Well, shit. Seriously, holy shitha. (said like Belushi in Animal House) you know, when they accidentally killed the Dean’s horse. ‘Member?
It happened. I would’ve never, in my wildest dreams, thought that it’d happen to me, but it did. Actually, hold on…if I could be honest for a sec….in the back of my head, I did, kinda think it might happen to me if the opportunity presented itself that is. And well, low n’ behold, the opportunity did, indeed, present itself. And like I thought it might…it flat-out happened. I fought it off as long as I could. And for no good reason other than my incessant need to reject all things “new and popular.” Then it got me. It got me good.
“What got me?” you ask.
Carbon. That’s what.
And not the delicious, kick ass carbon like: “tacos al carbon.” Those “got me” a long, long time ago as they are indeed delicious…oh, how I love that kind of carbon. Mmmmm….
No, I’m taking about the Gawt damn frame material…THAT kind of carbon. That’s what got me.
Here’s the deal. I am now riding, on a pretty regular basis, a carbon framed bicycle with a full carbon fork. That’s right, almost the whole kit-n-caboodle. Minus the wheels, seat post, stem and bars. But don’t get too excited and get all “see I told you carbon frames were the best thing on the planet” on me. Look, my sister’s already hinting and getting close to saying that to me since I have been on this bike a lot lately…but she hasn’t….yet. It’s a touchy subject with us….in a comedic, bust-each-other’s-balls kinda way. It’s all in good fun….she kinda swears by the shit, and I don’t. That’s all.
But seriously for just a second….quick PSA: Remember, the frame material you choose to ride is a personal preference. And really nobody’s business…that’s all. As you know, I have certain feelings about a lot of stuff. And trust me when I tell you that frame material is on a very, very long and opinionated list with a lot of other shit. Really, when it comes to things to care about, that list is just for me to share with you on this here blog and doesn’t really add up to a hill o’ beans in the grand scheme of things. So take that for what it’s worth. If a certain frame material puts a smile of your face and makes you feel good inside about the choice you’ve made…I am 100% on board with it. No joke. Sure, I will have an opinion about it, and I will probably express that opinion even though it will be, more than likely, unwanted…but you can pretty much count on hearing it. Regardless, I will stand behind that choice of yours if it keeps you smiling, happy and on a bicycle. 🙂
OK, so the carbon bike I have been riding isn’t some super, duper, whammy, race/wonder bike. It’s not even a “normal” road bike. It really pushes the envelope of the current hoard of “adventure/all-road bikes” that are all over the place nowadays. On top of all that, it kinda goes and literally spits in the face of a conventional spec sheet for a bike released in 2017. And let me tell you, these are exactly the reasons it stood out to me and persuaded me to “come on over to experience the carbon hype for a spell.” The bike in question is the Diamondback Haanjo EXP Carbon. And I need to say, kudos to Diamondback for having the balls to release something so niche. Seriously, it’s a ballsy move and really the main reason it caught my eye about 6 months ago…and it’s pretty awesome.
When it got here it was packaged very well and was almost (80%) complete. The box was huge.
The Haanjo EXP Carbon is one of a few adventure type road bikes that Diamondback offers in their Haanjo line. Like I said earlier, it has a full carbon frame, a carbon fork and steer tube and an aluminum 27.5 (650b) HED wheel set with 2.1 Schwalbe Smart Sam mountain bike tires mounted to them. The rest of the bike’s spec is pretty middle of the road proprietary, house brand stuff with the exception of the drive train, which is awesome….are you ready? It comes with, I mean seriously are you sitting down? OK, it comes with a 3×9 Shimano drive train. What?! What is this 2001?! That’s right, it comes with a Deore triple crank set (48-36-26) and an XT rear 9 speed cog (11-34) and an XT rear derailleur and a Deore triple front derailleur. It moves the chain between the gears using, are you sitting down again? Seriously, you really need to take a seat. It uses Shimano Dura-Ace bar end shifters. Whaaaaat?! What is this, 1985?! Yeah, you heard that right, bar end shifters. Is this starting to come together for you now? The reason this bike appealed to my retro-grouch senses should be pretty evident now, right? Not to mention it has been marketed towards full bike packing type adventures with three sets of water bottle cage mounts, full fender mounts, front and rear rack mounts as well as mid-fork rack mounts. So yeah, ready for anything. And it’s olive green with subtle branding…right up my freakin’ alley…I mean…seriously. Done and done.
