First Ride: Devinci Hatchet gravel bike at Grinduro
Devinci’s new Hatchet carbon gravel bike was made to push limits. It rides like a mini mountain bike: super stable at speed and easy to pop around on the trail if you find singletrack on your ride. “We wanted to design a gravel bike and see how far as we could push it,” David Régnier-Bourque, Devinci’s marketing director said. And to test this, Devinci invited VeloNews to California’s scenic Sierra Mountains to zip around the mixed terrain at Giro’s Grinduro “gravel-enduro” race.
I took the Hatchet on smooth dirt and gravel roads, pedaled up steep rocky climbs, and bombed singletrack descents more than a few times. And after three days of pushing this bike like no other gravel bike I’ve tested, the Hatchet did not disappoint with its zesty yet solid ride.
The most notable characteristic about Devinci’s new bike is its stability at speed. This bike rips descents. A longer wheelbase (1056mm size L) makes for a smooth ride down flowing fire road descents and it carves loose corners with ease. Much of the bike’s smooth and responsive steering at speed comes from the slacked-out 71-degree head tube angle. Despite this stability, the Hatchet still feels lively and fun on the flats and climbs exceptionally well. A 73.5-degree seat tube angle puts the rider in a more aggressive position similar to a road bike. The bike’s longer top tube (575mm) was paired with a short 70mm stem, adding to the snappy feel and making maneuvering around rocks or hopping tree roots a breeze.
The Hatchet’s huge tire clearance was key to surviving the Grinduro’s rocky, tire-shredding terrain. I ran WTB’s 40mm tubeless Nano tires and they held up exceptionally well through the roughest sections. The beefy tires also provided some extra traction on the trail while making for a comfortable day on the bike. But the bike frame itself also adds compliance on rough terrain thanks to a lower seat stay-seattube junction. This allows the seat post to flex slightly over bumps so I wasn’t shaken silly by the end of the day.
Internal routing for a dropper post (yep, you read that right, a dropper post) and a 12-degree-flair FSA Adventure handlebar add to the Hatchet’s extreme take on gravel riding. This is not a road bike with extra clearance. This bike is built to shred, to climb up fire roads and tear up singletrack on the way down. It was obvious from the second I hopped on the Hatchet that a mountain bike company designed the gravel rig, and it has changed our mind on what gravel riding can and should be.
However, just as the type and condition of gravel roads vary greatly across the country, so too do the needs of gravel riders. If you regularly hit the straight and rolling hills of Kansas or Nebraska, you probably don’t need such a peppy bike. The Hatchet is probably a bit overkill. But after three days in the Sierra Mountains and several “shuttle-cross” runs down a swooping ribbon of singletrack, we’d be hard-pressed to find a better gravel bike for anyone living in mountainous terrain.
I tested the Hatchet Ultegra Di2 model equipped with Shimano’s electronic drivetrain as well as RS785 flat mount disc brakes. It’s hard to beat the reliability and versatility of this smooth-shifting group. Shimano’s Ice-Tech 160mm rotors are icing on the cake.
The bike comes stock with a 50/34-tooth chainring setup paired with an 11-32 cassette. While some gravel bike companies are going for smaller chainrings like FSA’s 46/30 option, I had plenty of gears for the ups and downs at the Grinduro, even when I hit the 16 percent pitches on the race’s infamous China Grade climb.
With more riders riding gravel roads or taking road bikes on rocky terrain, we’d love to see Shimano and SRAM integrate a clutch mechanism into a road group. Our chain was bouncing all over the place as I hit a washboard section or twisted our way down some rocky singletrack switchbacks. A clutch would help keep the chain tensioned, reducing chain slap and dropped chains.
The bike uses 12mm thru axles in the front and rear and this is paired with Mavic’s Ksyrium Elite Allroad Disc wheels that withstood a serious beating from multiple shuttle-run descents. I hit rim on several occasions but the wheels were sturdy and strong, staying true and absorbing the hits without damage.
The Hatchet is built with adventure in mind and includes features like fender mounts that are hidden on the frame to keep the bike looking sleek and clean. The bike’s bottle cages are placed lower on the seat tube and down tube so you can run a top tube bag for longer races or any adventure.