Alternative Road Bikes: The Only Bike You Need?

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

One of the coolest emerging categories from bike manufacturers these days are alternative road bikes. Descended from road bikes, alternative road bikes have evolved into a category of their own, and continue to be refined to help riders take road bikes to new places we could scarcely imagine a few years ago.
So what makes an alternative road bike?

  • Disc (or sometimes cantilever) brakes for better stopping performance
  • Higher bottom bracket for more ground clearance
  • Clearance for bigger tires
  • More upright riding position and longer wheel base
  • Frames tuned to be more flexible in the right places (like the seatstays) for improved comfort

 

Cyclocross Bikes

The OG alternative road bike. These bikes are designed for the discipline of cyclocross (read more about it here), but have since become some of the most popular bikes on the market. Why?

Because the ‘cross bike is basically a do everything bike. It might look like a road bike, but they have clearance for wider tires (usually up to a 38mm, versus a normal road bike’s 25mm max), a taller bottom bracket, and powerful cantilever or disc brakes These features allow CX bikes to go places most normal road bikes can’t, from off-road riding, to mountain bike trails, to fireroads. Additionally, ‘cross bikes have a geometry very similar to a racing road bike, so you can simply switch out the knobby tires for a pair of road tires, and you’ll have yourself a very capable road bike.

Examples: Fuji Altamira CX, Van Dessel AloominatorRidley X-Fire

Key Strength: Versatile race-ready platform

Best For: Cyclocross, road riding, limited trail riding

 

The Ridley X-Night is fine example of a cylcocross bike

The Ridley X-Night is fine example of a cylcocross bike

Gravel Bikes

This is a relatively new category, but a pretty exciting one. Similar to a cyclocross bike, gravel bikes are primarily designed to be ridden on gravel and fire roads. Like cyclocross bikes they usually feature disc brakes, a high bottom bracket and big tire clearance.

What sets a gravel bike apart though is the geometry. While most ‘cross bikes are pretty racey, Gravel Bikes usually have a more relaxed “endurance” type geometry with a taller head tube, sloping top tube, and longer wheel base for improved comfort over long distances. The head tube angle is also a little slacker, and the chainstays longer, to give you more stability on uneven surfaces.

Examples: GT Grade

Key Strength: Outstanding stability and handling on rough roads

Best For: Exploring off the beaten path, gravel racing

 

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

Adventure Bikes

This isn’t really a category…yet, but it’s one that includes some really exciting new bikes. These bikes aren’t really gravel bikes, nor cyclocross bikes, but they still incorporate a lot of the features we love, and are extremely capable.

Disc brakes, wide tire clearance, fender and rear rack mounts…these bikes aren’t really designed to do any one thing particularly brilliantly… but they are designed to do a lot of things pretty well. They’re at home on the MTB trail, on gravel roads, on the CX course, or even some light touring. They won’t do quite as well as a dedicated platform, but for the rider who dabbles in everything, it’s the perfect solution.

Examples: Diamondback Haanjo, Fuji Tread

Key Strength: Outright versatility

Best For: Someone who wants only one bike to do it all

Adventure awaits you aboard the Diamondback Haanjo

Adventure awaits you aboard the Diamondback Haanjo

Ridden and Reviewed: Diamondback Haanjo and Haanjo Comp

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The Diamondback Haanjo Comp (left) and Haanjo Flat Bar (right)

You might have read lately about “adventure” or “gravel” bikes. Part cyclocross bike, part road bike, part touring bike, these rides are designed to help you go anywhere your imagination can take you—on or off road.

Over the past few weeks we got a chance to test out Diamondback’s Haanjo. We loved it so much that after the test was over we bought one for ourselves.

About The Bike

The Haanjo comes in two models, both of which we got to test out. Both are built around a high end aluminum frame and fork, with disc brake mounts, fender mounts, and rear rack mounts. The geometry of the Haanjo is pretty relaxed, with huge tire clearance (both bikes come with WTB All Terrain 32mm tires). The emphasis here is clearly on keeping the bike capable of going off road while staying stable and comfortable for the rider.

