The last Schwinn that arrived for TREAD testing went back without a word being written. It was a very entry-level model that gave us too many first-ride concerns to warrant riding any further. So we were surprised when the importers sent us another budget-level model.
– Photos: Dino Lloyd
At first glance, there’s nothing really that stands about on the Rocket 1. Predominantly white with red and black detail frame colour means that it will show missed spots up well when washing. But that’s hardly significant. Closer inspection though reveals a collection of impressive elements for a bike this price. For starters, a double butted aluminium frame – tubes shaped specifically to deliver strength and lightness in the right places. Add to that a tapered headtube for improved stiffness and better control, Alex rims (not no-name generics) with WTB Wolverine tubeless-ready tyres, a Shimano XT rear derailleur (that’s right, XT – second from the top, albeit 9-speed); Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano Deore shifters and front derailleur and a Suntour XCR air fork with 100mm of travel and lockout. That’s a lot of highlights on a sub-R10 000 bike. The 27.5 (650b) wheel size isn’t going to be ideal for taller riders, but there’s quite a big market for this wheel size in the price range. We ask importers to ensure test bikes are converted to tubeless tyres so that we don’t have to deal with punctures. That was the only change on our test bike from what you’d buy on the shop floor.
After a couple of rides on tame trails, we began to feel a connection with the Rocket 1. No clatter of rear derailleur or clunking of a topping out fork. We felt very stable on descents and in turns. Well, stable within reason in the turns. The WTB Wolverine tyres were both 2.0 inches wide. We longed for a 2.2 on the front for a bigger contact patch, but we don’t generally change tyres on test bikes unless it’s absolutely necessary. We took the Rocket 1 to some of our rougher trails to see how it would perform, and were pleasantly surprised. Again, very firm and predictable and no noise. The only issue we found was that the chain slipped off the big chainring from time to time and required some focussed adjustment. At 13.45kg, it’s a bit of a thug on climbs, but when you consider its price and the rider it’s aimed at, climbing speed isn’t going to be a priority. And it has a triple chainring so there’s no shortage of climbing gears. Where we were most impressed though, was when we took the Rocket 1 to ride the Kings Kloof Black Trail, probably one of the roughest, rockiest trails in the country. Our choice bike for the planned ride had a problem with its tyre and there was no time to repair it. So we took the Rocket 1 on the toughest test it’s ever likely to face. We were truly blown away! On a trail that’s best tackled on a dual suss, the Rocket 1 held it’s own and even got a Strava 6th place overall on a gnarly descent segment. Few, if any, will ever take a bike in this price category on an advanced level trail, but it did show us just what a durable and reliable bike the Rocket 1 is. The only things we’d change is fit more voluminous tyres and possible get a higher-level front derailleur to ensure more chain retention peace of mind.
What began as somewhat of a grudge relationship saw the Rocket 1 earn our respect over and over again. We were genuinely sad to see it go – never an emotion we’ve felt with any other sub-R10 000 hardtail that’s for certain! If you’re going to spend R10 grand on a bike you cannot go wrong with the Rocket 1. Just make sure the wheel size is appropriate for you.
*SCHWINN ROCKET 1 650B
SIZES: S; M (tested); L
TOPTUBE LENGTH: 585mm
SEATTUBE LENGTH: 445mm
HEADTUBE ANGLE: 71 degrees
SEATTUBE ANGLE: 73 degrees
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: 435mm
COLOURS: White with Red/Black accents
FRAME: Double butted aluminum
WEIGHT: 13.45kg (without pedals)
FORK: Suntour XCR air with 100mm travel and lockout
SHIFTERS: Shimano Deore 9-speed
FRONT DERAILLER: Shimano Deore
REAR DERAILLER: Shimano XT (9speed)
CRANKSET: Suntour XCR 42/32/22
BRAKESET: Shimano M395, hydraulic disc with 160mm rotors
WHEELS: Alex rims, alloy hubs
TYRES: WTB Wolverine SS 2.0
OTHERS: Schwinn alloy stem, seatpost & handlebars, Schwinn saddle, FSA headset
CONTACT: www.omnico.co.za; 021 691 0110
TREAD Magazine is sold throughout South Africa and can be found in: Spar, CNA, Exclusive Books, Discerning bike shops and on Zinio
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 27, 2014 – All rights reserved