Diamondback Haanjo Trail Gravel Bike Review

Published on Author John
The Haanjo Trail has a higher top tube that provides a more upright and relaxed angle for gravel bike riding where aerodynamic speed is less of a requirement.
The Haanjo Trail has a higher top tube that provides a more upright and relaxed postural angle for gravel bike riding where aerodynamic speed is less of a requirement.

The Diamondback Haanjo Trail  is a 22-speed aluminum bike designed for riding on unpaved gravel and packed dirt roads. It’s a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike with low pressure knobby tires for traction, hydraulic brakes, and drop handlebars. I got the Haanjo Trail for bikepacking in the backcountry areas of Northern New Hampshire which are crisscrossed by unpaved logging company roads, ATV, and snowmobile trails. There aren’t many hiking trails in the “North Country” but there is a lot of “wild”. What better way to explore it than by bike?

There are a wide range of bikes that can be used for gravel riding and bikepacking, from mountain bikes to modified road bike frames, which is how I’d classify the Haanjo Trail. Each type of bike, make, model, and component configuration is going to have its pluses and minuses, with implications that you won’t be able to anticipate before you spend some time riding them on gravel and packing all of your camping gear/food and water for bikepacking off the grid. In the review that follows, I’ll explain the pluses and minus of the Haanjo Trail from a gravel biking and bikepacking perspective and the implications for use that the bike’s build entails.

Specs at a glance

  • Frame: Relaxed Head Tube Angle, Fully Butted 6061-T6 Alloy, Formed Top Tube, Tapered Headtube, Flat Mount Disc , 142x12mm Thru-axle w/ Replaceable Hanger
  • Weight 21.8 pounds
  • Fork: Full Monocoque Carbon Fork
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra FD-6800, 31.8 Band Clamp
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra RD-6800, 11 Speed
  • Shifter: Shimano ST-RS685 Dual Control, 2×11 Speed
  • Cogset: Shimano 105 CS-5800, 11 Speed, 11-32T
  • Brakes: Shimano BR-RS805 Hydraulic Flat Mount Disc, w/ 160mm Front / 140mm Rear Rotors
  • Brake Levers: Shimano ST-RS685
  • Tires: Kenda Flintridge Pro, 120TPI, 700x40c
  • Rims: HED Tomcat Disc, 24h, 21mm Internal Width, Tubeless Ready
  • Pedals: DB Laser Alloy Platform
  • Click for complete specs

Frame and Carbon Fork

The Haanjo Trail is a lightweight aluminum bike (21.8 pounds) with a stiff frame, allowing a good transfer of power to forward momentum. But the properties that make aluminum frames stiff also propagate road vibrations to the rider, especially on pitted gravel roads covered with stones ranging from fist-sized chunks of rock to small pebbles and stone dust. While carbon frames are known to dampen road vibration, they’re also quite expensive. As a compromise, the Haanjo Trail has a carbon fork which helps reduce the transfer of vibration up into the arms and torso.

The Diamondback Haanjo Trail comes with a carbon fork to reduce road vibration
The Diamondback Haanjo Trail comes with a carbon fork to reduce road vibration.

The Haanjo Trail also has a taller head tube than a traditional road bike so you can comfortably sit upright when riding on unpaved gravel roads. I mostly ride with my hands on the brake hoods or handlebar tops when riding on gravel and the combination of the carbon fork and the relaxed angle results in very little arm or shoulder fatigue.

The Haanjo Trail has a thru-axle that pins the sides of the fork together, providing better stiffness, steering control, and braking efficiency.
The Haanjo Trail has a thru-axle that pins the sides of the fork together, providing better stiffness, steering control, and braking efficiency.

In addition to the carbon fork, the Haanjo Trail sports front and rear 12 mm quick-release thru-axles. Thru-axles are better than traditional quick release axles because wheels can’t pop out of them and they don’t break in rough conditions, something that can occur on mountain bikes. They also improve steering, handling, and disc brake efficiency by pinning the sides of the front carbon fork together. However, thru-axles don’t work with bicycle roof racks that require a quick release mechanism to lock the front fork of a bike to the rack. Hopefully the rack manufacturers will address this problem as front thru-axles become more popular.

The Haanjo Trail drop handlebars are well padded with neutral drops - shown with Salsa EXP handlebar rack
The Haanjo Trail drop handlebars are well padded with nearly neutral drops – shown with Salsa EXP Anything Rack and front light.

Drop Bars

Drop bars can be a blessing or a curse depending on your personal preferences. I happen to like them because I find it easier to move my hands into different positions while riding to eliminate hand numbness and prevent chronic rotator cuff overuse issues. They’re also nice to have if you decide you want to swap in a different set of wheels to use the Haanjo Trail as a road bike on pavement, one of the benefits of getting this bike.