The Haanjo Comp comes with a Shimano 105 10-speed road group, short cage rear derailleur with an 11-28T cassette, drop bars, FSA Gossamer 46/36 ‘cross crankset, and TRP’s exceptional Hy/Rd mechanically-activated disc brakes.

The Haanjo comes with a Shimano Sora 9-speed flat bar road group, long cage rear derailleur with an 11-30T cassette, flat bars, FSA Gossamer 46/36 ‘cross crankset, and Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes.

We tested both bikes.

Adventure awaits

Adventure awaits

 Unboxing and Set Up

Unboxing and set up for both bikes was pretty straight forward, since the bikes come 90% assembled. Just put the front wheel on, put the handlebars in the stem, and install the seatpost/saddle (already assembled). Each bike also comes with a pair of platform pedals, spare spokes, and some zip ties whose purpose remains a mystery, since they weren’t really necessary for setup.

Both bikes did need to have the brakes and derailleurs adjusted, but it wasn’t anything too major. The Avid BB5 brakes set up like any other mechanical disc brakes. The TRP brakes can be a little more frustratingly simple, so let us save you the headache: look for the knob with a picture of a lock on it. Unthread it counter clockwise until it pops up out of the socket. This will unlock the actuating arm. Once that is done, proceed much like you would with any other mechanical disc brake set up.

We added our own pedals, bottle cages, and saddle packs.

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The Ride

After spending a few days riding the Haanjo, we pretty much fell in love with the bike. It rode like no other bike we’ve ever tested… and we ride a lot of bikes. The best word we can think of to describe the ride feel is “confidence”. Whether we were on the road or on the trail, on the flat bar version or the drop bar version, we always felt confident in the bike’s ability to handle anything in its path.

The bike actually feels less like a CX bike-meets-road bike than it does a rigid mountain bike-meets-road bike…something that sounds admittedly dubious in theory but turns out to be amazing in reality. The Haanjo is easily the most versatile bike we’ve ever ridden. It doesn’t really excel in any one thing—it’s not as fast or lively as a road bike, nor as capable and controllable as a mountain bike—but it does very well in pretty much everything.

On the road the bike accelerates nicely, with smooth, predictable handling. The geometry on both bikes is also really nice for long days on the bike. The tall head tube, and slung-back geometry put you in a nice upright position that makes it easy on the back. The aluminum frame and fork feel nice and stiff for fairly snappy acceleration without any noticeable frame flex (even with a loaded rack on the back). Surprisingly we didn’t get any of the harsh road chatter we expected from this full aluminum rig, and the ride felt plush and comfortable. The WTB tires aren’t exactly the best for road riding, since the beefy tread and increased rolling resistance can slow your roll a little. For extended road riding, we replaced the WTB All Terrains with some Continental Gatorskin Hardshell 700x25c road tires.

Off road, the bike was just awesome. The handling almost felt more like we were riding a 29” mountain bike, instead of a twitchy CX bike. Thanks to the more upright geometry we were even able to take the bike over some more technical sections of trail without worrying about it too much—we felt totally in control of the bike. Off-road is also where the WTB tires came into their own. They really hooked into the trail nicely, with plenty of grip in the corners and hills, so we had the confidence to go full bore when we wanted to. The easy CX-style gearing meant that we had plenty of low-end gearing to make it up even the hardest inclines.

The stopping power of both the Avid and TRP disc brakes was impressive, even in the rain, mud, and dirt.

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The Verdict

Just awesome. If, in some sad alternate world, we could only own one bike, it would easily be the Haanjo. Its ability to literally do anything and go anywhere is unmatched. Sometimes with a bike like this, one that tries to be all things to all people, you end up with a bike that’s really nothing to anybody— but not in this case. Diamondback really cracked the code and delivered up something truly remarkable… which might be why every shipment we get sells through so quickly.

We did everything on the Haanjo: commuting, road riding, trail riding, gravel riding, bike camping with a fully loaded rack. The Haanjo is a bike that’s limited only by your imagination.

When the test was over and we had to give the bikes back, we were a little sad. So sad in fact that we decided to go out and get ourselves a Haanjo flat bar. We look forward to seeing where it takes us in the days ahead.

