So you’re thinking about riding a Ramble, getting into bikepacking, adventure racing or just getting out on some quiet gravel roads and wondering what bike you should look at.
Enter Ibis’ Hakka MX.
This year for the Ramble Rides we have a new bike partner in Ibis, and their bike for the rides is the Hakka MX, a carbon gravel/adventure bike that accepts both 700c and 27.5″ wheels. I’ve had my bike now about five weeks and racked up more than a thousand miles on it with over 800 of those miles strictly dirt and gravel.
Is it the perfect Ramble bike? Absolutely. The perfect adventure bike? What’s your definition?
I’ve been lucky enough to ride a few carbon gravel bikes in the past years and all have their merits. Unlike the mountain bike scene where you have different camps in suspension types, geometries and intended use, gravel bikes are all very similar. When you start looking at the higher-end offerings from various companies, the geometry is close and dialed: a half-degree here, a few millimeters there. But with carbon bikes, unlike metal materials, there’s more to the story. How a carbon bike rides has a lot to do with the actual layup of the material, the types of carbon being used, the method of construction, and even the type of resin can affect ride characteristics. So in some sense, geometry is just the starting point.
I learned this working for a well-known carbon frame maker when I was younger, laying up and finishing frames. It was during that that I fell in love with carbon fiber as a material for making bikes. I can tell you how a Reynolds frame will ride because of the known characteristics of the material and geometry. A carbon bike has to be ridden to know.
So how does the Hakka MX ride?
Three years ago I had a really bad crash; broke my collarbone, tore a rotator cuff and separated a shoulder all at once. My shoulders were jacked. It took almost a year just to get to a point where could manage the pain while riding. Even this year now fully “healed”, I could only manage a 30-mile gravel ride before the pain and ache would set in. Large doses of Advil became part of my post-ride regime.
It wasn’t until a week after switching over to the Hakka MX that I noticed the pain was gone. Same handle bars, stem, bar tape, position, etc. New frame. No pain.
This bike rode smoother and transferred less impact over the same rutted and washboard roads I had ridden just a week before. On gravel rides, smoother often means faster.
While neither maker goes into the layup of their bikes online, I suspect that the process on the Ibis is more focused on compliant ride, whereas my other bike is billed as a race bike and rides as such. It’s just harsher. The past thousand miles makes me think this even more: my rides are longer, on rougher terrain and I’m finishing these rides without the typical aches and pains I had before, and with a greater level of strength at the end of the ride. Now my fitness is better for sure, but one leads to the other.
Getting to geometry, it rides as you would want: stable when you hit deep gravel sections, goes where you point it and snappy when you stomp on the pedals. Goes uphill with out hesitation and the only limitation is the person sitting on it. Without a doubt, the Hakka MX is one of the best riding bikes I’ve ridden in a long time.
How is it as a Ramble bike?
The Rambles are bikepacking rides and most folks are using bikepacking bags instead of more typical touring gear such as panniers. Because these bags attach to the frame, seat post and handle bars, there’s no issue here. Where you’ll come into some trouble is it does lack a third water bottle mount (so does my other bike) and the fork doesn’t have mounts for cages. An issue? Not really for the Rambles as you don’t need to carry that much stuff and there are alternatives to these omissions. The larger frame bags often limit water bottle access anyway and personally, I’m not a fan of the “crud catching” mount under the down tube. But, if you wanted to use panniers, or were loading down for a longer self-supported ride and wanted fork mounted cages or front and rear racks, you’d have to think some of this stuff through (the Hakka MX does have rear rack mounts that are threaded into the carbon seat stays. I might use P clamps if I was doing a rough road trip with loaded panniers though). If you choose the SRAM 1X group, the gearing is fantastic for the Ramble and nearly all the dirt and gravel riding I do, and would be for you. I have yet to need the lowest 42t cog even on the steepest parts of the Steamboat ride on day one. The bike rides the same loaded for a three-day adventure as it does a 60-mile run on gravel with only water bottles. This too is a characteristic of a thought-out carbon layup: stable and consistent.
What about as an adventure/race bike?
I’d race or ride the Hakka MX anywhere. With 27.5″ wheels, that includes more mountain bike adventures like the Colorado trail, Arizona trail, White Rim, etc. Component-wise, I’d ditch the 1x however. Every ride I seem to spin out the 40t front ring and this week popped out from a dirt trail to run into a local weekly road ride. I was able to keep up pushing tires twice their width, but when they got going, I just couldn’t spin that gear fast enough when they all jumped into their large chain rings. Because most of my riding has road sections and fast level dirt, I think eventually I’ll end up with a double chain ring. Stats bare it out too: even though my fitness is better, I’m not hitting the same top speeds with the 1x over the double on the same routes. For the real gravel and single-track sections however, the 1x is fine. It’s a personal bias, but a double does increase the gearing options which is what I would want when doing gravel racing. With a double chainring, and a road set of tires, I don’t think I’d ever ride my road bike again. This bike would feel as confident on a fast group ride as it would a backcountry slog loaded with gear. And that’s the really magic of a bike like this. What I want from a bike is different than what you want. The Hakka MX is that platform to be nearly anything a bike can be.
The Hakka MX comes with a 31.6 seat post. That’s a little too big for me on a gravel bike and I prefer a 27.2 carbon post for smoothing out the ride even further. With a good shim, its an easy solution and I might put the 31.6 aluminum post back when hanging bikepacking bags from it. As another example of where carbon layup matters, the 27.2 Ritchey post I use is designed for off road riding to absorb shocks. It works. Same for the handlebars; Ritchey carbon bars that have a bit of flair to them for gravel riding.
I did get a pair of the new Goodyear Connector gravel tires. After over thousand miles, there’s no noticeable tread wear or any other signs of abuse. I run my tires between 50-60 psi so you’d think the center contact area would show something. Nope. Great tires.
You can read all the specs on the bike here (T47 bottom bracket…Yeah!)
With gravel riding becoming more popular and bikepacking the new black, the Ibis Hakka MX is a bike everyone should check out if you’re looking for a new bike. It ticks all the boxes I want in a bike, and just might for you. In fact, it checks so many boxes, it could just be the only bike I would need for nearly all the types of riding I do.
Most of my Instagram stories have to do with daily Hakka MX adventures. Check them out @rambleride.
Ibis will be on the Rambles this year with a fleet of Hakka MXs to demo for the ride. They’re all spoken for the Steamboat edition, but there are still some available for the other rides. If you’ve signed up and want to test one out over the course of the ride, let me know.