Rockhopper Elite vs. Expert: Which One Should You Buy?

If you are looking for a reliable and affordable hardtail mountain bike, you might have come across the Specialized Rockhopper series.

These bikes are designed for cross-country riding and feature aluminum frames, 29-inch wheels, and air-sprung forks. But which one should you choose: the Rockhopper Elite or the Rockhopper Expert?

Here, we will compare the main features and specifications of these two models and help you decide which one suits your needs and budget better.

FeatureRockhopper EliteRockhopper Expert
Frame and GeometrySpecialized A1 premium butted alloy, internal cable routing, replaceable derailleur hanger, stealth rack mounts, dropper post compatibleSpecialized A1 premium butted alloy, internal cable routing, replaceable derailleur hanger, stealth rack mounts, dropper post compatible
SuspensionRockShox Judy, steel steerer tubeRockShox Judy, alloy steerer tube
BrakesShimano BR-MT200, 160mm rotorsShimano BR-MT410, 180mm front, 160mm rear rotors
DrivetrainShimano Deore 10-speed, 1x (30T chainring), 11-42T cassetteSRAM SX Eagle 12-speed, 1x (30T chainring), 11-50T cassette
WheelsStout XC 29 rims, Shimano FH-TX505 hubs, Ground Control Sport tires (29×2.3″)Stout XC SL 29 rims, Shimano MT400 hubs, Fast Trak Control tires (29×2.3″)
Price$1,150 USD$1,249 USD

Frame and Geometry

Both the Rockhopper Elite and the Rockhopper Expert share the same frame: a Specialized A1 premium butted alloy with a zero-stack head tube, internal cable routing, 135x9mm forged dropouts, chainstay-mounted disc brake, replaceable alloy derailleur hanger, stealth rack mounts, and dropper post compatibility.

The frame geometry is also identical for both models, with a 69.8-degree head tube angle, a 73.8-degree seat tube angle, a 435mm chainstay length, and a 615mm stack height for size medium. The only difference is that the Rockhopper Expert has an alloy steerer tube on its fork, while the Rockhopper Elite has a steel one. This makes the Expert slightly lighter and stiffer than the Elite.


The suspension system is another area where these two bikes differ.

The Rockhopper Elite comes with a RockShox Judy fork with Solo Air spring, Turnkey damper, 46mm offset, QR axle, 80/90/100mm travel (size-specific), and a steel steerer tube. The Rockhopper Expert has the same fork but with an alloy steerer tube.

The fork on both bikes is decent for cross-country riding but not very impressive in terms of damping performance or adjustability. You might want to upgrade it if you plan to ride more aggressively or on rougher terrain.

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The brakes on both bikes are hydraulic disc brakes from Shimano. The Rockhopper Elite has Shimano BR-MT200 calipers with 160mm rotors front and rear.

The Rockhopper Expert has Shimano BR-MT410 calipers with 180mm rotors front and 160mm rotors rear. The brakes on the Expert are more powerful and responsive than those on the Elite, especially on long descents or in wet conditions.


The drivetrain is another major difference between these two bikes. The Rockhopper Elite has a Shimano Deore 10-speed groupset with a single chainring (30T) and a wide-range cassette (11-42T). The Rockhopper Expert has a SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed groupset with a single chainring (30T) and an even wider-range cassette (11-50T).

The drivetrain on the Expert offers more gears, smoother shifting, and better durability than that on the Elite. The extra range also helps you climb steeper hills or maintain higher speeds on flat sections. However, the drivetrain on the Elite is still reliable and efficient for most cross-country riding scenarios.

Related: Are Specialized Hybrid Bikes Good?


The wheels on both bikes are aluminum rims with double-wall construction and 25mm internal width. The Rockhopper Elite has Stout XC 29 rims with Shimano FH-TX505 hubs and Ground Control Sport tires (29×2.3″). The Rockhopper Expert has Stout XC SL 29 rims with Shimano MT400 hubs and Fast Trak Control tires (29×2.3″).

The wheels on the Expert are lighter and faster than those on the Elite, thanks to the higher-quality hubs and tires. The tires on the Expert also have better grip and puncture protection than those on the Elite. However, both wheelsets are durable and suitable for cross-country riding.

Price and Value

The price is the final factor that might influence your decision between these two bikes. The Rockhopper Elite has an MSRP of $1,150 USD, while the Rockhopper Expert has an MSRP of $1,249 USD.

The price difference reflects the difference in components quality and performance between these two bikes. The Expert offers better suspension, brakes, drivetrain, and wheels than the Elite for an extra $300 USD.

However, both bikes offer good value for money compared to other hardtail mountain bikes in their category. They are well-built, versatile, and fun to ride on various trails.

Read Also: Specialized Turbo Levo Suspension: The Ultimate Guide

Final Thoughts:

The Rockhopper Elite and the Rockhopper Expert are both great options for cross-country riders who want a reliable and affordable hardtail mountain bike. They share the same frame and geometry, but differ in suspension, brakes, drivetrain, and wheels.

The Rockhopper Expert is the better bike overall, as it offers better components and performance than the Rockhopper Elite for an extra $300 USD. It is lighter, faster, smoother, and more powerful than the Elite. It is also more suitable for more aggressive or challenging riding.

The Rockhopper Elite is still a good bike, as it offers reliable and efficient components and performance for most cross-country riding scenarios. It is also cheaper than the Expert, which might appeal to riders on a tighter budget or who don’t need the extra features of the Expert.

Ultimately, the choice between these two bikes depends on your personal preferences, needs, and budget. You can’t go wrong with either one, as they are both quality bikes from a reputable brand.

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