Two years ago, Diamondback, known mostly for its budget mountain bikes, took the road market by storm with the Podium 7, a surprisingly refined high-performance race machine that sold for a fraction of the price of the competition. The Haanjo Trail follows suit for the adventure road crowd. It’s a fast, tough, and extremely versatile aluminum bike equipped for everything from gravel epics to fire road explorations and even some urban assault. Best of all, at less than $2,000, it doesn’t require a second mortgage.
The Good: At $1,850 complete, this might be the best deal going for a Shimano Ultegra–equipped bike. It looks sharp, with the white carbon fork perfectly complementing the half-painted, half-polished raw aluminum frame. And the important details are dialed, including excellent wide-flared, shallow-drop handlebars, which provided exceptional control on rough descents, and hardworking TRP hydraulic disc brakes.
The Bad: Complaints such as the down-market FSA crankset, the cheap saddle, and clunky seatpost have to be qualified: Everything worked well enough, especially considering the low price, but if we could wish for anything, it would be thru-axles, which would help with braking and steering accuracy.
The Verdict: The adventure road segment, with bikes built to cross over from pavement to dirt, has exploded in the past few years, and the market is now full of offerings. Many are lighter, smoother-riding, and more polished than the Haanjo Trail. But this bike is still very good at almost everything and costs a lot less than its competitors.
- Wheel Size: 700c
- Built For: Adventure road and gravel racing
- Size Tested: Large/56
- Bike Weight: 21.8 pounds (20.4 with Reynolds ATRs)
- Price: $1,850
The Haanjo frame is not especially fancy or high tech, though Diamondback has made use of some hydroforming of the tubes to improve ride quality. The top tube is flattened and tapered at the middle, and the junction between the seat tubes and chainstays is arced, both designs that add compliance. The oversize down tube ends in a somewhat squared-off bottom bracket for solid pedaling stiffness, and the thin 27.2 seat tube is intended to give built-in vertical flex.
As you’d expect from aluminum, it’s a pretty stiff ride, though the complementary carbon fork helped tame some of the chatter. On the upside, the alloy gives a nice crisp feel, especially when accelerating and hammering out of the saddle. And in some ways, we actually like the material for gravel bikes, given its durability. Despite months of riding rocky desert two-track and screaming down jangling mountain fire roads, the Haanjo came through without a dent or scratch. Credit the polished raw aluminum, which is both hard-wearing and sexy. Diamondback’s paint job seems hard as nails, too.
Kudos as well for the breakaway derailleur hanger, which should be compulsory for a bike of this sort, where the rear component is highly susceptible to rocks. We also appreciate the rack eyelets: They may look a bit ungainly, but a bike like this is all the better for being able to take a rack and double as a commuter. Finally, even though three water bottle mounts are a must for the all-day events favored in the gravel and adventure world, it’s amazing how many companies neglect this—Diamondback wisely did not.
We confess: The Haanjo pictured isn’t true to retail spec. We subbed in a 120-millimeter Bontrager stem (replacing the 100-millimeter that comes standard on a size large frame) to gain some length. More important, the carbon Reynolds ATR wheels are a serious upgrade from the standard-issue aluminum HED Flanders.
We spent a few months riding the HED wheels, which were better than expected though still more ponderous and rougher than the carbon replacements. The stock 40-millimeter Kenda Happy Medium tires were solid, too, setting up tubeless without hassle and holding up to the bladelike granite around Tucson. In short, the standard equipment worked just fine and was absolutely commensurate with the Haanjo’s price and gestalt.
We tested the Reynolds wheels because the company launched its new, wider (29-millimeter external, 21 internal) ATR hoops (that’s All Terrain Road) during the middle of our test, and we wanted to see how much difference they would make. The answer: A lot. These wheels are comfortably stiff, adding tons of cornering and descending confidence, but the carbon also muted the road noise and vibration from washboard, which all but eliminated any brassiness from the alloy frame. The broad rim profile easily spread the 40-millimeter WTB Nano tires, also tubeless. Finally, the ATRs knocked off well over a pound from the weight of the bike, making for much quicker accelerations and an overall more nimble feel. At $1,550—or 80 percent of the cost of the complete bike—the Reynolds probably won’t make it onto many Haanjos, though they are a worthy investment and would be one of our top picks for a performance adventure road setup.
The rest of the Haanjo’s standard equipment is solid, including the accurate-shifting Ultegra drivetrain and brake levers. We also liked the design of the TRP HYRD brakes, which offer the consistency and power of hydraulics as well as the easy upkeep of mechanical by placing the fluid reservoir at the caliper and actuating it with standard cables. It’s an ingenious, reliable setup.
Diamondback’s handlebar design is excellent, with a very shallow drop on the (reasonable) assumption that most people getting this bike don’t need an aggressive race position. There was also a semi-wide outward flare, which left us feeling locked in and confident on rough terrain. That said, we’d have preferred carbon bars for their muting quality, but price was the determining factor. Same goes for the heavy aluminum seat post and the comedown FSA crank and rings. But at this price point, it’s difficult to complain.
The Haanjo is a veritable Swiss Army knife of a bike. Given the chunky tires, we favored using it for rides with mixed terrain and loved the way it felt both quick and lively on pavement and rooted and assured on dirt. From four-hour grinds on rolling forest roads to a favorite high-mountain loop outside Santa Fe that takes in 3,000 feet of dirt road climbing and returns on a technical pavement descent, we didn’t find anything the Haanjo didn’t like to ride. The 46-36 front chainrings also provided ample gear range for that broad gamut.
At one point, we took on some singletrack, and though it was a lot slower going than on a mountain bike, the bike managed the terrain surprisingly well. We also subbed in a pair of lightweight carbon road wheels with 25-millimeter tires a few times and took the Haanjo out on group road rides. While it was perhaps a bit upright and heavy for flat-out racing, it kept up just fine. Finally, we took to using the Haanjo for around-town errands and commuting, for which it was perfectly suited.
The top tube and reach of the Haanjo was tighter than we’ve found on other gravel bikes, which made it more difficult than we would have liked for stretching out and settling in on long rides. On most road bikes, I ride a 54 with a 120-millimeter stem, but I took a 56 (large) in the Haanjo and still needed a longer stem than the one that came stock. If you’re between sizes, definitely step up to the bigger option.
There is no shortage of adventure road options these days, and last year saw many companies jump into the niche with carbon offerings. The Specialized Diverge and 2015 Gear of the Year–winning GT Grade are excellent examples, although with less tire clearance, both bikes lean more toward pavement than dirt. Perhaps the best direct comparison would be the Norco Search, another of our favorite gravel bikes of the season, or the Salsa Warbird, which was revised in carbon for 2015. Keep in mind, however, that each of those bikes sell for almost double the Haanjo’s price. Metal bikes also abound, including the top-dollar Moots Routt, built from titanium, and the budget-minded Raleigh Tamland 2, from steel. Again, both are more expensive than the Haanjo.
Simply put, for the money, it’s tough to find a bike that outpaces the Diamondback.