Gravel bikes, those designed specifically to ride gravel roads, are rapidly growing in popularity. With that , more affordable offerings are finally coming to market. The Haanjo 2 is well priced gravel grinder with surprisingly good components at just $800. This is my review.
You can see the website for the entire list of specs, but I will cover some of the basics here. The Haanjo 2 bike is built around an all aluminum frame and steel fork. The bike comes with a 2×8 drivetrain, powered by Shimano Claris shifters and derailleurs. It’s equipped with large, smooth 700x37c gravel/concrete specific tires and rugged aluminum rims and steel spoles. For braking, it utilizes Tektro mechanical disk brakes with 160/140mm rotors (front/back). All of this is finished of with Hed Eroica handlebars and seatpost. It also includes DB branded alloy pedals and cranks. The bike retails for $799, weighs about 26 lbs, and comes in a cheaper Haanjo 1 or more spec’d out Haanjo 3 model.
What I liked
The Haanjo 2 is clearly designed for gravel, and it handles it beautifully. The sturdy frame paired with somewhat relaxed and stable geometry allowed for excellent corning and stable, fast descents. The smooth, easy rolling tires provide excellent traction, even when the gravel begins to turn slightly muddy, and the lack of rolling resistance makes climbing and descending on rough gravel roads more enjoyable. The steel fork, while heavier than aluminum or carbon, does an excellent job of absorbing bumps and vibrations, despite having no actual suspension, and the wrapped handlebars dampen any chatter that would otherwise transfer directly into the hands and wrists. When you put all this together, it makes for a bike that’s well tuned for gravel, even when things get a bit bumpy. Even on longer rides that tasked me with rolling over rocks, roots, bridge junctions and transferring between gravel, pavement and dirt, I found the bike to always respond predictably, and experience to be quite enjoyable.
The bars and grips provide a nice, solid platform to rest against that doesn’t require a constant, biting grip to feel stable. The drop bar setup provides three primary riding positions. The “horns” as they’re called, provide a nice stable, relaxed position for cruising and pedaling. Using the lower section, the drops, provides a lower stance to reduce wind drag and enhance stability, which is great for fast downhill sections. The wrapped flat bar itself is a nice position for long, steep climbs, but the brakes cannot be reached from here, so it is best to only use them when moving slowly and away from other bikers and traffic. Moving between these three positions provides a lot of variety over a long distance and helps to reduces arm fatigue, and allowed me to concentrate on cornering and pedaling, instead of what would otherwise have been aching wrists and tired fingers.
When it comes to pedaling and efficiency, this is where I was the most surprised with the bike. It can be, in a word, boogie. When really putting down some energy into the pedals, I found that the bike could accelerate rather quickly, and it also does an excellent job of holding speed on the flats. The pedals, cranks and drive train all feel very direct and efficient, with little energy translating into large amounts of propulsion. I’ve found that I can hit 30 mph fairly easily on relatively smooth gravel. I didn’t expect this as the Haanjo 2 isn’t a particularly light bike, with steel front fork and sturdy tires and rims bringing in most of the weight, but it didn’t seem to matter near as much as I expected. The geometry, powerful positive posture and smooth, capable tires seem to more than compensate. Even on 20 mile off-road runs, I still had plenty of fuel in the tank at the end of my ride to explore side routes and the scenery, but of course this will vary depending on the rider.
The drivetrain all in all is quite solid. Shifting, both from the front and rear, happen effortlessly with just a quick swipe of the finger. Considering this is one of the lower end models offered by Shimano, I expected at least some delays while hopping between cogs, but I found no reason to complain. Even on steep climbs, the hopped from gear to gear promptly, without grinding or slipping. The 2×8 configuration offers a wide ratio, which results in a fairly low bottom end and plenty of speed in the top for anything short of racing.
Braking is good. The Tekro Lyra mechanical brakes provide plenty of power to bring the bike to screeching half, even on gravel, and require little effort to use. Generally, mechanical brakes feel stiff and can be tiring to use over time, but that hasn’t been the case here at all. The brakes slide smoothly and produce a large amount force with only a gentle squeeze, probably due to the large and impressively true front an rear rotors. They also work great from both the horn and drop positions on the bars, providing additional confidence from any stance.
The Haanjo 2 turned out to be a far more capable bike than the price would suggest. Considering what I paid, I expected to feel some sacrifices in the build quality or performance, but it actually exceeded my expectations in almost every way. The bike feels sturdy, solid, and performs beautifully in all relevant conditions. This is largely due to the careful choices of components. They opted not for the most expensive shifters, derailleurs, brakes or pedals, but instead chose quality components that perform well, without forcing in unnecessary features or fancy materials. Some of these components weigh a bit more than their high end components, but suffer no noticeable perforce loss otherwise. I tried a few bikes that costed several hundred more that felt less comfortable, far more edgy (lots of vibration), and often just felt less stable.
There are attachment points for accessories everywhere on the bike, making this an excellent option for bike packing. You can fill it in with triangle bags, set bags, bar bags, and even attach front and rear baskets, all without having to resort to Velcro and Bungee cords.
Smaller details like the unusually comfortable bar tape, double shift compatible shifters, and Diamondbacks excellent customer service add nuance to the package.
There is a lot of room to upgrade and grow here, from lighter rims, to a carbon fork (if that is your thing), to lighter bars and derailleurs.
What I didn’t like
Despite being a “Ready Ride” bike, mine needed some love out of the box. The front derailleur didn’t move at all, and the back was skipping a bit. Lowering the front derailleur and adjusting the tension on both cleared up the issues and now they’re working wonderfully. I had it professionally adjusted, and DB offered to refund me the cost of the tuneup, which was excellent service (they didn’t know I would be reviewing it so this was a genuine gesture). Otherwise, setup was super easy with everything else working flawlessly out of the box, even the braking. The bike even came with the tools to attach the pedals and handlebars, with wheel attachment being tool-less.
The gearing is generally fine, but on long steep climbs, some of the gears can be a bit far apart in some situations. On a particular steep climb that I frequent, I occasionally myself looking for an intermediate gear that didn’t exist. Over time I adjusted to this and now I’m quite used to it, but for those with a little less leg power, this could result in some challenges in the most extreme of circumstances. Although, one could always just shift down as the Haanjo has some very easy lower gears, but that sacrifices some speed.
I found the included seat, although wonderfully constructed, to be terribly uncomfortable. This felt more like the seat just not fitting my particular body well than it being a bad saddle, but over my first three rides, it caused me a considerable amount of pain and lots of pressure, even with padded shorts. I have a similar seat on my DB Atroz Comp and it doesn’t cause me any issue there, so it’s likely just my body not jiving well with the posture and positioning, but I swapped it out with a Serfas Rapide and haven’t had any pain since.
For me, the Haanjo 2 struck an excellent balance between cost and performance. I wanted a bike that could handle some rough trails, yet still be comfortable enough to ride over long distances on a regular basis. But, I also needed to be able to actually buy the thing. The Haanjo 2 manages to check these boxes by carefully choosing quality components for their performance, durability and cost where each attribute is most important. When it all comes together, the bike rides and feels far better than it should at this price point. The bike is fast, handles great, and provides an exceptional entry point into gravel grinding, with room to upgrade in the future. I wasn’t a fan of the saddle, and an extra gear or two would have been nice (the Haanjo 3 provides this), but in the end, the Haanjo 2 delivers. It holds up great to abuse, is a blast to ride, and provides and excellent basis for years of adventure.
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I purchased this bike for myself for my own personal enjoyment and had no obligation to review it.
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