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I'm kinda new at this... The last time I bought a bike that was more than a BMX bike, I was in 6th grade (1992)
I'm looking at the 'less than $700' Specialized bikes.

Rockhopper Disc
Hardrock Pro Disc

I was told that with my weight (close to 3 bills) I should be getting something with a lockout (which I have no idea what that ACTUALLY is, but I assume it locks the front suspension out from moving). I should also consider disc brakes to stop me (again, no idea about these... are there pads involved in disc brakes? When they say 'hydraulic brakes' are they really fluid activated like a car? are there containers for the hydraulic fluid?

I plan on using the bike about 80% on the street and 20% or less on grass and dirt.

I don't really understand the differences in the frames or components either.
Component wise, the two units seem similar

Differences
Frame
RH - M4 manipulated alloy frame, butted ORE DT, forged dropouts w/ replaceable 98954020 alloy hanger, disc only
HR - A1 Premium Aluminum, double-butted, ORE DT, externally relieved HT, reinforced disc mount, forged dropouts w/ replaceable 98954020 alloy hanger, disc only

Fork (I have no knowledge of shocks. We were all still riding hard tail and hard forks when I stopped)
RH - RockShox Dart 3 SL, 100mm, 28.6mm Cr-Mo stanchions and alloy steerer, magnesium lower, coil spring, reb. adj. w/ lockout and preload adj.
HR - SR Suntour SF7-XCM-HLO, 100mm, 12": 80mm, 30mm Hi-Ten stanchions and steerer, coil spring mcu w/ preload adj., hydraulic LO, spring assisted seals, custom paint/graphics, disc only

Handlebars (not sure what this means)
RH - Specialized alloy 31.8mm XC rise, 620mm wide, 8 degree back, 8 degree up sweep
HR - Specialized alloy 31.8mm, Enduro rise, 640mm wide, 8 degree back, 8 degree up sweep

Pedals (not sure which is better...)
RH - Steel cage, composite body, 9/16"
HR - Specialized alloy platform, 9/16"

Rims (Are these the same wheels? eyelets?)
RH - Specialized/Alex RHD 26, double wall, for disc brakes
HR - Specialized/Alex HRD 26, double wall disc w/ eyelets

Tires - (not a huge issue as I'm going to replace either of these with either Maxxis Holy Rollers or Hookworms)

Front Hub (I don't understand what that number and the h mean)
RH - Specialized Hi Lo disc, 28h, CNC flange and disc mount, polished races, alloy QR
HR - Specialized Hi Lo disc, 32h, CNC flange and disc mount, polished races, alloy QR

Saddle
RH - Specialized XC, kevlar sides, front and rear bumpers, 143mm width
HR - Specialized Aggro, kevlar sides, front and rear bumpers, 143mm width

Everything else is the same

HEADSET - 1 1/8" threadless
STEM - Specialized 3D forged alloy, four bolt, 31.8mm, 7 degree rise
TAPE/GRIPS - Specialized Enduro, dual density Kraton
Brakes - are these any good?
FRONT BRAKE - Avid BB-5, mechanical disc, 6" G2 Clean Sweep rotor
REAR BRAKE - Avid BB-5, mechanical disc, 6" G2 Clean Sweep rotor
BRAKE LEVERS - Avid FR-5
Transmission - Are these good bits?
FRONT DERAILLEUR - Shimano Altus FD-M310-6, top swing, 34.9mm clamp
REAR DERAILLEUR - Shimano Alivio RD-M410
SHIFT LEVERS - Shimano Acera SL-MC40
CASSETTE FREEWHEEL - SRAM PG-830, 8-speed, 11-32t
CHAIN - KMC X8, 1/2" x 3/32" w/ reusable Missing Link
CRANKSET - Shimano FC-M341-8, replaceable rings, Octalink Spline
CHAINRINGS - 42S/32S/22S
BOTTOM BRACKET - Shimano BB-ES25, Octalink spline, cartridge bearing, 68 x 126mm for 50mm chainline
REAR HUB - Specialized Hi Lo disc, cassette, 32h, CNC flanges and disc mount, polished races, alloy QR
 

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Weekend Warrior
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Alright, I looked at both bikes and this is what I experienced.

The Rockhopper is a lot lighter, stronger and has a better fork. At your weight the lockout may not work (if I understand right that you are 300#). The lockout basically locks the suspension so it doesn't contract. However the Dart 3 has a blow off valve. Which means at 180 pounds (I ride the medium spring) when its locked off and I hit something hard the shock will work as if it wasn't locked. As soon as the jump/hit is over it will return to a locked position. You may need to upgrade to the black/firm spring ($24 at Jenson i think) to support your weight. I wouldn't even consider the Suntour.

The frame is stronger on the Rockhopper no question about it.

In regards to brakes. The Hydraulic brakes are pretty much the strongest but you are looking at a $1000 vs. $500 bike. I have the V'brakes and upgraded the brakepads to the KoolStop MTB Dual compound. I have enough stopping power even with a kiddy trailer with 2 kids and a cooler which weight in well over #100. I was a little disapointed by the BB5 which comes on the RH Disk so I went with the V's. however if you plan on upgrading to something better, get the RH Disk and change out the brakes for some hydraulics.

The V's work well everywhere except Mud. I ride mine on the trail in the rain, through puddles and the pads work just fine.

Good luck and happy biking...
 

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Weekend Warrior
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The wheelset is good enough. I tried to break mine to explain to my wife i need some new DT Swiss wheels and I can't even get them out of true. Already 600 miles on them at 80% trail and some 3 foot jumps/drops.
 

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Chapel - I wouldn't worry to much about your weight and the Rockhopper (RH) components. I'm not far behind you and mine has held up quite well. I, too, am using the bike for road use to start. Once I get into shape, at least some shape other than round, I will start hitting the dirt trails at some of the local parks in my area.

The only thing I had to do for road use was bump the tire pressure up to about 40psi. Anything lower and it seemed to have a lot of squish.

One more thing. Look into getting yourself a gel seat. It will save your butt, if you know what I mean. And I'd also look into picking up another set of pedals, as the stock RH ones are horribly uncomfortable. I replaced mine with Kona Jacks and they're great.
 

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I'm a 230lb rider and I chose the Hardrock because it was in my budget at the time. I ride it to work daily, all I did was change the tires to some Maxxis Hookworms. For off-road excursions I change them to the stock tires. Like one of the other posters said before, the pedals are useless so I changed them to crank bro, mallet C because I see myself being clipped in in the future.the components do a good job for being budget stuff, I just keep the drivetrain well maintained and I have no problems. I am changing the fork because the stock SR fork does not have the adjustment range I like. Plus the new fork (Rockshock recon 351 coil) has a remote pop lock. The stem is the next thing to go as the 2 bolt cap on the stock one keeps coming loose, a 4 bolt cap should help with that. Oh yeah the stock seat is hard as a rock so I changed it to a Specialized Milano gel.
 

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I don't know about the wheel set on the current RH, but on my '05 they held up fine to my weight just fine (280-290 when I got the bike). I also believe the HR is a sturdier, over-built frame, where the the RH is lighter and I think has a geometry that tends to lean you over more. That's not to say that the RH is a weak frame, it held up to my fat ass just fine.
 
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