Field Tested: Ibis Hakkalügi Disc

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The carbon Ibis Hakkalügi I’ve been riding the past few months technically falls under the cyclocross category, but the company extols the virtues of the bike’s versatility on any surface, so I took Ibis up on the invitation to add one to my bike rotation for an extended period. I also made a few modifications to the Hakkalügi to suit my needs as a thrill-seeking non-racer. Besides, Ibis sponsored racers like world master’s champion Don Myrah have proven the Hakkalügi’s racing pedigree, and I saw its potential as something else entirely.

First, the ‘cross tires had to go. The stock wheelset came with low-pressure, tubeless Michelin Cyclocross Mud 2 tires, and because I rarely drive somewhere to ride my bike, I wanted rubber that I could inflate to 85psi, worked well on asphalt, and was wide enough for hard packed dirt. To do this I swapped out the stock wheels (Stan’s NoTubes Iron Cross tubeless rims, Ibis Speed Tuned disc hubs) for Bontrager Affinity Elite wheels with Michelin Pro4 Endurance 700x28c clincher tires and the stock Shimano rotors and cassette. Weight of the former was 6.61 pounds, and the latter was 7.12 pounds.

I topped off my creation with a 491 gram Selle Anatomica X Series leather saddle to ease the nagging pain of a pinched sciatic nerve, added the 410 gram Moots Tailgator seatpost rack and bag to bring extra clothing, and strapped on a 475 gram Rivendell Brand V Boxy Bar bag for my camera and food. I also installed a pair of Shimano 9000 pedals. Presto! The Bicycle Times makeover was complete. Complete bike weight went from 17.48 pounds to 22.11 pounds, converting a race horse into a work horse.

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The Frame

The carbon fiber Hakkalügi frame was designed with modern standards, including a BB86 press fit bottom bracket, 140mm post mounts for the rear brake, tapered head tube, and compression molded carbon dropouts. Matched with an ENVE CX fork and traditional mountain-bike-standard 135mm rear dropout spacing, all this adds up to ride that Ibis promises to provide ‘the responsiveness of a large tube aluminium bike combined with the suppleness of a titanium frame’.

So, did it deliver? Yes, and then some.

Oversized tubing became the norm with aluminum throughout the 1980s after decades of 1-inch diameter steel tubing ruling the roost. But aluminum—while light—can be stiff and unforgiving when bicycle tubing is welded together, so titanium frames became commercially available and popular in the late 1980s. They were light, stiff but not too stiff, supple like a custom steel frame, but spendy (like, twice as expensive as a custom steel frame). Ibis has offered steel, titanium and aluminum frames through its production run between 1981 and 2001, but when the brand was resurrected in 2005 carbon fiber was king, and manufacturing wasn’t such black magic anymore, so carbon Ibis models were introduced.

The rim brake Hakkalügi (now discontinued)—first introduced as a TIG-welded steel frameset in 1997—returned to commercial glory built with carbon in 2009. The current Hakkalügi Disc shares the same carbon layup as the Ibis road bike, the Silk SL (also discontinued), but with an extra layer of carbon added to the top and downtube for greater impact protection, without much weight penalty. Ibis reports that the frame weight for the 58cm size (which I tested) is approximately 1,050 grams (2.3 pounds).

The Ride

The ENVE CX Disc fork weighs 460 grams, and would retail for $549 separately. I’m not overly concerned with riding a light bike because I’m not a light human (6’1”, 188 pounds), so I like bikes that weigh what they need to weigh for my chosen purpose. The Ultegra 11-speed mechanical group performed as expected: smooth, flawless and responsive. The Ultegra crankset is my favorite because like my faithful dog Gromit, it will never disappoint or let me down; spot-on shifting in all situations. The ‘cross gearing chosen by Ibis (a 36/46-tooth crankset mated to an 11-28-tooth cassette) worked well for my purposes, and I was never left wanting lower or higher gearing. Nothing but praise for Shimano.

The caveat with adding the extra versatility (and weight) was pushing the bike beyond its original cyclocross-racing intent, but the Hakkalügi delivered. Short or long road rides into Portola Valley or quick jaunts through the Los Altos hills were enjoyable because I was comfortable and never fought the bike. Steering felt stable and intuitive, partly due to the traditional and relaxed 71.5-degree head angle (compared to the steeper and more aggressive 74 degrees on my Felt F2), tapered headtube, and stout fork.

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I always try to fill the fork and frame with the largest tire possible, but in this case I was going for a split personality machine for asphalt and dirt. While max clearance was 700x38c, I shrunk down from the stock 700x33c knobby tires to 700x28c smoothies, I still benefitted from the longer chainstays for a cruise-friendly wheelbase (43cm and 103.7cm, compared to my Felt’s 40.7cm and 100cm, respectively). The geometry of the Hakkalügi was what attracted me to it in the first place, and my component and accessory experiment played out perfectly.

The Verdict?

While I remain a fan of custom steel and titanium, I like what Ibis has done with carbon on its drop-bar bike (its mountain bike offerings are always making headlines). The head tube is 15mm taller than my daily rider, the Felt, and the top tube is 1cm shorter. This was a little hard to adapt to initially but 30 minutes into the maiden voyage—and after fiddling around with my saddle height and reach to the handlebars—I was comfortable and enjoying the bike. As all-surface bikes—road bikes with disc brakes and larger tire clearance—become more popular, I’m sure we’ll see more bikes on the roads and trails resembling my Ibis experiment. And that‘s a good thing!

Vital stats

  • Frame: $1,450
  • Shimano Ultegra Hydro kit (including ENVE CX Disc fork): $2,350
  • As tested price: $3,800
  • Complete stock bike (minus pedals): 17.48 pounds
  • Substitutions: Bontrager Affinity Elite wheelset: $800; Michelin Pro4 Endurance tires: $60 (each); Selle Anatomica Series X saddle: $100 (Holiday price; regularly $159).
  • Add-Ons: Shimano 9000 pedals: $280; Moots Tailgator bag system: $165; Rivendell Brand V Boxy Bar bag: $90.
  • Complete repurposed bike: 22.11 pounds

 

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