The Cycle Life

First Look: Diamondback Haanjo Trail Carbon

The new release proves you don’t have to pay a fortune for an excellent, all-terrain bike

First Look: Diamondback Haanjo Trail Carbon

Dirt roads are the best roads. Photo: JJAG Media

When we reviewed the Diamondback Haanjo last year, we loved the bike but pined for a carbon option. For 2017, Diamondback is answering our wishes with the Haanjo Carbon series.

Rather than just rehash the original bike in carbon fiber, Diamondback wisely decided to rejigger the frame slightly for wider tire clearance. So, much like this year’s Gear of the Year-winning Open U.P., the Haanjo Carbon will accommodate both 700c wheels with skinnier tires, as well as 650B wheels with mountain-size rubber. That takes what was already an incredibly versatile bicycle and makes it a veritable Swiss Army knife, able to handle everything from fast group rides on pavement to light singletrack.

The Haanjo Carbon comes in three models, the Trail ($3,100) and Comp ($2,500), which are equipped with 700c Hed Tomcat wheels and 40mm Schwalbe G-One tires, and the EXP ($2,300), with 650B Tomcats and 2.1-inch Schwalbe Smart Sam rubber. The latter is oriented toward adventure touring and bike packing, and from what we understand Diamondback has a campaign coming out promoting it as such, making it another in the long list of companies jumping into the dirt-touring game. Though we’d have preferred to try the fatter-tired model, it wasn’t available in our size, so we’ve been riding the Trail model for a few months instead. We’re in the process of getting a spare set of wheels and fatter rubber, including the awesome new WTB Horizon Road Plus, for comparison.

If we liked the original Haanjo, we absolutely adore this carbon version, which is 1.5 pounds lighter than the alloy model (20.3), more compliant on the road, and, of course, more versatile thanks to the tire clearance. The frame still has an oddly large feel, due in part to the huge front triangle (great for packs and storage) and the tall head tube. Yet the top tube is surprisingly compact, so much so that I was forced to put a longer stem on my size 56 to get the right drop and steering feel. (I ride a 54 or 55 in most road bikes.) There are internal routings for a clean look and protection from the elements, and the cables don’t tap annoyingly inside the frame like on some bikes. We also like the three water bottle bosses and mounts for fenders.

The spec on the Trail model is mostly well chosen, with hard-to-beat Shimano Ultegra hydraulic brakes and drivetrain (though we’d have preferred a matching crank rather than the cheaper SRAM one provided), gently flared house brand drop bars, and HED hoops that easily set up tubeless. The wheels work fine but aren’t exactly light or nimble, so they’ll definitely be the first thing we upgrade.

Much like the original, the Haanjo Carbon has made easy work of everything we’ve thrown at it. On 5,000-foot, dirt-road climbs, I’ve been impressed with how it manages to feel both lively as well as rooted and in control when the surface gets eroded and loose. On pavement, it isn’t as quick as a standard roadie, but the small-block tread pattern of the G-One tires is surprisingly fast rolling. And more than anything, the Haanjo carbon is an incredibly confident descender, with the long, low wheelbase giving a truly locked-in feel. I have slammed down six-mile fire road hills nearly as fast as I can go on a mountain bike and also swooped through the paved but technical ski hill descent outside of Santa Fe with more confidence than on pretty much any road bike. And yes, the hydraulic disc brakes are a big contributing factor to the Haanjo’s descending prowess.

Given the Haanjo Carbon’s sharp looks and reasonable price tag, it’s difficult to find much fault with the bike. It is the everyman’s answer to the Open UP—a perfect one-bike-quiver for adventurous roadies. 

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