A mountain bike company launching its second generation gravel bike is an intriguing prospect, so with an open mind, I headed to Canada, north of Quebec City, to find out whether Devinci’s new Hatchet delivers.
As title sponsor of the first Canadian round of the Grinduro series, I got to ride Devinci’s top of the range Carbon GRX LTD Hatchet – a bike that now has clearance for (at least 45mm) tyres – and that promised to be an adventure.
With a curious blend of North American-style vehicles, roads and buildings, and largely French signs and language, the eastern part of Canada looks familiar to anyone who’s visited the USA, but it has a very different feel and infectious friendliness. And, as I soon came to understand, this is something Devinci perfectly represents.
Devinci at Grinduro Canada
The Grinduro series is slowly expanding around the globe, and this would be my first experience of the gravel road race/mountain bike-style enduro format.
Billed as an event with a high party to race ratio, the idea of not racing from gun to flag took a little getting used to. The 100km route included four diverse timed stages that offered something for everyone, but between those, riders could ride at their own pace and stop as often as needed — so long as they made the final, generous time cut off.
The atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed, and the course didn’t disappoint!
The expanding Grinduro series has a format that mixes competition with fun. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
On the two days before Grinduro, the Devinci crew took me out on the new Hatchet to preview the event’s timed stages — something only possible with special permission because some of the course was on private land.
As an opportunity to begin to evaluate the bike, and judge my race-day setup, it was invaluable. The Hatchet comes as standard with 40mm Maxxis Rambler tyres and DT Swiss GR1800 wheels, but I had the option to try the Hatchet with bigger tyres and alternate wheels, which I gladly accepted.
As well as extensive forests, Canada has a lot of lakes, and the Hatchet was a great way of exploring them. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
Any customer should tailor their tyre choice to the sort of terrain they’re riding, so I had no problem deviating from the stock setup. Besides, with a bike capable of running much fatter tyres, I wanted to see what it could do.
I weighed a medium size Hatchet in standard spec with 40mm tyres, inner tubes and no pedals at 9.32kg. My medium Hatchet with Easton EA90AX wheelset, 45mm tyres set up tubeless, pedals, two bottle cages and a Garmin mount weighed 9.68kg.
Devinci Hatchet ride and handling
The Hatchet was designed around a zero setback seatpost, with dropper posts always a consideration. As someone who occasionally finds it hard to dial in 80mm of setback behind the bottom bracket centre on certain bikes, the Hatchet’s saddle gave me enough when clamped in the middle of its rails.
One of the four timed stages was essentially downhill singletrack, demanding plenty of technical skill. Andy Vathis
I don’t know of any data comparing the ability of a 27.2mm alloy dropper post to flex to that of a similar diameter carbon post, but I’d expect less movement from the former.
Regardless, with the help of the excellent SDG Duster saddle, squashy tyres and some fine carbon design, the Hatchet looked after me superbly well over 100 miles of riding.
Between the timed stages you were free to ride at your own pace and enjoy the scenery. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
I’m 5ft10in/178cm and stuck with a standard 100mm stem, finding it ideal for my preferred reach. The standard handlebar width for a medium bike is 44cm — 2cm wider than I’d expect on the road and flared to boot.
My initial concerns that it might be too wide were soon dispelled, with the bar and stem giving me a superb combination of slow speed or technical terrain finesse, and high-speed stability.
Easton’s EA70 AX bar was already a favourite and it continues to be, thanks to excellent ergonomics.
Tarmac stretches linked the gravel, and included a challenging road climb. Andy Vathis
Canada isn’t short of epic views. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
My shakedown rides, and Grinduro itself, offered everything from smooth to broken tarmac, dirt doubles, berms, aggressive roots and rocks, groomed and rough gravel, plus more than enough sketchy sand.
My Hatchet with 45mm tyres was equal to everything, even if the rider sometimes let the side down, and at times, even bigger tyres would have been preferable.
The Hatchet’s 45mm tyres were a huge bonus on the rooty, rocky sections. Laurent Bilodeau
Devinci Hatchet performance
Even though the Hatchet Carbon GRX LTD I tested is Devinci’s range-topping model, it’s priced competitively, and after experiencing its performance, it looks great value for money.
There are lighter bikes out there, but if weight’s a concern, the Hatchet could be lightened.
As it is, though, I’d take a little added mass for added durability and versatility, and I didn’t once feel like I was being held back by the bike’s weight.
