The Ibis Hakka MX is hard to classify as anything other than a potential quiver killer for the drop bar enthusiasts. The previous two generations of the Hakkalugi have been purebred cyclocross race winning machines with no compromises so what is the deal with the Hakka MX?
When you hop over onto https://www.ibiscycles.com/ and look at the Hakka MX configurator the first thing you’ll notice is that you can get it with two different sized wheelsets. Not just carbon wheels vs alloy (although you get that option too!) but 700c or 650b. This is where the MX portion of the name comes into play, monster cross. Monster cross bikes have been around forever with most of them being older mountain bikes with some drop bars, longer stems, and some skinny tires thrown on and were used as do it all bikes. There is a new generation of monster cross bikes in town now although the names vary from all road bicycles, gravel bikes, adventure bikes, the list goes on. There are few out there that, like the Hakka, can run both 700c and 650b.
This bike was purchased with the 650b wheels paired to the Ibis alloy wheels/hubs as it’s primary duty would be gravel riding and bombing around the gravel multi use paths in our river valley. We’ve got cross bikes in our garage and with Nina being in school during the cross season we figured it would be best to grab her a bike better suited to what she really enjoys riding than a dedicated cross racing machine like the Norco Threshold that this bike replaces.
The First Ride
For the maiden voyage of the bike I really wanted to put it through everything our river valley had to offer from pavement, to gravel, to some technical single track as this is supposed to be a do it all bike.
For the first portion of the ride I wanted to try the bike out in the park area where the local midweek cross races are held to see how the bike felt in the primary environment it was designed for. The first thing that I noticed with the bike was how responsive it was to any input that I put into it. Due to the frame design and the rear thru axle the Hakka accelerated under power with an urgency not unlike my road bike. There was very little torsional flex, if any and it felt as if all of my power was being transmitted through the frame directly to the ground. Immediately I realized that this bike was not just a gravel bike that could play cross racer on the weekends, it was a bonafide cross racing machine that can play gravel bike. The next course of action was testing the handling with tight turn drills similar to what you’d find on a cross course. Other than more rolling resistance in the grass with the 2.1” tires, this was the only other time where I felt that 650bs were less than ideal. 700c wheels and tires would be the wheels of choice for any cross racing, not just due to the UCI regulations with tire width but also for their quicker handling and turn in.
Having ridden single track on my skinny tired cross bike before I was curious to see how the Hakka would perform with the larger, 650b tires in similar terrain. While not nearly as fast as a dedicated xc bike I was very surprised with how capable the bike really was on the trails. Our trails in town are notoriously rooty so I had the tires at 26psi front and rear to minimize the chance of tagging a rim on a rock or root. Immediately I realized that this was too much as I was bouncing around a fair bit more than I was expecting despite being on a rigid bike and believe that for a rider of my size at 170lbs, 24 psi would be perfect for bombing single track with this rig. Descents were fun and controlled although a dropper post wouldn’t feel out of place and could be set up with the left shift lever. Where the bike surprised me was on the loose dusty climbs that often have you working for traction on dedicated mountain bikes. I didn’t need to get out of the saddle to get move my weight around at all, the tires just hooked up and went wherever I pointed the bike. With the large 42 cog out back there wasn’t a time where I felt like I wanted easier gears although on a long, technical climb I might, but at that point I’d be on the wrong bike.
With the 650b wheelset mounted, this is what I was most excited to try the bike on. Around Edmonton we have hundreds of kilometers of beautiful gravel roads with virtually no traffic on them and people are starting to take advantage of that. Not only do we have gravel roads outside of the city but we have hundreds of kilometers of gravel multi use trails flanking the river running through the middle of town that are great for exploring on. With the 2.1” Thunder Burt tires I was expecting a smooth ride but perhaps a bit slower than something like a 35×700 file tread but what I experienced was a very smooth, very quick ride that felt as if it were rolling faster than skinny tires. I was shocked to look at my Garmin to see 38km/h on a loose gravel path with relatively little effort being put through the pedals. With these big tires you are also prepared for those roads where the county has decided that 3” of loose laid gravel was a good idea before the weekend and that packing it down can wait until Monday. Where a skinnier tire would cut through the loose stuff and get pulled around, the 2.1” rubber floats on top and tracks beautifully ensuring that your cyclist arms don’t have to work any harder than they absolutely have to to keep you on the straight and narrow. Having been on gravel for 45 minutes I’m already thinking how the Hakka MX would be the perfect bike packing rig, prepared for anything you might encounter. The only gripe that I have with this bike is that they didn’t give you the option to mount any cages to the fork! This is the one thing that I’d take issue with despite there being solutions for the problem out there.
The Final Word
The Hakka MX truly is a do it all bike, but unlike some do it all bikes that tend to suck equally at everything, it excels at styles of riding as diverse as the Tour Divide and a Belgian-style cross race. If you’re looking to ride the back roads during the summer and then shimmy into your skin suit for some hot laps around the CX race circuits in the fall this is a bike that can do both equally well.
I’d love to see an option for a build with Sram Force. This would be a sweet spot in pricing between their Rival and Di2 and a great option for bike packing as you wouldn’t need to worry about charging the di2. Perhaps we will see that in the coming years as the bike takes off in popularity!