Specialized Riprock 20 Mountain Bike Review
If your little rider is ready to start shredding some single track, the Specialized Riprock 20 is definitely a bike to consider. It’s an awesome bike, especially for the price (650).
The Riprock 20 and Riprock 24 both got a complete overhaul for 2022. The original Riprock debuted in 2016 and not a lot has changed until this year.
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The Riprock 20 and Riprock 24 bikes are almost the same with the exception of the tire size. If you are looking for something with front suspension, you will have to wait until your rider is ready for the Riprock 24 Expert model.
All About the Specialized Riprock 20
The 20″ Specialized Riprock recently got a total overhaul and we are pleased with the outcome. The older Riprock 20 would have not been something we were looking for, but the current 2022 version is rocking some awesome upgrades:
- Removal of the front coil suspension front for a rigid fork – Coil suspension is heavy and not very effective for younger kids
- Replaced mechanical disc brakes with hydraulic disc brakes – Better stopping power and typically lighter weight
- Overall lighter bike weight – Down from around 26/27lbs to 22.5lbs
- Added internal cable routing
- Geometry overhaul to a more modern trail riding geometry
- Upgraded to a wider gear range removing the 7 speed grip shifter 11-32T for a 11-42T rear cassette with a 9 speed trigger shifter
- Narrowed the tires from 2.8″ to 2.35″ – Saves weight while still rolling smooth over bumps
Specialized Riprock 20 Features
The Riprock is loaded with kid (and parent) friendly features. This bike is good for kids about 5.5-8 years of age (depending on height) and is a EXCELLENT pick for a first geared bike.
We think the price point was great for all the features and weight. We also love the color choices. Currently available in a blue, mint, red, and lilac.
- Lightweight alloy frame and fork with internal cable routing
- Hydraulic disc brakes with an adjustable reach
- 9 speed trigger shifters with 11-42 tooth rear cassette
- Mud fender for the front wheel
- Ports for internally routing a dropper post cable
- Great geometry for intermediate kids – not too upright and not too aggressive
- Water bottle mount – however not very practical as it is under the bottom tube
Specialized Riprock 20 Specs
- Weight: 22.5 pounds
- Seat Height: 25″-30″
- Tires: Ground Control Sport, 20×2.35″ (not tubeless ready)
- Head Tube Angle: 68°
- Stand over Height (ground to top of top tube): 20.5″
- Standard 300mm seat post with a kid friendly saddle
- Seat Height: 25.5″ to 30.5″ (can cut seat post 2.25″ to get a minimum of 23.25″ to 28.25″)
Quick Tip for New Shifters!
If your little biker is brand new to shifting (most are for a 20″ bike), here is a quick and easy tip for you! Simply put a piece of colored tape on one of the triggers.
We just used a piece of blue masking tape. It’s much easier to say “click your blue button” or “click your black button” than “shift up” or “shift down” (because there is a good chance I will say the wrong one anyway!)
About the Bike Tester
- Age: Just turned 6
- Inseam: 21″
- Height: 45″
- Weight: 46 lbs
- Riding Style: Developing her love for single track. Also really loves downhill now that she can climb back up easier due to the gears.
- What she loves most about the bike: “I love that it has gears!”
What We Love About the Specialized Riprock 20
Solid Kids Mountain Bike at an Affordable Price
Although this isn’t the lightest bike out there, we think this is a great bike with quality components at a decent price. We like the upgrade of the wider gear range to make climbing easier for young riders. The removal of the front suspension was also a selling point for us.
The Riprock also comes stock with solid tires ready for the trail. We like the 2.35″ tires width, enough width to roll over roots but not so wide that you are losing speed, having to work harder, or carrying extra weight.
Overall, a quality bike for a young rider and a price that won’t break the bank.
We love the easily adjustable reach brake handles and the kid sized shifters. They are easy to reach and use for small hands. The Riprock also has a narrower bar grip (19mm bar end) built for kids hands but a wider handlebar (600mm) for more stability.
The internally routed cables also keep things from getting caught. We love the narrower, comfy bike seat as well. The mini-mud flap is also a great addition since most after market ones wouldn’t fit well on the small frame.
The Geometry of Specialized Riprock
We love that this bike has an “intermediate” mountain bike geometry. This bike is definitely designed for the trail so it isn’t too upright that it makes trails difficult, but not so aggressive that its difficult for younger riders learning single-track.
The 68° head tube angle is on the more aggressive side, but we didn’t find it overly aggressive with the other geometry.
Our somewhat timid rider turned into a single track loving kid on the Riprock on a trip to Bentonville.
Rigid Front Fork – YES!
Yes! For us this is a pro! By not having a front suspension the bike is saving weight on a feature that my kid wouldn’t really benefit from.
Suspension only works if you have enough body weight to compress the suspension to absorb the shock. Most riders in this size range don’t really fit that bill. Removal of a front shock also saves some weight, sometimes up to 5 pounds (especially since the old Riprock had a coil suspension).
Other benefits of a rigid fork is that little riders learn how to control their bike better by learning how to react to the trail and not having everything cushioned.
