|Plus: Good price, quality drivetrain, well-performing fork, decent weight, clipless pedals included|
|Minus: Poor saddle, poor grip in wet conditions, rough handlebar grips|
Rockrider 8.1 is an old acquaintance of us, though a considerable period of time went by since 2010 when I first encountered it. At that specific moment, it got praises for the good value assured by the specification/price ratio. At the current moment, things got better I dare to say, as specifications differ, but the price went down with about 30 euros compared to 3 years ago. How did they manage to pull the stunt is still a mistery to me, but then again it’s not the critical point of this review.
Coming back to the actual bike, the Rockrider 8.1 is a mid-level spec’d cross country mountain bike, leaned towards cautious spenders, and which have no problem in riding a bicycle mass-produced by a sporting goods giant. Eventhough it might raise some doubts about quality, Decathlon didn’t make any compromise regarding this respect, even more so managing to offer an above-decent off-road machinery that feels at home on mountain trails.
Frame/On the trail
The 8.1 version underwent a serious transformation regarding the colour scheme, this season being painted in gray and blue. This may give the bike a more sporty appearance, but this would be slightly untrue, as the bike is conceived rather for recreational use than for actual racing. I would even go so far as to consider the superior specifications that allow it to tackle more difficult mountain trails as a bonus. The sit on the bicycle is upwards, a little bent forward, but comfortable still, underlining the destination of the model, as in the case of the 2010 version, where some ergonomic grips would have been more than welcomed.
Responsiveness is assured by the 71 degress of the head tube angle, while climbing skills are in a small measure improved by the 73 degree seat tube angle. All in all, Decathlon did things by the book, without any unnecessary experiments, yet a wider handlebar would have improved control and comfort.
Welds have been carefully crafted, providing some extra quality for the 1.96 kilograms frame. Stiffness didn’t leave me in awe, yet the 84.3 Nm/degree and 43 Nm/degree/kg stiffness-to-weight ratio did place the Rockrider 8.1 frame in the upper half of our test subjects. Bad news for riders weighing more than 90 kilograms though, as they cannot benefit from the frame’s features.
Last but not least, I mustn’t forget to tell you about the reinforcements present under the top and down tube, which are there to prevent cracks, and to additionally stiffen the frame as you would be bound to consider.
The first to catch my eye is the Rock Shox Recon Silver TK, an 100mm-travel spring suspension fork, that functioned quite well during the test. The Juicy 3 brakes have been replaced by the Avid Elixir 3 model, which is quite a brakeset, as we earlier stated. An 180mm front rotor would have better served the bike, since the 160mm one doesn’t make do when the going gets rough.
The drivetrain is a mix comprised of a Shimano Deore Hollowtech II crankset, which weighs 1.024 grams with bottom bracket included, and a pair of SRAM X7 derailleurs and shifters, that work ok, but tend to be slow.
Getting down to rolling matters, I found a pair of Michelin Country Trail 26 x 2.00 tires that look more to have a width of 2.10 or 2.20, with high knobs that ensure grip in dry conditions, but aren’t as good when things get wet. In compensation, the Rigida rims seem to be durable, like the ball-bearing hubs that make-up the wheel system.
A very nice surprise came from the clipless pedals that are included by default in the Rockrider 8.1’s specs, a pair of Wellgos, Shimano-compatible, that weigh in at 358 grams. On the other hand, I found the saddle to be quite hard, and the grips to be uncomfortable.
Cutting the long story short, the Rockrider 8.1 is a pleasant surprise, mainly thanks to the mid-level components offered on a bike with a lower price than previous versions. It is also capable of handling even rougher mountain trails, so it may very well be the most fierce contender in its price range, bringing performance technology to the masses. Actually, my firm belief is that it lacks only one thing that stops it from receveing the maximum number of stars, and that is an air cartridge suspension fork.
Total weight: 13.12 kg (with pedals)
Frame weight: 1.961 grams
Wheelset weight*: 4.996 grams
Fork weight: 2.182 grams
Handlebar width: 640mm
Crankset weight: 1.024 grams (BB included)
Head tube stiffness: 84.3 Nm/degree
*Including actual wheels, tires, inner tubes, sprockets, rotors and quick release