The Hatchet survived the 65-mile Grinduro, plus over 50 miles in the previous days without any issues at all. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
The carbon frame in a medium with all hardware and a healthy coating of paint is claimed to weigh 1,135g, and with the Super Leggera fork a further 460g.
Heavily built bottom bracket and head tube areas help to counteract torsional stresses from the cranks, wheels and handlebar, resulting in an efficient-feeling ride.
Large, soft tyres — I ran mine at 30 to 35psi — affect some elements of performance, but when power was needed to climb an infernally rooty trail, a 22 percent maximum road climb or sprint for the town sign (just because it was there), the frame always felt positively responsive and very precise.
So much performance can be gained from larger tyre volume, and Devinci has nailed it with the Hatchet. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
Since a very random bike crash eight years ago (stick through the front wheel of a folding bike on flat tarmac), descending hasn’t been a strongpoint. But, after descending Grinduro’s stage 2 ascent — a 2km road climb, which ramped up from 12 percent to 18 percent, with a final 22 percent kick — and as the speed rose, I felt more confident on the Hatchet than I have on any road bike in years. 53mph with a grin on my face was testament to that.
Who knew that a dropper post could be such a benefit for fast road descending? Dropping the saddle and your frontal mass allows you to go for the full Froome without perching dangerously on the top tube.
The dropper post came in to its own on technical sections, and also on fast road descents. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
There was a section where ‘helpful’ grading works had turned several miles of gravel (which felt like an eternity) in to rough sand a couple of inches deep. Climbing through it needed a light touch and my best CX-bred balance, but descending it, even on shallow gradients, was challenging.
Here, the wider bar and tyres of the Hatchet came in to their own, and even though I’d often get propelled surf-like towards the edge of the 10m wide track, I knew it would have been far tougher to control with a narrower setup.
I had plenty of clearance with 45mm tyres, and 700 x 50mm rubber fits too, as well as up to 650B x 2.1in Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
Devinci Hatchet drivetrain and brakes
My first rides with Shimano’s GRX gravel groupset were completely positive.
The new levers have Shimano’s familiar hood shape and great comfort, and the flared, widened levers thankfully don’t have the slightly sharp edges that some of their road cousins sport.
Their chunky feel is entirely in keeping with expected use, and shifting was always swift, precise and reliable.
Shimano’s GRX controls are supremely comfortable, especially the wide levers. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
My Hatchet came with the standard single 40-tooth chainring and 11-42 cassette. On the steepest climbs it took some pushing, but I didn’t feel overgeared, and I could still spin it at over 40mph for short spells on the descents.
My single 40-tooth chainring worked faultlessly throughout, with no derailments. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
The GRX hydraulic disc brakes felt very familiar too, with the usual noiseless Shimano operation and faultless control providing all the stopping power I needed from their 160mm rotors.
The Hatchet has these hidden, pull-out thru-axle levers for clean looks and to save rummaging for a tool. Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
Devinci Hatchet early verdict
With my knowledge of Devinci now hugely expanded, I have to say that the Hatchet really blew me away.
Grinduro Canada was voted by those in the know as the toughest course of the series so far, and at just under 65 miles with 7,634ft of climbing in 5 hours 30 minutes it’s hard to disagree with them. It still managed to be a fun day out though and was more fulfilling than head banging.
As a fairly extreme test, the Hatchet was a perfect companion. There wasn’t a time when I doubted the bike’s ability to conquer an obstacle and I know it had more in the tank. But also remember that it’s a bike designed to take full mudguards with 45mm tyres fitted, a rear rack, top tube bag and extra bottle cage, and its versatility is unquestionable.
It could truly be a weekend adventurer and weekday commuter, plus many things in between.
We’ll be receiving a Hatchet Carbon GRX LTD to test further on our home roads and trails very soon, but my impressions so far are that it’s one of the most capable, well-considered gravel bikes available right now.
Hatchet Carbon GRX LTD geometry (M/54cm frame. Sizes for carbon frameset and aluminium frameset with *)
Rider height: 169–180cm
Stack: 57.5cm / 58.4cm*
Reach: 33.95cm / 39cm*
Seat tube: 49cm
Top tube horizontal: 56.5cm / 56.2cm*
Head tube: 15.5cm / 16.5cm*
Seat tube angle: 73.5 degrees
Head tube angle: 71 degrees
Wheelbase: 1,046mm / 1,044mm*
Bottom bracket height: 28.3cm
Crank length: 17.25cm
Stem length: 10cm
Bar width: 44cm
Bar drop: 12cm
Bar reach: 8cm
Seatpost offset: 0