It also saves you some money and is one less thing to maintenance.
Why Specialized and Trek For This Special Comparison, Mont?
Well, I’ve ridden a Trek carbon road bike for these past (nearly) six years and I’ve been very happy with it. I’d certainly consider buying another one.
We’ll get onto this, but one of the (less rational) reasons for buying my bike (the Domane) was that it was both an ‘endurance’ bike (built for the less fit who want a more comfortable ride) and cool (it was the bike Fabian Cancellara would use to ride Paris-Roubaix).
Things have moved on slightly (‘endurance’ and all out racing bikes have converged somewhat), but Specialized also had (still have) a cool ‘endurance’ bike (i.e. aimed at the less flexible gent) that evoked the spring classics: the Specialized Roubaix – the clue’s in the title.
Other Slightly Related Facts
I did end up buying a Specialized steed a year after the conclusion of my endurance bike purchasing quest.
Only it was a 20″ Specialized Hotrock hardtail mountain bike for my son. Whilst an excellent bike, less relevant for this post.
Finally, true fact, the colour scheme for this ‘ere blog, which I updated last year is based on my current favourite team jersey: the Trek-Segafredo women’s kit (circa 2019).
So Let’s Start With The Basics
Both Trek and Specialized are US manufacturers.
Trek was founded in 1976 in Waterloo, Wisconsin by Richard Burke, owner of an appliance distribution business, and Bevil Hogg, a bike shop owner. As a lifelong fan of Lord Wellington and Abba (both of who loved distributing appliances), this appeals to me.
The company started life in a barn, a building which I recall from an episode of the Cycling Tips podcast, Trek still keeps as part of its current ‘campus’.
(Come on, that’s history, innit.)
The company (as far as I can tell) continues to be owned by the family of the original founders, and is run by John Burke, son of Richard.
Specialized was founded in 1974, two years earlier than Trek, by Mike Sinyard. Initially Sinyard imported Italian bike parts that he’d discovered on his bike travels, but by 1981, Specialized had started making its own bikes, with one of the first being the Allez road bike.
( Wait! They still make the Allez, all these years later. Amazing…).
The company is 49%-owned by Merida, a Taiwanese firm that also make bikes. I think I probably knew this (prior to undertaking the ‘sort-of-research’ for this post) but was more surprised to discover that it made the acquisition in 2001. Anyway, Sinyard remains CEO.
The Specialized Aethos Expert all-road bike in review
Our test team’s expectations of the Specialized Aethos Expert were very high. After all, the Specialized S-Works Aethos won our previous road bike group test by a large margin, albeit with a few upgrades. We put the stock Expert model to the test to see how it fares as an all-road bike.
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best all-road bike 2022 – 7 models on test
The Specialized S-Works Aethos (review here) that won our previous road bike group test was only upgraded to a limited extent: along with the one-piece Roval Alpinist cockpit we had the Roval C38 wheels fitted to replace the stock Roval Alpinist models since they weren’t tubeless compatible. We were sure the Specialized Aethos Expert could deliver as an all-road bike in this group test even without the upgrades mentioned above and despite the fact that it has to make do with the lower-end FACT 10R carbon layup.
After all, the Roval C38 wheels are part of the standard spec. They have an internal rim width of 21 mm, providing a good basis with lots of support for the 700 x 26C S-Works Turbo tires, allowing them to inflate to a true width of 27 mm. However, the Specialized had the skinniest tires in the test field nonetheless and, along with the Sarto Seta Disc, it’s the only other bike that came set up with tubes. Besides scoring lower in the group test, this robs you of confidence on bumpy surfaces like poorly maintained asphalt or hardpack. For the cockpit, Specialized rely on a classic two-piece setup consisting of a 100 mm Specialized Pro SL stem and a 420 mm wide Specialized Expert Shallow handlebar. This combination leaves little to be desired in terms of ergonomics, but since it’s made of aluminium, it can’t match the comfort offered by the carbon Roval Alpinist seat post at the rear. over, the level of integration isn’t what we’d expect, though this is something we’re used to from the Aethos.
Seatpost Roval Alpinist 27,2 mmBrakes Shimano ULTEGRA 160/140 mmDrivetrain Shimano ULTEGRA Di2Chainring 52/36TStem Specialized Pro SL 100 mmHandlebar Specialized Expert Shallow 420 mmWheelset Roval C38Tires S-Works TurboCranks Shimano ULTEGRA Di2 172,5 mmCassette Shimano ULTEGRA CS-R8100 11–30T
Size 49 52 54 56 58 61Weight 7.21 kg
classic designSWAT mount on the saddleframe stiffness achieved via the top tubetubeless-ready Roval C38 wheels
Weight savings instead of integration: the Specialized Aethos Expert is the ultimate mountain goat with excellent handling.