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

9 Questions with Cyclocross Pro Jonathan Page

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Fuji Altamira CX 1.0 Cyclocross Bike that Jonathan Page rode in 2013

Fuji Bikes is proud to sponsor 4-time U.S. National Cyclocross Champion Jonathan Page, so we got in touch for a few quick questions before he represents the United States once again at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands. Jonathan Page has had an illustrious ‘cross racing career, including a 2007 CX Worlds silver medal, in addition to his 4 U.S. titles and numerous top placings in Europe – last year he raced on the Altamira CX 1.0 cyclocross bike, and this year he’s upgraded to the top end 1.1 model. The 37-year-old is based in Belgium – he’s the only American man to race full time in the rough and tumble of European cyclocross, battling for respect every week. He writes a great blog on CyclingNews that details his ongoing adventures, but read on below for 9 quick questions from this American cyclocross superstar:

How did you get started racing cyclocross?

I started racing because my best friend growing up raced ‘cross.

Jonathan_Page_6Why do you race cyclocross in Europe full time?

I wanted to race against the best in the world, so I came to Belgium.

Photo by Martin Steele, Endura Ltd

Photo by Martin Steele, Endura Ltd

What’s the best part and the hardest part of being a pro cyclist?

Best part is getting to be outside. Worst part is that it is 24 hours a day.

Jonathan_Page_5What was your favorite or best race this season and why?

Bredene, because I was able to battle for 6th place even with broken ribs.

Jonathan_Page_8Who’s the most important person on your race support team?

Everyone on my support team is really important to me. Without my family, friend and mechanic Franky, sponsors, and supporters, I wouldn’t be doing this.

Jonathan_Page_3Does your family travel with you during the season?

This year, much less than I would have liked. But they are with me now, on my way to the Nommay World Cup in France, so that’s great!

Jonathan_Page_4What’s the biggest mistake that you see amateur cyclists make when they train and what’s your best advice for them?

I don’t think there is a cover-all answer for the mistake part of this question. My best advice is just to have fun!

Photo by Martin Steele, Endura Ltd

Photo by Martin Steele, Endura Ltd

If you could ride your bike anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Right now, anywhere sunny would be great, as it hasn’t stopped raining since I got back from the USA. But I think my favorite place to ride is in the Swiss Alps, with cows bells ringing all around me.

Jonathan_Page_9What do you have in your pocket when you go for a training ride?

I keep it simple – only my phone and a Clif Mojo Bar or 2.

Check out this video from Global Cycling Network for an in-depth look at Jonathan’s Fuji Altamira CX cyclocross race bike.

All photos © Wil Matthews (unless otherwise noted)

2014 Scattante CFX Black Cyclocross Bikes

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When we first introduced the Scattante CFX Black cyclocross bike in 2012, we broke some new ground. It wasn’t our first foray into the world of ‘cross, but the CFX took things to a whole new level. We designed the bike from the ground up to be ready to take you to the podium with a full carbon fiber frameset, SRAM Force 10-speed group and, most importantly, the addition of recently-legalized disc brakes.

Well, we’re never really content to rest on our laurels, so after the success of the 2013 CFX Black, we did it again.

The all-new 2014 Scattante CFX Black cyclocross bike is now available, and for 2014 it comes in two flavors: one with SRAM Red 22 Hydro with hydraulic disc brakes and 11-speed drivetrain, the other comes with SRAM Force 22 with mechanical disc brakes, and also features 11-speed shifting. We’re immensely proud of both of these bikes, and confident that they’ll take your CX season to a new level. You can get to know both of these beauties a little better below.

The Scattante CFX Black. It's business time.

The Scattante CFX Black. It’s business time.

The Scattante CFX Black SRAM Red 22 Hydro

The Scattante CFX Black SRAM Red 22 Hydro is among the best bikes we’ve ever built. It’s loaded with high-end, high-performance features that have only one goal: to put you on the podium. This is a no-nonsense race bike that begs to be ridden hard. And thanks to the addition of a SRAM Hydro braking system, you can stop hard, too. The Hydro levers make look a little funny, but don’t be fooled, there’s some serious technology under those hoods.