So carbon be damned…I wanted to get my hands on this beauty. And it happened. Diamondback’s size chart said their “large” was a 56cm and for rider’s 5’11” to 6’2″ I am 6’1″ and it fits perfect. So, out of the box complete bike weighs a respectable 22 pounds, stock. You could easily get this steed to the sub 22 pound realm pretty quickly. But why? It works great the way it is. I mean upgrade as stuff wears or breaks, sure. But in the mean time…ride the shit outta this thing right out of the box. At the time that I received the bike, it retailed for $2300 which I think is a steal of a price for the amount of bike and versatility you get in this package.
As you can see here, it is a capable bike. It really is a “go anywhere” kind of machine. I am seriously loving all of the things this bike excels at. Really enjoying it…a lot…smiles for days. But wait….
OK, let’s talk about the elephant in the room…
Carbon. OK, it’s light, that’s for sure. A non-boutique/non-custom, partially butted steel frame and fork with the same exact build spec would be an additional 4-5 lbs, pushing the stock weight from 22 pounds up into the 26-28 pound range for a complete bike. So as everybody already knows, there is an obvious weight advantage to running a carbon frame and fork. While riding these light weight carbon goodies, I am finding acceleration and climbing to be the most effected by the weight savings. The power transfer from my legs through the crank/bottom bracket area to the rear wheel is really impressive. There is very little to no frame flex going on. But, I am a big Clydesdale rider so I did notice that I can actually get the bottom bracket area of the frame to sway a little on out-of-the-saddle and seated power climbs. So, that was a little alarming. I think this is probably a rider weight thing as I am sure it would be fine and a non-issue for a lighter rider.
Alright, I am chomping at the bit to talk about the ride quality of this bad boy. And all I have to say is this: “what ride quality?” Really, there is none. OK, ok…take it easy. I’ll take a little bit of that back. On sealed, pristine roads, the bike’s stiff frame is a welcomed change from my steel steeds. But everywhere else, like in the real world, where shit isn’t pristine and perfect…it really has been tough to get used to, actually if I could be honest…it’s kinda not cool. Off road, the bikes frame is stiff and dead feeling (remember all I ride is steel, so pretty much, anything that is full rigid and isn’t steel, feels stiff and dead). It climbs well due to it’s light weight, but that stiff, light weight quality becomes it’s down fall on anything that is not perfectly buffed and smooth. If I could ride all day on this bike, which I can and do, it wouldn’t be because of it’s compliant, forgiving frame material, that’s for sure. Really, the only reason I could ride it all day would simply be because the geometry lends itself to be ridden all day. It has fantastically slack geometry with a super tall head tube length which makes the riding position not overly aggressive and opens up the huge, cavernous front triangle to fit a massive frame bag. I would say that the geometry really is the main reason you can go all day on this bike…the frame material…not so much. Sorry. That is my honest impression.
So the main benefit of a carbon frame: huge weight savings, is great for some people, but not super important to me. I am not willing to save a few pounds here and there and lose all of the ride quality and the many other qualities of a well made, high quality steel frame. And the cost to ride quality benefit of a quality steel frame is through the roof. Not to mention the durability and repair-ability as well as the overall longevity of a high quality steel frame and fork. A good steel frame is a “lifetime” frame. That’s how I feel. It’s how I’ve always felt…it’s why it has been my frame material of choice for so long now.
Listen, I know steel is not for everyone either. But I think in today’s riding circles that is mostly because it carries the “heavy” stigma attached to it. Well, do yourself a favor and try it out before you write it off as heavy, non-technical and archaic. It has been the main frame material for bicycles for well over 100 years for a reason. Steel is still the bench mark that all other frame material is compared to when it comes to ride quality…”It’s compliant like steel.” “It’s got the ride quality of steel” Yada, yada…you get my drift.
In closing: I have said it before and I will say it again…ride what makes you happy. That is all that matters…your happiness. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says to you. Ride what puts a giant, shit-eatin’ grin on your goofy mug. That’s really what it’s all about, right? And honestly with all the good and bad that I am saying in this blog post about the Haanjo EXP Carbon, I still can’t stay off of this bike. Seriously. It is truly a go anywhere/do anything, super-duper fun freedom machine. And that for SURE puts a huge smile on this huge melon.
So, get out there, put a smile on your face and ride YOUR freedom machine. OK?
See ya next time.