the Specialized Rockhopper range Shop now >

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