An XC-focussed hardtail with good looks, great brakes and an impressively low weight

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 8

Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29


  • Light and fast. Superb brakes


  • Skinny tyres


Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29 review


Price as reviewed:


The Specialized Rockhopper is a stalwart of the hardtail world, and the 29in version is well designed with an impressive spec list that almost places it amongst the best hardtail mountain bikes but for a few elements that take the edge off its otherwise great performance.

Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29 need to know:

  • Shimano Deore clutch derailleur and full length rubber chainstay protector minimise chain slap
  • Don’t like sage green? Specialized offers the Rockhopper in three colourways
  • Shimano hydraulic brakes offer a one-finger lever action
  • With a massive 11-51t cassette, the Rockhopper is perfectly geared for climbing


At 13.2kg, the 2022 Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29 isn’t just the lightest bike in the shop bought category of our Hardtail of the Year test; it’s also the lightest bike in the overall test. The sleek A1 Premium aluminium frame definitely helps shift the scale in the right direction, but the lightweight wheels, specifically the rear, are what really gives the Rockhopper an advantage when it comes to climbing or accelerating out of corners.

With a relatively short front end and longer chainstays, the riding position on the Rockhopper Elite 29 is the most XC focused bike in the test, and again this bolsters climbing efficiency.

You could hang this bike up in the shed for six months and the brakes will still work like new next time you ride it.

That’s not to say it’s dated though, far from it. With a sloping top tube and a relatively compact 450mm seat tube, the Rockhopper has a modern silhouette with stacks of standover clearance. Specialized has also gone to great lengths to conceal the rack mounts inside the stays so as not to ruin the overall look.  A slender chainstay bridge doubles a kickstand mount too.

Cable routing on the front triangle is all neatly hidden inside the downtube. There’s zero cable noise but flip the bike over and the open ended downtube where the cables exit is going to act like a mud magnet.

Also, the seat tube on our test bike had not been reamed properly so the alloy post got scratched up really badly after just a couple of rides. So a dropper post would be the first upgrade we’d make, and the frame has routing for it.

Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29


Longer travel suspension forks need beefy upper tubes to retain stiffness and steering precision, so it’s fitting that the Rockhopper only comes with a 100mm travel RockShox Judy to maximise both. In fact, Specialized takes customisation to the next level on the Rockhopper platform by fitting 80, 90 or 100mm travel forks depending on the frame size, of which there are five.

The 100mm travel RockShox Judy on the size L gives a smooth, composed ride. It’s air sprung so you can accurately match the spring rate and associated sag to your rider weight, while the TK lockout will come in handy if you want to make use of the rack mounts to transform the Rockhopper Elite into a hardcore commuter bike.

Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29


Good brakes give you the confidence to ride faster, and none in this test are better than the Shimano M200 brakes on the Specialized. The lever action is incredibly light and smooth, and power is excellent.

Best of all, you could hang this bike up in the shed for six months and the brakes will still work like new next time you ride it. In an ideal world all of the bikes in this would come with these brakes.

Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29

Specialized has long had some of the best contact points, and the Bridge saddle and lock-on grips no exception.

Yes, the Fast Track T5 tyres let you breeze through the security of bermed corners, but get them on an off camber section of trail or a loose flat turn and alarm bells instantly start going off.

Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29

With the Shimano Deore 11-speed drivetrain the Rockhopper Elite 29 runs like a well oiled machine. The bike has pace to it too, so it’s a good thing it has those Shimano brakes to maintain maximum control.

Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29


Of the four shop bought-bikes the Rockhopper has the most nervous handling, so you constantly have to make micro corrections to the steering to keep the bike pointing in the right direction. And again, this is where the one finger action of the brakes is really helpful, as it allows you to keep a tighter clasp on the reins.

Steering control could easily be improved by simply fitting a slightly wider bar, as the relatively narrow 740mm Stout bar just seems to amplify any deflections generated at the front wheel.

We’d also recommend fitting a fatter front tyre, or simply one with more pronounced side knobs to calm the steering of the Rockhopper down further, and allow the rider to relax more and really tap into the high quality ride feel of the lightweight aluminium frame.


The 2022 Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29 is clean, sleek and very well designed. So not only does the bike look every bit the money, the Shimano Deore 11sp drivetrain and top-rated Shimano brakes also give it a quality feel that’s going to last. Being the lightest bike in test, it’s fitting that the Rockhopper is also the most XC in nature, but the twitchy handling is somewhat at odds with who this bike is targeted at: namely, new riders getting into mountain biking. What they really need is a bike, or tyres, to boost confidence, not simply boost up every climb.


Frame:A1 Premium aluminium
Fork:RockShox Judy TK, 46mm offset, 100mm travel
Drivetrain:Stout 30t, 175mm chainset, Shimano Deore M5100 1x11sp derailleur and shifter, Shimano Deore 11-51t cassette
Brakes:Shimano MT200 2-piston, 180/160mm rotors
Wheels:Formula 100/135mm hubs, Specialized Hookless rims, Specialized Fast Trak T5 29x2.35in tyres
Components:Stout Mini Rise 740mm bar, Specialized 3D Forged 55mm stem, Specialized alloy post, Bridge Sport SL saddle
Sizes:S, M, L, XL, XXL
Weight:13.2kg (29.10lb)
Size tested:L
Head angle:68.5°
Seat angle:73.5°
Effective seat angle:74.5°
BB height:305mm
Front centre :710mm
Down tube:720mm
Seat tube:450mm
Top tube:625mm