By Stephen Haynes, photos by Justin Steiner
The Rocker SS is Spot Brand’s steel, belt-driven, singlespeed 29er. Spot started as a singlespeed-specific component manufacturer in the ‘90s, so they know a thing or two about the genre. Since 2006 the company has applied that know-how to 29ers.
Like an old, open-wheeled Ferrari racecar, the Rocker SS is classically understated. Spot uses the same high-end steel tubing as many custom frame builders, and the Rocker SS has the price tag to prove it. If you’re tight on cash take note: for 2012, production has moved from Colorado to Taiwan. The complete bikes will cost $300 less than the 2011 model we tested.
When it comes to geometry the Rocker is in lockstep with many other cross-country 29er hardtails: 71-degree headtube angle, 73-degree seat tube angle, and 444mm chainstays with the sliding dropouts set in the middle position.
Speaking of the dropouts. The Rocker SS sports a proprietary sliding drop- out system, which allows for tensioning of the belt and easy wheel removal via vertical dropouts. The tricky bit for belt-driven bikes is how to get the belt between the drive-side chain- and seatstay. (Read our separate review of the Gates Carbon belt-drive system here.)
Unlike a chain, Gates carbon belts have no master link and cannot be spliced. The frame must be made to accommodate the belt, not the other way around. To solve this, Spot has a made breakpoint on the drive-side dropout. With the slider bolts removed, you can slip the belt through the split between the stays. You can also run a more traditional chain-driven drivetrain, should you feel so inclined.
I’ve ridden the hell out of this bike. It has carried my doughnut-loving ass over hundreds of miles of singletrack. The high-quality steel frame is light and very comfortable.
Going uphill, be it short and steep, or long and sustained, the Rocker SS performed well. The bike handled predictably and was happy to be manhandled. Any ascents left unfulfilled were due to this tester’s short- comings as a rider, not because the bike didn’t want to go.
As a 225-pound singlespeeder I did experience a small amount of bottom bracket flex when I stood and mashed while climbing. The flex was enough to notice, but not enough to adversely affect the bike’s handling. I felt the Rocker SS was also a capable descender. The comfortable steel frame and 100mm- travel RockShox Reba RL Dual Air took enough of the shock out of high speed bumps to concentrate on pointing the bike in the right direction. The Sun Ringle Charger Pro wheelset and Avid Elixir 9 brakes also proved to be reliable components.
This is the first 29er singlespeed I’ve ridden for an extended test. The Rocker SS allowed me to rip through rock gardens and technical sections that had given me fits on my personal bike. I’ve had so much fun testing this bike that I lament having to send it back.
Riding the Rocker SS is very intuitive. Hop on, hammer on the pedals, and go like Hell. I’d recommend this bike to riders who are looking for a quality steel singlespeed. The Rocker SS is only offered in pearl white for 2012. Spot also offers a titanium Rocker SS, and a geared version of the Rocker in both steel and Ti as well. The Rocker SS comes with a three-year warranty against manufacturer’s defects.
- Price: $3,500 (as tested), $3,200 for 2012
- Weight: 23lbs.
- Sizes Available: S, M, L (tested), XL
- Country of Origin: 2011 frames made in the United States (tested), 2012 frames made in Taiwan.
- Age: 34
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 225lbs.
- Inseam: 31”