Haibike are part of the same Accel group as Lapierre and Ghost, and shared moulds mean some obvious similarities, though Haibike do use their own carbon layup specs so the actual performances of the bikes are not the same.
For all its very tall, back-friendly head tube, the Challenge is obviously a combative bike from the off. The chunky-legged, alloy-tipped fork, direct bearing onto carbon headset and broad rectangular section to the front of the top tube give a very precise and punctual steering feel.
Add in the tightly laced, bladed spokes of the Mavic Aksium wheels and you’re provided with an immediately informative setup, which lets you stay the right side of the Mavic Aksion tyres in the wet, when they tend towards slipperiness.
The relatively slack seat angle and tall front end meant we used the drops more than usual to tack the front end onto the tarmac more convincingly in gusty or twisty descending situations. You’ll notice headwinds more on the Challenge than some other bikes too, unless you drop your elbows a bit lower than normal. Otherwise, wheelbase, front-to-rear proportions and bottom bracket height are all reassuringly neutral.
Typically for German performance-orientated machines, the responsive front end is matched by an equally keen reaction to effort. Despite the significantly downgraded Shimano R565 chainset and relatively hefty wheels, the Challenge’s determination to make the most of your muscles is clear.
The chunky carbon fork has aluminium dropouts and a tapered steerer
It’s not as direct as with some when it comes to torque transfer, but it’s definitely in the ‘stand up rather than change down’ camp. Even our most powerful testers had no complaints when it came to village sign sprints or short, sharp climbs.
Considering the bike’s firm approach to going fast, you’re not a hostage to highway maintenance quality either; you’ll certainly know if you clip a cobble or pothole, and road buzz will shiver your spine, but it never gets hand-numbingly severe – or worse – even on all-day rides.
As much as we enjoyed the overall ride of the Challenge RX, it lags behind some similarly priced UDi2 bikes in terms of spec. The shifters and derailleurs are Ultegra Di2 but the chain and cassette are 105 and the brakes and cranks another level below that.
Ultegra Di2 levers but kit downgrades elsewhere
And as much as the colour coding looks really smart, the wheels are heavy and the tyres average. The Ponza saddle and alloy post alone weigh 536g, while the 1,213g frame is average rather than aspirational in weight.