I’ve been wanting to build a gravel bike for a long time. After completing bike tours on my Surly Ogre Plus bike and older Long Haul Trucker, it was time to build a tool that would give me the versatility that I was looking for in a bike. The Swiss Arm Knife of bikes if you will. Call it what you want, I’m a huge proponent of the right tool for the job and the Ibis Hakka MX is the kind of bike that gives you more than one. While all you may need is 1 bike in your stable, my decision on building the Hakka MX gives me a machine that can serve multiple purposes for the kind of riding I do.
After endless research trying to figure out what frame I wanted to get and what parts I wanted to mount up to it, I decided to make it my dream bike with only the very best components I could get my hands on. I am psyched on the finished product.
Building and designing a bike from the frame up takes a lot of time. I strategically think about every part that I ever wanted on my other bikes and research the latest components on the market. I know I wanted a frame that was able to roll on 700c and 27.5 wheels, had internal cable routing and looked aesthetically pleasing at first glance. After checking out many manufactures online I settled on the Ibis Hakka MX. If you know mountain bikes then you know Ibis. They’ve been in the game for over 30 years. The Hakka MX was born from the OG steel Hakkalügi, one of the cross frames that dominated during it’s era. And to be honest, it’s a classic that still stands strong today.
The Haaka MX is a modern twist on the Haakalugi. It is a full carbon frame giving the bike a more supple ride and helps with responsiveness over rough terrain. The MX stands for the Monster Cross wheelbase allowing it to fit the 700c and 27.5 wheels and the frame is set up for internal cable routing for Di2, both deal breakers for me. It is a classic frame design – no oversized tubing or dips in the downtube, which is hard to find.
It took me a little bit of time to crunch numbers on the frames geometry, but once I figured that all out I pulled the trigger and ordered the Hakka MX frameset in the new Bone White in a 58cm. After the frame was purchased, I could start to line up the other components to match.
I’m a huge fan of Shimano groupsets. I just love the way they feel when I swing my hand for a shift on my road bikes Ultegra R8000 and the push/pull on my mechanical XT setup on my Surly Ogre. Nothing against SRAM at all, but I just couldn’t get with it. I’ve tried them all from the RED, Force and AXS groups and I still come back to Shimano. Call me bias, but I’m pretty partial to the Shimano line because of the ergonomics and the SRAM double-tap that I just can’t get with.
I was initially set on getting the Shimano XTR group for this build, but after checking out the new GRX Di2 I was blown away by all the talk it was getting. With the look and feel too, it was put at the top of my list.
The GRX is Shimano’s gravel specific groupset and one may cringe after hearing that since most shifters on the market can handle any kind of gravel riding. Shimano focus’ on the demands and wants of cyclists so they have to twist and turn where riders go, so I get what Shimano is trying to do here. The GRX is offered in both mechanical and Di2 versions. I wanted to setup my bike on Di2 not only to have something different, but for precise shifting. While I love my mechanical shifters on my other bikes, I got tired of doing adjustments to index my gears. Di2 makes that super easy with a few clicks and presses from their E-Tube app.
At first glance the Shimano GRX Di2 shifters look incredible. Ergonomically they fit extremely well with a nice ribbed grip that make you want to ride gloveless (who rides with gloves anyway?). The shape of the hoods when riding is my overall favorite. When descending they give you a nice tight and controlled feel and they’re designed in a way to prevent your hands from slipping, which gives you more confidence.
I chose the 1x setup for my bike with a 40T chain ring and 11×42 cassette, which gives me an overall clean look with enough range. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t go bigger in range. Well for one, the GRX line on a 1x setup can only accept up to a 11×42 setup. I could of got a XT rear mechanic and slap on a 11×46 no problem but for this bike I was willing to sacrifice that larger range to try something new. Besides, I don’t mind hike-a-bike segments once in a while.
I didn’t go with the GRX crankset because I wanted to mix up my drivetrain to have the option of changing the rings. This is when I found the Easton EC90SL cranks. They’re a full carbon Cinch technology system that gives you the option of quickly switching out chain rings for any occasion. I know I wanted to keep a 40T on but also have a 42T ring on deck for a fast switch up if needed. The EC90SL cranks are lightweight and stiff. Whether having the bike fully outfitted with bikepacking bags, or naked on a gravel trail, or on a road ride, you can really feel the stiffness and power transfer during the climbs.
