One of the newest genres to hit the cycling market is called an adventure bike. There has been much debate to what constitutes an adventure bike over what seems to be a cyclocross bike. We will go over the differences, and point out why the Diamondback Haanjo could be the best adventure bike to fit your needs.
If you were to place a touring bike, an adventure bike and a cyclocross bike all side by side, it would take some studying to identify the differences. All of them will feature wide tires on 700c wheels. Many of them will be equipped with disc brakes as well. A cross bike may have more limited gearing where a touring bike has a massive wide gear ratio setup. The adventure bike is in between.
The basics are that adventure bikes are made for adventures, wherever the roads, trails and paths may take you, usually in one day. Other bikes differ in their setup based on length of riding primarily, with cross bikes for short distances and touring bikes for great distances. So with a touring bike, you might see extra rack mounts and a different geometry to make it easy to carry 100 pounds of gear.
As a part of our recommendation for best adventure bike, do not underbuy on a bike like this. Consider the Diamondback Haanjo or Haanjenn adventure bikes. These are offered in aluminum and carbon framed models. But the key here is that they are equipped well, with great drivetrains and brakes.
Top Pick – Diamondback Haanjo/Haanjenn
So why choose an aluminum bike over a carbon for top pick? This is about adventure riding, where anything can happen. What if you crash 75 miles from home, or your car, and crack a carbon frame? The whole point is to be self sufficient, and adventurous, and that is difficult if you worry about damaging your frame.
One of the cool things about this bike is that it runs some great wheels. Diamondback didnt skimp out, so this frame is through axle, and uses some great hoops made by HED. While not composite, HED makes excellent aluminum rims. Again, I think in this case aluminum is a good choice due to repairability in the field. Usually you can pound out an aluminum rim to roll somehow.
What also makes this a top choice is all of the parts. The bike runs Shimano Ultegra for the drivetrain. The Shadow rear derailleur helps out off road due to the improved design, and the clutches to control the cage movement to dampen chain slap. Also, the hydraulic brakes are a huge plus. The cooling fins, and the excellent rotors should instill confidence off road.
Overall, this is a clean bike with all the right things going for it. From the carbon fork to the HED cockpit and seatpost, this is a great all around bike, right down to the third set of bottle cage mounts.
Best High End Adventure Bike – Carbon
I am going to stick with the Diamondback Haanjo but move up to the carbon models for best high end adventure. If you are looking to drop a few pounds off the total weight, this bike will do that. The Diamondback Haanjo 7 or Haanjenn Carbon drop nearly 2 pounds off each bike with a variety of upgrades.
The carbon monocoque frame can certainly help certain riders. While I recommend aluminum normally, if you seek specific instances where carbon can dampen vibration better, or give all day riding comfort, this bike is for you. A key on this bike will be top tube strength. Carbon bikes can change the round shape to create a stiffer profile. Stiffer top tubes help bikes track at speed and through the rough stuff.
These models feature Ultegra throughout with small upgrades. The crankset improves on this model over the aluminum version as well. Weight is dropped from the rotors even.
This frame also integrates front and rear rack mounts, and a third set of water bottle bosses. You will want to look up low rider rack mounts for the fork if you want to go that way. They are making a resurgence with the advent of gravel adventure riding.
Here is the big thing with this bike. With the carbon frame and fork, you can upgrade the wheels easily. With a simple upgrade, you can realize further weight reductions with carbon rims, or even Stan’s No Tubes wheels. In combination with higher end tires, you will reduce weight where it counts, in rotation. Rotating weight is where most of your energy goes.
Affordable Adventure Bikes – Raleigh
Many people have forgotten about the Raleigh bike brand. It is still based in England, and focuses on a direct to consumer model for sales. That benefits you, the consumer, as you will get a better value.
The Raleigh Willard 4 is a great example of getting a huge bang for your bucks. Whether you need a solid commuter bike that can haul a load in comfort, or get away on the weekends, the Willard is a great choice.
At half the cost of the aluminum Haanjo, the Willard features similar componentry with HED wheels that are through axle. While not the lightest, the Willard is a competent bike that wont hold you back at roughly 23 pounds.
The Shimano drivetrain works well with 105 components which are easy to adjust. The TRP mechanical disc brakes are great as well, and I run similar brakes on my own gravel bike. I look to the “what if” situations, and choose parts that I can repair and make it back to civilization with.
A great approach with this bike is to slowly upgrade things as you wear them out. Upgrading tires, or brake rotors can drop valuable rotating weight and gain you significant performance.
Best Alternative – Tommaso
Years ago Tommaso was a great budget alternative brand out of Italy. It still is a great budget alternative with the Tommaso Illimate.
One of the first things I picked out on this bike were the wheels. This is one of the few adventure bikes running an aero rim. These can be stiffer due to the triangulated cross section, so it can help with heavier riders. And, a little bit of aero would certainly help on long rides.
The Tommaso runs a competent aluminum frame. The design is compact, and a fairly standard geometry that should get the bars up pretty easily for a more relaxed all day riding position. Adventure bikes will normally not have an aggressive low bar position, unless you set them up that way.
The full Shimano drivetrain is a big plus here. Tommaso brags that all the parts are Shimano, not just the derailleurs. This makes adjusting, and maintenance much easier. Some brands mix in parts due to cost savings, such as lower end chains or cranksets. Having an integrated drivetrain can certainly help with overall functionality.
The Avid BBS mechanical disc brakes are excellent. Once setup, they can be adjusted easily on the road without tools. So if you hear a pad hitting the rotor, you can dial it back a notch. I have used this feature many times, and it is really nice.
Important Upgrade – Suspension
Adding a suspension fork to many of these bikes is a real possibility. It looks like the Diamondback and the Tommaso could easily handle the change without seriously affecting the handling. One of the better forks out there is the Lauf Grit.
The Lauf forks are a bit different but are light weight so there isnt a major penality installing one on your bike. On an adventure bike, you dont need massive amounts of travel like on a mountain bike. 30 mm is enough to take on most things, but you can also move up to a 60mm travel fork if you feel that need. For that matter, adding a Cane Creek Thudbuster suspension seatpost could also help.
I would easily recommend adventure bikes to most people. I agree with the bike type, as it has the flexibility to open up new riding areas that could be limited on a mountain bike, or a road bike from the other side of things. Mountain bikes can work, but with the flat bar, having multiple riding positions for long days and resting your hands is just not there like on an adventure bike.
One thing you will want to research is packs and bags. Depending on how far you are going, or how long, you will want to setup to carry a few things. Whether it is repair basics like a tube and some tools, or on a bigger scale where you carry clothes and food for an overnight trip there are many solutions. For longer day rides I would look at two bags, one on the saddle for tools and tubes for repairs, and a inside the frame bag for food and other goodies.
There is a lot of fun to be had on adventure bikes. From planning day rides to places you havent seen, or just riding new paths near your house for a change of pace, these bikes expand those possibilities. Many riders love them because it allows riding on low traffic roads so they feel safer.
Definitely look at the Diamondback Haanjo and Haanjenn lines. There are 7 different models to choose from to fit your needs and budget. I would recommend to buy the most bike you can afford as the drivetrain and brakes are far more important than chasing down a carbon frame.