Diamondback has a long history of producing off-road bicycles. It started with BMX in 1977 and continued to serve the BMX and mountain bike segments into the 1990s before the brand changed hands. Now owned by Accell, the owners of Raleigh, Lapierre and Redline, Diamondback has launched several eye-catching 700c bikes including an outrageously aero, non-UCI-compliant triathlon bike.
Since the off-road worthiness of the Andean aero bike is questionable, we focused our sights on the company’s adventure offerings. Diamondback’s “adventure and gravel” line features several models of the Haanjenn and Haanjo bikes. We first snuck a look at an early prototype back in 2016 in Eric Porter’s garage that eventually turned into a Reno-to-Nevada City bikepacking trip.
Today we spotlight our long-term review of the Haanjo EXP Carbon, which the company bills as “an extraordinary adventure bike,” that combines features of gravel and touring into a unique off-road package. In the near future, the name will be changing to the Haanjo 5C EXP, with a different color, but the build and frame will remain the same.
The Frame: Utility and Adventure Ready
The Haanjo is Diamondback’s “Alternative Road” frameset, designed to be taken off the beaten path. To make adventure easier and lighter, both the frame and tapered steerer fork are full carbon, and both the frame and fork have 12mm thru-axles, internal cable routing and flat mount mechanical disc brakes.
What would an adventure bike be if you cannot load it up for longer trips in the saddle? The frame and fork have fender eyelets, and it has rack mounts on the seatstays. The fork has low rider mounts to accept a front rack. Down below, you have a threaded 73mm wide threaded bottom bracket shell that accepts mountain bike cranks.
Despite coming with 2.1″ wide tires and 27.5″ diameter wheels, the frame still has a geometry that encourages long-distance adventure riding. Our size large bike features 43cm chainstays, 7cm of bottom bracket drop, a 102.5cm wheelbase and 71/72.5 head and seat angles. The seat angle translates into a relatively short reach. Despite a 56cm top tube, the reach is just 37.3cm.
Study the Haanjo geometry before picking a size and purchasing. Although head tubes and stack measurements vary proportionately with sizes, the reach does not. Height-challenged riders with short torsos or tall riders with long torsos may find the geometry a bit limiting, as all four sizes have reach measurements between 37.1cm and 37.8cm.
We’ll do the math for you, that’s just 7mm of difference. Although reach isn’t the end-all for bike sizing, the range is narrower than most bike lines have. It’s also worth pointing out that the smallest size is actually 3mm longer than the next size up due to toe overlap concerns.
The Build: Not Your Everyday Group
In a world of SRAM DoubleTap and Shimano STI lever-equipped bikes, the Haanjo EXP/ Haanjo 5C EXP bike is a refreshing alternative.
Looking for a bike for bikepacking in remote locations? The Haanjo might be what you are looking for. The Haanjo comes equipped with a triple crank up front for maximum flexibility. The Shimano Deore M591 triple crank provides a wide range with 48/36/26t gearing, and paired with the Shimano XT M770 11-34 cassette, allows a sub-1:1 gear ratio for loaded climbing on loose terrain.
Shifting is done with bar-end shifters, which were chosen for their ease of servicing in remote locations over an integrated system. The Shimano XT M772 Shadow rear derailleur pairs with a Deore M951 front derailleur, and both are controlled with Dura-Ace BS77 bar-end shifters.
What? Barcons on a modern carbon bike? That’s something we didn’t even see the McCormacks or Paul Curley do in cyclocross, but Diamondback opted for the simple levers for their robustness and reliability. There aren’t tiny springs, cams or ratchets to get clogged or worse, break, when you take a digger in sand or mud hundreds of miles from the nearest shop, and should you find yourself choosing between a six-speed cassette or ending your overseas bikepacking trip early, you might appreciate the friction option.
TRP RRL brake levers control TRP Spyre Mechanical Disc Brakes that bite onto 160mm rotors.
Diamondback provides a house-branded handlebar with 8º flare as well as the stem, seatpost and saddle. The bar is one of the best we’ve used, with a nice amount of flare and a shallow drop.
The Haanjo EXP wasn’t the first—and won’t be the last—bike to embrace dual-wheel compatibility. The Exp comes with 27.5″ / 650b HED Tomcat tubeless rims, while Diamondback offers the same frame with 700c options, including the Ultegra-equipped carbon Haanjo 7c.
The rims are beefy, with 32 spokes laced to the thru-axle disc hubs. The rims have a 21mm internal width, which gives them plenty of room for the Schwalbe Smart Sam 2.1″ tires.
Want to hit those steep, washed-out gravel mountain roads? The Haanjo might be the bike with what it takes, provided you swap out the tires for a tubeless-ready offering. It’s always a bummer when you’ll have to swap out equipment before your first ride if you want to ride low pressure and avoid flats, but we understand it’s a cost-cutting move by the company. We may or may not have tempted fate by attempting to convert the wire bead tires but would recommend swapping them for lighter, more supple tubeless offerings.
The entire bike without pedals tipped the scales at 22.15 pounds without pedals and 12.95 pounds without wheels, indicating the heavy rubber and tubes are a big part of the bike’s heft. Converting to tubeless with the stock OEM tires saved half a pound, while swapping the 650b wheels and rubber for 700c Zipp 202 tubulars and Challenge tubular tires took off a whopping 3 pounds. A 19.15-pound bike for racing is entirely respectable, but such an upgrade obviously adds to the price tag.