I wanted wheels that were durable, fast, light and capable of mixed terrain riding. A wheel that can withstand the occasional pothole smash over broken city streets and not loose it’s true. The Easton EC90AX 700c wheels are fully carbon with a 24mm internal rim width and 31mm external width, which gives a 40mm tire its true width. The Sapim double butted straight pull spokes are exactly what I’d use if I were building a wheel myself. And the new Vault hub has 60 point 6 degree engagement that locks in really nice when you find yourself in a tech section over rocks and roots, especially if you have bags loaded on the bike for bikepacking trips.
I had a lot of fun with these wheels for loaded touring and riding with friends on gravel. You can feel how stiff and forgiving they are on mixed terrain riding and even on my local road rides. I think its U shape rim design contributes to its strength and resistance making bike handling and stability really good.
Saddles are a personal item to choose when building a bike. Generally I would take an old saddle that I knew fit well from an existing bike, but I wanted to try something new for this dream build. I chose the Ergon SRPRO Men’s Saddle for its sporty look and subtle ergonomic design. This saddle design gives more material and a smaller slit that my others that I have. Even on its first ride when you expect some discomfort as you break it in, there were no hot spots or saddle sores.
Another Easton component coming through with a wi, the Easton EC90 Carbon Seat post. It is easy to adjust the fore and aft of the saddle, which some seat posts don’t offer that ease of adjustment. It is extremely light weight for you weight weenies – 200g. They used Matt UD carbon for ultimate strength and also use RAD (Relief Area Design) and Taper Wall technology to help distribute weight.
First Ride Experience
As the build was nearing its completion my friend George and I had a 2-day trip planned right in our backyard exploring some of NYC’s finest dirt roads and gravel tracks. I wrapped the bike with bikepacking bags with all my equipment needed for our trip. The bike was agile with its fully loaded setup in that it wanted to ride fast down descents and be thrown around left and right in the climbs. You can really feel the stiffness in the frame. I think also the fully carbon Easton EC90SL wheels and carbon cranks contributed to its nimble ride feel. I was a bit apprehensive to break in the bike in such an aggressive environment for the first time like I did, but that’s what the bike is intended for. The bike didn’t want to take any breaks; it’s made to be ridden and hard at that.
The Shimano GRX Di2 system exceeded my expectations. They shifted easy and were comfortable providing a nice grip in my hands. I noticed no hand fatigue after a full 7-hour day of riding and with just a simple press on the shift lever to change gears makes riding even more fun. It did take some getting used to the Di2 shifting as I come from a mechanical setup where I would normally swing the lever in order to shift gears.
The Easton EC90SL wheels rode really well on the road and transitioned into the dirt with no problems to account for. The Hakka MX can also accommodate a 27.5 wheel size, which I wasn’t able to test out yet, but I think the bike will have a different ride feel with that configuration. Even with a loaded bikepacking setup I still felt like I was on my road bike in that the wheels spun fast and handled whatever got it their way.
The Sum Up
The Hakka MX is like a chameleon that can blend into any environment and with the right setup will be the only bike you may need in your stable. One of the main reasons why I got this bike was for the purpose of being able to blend into different riding styles. It’s a bike that you can use for high speed gravel rides on 700c wheels and heavy duty off road bikepacking with 27.5 wheels. While I do have a bike specifically for heavier duty riding, having this as an option opens more doors to light weight setups for touring.
This bike was a labor of love – lots of time put in to researching the best of best when it comes to gravel components. I am proud of the finished product. It is my dream bike and I look forward to more adventures with it. I have listed below a full parts break down below including some parts that I didn’t go into full detail above as I have mentioned in earlier posts—such as the ENVE G Series handle bar and stem. Comment if you have any questions on this new build – happy to help anyone planning their new builds or looking to switch out some parts.
Parts List Breakdown
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Ridden & Written by
Dwayne Burgess (Manual Pedal)
This review is based on personal opinions and experience from the rider. Special thanks to Easton Cycling and WTB for their support with the build. All other parts were purchased at the rider’s expense and links provided are affiliate partnerships with Amazon.