Bicycle review: Rockrider 500 (2014)

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There’s a point in our lives when we each go back to basics. And, in terms of bikes, they don’t come more back-to-basics than the Rockrider 500 which sets a pretty hard to beat value standard, and also acts like a time machine, being the closest thing to a mountain bike sold 10 or 15 years ago. Also, Rockrider 500 is living proof that you can find an affordable and in the same time fully functional mountain bike, but we’ll give you more on that further on in this review.

Frame/On the trail

It may not be the most comfortable mountain bike out there, but keep in mind that Rockrider 500 isn’t built for racing. Yet, it could use a shorter stem, the current measuring 110mm, and we think an 80mm one would have been much more suited.

As expected for this class of 26-inch mountain bikes, our candidate features a 660mm-wide handlebar, which enhances control on descents, while ensuring a relatively comfortable position when climbing. And speaking of going uphill, the Rockrider 500 isn’t at all an expert in this, simply given its 14,5 kilogram weight, so we wouldn’t take it any further than hilly, recreational rides.

A certain plus sits in the frame, being one used for higher level bikes of the Decathlon-owned brand. So, Rockrider 500, despite being a pure entry-level, comes with a mid-level frame, including the fine paint job, and two extra reinforcements in the areas where the down and top tubes meet the head tube. Therefore, it’s pretty hard to damage the frame, or at least to bring it to an unusable and unsafe condition, and probably that’s why the manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty for it, and also for the stem and handlebar.

Rockrider 500 also features a good stiffness value, its 96.2 Nm/degree placing it somewhere among the mid-level bikes that we tested in the past 2 years. Last but not least, we could comment on the bike’s appearance, but there wouldn’t be too much to say about it since Decathlon opted for a simple design, and also, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Specifications

Taken as a whole, Rockrider is a bargain given the bike’s price, and when we state this we think of the mechanical disc brakes, 8-speed cassette, and pair of double wall rims that it features.

Braking works fine after a couple of running-in rides, although you might want to use them as much as possible during those rides, especially if you?re looking for optimal results. When they start working properly, don’t expect any fine modulation, but an on/off type of functioning that, coupled with the 160mm rotors, actually does a good job. If you’re a heavier person, it’s a good option to switch to 180mm rotors, and you should have the same performance coming from these Alhonga brakes.

Suntour’s XCT fork that is present on the bike has an official travel of 80mm, but we couldn’t convince it to use more than half of it. The hard coils probably respond better when being put to use by heftier riders, this being the only hope for an improved functioning since there is no other adjustment button than the preload one.

Some better news come from the 3×8 drivetrain, that features a SRAM crankset with non-replaceable chainrings, and gear ratios that new-comers to this off-road affair might find useful, including the lowest gear, engaged when the chain runs on the 32-tooth sprocket and the 22-tooth chainring. SRAM also offers the shifters that integrate the brake levers, that feature a display that shows the gear your are currently using, something also useful for rookies. Finally, the SRAM X4 derailleurs themselves work well, but not accurate, nor fast, even if they took the chain to the requested gear, eventually.

The Rockrider 500 features, as stated earlier, a pair of wheels that includes double wall rims, that have increased strength. On the other hand, the tires weigh 1.6 kilograms together, being manufactured out of a compound that doesn’t impress in terms of rolling speed, but ensures a good grip in corners.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, Rockrider 500 stands as one of the best of its level, by demonstrating that it’s not impossible to manufacture a bike that looks good, performs well, and doesn’t require robbing a bank to purchase it. So, chapeau, Decathlon!

Talking about its pros and cons, the 500 isn’t a bike for real mountain biking, but more of a trust-worthy companion when riding on country roads, and smooth hills. It’s a good introduction in the world of this sport since it doesn’t cost a fortune, and the best part is you can remain at this level if you wish to do so since it looks to be a pretty strong and durable bike.

For: Recreational riding
Uphill:
3/10
Downhill:
5/10

rockrider_500_2014_technical_data

9 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent bike. I bought mine as pre-owned (10 months), never used, a real bargain at half price.

    The fork is the worst component though – no travel at all, very stiff. In fact, even worse than old ’90s forks. But it does not bounces when pumping hard on pedals.
    Brakes are powerful enough (not so powerful as expected though), but not very manageable.
    Tires are good for off-road, but not for asphalt. You must be very careful braking on wet roads.

    Derailleurs are OK (just a bit “gummy” when downshifting), frame is agile and quick in turns.
    You can’t ask more for € 150,00 (average price for like-new, pre-owned exemplars).

  2. I rode the Camino de Santiago and the Camino Finisterre (walking routes) on one of these and I had 12kg strapped to it. If I had read this particular article before I left, then I probably would never have tried! I paid £170 for it, which was cheaper than hiring a bike.. The bike was far from fancy but it did the job. I rode all kinds of terrains, plus mountains/rocky hills. I had 5 punctures during my trip and I snapped the chain.

    The bike isn’t for serious mountain bikers but i guess it’s ok for beginners or people who need a cheap bike.

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