By Chris Porter
February, 24, 2000
Being forced to rely on internal combustion transportation due to work needs for a few years, I found that I had a lot to learn about the “newer” bicycle scene. I decided to look back into this fulfilling, energetic hobby that had been a cornerstone of my childhood ever since I envied how much fun a co-worker was having traversing a hill on his brand-new full-suspension Trek bicycle a few years ago.
Being an avid motorcyclist, I could tell that these strange new bicycles’ designs had to be rooted from this ancestry. Needless to say, I was intrigued, but I was on a budget, and the steep price tags made me have second thoughts. I knew I wanted to start riding again, and after test-riding a lot of entry-level mountain bikes, my first new purchase was a Specialized Hard Rock FS. My decision for the purchase? I rode it. To me, it was by far the smoothest, most solid mountain bike for the money in it’s class ($250-$500 price range). Most of the bikes that I tested were hardtail front-suspension types, but unfortunately, most seemed to be set up for smaller people (im a bigger guy), so the front-suspension always seemed “spongy”. This was not the case with the Hard Rock. It came with a solid, good sized frame (’21), a Rock Shox Jett (entry level) front shock that was adjustable (I had mine set up stiff) enough to accomodate my weight and size without a hitch, shimano LX components (it was the quietest bike I rode, too), and Specialized comp tires. I didn’t know very much about Specialized before this, but was very impressed with their product from the get go.
The bike remained pretty much problem-free for the entire time I owned it (with exception to the occasional bike shop derailleur adjustments after a hard ride), the warranty was very good, and it remained in fairly new condition when I ended up selling it to a co-worker a year later.
Now, now, I know what you are thinking. Why sell it if I liked it so much? Well, it was mostly complaints from my spine and rear-end after it had been roughed up too many times trying to negotiate rocky downhill trails with a hard tail bike. It definately wasn’t the bike’s fault (it would take just about anything I could give it), but I knew I needed something more suitably geared for this type of riding.
I ended up going back out and testing many full-suspension bicycles, and surprisingly, I stuck with the brand by purchasing a ’98 Specialized FSR Ground Control. It was a close decision, with a trek Y-frame coming in close second. In comparison to the last bike, I found the FSR to be a much better ride for my purposes.
The FSR Ground Control includes an aluminum y-type frame, Manitou SX Pro front shock (adjustable), Rock Shox deluxe rear (adjustable), Ritchey stem, bars, seat post, and pedals, Specialized carbon seat, and pro comp tires. The whole thing came out to just under $1000.00. The ’99s had just come out at the time (which were basically unchanged), but I chose the ’98 because of the discounted price, and I didn’t care for the ugly, oversized decals on the newer models (and still don’t). The color of the bike is deemed “mirror blue”, and is a very attractive color, but the only real “drawback” (if you can call it one) is that its only going to stay pretty temporarily. Scratches, unfortunately, stand out like a sore thumb on this color, so If the bike’s appearance is so important to you, perhaps a color change is suggested.
With lighter drivetrain components and shocks, the FSR just feels like an all-around higher echelon of bike (which it is). The real awe-inspiring trait of the machine is how solid it was when I first purchased it, and how solid it still remains to this day. If my Hard Rock was the Hum-Vee of mountain bikes, than the FSR is definately more like the sherman tank.
I have gone from downhill newbie to novice on this bike, and have never once had an inkling of fear that the bike would fail in any of the tests that I have put it through. Even after the occational spill here and there, the bike stayed together a lot better than I did. To me, its the ideal dual-purpose cycle. I feel just as comfortable on it tooling around local streets (adjusted properly) as I do barreling down steep, rocky paths. If you’re an amateur or novice mountain biker, or just in the market for a good dual purpose bicycle, give the Specialized FSR line a try. I think you may find that you will in for a very pleasant ride.