Features:

  • ScDT carbon tech delivers a frame and fork with the precision and handling ability required for cyclocross competition
  • Hydraulic SRAM Red disc brakes increase stopping power, especially in adverse weather conditions
  • SRAM 22 Hydraulic drivetrain has 11-speeds and a cross specific 46/36 crank configuration
  • Stan’s ZTR Alpha 340 wheels are tubeless compatible to run lower pressure for increased traction in muck and mud
  • FSA Energy components bring serious durability and versatility to the cross course
2013 Scattante CFX Black with SRAM Red 22 Hydro

2013 Scattante CFX Black with SRAM Red 22 Hydro

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Hydraulic SRAM Red 22 shifters

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Hydraulic SRAM Red disc brakes

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Cross specific 46/36 SRAM Red 22 crankset

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ScDT carbon frame and fork

The Scattante CFX Black SRAM Force 22

The Scattante CFX Black SRAM Force 22 is a bike that refuses to play second fiddle. Sure, it’s a little more modestly priced, but that doesn’t mean you get more modest performance. It features the same ScDT carbon technology, wheels and build kit as its big brother. But instead of a hydraulic braking system, instead you get Force 22 with mechanical disc brakes. The redesigned shifters, all-new crank design, and True 22 shifting technology make this bike a force to be reckoned with.

  • ScDT carbon tech delivers a frame and fork with the precision and handling ability required for cyclocross competition
  • Avid BB7 Disc brakes increase stopping power, especially in adverse weather conditions
  • SRAM Force 22 drivetrain has 11-speeds and a cross specific 46/36 crank configuration
  • Stan’s ZTR Alpha 340 wheels are tubeless compatible to run lower pressure for increased traction in muck and mud
  • FSA Energy components bring serious durability and versatility to the cross course
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2013 Scattante CFX Black with SRAM Force 22

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11-speed SRAM Force 22 drivetrain

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Cross specific 46/36 crank configuration

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Avid BB7 Disc brakes

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ScDT carbon frame and fork

Gear Up For Cross

Here at Performance Bicycle, there’s a palpable excitement in the air. Because it’s that time of year again. A time when the nights feel cooler. When the smells of embrocation and frites are in the air, and the ring of cowbells resounds across the hills. A time of year when we trade in our skinny tires, glorious afternoons spent on sun dappled stretches of road, and retiring mid-ride banter for the mud-slinging, loosely organized bit of mayhem we know as cyclocross.

If you’re interested in trying out cyclocross, or just want to learn more about it, check out the Cyclocross Basics article over in the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

So what do you need to get your season start off right? Performance Associates Ben and Ross are here to help guide us through Gearing Up For Cross Season.

cross-gear

7 Essentials To Start Your Cross Season Right

1. Cyclocross bike: it’s important to have the right tools for the job. We’re pretty big fans of the 2013 Scattante cyclocross bikes (if we do say so ourselves…), including the all-new Scattante CFX bikes, now equipped with either Red 22 Hydro or Force 22 to get you to the top of the podium.

2. Mountain bike shoes: it’s not very easy to run in road shoes. Mountain bike shoes have a lugged outsole to make it easier to leap over barriers or run up hills. Mountain bike pedals are also used, since they are easier to get in and out of and shed mud well.

3. Helmet: when you’re riding like a madman (or woman) through mud, running with a bicycle on your shoulder, and leaping over barriers, it’s a good idea to make sure that your head is protected.

4. Long sleeve jersey and bib shorts, or a skinsuit: ‘cross races have a reputation for being challenging, so the last thing you want is to worry about being too cold or your saddle rubbing you the wrong way.

5. Cantilever or disc brakes: either one is fine so long as they fit your bike, but these brakes have enough clearance to allow even the muddiest tires to keep spinning.

6. Eyewear: it’s inevitable that you’ll end up getting sprayed in the face with mud, sand and who knows what else. Protect your eyes with a quality pair of sunglasses.

7. Knobby tires: knobby tires give you just enough traction to keep rolling through the mud, but without slowing you down on the flat and fast parts of the course.

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