For the drivetrain, Specialized have opted to go with the new ULTEGRA Di2 groupset, which means there isn’t anything to complain about regarding shifting speed and performance, even if the top-end DURA-ACE remains unbeatable in this respect. The 52/36 t crankset is paired with a 11–30 t cassette, which allows you to keep on pedalling at high speeds, though you might wish you had an easier gear on the climbs. If you’ve got enough power in your legs, the lightweight Aethos Expert is an excellent climber, nonetheless, weighing in at just 7.21 kg in size 56. Our test bike costs € 7,000 on the dot.
The Specialized Aethos Expert in review
The Specialized Aethos Expert is on par with the Parapera Atmos Masterpiece in terms of acceleration, both of which set the standard in this group test. Whether you’re on a flat road or winching your way up a climb, it’s always willing to accelerate. Like the Parapera, however, it struggles keeping up with the other bikes on test when it comes to efficiency at speed and holding the pace – the lack of aerodynamic optimisation makes a marked difference here. The excellent vibration damping is its saving grace regarding efficiency, ultimately keeping the bike from falling back to the end of the test field. It’s the same vibration damping that the Specialized benefits from in terms of comfort, which is down the seat post and the compliance offered by the frame. On bumpy roads, broken asphalt and hardpack, the comfort the bike is able to generate this way is easily enough. However, bigger bumps get passed onto the rider a lot less mitigated in comparison to the most comfortable bikes on test. The tires also reach their limits in these instances, making you grit your teeth every time you hit a bump for fear of puncturing them.
The handling of the Specialized Aethos Expert makes up for any of these shortcomings, showing the rest of the test field how it’s done. Since the frame’s stiffness doesn’t come from the down tube but runs from the head tube to the bottom bracket via the top tube instead, it allows for a certain level of torsional flex. Thereby, the Aethos’ handling is intuitive and excellently balanced between agility and composure, making the steering feel very direct yet cornering as if it’s on rails, even when things get bumpy. It’s a lot of fun and instils you with confidence – as long as you’re riding on asphalt. On gravel, the narrow S-Works tires mean that the Aethos reaches its limits a lot sooner than bikes with wider tires, which can be a safety factor on loose terrain.
Tuning tip: wider, higher-volume tires are a relatively cheap upgrade that can make the bike a lot more versatile
All in all, the Specialized Aethos Expert proves to be more than capable in this group test too, delivering thanks to its superior handling and first-rate vibration damping. That said, it hasn’t got what it takes to repeat what its big brother, the Specialized S-Works Aethos, managed to do by taking the crown. Having the skinniest tires on test and set up with tubes, it’s just too limited, and its lack of efficiency at speed also sees it falling behind. The Specialized Aethos Expert is best reserved for steep climbs on asphalt roads followed by winding descents filled with all kinds of corners.
Disadvantages of riding a small mountain bike
Smaller mountain bikes aren’t very stable on high-speed sections because of their short wheelbase. You have a more stable ride if you have a longer wheelbase.
This happens because they distribute your center of gravity across a bigger area. You’ll also have smaller ground coverage with an S-sizing bicycle. This is a disadvantage in races where bigger ground coverage translates to faster speeds.
When do you need a large mountain bike?
A large mountain bike size is ideal if you prefer stability to playfulness. This means you are more of a conservative rider instead of a trickster. Large bikes give you the control you can’t have on smaller bikes.
This happens because of the long wheelbase of Specialized, which gives you a better center of gravity. You have a lower chance of going over the bars as well.
You can even roll drops on Specialized bicycles without jumping them. This makes your rides safer and injuries less likely because you factored in the rider’s height for the optimum experience.
Best Specialized Mountain Bikes
The Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper is one of Specialized’s flagship trail bikes. It has 29-inch wheels and features an all-Fox suspension with Fox Float 34 up front and Fox Float DPS shock.
This Specialized bike also has Rockshox’s flagship Reverb AXS electronic wireless dropper, which is ideal for trails. Its brakes are from SRAM’s G2 Ultimate quad-piston that goes along with its DT Swiss 240 wheelset everyday in Specialized.
The Specialized S-Works Enduro is the top-of-the-line carbon enduro bike of Specialized. This has won many Enduro World Series podiums.
Its beefy tube and seat sport Fox’s all-new Float 38 fork with Grip 2 damper and a Fox Float X2 shock, ideal for riders that need a larger size Specialized frame.
Most people who have tall height also prefer this because of its versatility and stability in steep downhill sections. The dropper of this Specialized is Rockshox Reverb AXS, and its brakes are SRAM Code RSC, which go well with Specialized components.
Getting the right mountain bike size is important because this affects your riding. Having a size smaller than your weight makes the ride uncomfortable.
Your ride isn’t very stable, and you have a higher chance of getting injured. Meanwhile, a bike that’s larger than your intended size feels heavy. You also can’t easily move.
What’s also great with Specialized bikes is that the total purchase price can be subject to installment plans using your credit limit and PayPal credit.
Make sure that the shop you’re buying one from offers credit products and has a rights reserved company reputation alongside a registration number so you can keep up with legal matters.
Also, ensure that the credit provided the subject interest rate of the total amount is low. You need to consider these technical matters aside from factoring in the right frame size and rider height so you can have a great time with your Specialized bike.
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