The drop bars on the Haanjo Trail are best described as neutral and not too deep, keeping with the bike’s upright posture bias. They also don’t have very little added flair in the handles and are well padded, which helps further reduce road vibration into the arms and shoulders.

However, drops bars can limit the volume of a handlebar bag when bikepacking since the bag has to fit between the drops vs a flat bar, where the handlebar bag can run its entire length. For example, if you want to hang a bikepacking handlebar bag on the Haanjo Trail, your best bet is to try a Salsa EXP Anything Cradle with a short third-party stuff sack and not the Salsa EXP Anything Cradle with Dry Bag because the latter won’t fit between the drops.

STI Dual Control Shifters: Pulling straight back on the right outer control arm engages the brakes, while pushing the inner level sideways increases the gear, and pushing the outer level sideways decreases it. Performing the same actions on the left hand changes the chain rings.
Shimano Dual Control Shifters: Pulling straight back on the right outer control arm engages the brakes, while pushing in the inner level sideways increases the gear, and pushing the outer level sideways decreases it. Performing the same actions on the left hand changes the chain rings.

Shimano Components

The Haanjo Trail comes with a very nice set of race-ready components including hydraulic disc brakes, Ultegra derailleurs, an 11-speed cassette, and dual control shifters.

  • Disc brakes are the norm on gravel bikes for their stopping power. While hydraulic disc brakes are newer, they’re considered better than mechanical ones because they require less maintenance and less force to engage. This means you can control them easily with just a finger or two, even when your hands are on the brake hoods.
  • Shimano’s Ultegra 6800 front and rear derailleurs provide silky smooth shifting performance and are longer lasting and slightly lighter weight than the derailleurs in Shimano’s Deore product line. They’re all excellent products, but the Ultegra components are more expensive and incorporate Shimano’s more recent technical advances while the Deore line is usually one generation behind Ultegra’s product improvements.
  • The Haanjo Trail has dual control shifters that combine the gear shifting and braking functions into a single control unit so you can shift gears up or down without having to remove your hand from the hoods or brake levers. Pulling straight back on the right outer control arm engages the brakes, pushing the inner lever sideways increases the gear, and pushing the outer lever sideways decreases it. Performing the same actions on the left hand changes the chain rings. The dual shift controls are great, but they further limit the width of a bikepacking handlebar bag because you need to accommodate their sideways range of motion, making panniers a potentially better storage option if you have to carry a lot of gear, extra water, and food.
The Haanjo Trail has high quality front and rear Shimano Ultegra derailleurs and a FSA crank set
The Haanjo Trail has high quality front and rear Shimano Ultegra derailleurs and a FSA crank set

Tires

The Haanjo Trail comes with a pair of lower pressure (30-50 psi) Kenda Flintridge Pro (700x40c) tires. These tires have a hard and fast rolling center tread good for pavement, transitioning to a softer, tackier rubber for grip, and then shoulder knobs for traction on loose rock and mud. When buying a gravel bike, it’s important to realize that you’ll be riding on pavement at least 50% of the time and these tires do a good job on both gravel and asphalt.

Kenda Flintridge Pro tires have multiple control surfaces for use on pavement and gravel
Kenda Flintridge Pro tires have multiple control surfaces for use on pavement and gravel

The lower pressure tires noticeable help absorb shock and vibration like a mountain or fat tire bike, but you’ll want to fully inflate them to 50 psi when carrying heavier bikepacking gear.

Recommendation

The Diamondback Haanjo Trail is an excellent beginner gravel bike, one that may well be more sophisticated and advanced than you feel you have a right to own, but that’s easy to grow into if you’re just getting back into biking after a hiatus or want to rapidly leapfrog into the sport. It’s also a dual purpose bike, that you can turn into a road bike by putting a different tire on your rims by buying a second rims/wheel set to swap in when you want to ride on pavement. Featuring excellent Shimano components, the Haanjo Trail is tricked out for performance including Ultegra derailleurs, dual control shifters and hydraulic disc brakes with a comfortable frame geometry that won’t exhaust you on long gravel rides. I love flying down gravels roads with this bike, which is lightweight and easy to load with different types of bikepacking bags and accessories. Highly recommended!

Likes:

  • Lightweight aluminum 6061-T6 alloy is strong and stiff
  • Ultralight carbon fork and thru-axle dampen road vibration
  • Shimano hydraulic brakes provide excellent braking power
  • Shimano Ultegra front and rear derailleurs are smooth shifting, long-lasting, and lightweight
  • Shimano dual control shifters let you shift and brake without removing hands from the handlebar or hoods
  • Fully front and rear pannier ready

Dislikes:

  • Drop bars limit with of handlebar bags and gear storage
  • Top tube length feels a bit short; size up if between sizes
  • Front thru-axle is not compatible with roof racks that require quick release wheels

Disclosure: Diamondback provided the author with this product for review.

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