To begin with it was just on hand me downs and such like. I got my first brand spanking new bike late on in school - a Raleigh Mustang (the white/charcoal version rather than the strange pink one they came out with a few years later!). I then went through a series of insurance upgrades as they kept getting stolen at uni. I think the final score was two bikes, one seat post lock and a set of handle bars!
In September 2001, the transmission on my then current set of wheels (a rigid frame Townsend Brooklands - British made and a great piece of kit) finally wore out completely. The repairs would have been getting on for the price of a replacement bike (around £150). And given that the technology had moved on significantly in the four or five years I'd had the thing, it didn't seem worth it to repair.
So I had a look at getting a new brand bike. And I thought, why not do this properly and get something pretty decent. So I ended up forking out about four times what the repair bill would have been on a Specialized Rockhopper! Although it was over £100 off due to being last year's model, so it was a bargain really :-). And to date, I've not regretted a penny of it. If anything, I'm now thinking I should have paid a bit more and gone a model or two up the range :-).
So far, I've only had one real complaint with it - it broke within the first month! One of the welds had a micro fracture in it which started making a ticking noise when I pedalled as it opened and closed. I took it back to the shop and they got in touch with Specialized who said 'Oh! We do apologize!' and sent a new frame over. So I ended a 2002 frame for the 2001 price. Whether there is any difference other than the paint job is anyone's guess, though!
Apart from that minor hiccup, it's been great. It's certainly pretty indestructible when you hit the trails. I know, I've hit some pretty nasty ones (hands first, feet first, side first and just very occasionally wheels first :-).
The Rockhopper is also the first bike I've had which has had a cycle computer attached. I.e., speedo, milometer, timer, etc. And let me tell you, 30mph may not be much in a car but it seems very fast on a bike! Especially when you're doing it down a narrow, rocky trail on the edge of a mountain! The main reason I got the computer was to keep track of how far I've travelled. In just the first year of owning the bike, I have apparently covered 2200 miles. Not bad going I think.
I started investigating the feasability of upgrading to disk brakes (in particular a set of Hope Minis). Although the frame has the mount points, the hubs don't. So the plan was to get a complete new set of wheels with Hope XC hubs and Mavic disk specific rims. All in all, not a cheap upgrade. Whilst looking around, I came across a second hand Whyte PRST-1 going for half price. I had been ogling these previously as something that would be nice but far too expensive. At 50% off, it was too good to miss! So I got not only the new disk brakes and wheels I was after but an entire bike to go with them ;-).
The PRST-1 name is supposedly marketing speak for it's nickname during development. This being Preston after the mechanical dog in 'Wallace and Grommit'! As for why - the rather unconventional front suspension that looks like no other bike in existance. As for who, Jon Whyte is a suspension guru with a more than passing interest in mountain biking. Whyte Designs is the result of his passion. British engineering at it's best :).
Whatever the background, this bike is definitely a good ride :-). It's very light (lighter even than the Rockhopper despite being full suspension), comfortable, goes where you tell it to, stops when you want it to and is generally great at flying along single track :-). The only changes I've made to it so far are replacing the rather firm saddle with a slightly more padded one and adding my own preference of pedals.
These being the Crank Brothers ’Egg Beaters’. They are about as minimal a pedal as it is possible to get and as a result have about as good a ground clearance and mud shedding ability as you can get! I've certainly never had a problem with them catching on rocks, roots, ground, etc. or getting clogged up. Very much to be recommended (although not the 'triple titanium' version unless you are rediculously rich!).