All dimensions based on Large (19in) frame
|Effective top tube length (TT)||600mm (23.6in)||590mm (23.2in)|
|Chainstay (CS)||425mm (16.7in)||425mm (16.7in)|
|BB height (BB)||320mm (12.6in)||330mm (13in)|
- Decathlon Rockrider 8.1
- Sports hypermarket own-brand
- Stupidly good value
Anyone who’s ever been to France will probably be familiar with Decathlon. The sports hypermarket chain sells everything from equestrian kit to kayaks. With massive buying power, it’s got a reputation for startling value for money. As yet, Decathlon’s UK wing hasn’t achieved the ubiquity of the French operation, but with six stores in the UK it’s clearly on the march.
The Rockrider 8.1 is the cheapest bike in the “Performance MTB” range but shares a frame with the £759.95 Rockrider 8.2.
You don’t usually expect a great deal from the frames on £500 bikes – every bit of tube shaping, forging and gusset adds a few pence to the manufacturing cost of the frame, and that adds up. But Decathlon’s bonkers buying power (enhanced by using the same frame for several bikes) means that the Rockrider 8.1 chassis has the kind of detailing generally associated with considerably more expensive bikes.
Starting at the front, there’s a machined headtube with a relieved section at the front. The top tube is shaped into an inverted triangular section, complete with an interestingly-flanged profile at the front end. The down tube is vaguely pentagonal and tall at the front and flat and oval at the BB.
At the rear, all the stays are heavily manipulated to swoopy effect, with distinctive forged seatstay bridge and dropouts. A couple of neat open-ended gussets up front, cable routing along the top tube and two sets of bottle bosses complete the picture.
Decathlon claim that the Rockrider frame weighs 1.65kg (3.6lb) in the Large size, which is a pretty good weight for a budget chassis.
Clearly Decathlon has something of a competitive advantage when it comes to speccing out the bikes that it sells in its own shops – call it “vertical integration”, call it cutting out the middleman, there’s a whole layer of extra margins that Decathlon simply doesn’t have to bother with. The end result is considerably more bike for your money. The Rockrider 8.1 has a component selection that generally widdles upon bikes retailing for £100 more.
Up front there’s a RockShox Tora 302 fork complete with remote lockout. Amazingly at this price, you get a Truvativ Firex outboard-bearing crankset teamed with SRAM X-7 trigger shifters and mechs. Unusually, Decathlon has specced SRAM’s front mech – many manufacturers stick with Shimano up front because, well, they’re better. The X-7 didn’t give us any trouble, though.
You’d usually expect low-range Shimano or perhaps Tektro brakes at this price, but again the Rockrider impresses with a set of Avid Juicy 3 stoppers. Avid’s entry-level brake does without such niceties as leverage adjustment, but you still get ambidextrous levers with split clamps and easy setup from the conical washer Tri-Align system.
With the exception of the Fi:zi’k Nisene saddle and rarely-seen Michelin XC AT tyres, all the rest of the kit is all own-brand Rockrider stuff. No issues there, it’s all decently-finished stuff. The whole bike comes in at a very reasonable 12.6kg (27.8lb).
There’s nothing at all out of the ordinary about the Rockrider’s geometry. A fairly steep head angle keeps things lively at low speeds, but a similarly slightly shallow seat angle and long cockpit keeps the seated rider’s weight back so it’s not too scary for the novice. And of course there’s nothing stopping you getting over the front and working it a bit more as your experience grows.
Generally the Decathlon is the very model of competence. It doesn’t particularly sparkle, but everything on it works, it’s agreeably light and most importantly it won’t spring any nasty surprises on you.
Positives: Crazy value for money, no notable spec weaknesses, frame will bear future upgrades
Negatives: Lacks sparkle, but at this price who cares?
Verdict: We’ve commented before that the budgetary constraints of entry-level bikes don’t leave much room for innovation. We always like to see bikes that do something a little bit different, but it’s hard to argue against Decathlon’s approach. Having given itself cash to spare, the hypermarket brand has played it safe and gone for uncomplicated value for money. You’ll look long and hard to get more for your cash…