The Diamondback Haanjo EXP Carbon comes with mountain bike tires. Wait: It’s a road bike, right? Then why the extra fat, 2.1-inch mountain bike rubber?
Because it’s 1982 all over again, when this very bike would’ve been called…a mountain bike. Yes, flat-bar road bikes with balloon tires on them were just hitting then from the likes of…yes, Diamondback.
And Trek. And Specialized. Before those brands were launched, though, there were road bikes sporting beefier tires and panniers, and they were the adventure bikes of the day.
Now we’ve come full circle, where a “road bike” frame is sporting fat knobbies because a lot of cyclists want a single bike that’s a lot more versatile than the racing machines that have been state of the art for so long. And so this Diamondback isn’t truly a blast from the past because bike technology has made huge leaps in the last 30 years. It’s made from carbon fiber, not steel, the better to soak up the pain of long miles. Its geometry is slacker than you’d find in cyclocross or the new-school gravel grinder segment, which means it’s a bit more comfortable, and the wheel size is unique, too: 27.5-inches, not the 700c/29er dimensions of a traditional road bike.
This split-the-different wheel size is as ideal on a drop-bar adventure machine it is one a mountain bike. The size allows bigger tires to be mounted without make standover (i.e. crotch) clearance too tight or making the bike too tall and unwieldy to steer through twisty singletrack, as would happen if you mounted these tires on 700c road-sized wheelset.
Diamondback doesn’t want you to just ride the Haanjo on trails, though. They position this bike as suitable for the road and for commuting, as well as dirt.
TWO BIKES IN ONE
Remove those 27.5 wheels and instead drop in 700c wheels mounted with thinner street slicks and now your trail bike becomes a road rig. But wait, didn’t we just say the geometry gets screwed up with taller road wheels? Not if you run skinnier, pavement-oriented rubber–the net height is the same, but the slicks help you cruise faster on pavement. And pre-drilled mounting points let you run panniers, the better for commuters and tourers.
When the weekend rolls around and you want to hit the dirt, you just revert to the knobbies with a quick wheel swap and jump back on the trail.
And the icing? The complete bike is $2,300.
Gearing is absurdly broad, too, with a front chainring triple (48/36/26 tooth) and a rear nine-speed 11-34 tooth. Yep, a triple. I’d like to whine about that, since old-schoolers knew these as chain breakers, but the chain line on this bike didn’t complain when I ran it in big front/big rear cogs, and anything I had the mustard to climb, no matter how steep, I certainly had the gearing for.
Likewise, the geometry is fantastic. It’s slack enough to handle especially precipitous descents I’d otherwise never try on a drop-bar bicycle, but it doesn’t feel noodly on the flats. And because of the broad gearing, you’d have to have monster quads to out-spin the 48-tooth front cog. Finally, the ride quality is very smooth, especially after converting the tires to tubeless (the rims are tubeless ready).
It’s not all puppies and kittens, though. The Haanjo EXP Carbon comes with mechanical disc brakes and bar end shifters. Diamondback’s argument is these are easier to repair in the field. But the aforementioned gnarly descents make a counterargument for the strength of hydraulic brakes, because there’s just not enough bite from mechanical disc stoppers that rely on sheer muscle for actuation. That forces you to over-squeeze to get enough braking prowess, and that’s both less precise and leads to hand fatigue.
And the shifters work great, but again, because the bike is capable enough to shred very rugged terrain, having to jump to the drops to shift is annoying and even a little dangerous. A rugged adventure bike capable of conquering true gnar shouldn’t be handicapped by the parts spec. Over the past decade of bike testing, I’ve found both hydraulic discs and integrated mechanical shifters to be astoundingly reliable instruments, so the field-repairable argument, while not invalid, doesn’t carry as much weight for me as it once did.
Still, at this price Diamondback has a serious winner, one you could throw a bit of money at to get the shifter and brake combo you want and then expand the utility with that second wheelset.
The Haanjo EXP Carbon isn’t the one-bike quiver for the downhiller who wants to fat bike in winter or the dude who counts grams before the Wednesday Night World Championships, but it spreads the sauce pretty broadly and is yet another machine that argues that now is best era for bikes since ever.
$2,300 | BUY