Specialized Hardrock Review!

The Specialized Hardrock is a great entry level budget bike. We take it for a spin this week.

A few weeks back we took a look at a 1988 Specialized Hardrock in relation to budget bikes. While an extreme and dated option I wanted to follow up with something a bit more modern and practical. This is a 2013 Specialized Hardrock Disc. At $500 new, you can now pick one of these up for less than $300, and it’s a pretty great starting platform. With a strong aluminum frame, decent low end components, front suspension, mechanical disc brakes, and a comfortable seating position, this bike has basically everything you need to hit some trails. But a lot has changed in the 5 years since this bike was made. It has 26” wheels, 3 front chainrings paired to a 7 speed cassette, relatively steep head angle to today’s standard, and it’s a hardtail. All pretty uncommon these days, but that doesn’t make it worthless…just different. After looking at the stock tires and pedals, I decided to swap those parts with something a little grippier. I suggest upgrading these things first as they are the contact point between you and the bike as well as the bike to the ground. With these upgrades complete, let’s get on our helmets and head to the trail.
Almost immediately you can feel how nimble this bike is. With the smaller 26” wheels and short handlebars it’s quite easy to handle tight situations. This is a great combo on smooth twisty switchbacks, but once the terrain gets rougher, you better have a great line because things are about to get squirrely. While on the subject of the front end I must address the fork. It’s awful! It has 80mm of travel, provides no real cushion, and rebounds faster than a pogo stick. I’d feel more confident with a pogo stick as my fork than this thing. It has a preload adjustment that I would fiddle with, but could never tell a difference. If you buy a bike like this and want to hit harder stuff…please consider a fork upgrade.
While the brakes on this bike are decent, they feel like XT’s compared to the rim brakes on the 1988 hardrock. I only had one instance where I went into panic mode on a downhill, and thought I was going to get well acquainted with some bushes. Always test out your brakes before sending it downhill.
I don’t really care too much about shifters and derailleurs. As long as they shift when I push the button I’m happy…and these did. It was kind of cool going back to a 3X drivetrain. It provides a true variety of gearing options, but I nearly forgot about the left trigger until I came to Caliche Hill. I figured why am I approaching this like a total maniac…Much Better
Enough about components and what this bike lacks. Let’s talk about what it does well. As you’d expect from a hardtail, it is responsive as hell. I always feel slightly faster on a hardtail because they typically are. After spending a few hours on it, you even adjust to the lack of rear suspension over the technical stuff because the sheer fun factor overshadows any comfort issues. I really thought I would hate the geometry on this bike after riding the slacked out Jeffsy for so long, but it honestly wasn’t bad. Obviously pointing it down a steep descent was soul crushing, but for almost everything else, it was fun. I even found it easier to maneuver on these death defying ledge rides. Also as you’d expect from a hardtail, it climbed really well. While I still couldn’t defeat my arch nemesis caliche hill, it was incredibly rewarding to sprint up smaller climbs with relative ease. The wheels on this bike have a smaller internal width than those on the 88 Hardrock, and while that doesn’t help the jittery front end, they felt fairly tough sandwiched between rough rocks and my weight. Speaking of weight…This bike is pretty heavy. I didn’t get the chance to weigh it, but it felt about the same if not heavier than my Jeffsy. For $300 or less though you can’t expect a lot of time or money was put into weight saving research and development.
The Specialized Hardrock is a humble hero in the mountain bike world. I’m willing to bet a lot of you have had experiences on this bike or one similar to it. Let me know in the comments what budget bikes you started on or currently ride!
With any budget purchase you get what you pay for. This bike is clearly a more viable option over a vintage mountain bike, or any bike from WalMart, and would be a great platform for beginners or someone looking to upgrade parts over time. However, always ride within your abilities, wear safety gear, and have realistic expectations. If you live in Whistler…this isn’t the bike for you.
Thanks to my brother Alex for letting me borrow his bike. I truly appreciate you allowing me to potentially destroy your bike.
Also, thanks to you the viewer for checking out this video. If you enjoyed it please give it a thumbs up! If you aren’t already subscribed please consider doing so.


Robert Unger says:

I have a 2008 that I’ll never sell because it’s a XXL which isn’t available anymore. Kinda funny looking with 26” wheels but rolling on Big Apples it looks OK. Surly Troll fork and racks front and rear it makes a great commuter and slow tourer.

Bossik Black says:

Just got back into biking this summer. Ride my 2015 Schwinn Ascension that I picked up used. I love it, except for its twist shifters that slip when I try switch quick to climb. Live close enough to bike to OP so hope the meetup comes soon!

Cobra Kyle says:

Thumbs up this video for Abby chasing me with a camera!

JF Rides says:

Crazy to see how much bikes have changed over the years. I still like the old Hardrock.

Chris CXK says:

I started on a Trek Marlin 5. Its a decent bike but very similar. 3x up front, 7 in the back. SR Suntour fork that was pretty horrible. The preload did absolutely nothing haha, I think it was just there for looks. But it was a good test for me to see if I liked mountain biking and if I’d actually stick with it. So many people buy bikes, ride them twice and never use them again. It was the opposite for me, I was looking at more expensive bikes within a month or two of owning the Marlin.

Steve Hilchey says:

Where did you go biking? It looks familiar.

Saurabh Saran says:

Nice video,,I love my 2012 Hardrock..mostly ride it on the roads and it does a wonderful job.. slower than a road bike but that’s because it has fatter slicks.

yuan gabriel says:

Late comment hehe

beau greathouse says:

Just got into the sport a month or 2 ago. Picked up a 2015 Rockhopper for $300 and immediately upgraded that coil fork and converted to tubeless tires. Makes me feel like a kid again riding. I’m pretty close to Mac where you shot the vid if you ever do a meet up ride there.

Phillip Davis says:

Nice review/video. I just started riding again on my 8 year old Haro Flightline Sport. Hopefully I’ll be able to upgrade soon.

yuan gabriel says:

Nice pedals


Pro filming at 4:20
Yeaaaa hardtail!!

teodor gaming says:

I have one of this its coollllll

fiesterblue says:

My wife and I have Hardrocks bought in about 1985. Rode some challenging trails in my 30s. I am now 65 and still ride the same bike. These have been great bikes for rather low end. We now carry our bikes in the basement of our motorhome and still ride a lot. We spend the winters just north of Key West and ride about 15 miles a day on flat bike paths. I have just had my 1978 Motobacane Mirage road bike fixed up with new Panaracer tires and will also carry it with us this winter. I have always ran a Panaracer Smoke on the rear and a Dart on the front of the Hardrock. We have got more enjoyment from these bikes than anything we have every done. Great video and review.

richard rowlodge says:

$300? i cant find one for that much anywhere?

Your Own Adventure says:

DUDE. This is awesome. I’m totally in on your vids.

Kyle Style says:

Awesome vid! I hope you come back to Dallas once it cools down some. Also I use to have the exact same bike but flat black color. Haha.

yuan gabriel says:

Do the bmx vids hehehe

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