Head out of the door to your local dirt or gravel, and you’ll generate quite a bit of buzz. Some will be from the other cyclists checking out your unique bike, and some will be from the stiff, knobby wire bead Smart Sam rubber that comes stock on the HED wheels. Once you get used to the extra noise and the unusual shifter positions, most cyclocrossers will feel quite at home on the Haanjo EXP.
Despite its unusual spec, the geometry—perhaps with the exception of a short reach—isn’t far off from a cyclocross race bike. It’s the spec, not the geometry, that makes the experience a bit unique. Big, heavy 650b rubber make the Haanjo EXP feel more like a monster truck on the roads and trails, but after we swapped to lighter rubber and later even to carbon tubulars, the Haanjo became a much more spirited ride.
With Zipp 202 wheels and some Challenge Team Edition Baby Limus treads, the Haanjo felt ready to do battle on a cyclocross course.
Whether you’re out for a gravel adventure, loaded tour or bikepacking trip, or cyclocross race, the build might require a bit of time to get used to. The barcon shifters make it easy to rip through all nine cogs out back and three chain rings up front and will offer a quiet reminder of the joys of unlimited front derailleur trim options. However, anyone who is used to shifting while braking will miss the combo nature of “brifters,” but the spec is a fun reminder that such a utilitarian build can be just as much fun as the latest and greatest if you’re not racing.
You’ll also have to mind your knees when the shifters are fully extended. They’re only a few centimeters past the bar, but they just might provide a painful reminder of why we used to cut handlebars before installing a bar-end shifter (speaking from experience here).
The 27-gear drivetrain leaves every type and terrain open for exploring. The 3×9 gearing offers a whopping 571% range, more than a 10-42 wide-range cassette, with smaller steps that are easy on the legs for long days in the saddle. Sure, Diamondback could have put together a lighter, 2x drivetrain with a similar range and a Microshift Dynasys-compatible bar-end, but if you haven’t noticed yet, weight savings weren’t the goal of this bike. Bikepacking and fast group road rides are all within reach with the stock gearing.
Diamondback does have more traditional builds available, including the Haanjo Trail carbon with 700c wheels and an Ultegra 46/36t double up front with hydraulic brakes. We love the Haanjo EXP’s unique spec, but skeptics can still find another Haanjo model (in carbon or aluminum) with more mainstream components.
Other than the limited range in reach across the four sizes, we have one more nitpick. While Beeline did a great job building and setting up the bike, we had some difficulty aligning the front caliper for different wheelsets and rotors. Both Beeline and Diamondback acknowledged this could have been a production issue and recommended trying to face the brake mount, but even our local shops didn’t have such tooling.
Owners of this model year just might have to pick up a few rotor shims for certain wheelsets to prevent brake pad rub. Perhaps this will be addressed in future models, but if you plan to ride one with a different wheelset, try swapping in your front wheel and rotor to see if you face such an issue.
And while we’re talking about brakes, if you’ve loaded down your Haanjo EXP, hydraulic brakes might top your list of upgrades. The TRP Spyre mechanical brakes are fine for most riding and appropriate for your trip around the world, but long descents or more gear will have your fingers longing for more assistance.
Diamondback deserves huge props for putting together such a unique, versatile bike. The Haanjo EXP / 5C EXP carbon really is a jack of all trades and master of none. If your riding leans towards the more adventuresome, remote side of the tape when cyclocross season is over, it really could be a quiver killer, especially with two wheelsets.
Unfortunately, you might have to hunt for our model year bike at local REI stores or dealers, as warehouse inventory is sold out, but new ones, in a Satin Teal color and the same spec are expected around September. Update: 2019 Haanjo 5C EXP bikes have been released.
See the specs and photo gallery below for more on the Diamondback Haanjo.
Diamondback Haanjo EXP Carbon Specs
Frame: DB Carbon Alternative Road Frame, Endurance Geometry, disc, 12x142mm thru-axle
Fork: DB Gravel Disc, full carbon, tapered 1 1/8″-1 1/2″ steerer, 12mm thru-axle
Shifter: Shimano Dura-Ace BS77 bar-end shifter
Brake Caliper: TRP Spyre 2 piston
Brake Lever: TRP RRL Alloy
Brake Rotor: TRP 6-bolt
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT M770 Shadow, 9-speed
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore M591, 31.8mm clamp-on
Crankset: Shimano M591 Triple, 48/46/28t
Cassette: Shimano XT M770, 9-speed, 11-34t
Chain: KMC X9
Stem: DB X-Durance 3D Forged Alloy, +/- 7º
Handlebar: DB X-Durance Gravel Bar, 8º flare
Seatpost: DB X-Durance alloy, 27.2mm
Saddle: DB Eldorado
Pedals: Wellgo alloy road
Rims: HED Tomcat Disc, 32 hole
Hubs: 32-hole, 6-bolt, 12mm thru-axle, sealed cartridge bearing
Spokes: 14g Stainless Steel
Tires: Schwalbe Smart Sam, 27 x 2.1″
Weight: 22.15 pounds without pedals, 12.95 pounds without wheels.
More info: diamondback.com or buy direct here
Photo Gallery: Diamondback Haanjo EXP Carbon Adventure/Touring Bike