Durability, efficiency, and versatility are hallmarks of attractive bicycles. Steel-framed 29er hardtails are what most often end up on my short list of considerations for the next bicycle. Steel-framed hardtails tend to be very durable and, if constructed correctly, can be very comfortable compared to other frame materials – all while remaining remarkably efficient. Although compromise is required when choosing any particular benefit in a bicycle’s attributes, some amount of versatility is highly desired. This versatility could come in the form of an ability to run the frame as a single speed setup, or it could be in the ability to use a variety of different wheel/tire combinations. It’s nice to have a bike that you can scratch and ding, knowing that it will still be ready for the next few miles, or the next 50 mile ride. It’s also nice to have one that can conform a little to match the intended application depending on the riding terrain. 23612875945_a2405edde5_k The Advocate Cycles Hayduke is a steel-framed hardtail that is built around the 29er wheel size platform (capable of fitting 29 x 2.3 inch tires), but it was specifically designed to fit 27.5 x 3 inch, plus-sized tires as well. Bear in mind that not all bikes designed around the 29er platform fit 27.5+ tires very well, if at all. Since the 27.5 x 3 inch tires have roughly the same diameter as a 29 x 2.3 inch tires, many have tried to convert their 29er to running 27.5+ tires. Unfortunately a good percentage of them have ended up with clearance issues that either limit them to the WTB Trailblazer tire (a tire that has the tread width of a “regular” tire, around 2.4 inches, and a larger casing width for extra volume) or they end up rubbing their frame as it flexes when climbing out of the saddle or through turns, even with the narrowest 27.5+ tire. It can be an expensive experiment to say the least. Starting with a frame that was designed to fit both is comforting to know there will not be any issues in the future whether you choose to run either size. Advocate Cycles HaydukeThe Hayduke isn’t constructed from just any run-of-the-mill steel either. Advocate chose to use the Reynolds heat treated 725 butted chrome-moly tubing. While other manufacturers may boast about using chrome-moly, most of the tubing used is lower grade, thicker walled, less lively and heavier than what was used on the frames that had that classic “steel is real” feel when steel frames were highly refined for high end racing bicycles. Although there are higher grades of chrome-moly tubing available, Advocate could have used some lower grade steel and it wouldn’t have made most riders think twice, but it shows that Advocate wanted to make a quality product with attention on the details. The frame material is an important place to start paying attention to details. It will be the foundation for the rest of the bike. Advocate Cycles HaydukeSpeaking about attention to detail and building upon a good foundation, I was pleased to see that Advocate designed the Hayduke with Portage swapable dropouts. This allows for even more versatility. These dropouts can be swapped to run 142mm or the new BOOST 148mm hubs. It is so nice not to be pigeonholed by a certain hub width. Not only that, but these swappable dropouts allow options for geared or singlespeed drivetrains as well. Advocate Cycles HaydukeIn the last few years, the plus bike developments within the bicycle industry caught my attention. After running a variety of 29er tire widths on a steel-framed rigid 29er over the last 5 years, I gravitated toward the widest tires I could, which went up to 2.5 inch wide. Along with the wider tires, I gravitated toward wider rims as well. The combination of wider rims and wider tubeless tires yielded increased traction and higher volume that allowed for a few key benefits. Due to increased traction, I had more control and faster times on the looser sections of trails, both up and downhill – the change was very much welcomed. The higher volume allowed for lower tire pressures and a more comfortable ride which was especially great during the latter portions of longer rides. Though steel-framed 29ers are pretty comfortable compared to other frame material choices, the slightly increased volume, and the corresponding increase in comfort was noticeable after 40 or 50 miles over rough terrain. I have tried a few fat bikes to see if even fatter tires would be better, but found that they were not efficient enough for riding trails that were a good percentage of hardpacked singletrack. If the trails are mostly sandy, muddy, snow, or riverbed cobble, a fat bike would undoubtedly be preferred. However, fat bike tires seem to lose momentum quickly on the trails and although they do not seem too terrible to climb, after a long ride, it was obvious that they take more effort to spin up and don’t carry momentum quite as well. Then came the 29+ and 27.5+ tires. I have found that for the trails I most often ride, having a decent amount of rock, sand, hardpack, and roots, they are a great balance of traction, rollover, weight, compliance, and volume. The plus tires are easy to get used to since most are designed to roll pretty well and many are not much heavier than a 2.2 to 2.4 inch wide 29er tire. Portage swappable dropouts I like the plus platform for most of my intended applications, but there are trails that I would still prefer to ride a more XC style 29er tire upon. Smooth hardpack singletrack, or commuting on paved or gravel roads would be an application where I could see 29er wheels and semi-slick tires being advantageous. If you had two separate wheelsets ready to go, it would potentially only require a quick wheel swap on the Hayduke for you to commute on a Friday on the lighter, faster rolling 29er wheelset, then head to the trails on the 27.5+ wheelset on the weekend. 25116667822_fb67d11880_kMost 29er hardtails tend to be XC oriented with head tube and seat tube angles greater than 70 degrees. This makes for a great climbing hardtail that has quick steering and doesn’t tend to have a front end that wanders on the steepest of climbs. What most XC oriented 29ers tend to lack however, is the ability to feel as playful, stable, and adapt when charging downhill. They also tend to stretch out the rider a little more, into a more aero position that again lends itself to weighting the front end when climbing, not to mention keeping up the maximum speed while pedaling hard on flat sections. Most riders I ride with on group rides tend to want a mountain bike that is comfortable in all circumstances and is about equal in its abilities to climb and descend. While it can be said that a good rider will adapt to whichever type of bike they are riding, a trail bike with more neutral geometry tends to be what many riders are actually looking for in a mountain bike they want to use as a “daily driver”. While I tend to lean toward endurance XC oriented 29ers with head tube angles over 70 degrees for my main trail rig, it is primarily because I enjoy long rides with good amounts of climbing and the quicker I can cover those miles, the more miles I can enjoy during a single ride. I do experience a little soreness in my lower back during some extended rides because of the leaned-over body position required to ride bikes with this type of XC oriented geometry, especially if I haven’t done bigger rides recently to prepare for that longer ride. Being more upright may not be quite as fast on some flat and uphill sections, but when the ride takes up the better part of a day, it can be nice to sit a little more upright and subsequently have a little less discomfort. The Advocate Hayduke has a head tube angle of 68.5 degrees which is much slacker than most of the bikes I have been interested in. The Hayduke seemed so right in so many other ways that I figured Advocate had their reasons for choosing this geometry and it would be very interesting to see how it shook out compared to what I had preferred up to this point. While looking at the other geometry data, I found that the Hayduke had the same reach measurement as my current daily driver, the Salsa El Mariachi. The Hayduke has short chainstays, but a longer wheelbase and a higher bottom bracket. I realized that, based on my experience, the Hayduke geometry indicated it would be a responsive, easy to wheelie/manual/change line choice, yet stable trail bike that wouldn’t pedal strike as often as other 29er hardtails I had ridden. The geometry looked good and so did the build kit. 23296214881_d6762e7d4b_kThe Hayduke complete build came spec’d for testing as posted on the Advocate Cycles’ website:
Fork RS Reba RL w/BOOST, 120mm
Front Derailleur nil
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX1, 11 speed
Cassette SRAM XG1150, 11 speed, 10-42t
Chain KMC X11
Crankset SRAM GX1000, 30t
Headset Cane Creek 40, tapered
Stem RaceFace Ride
Handlebar RaceFace Ride, 740mm
Grips RaceFace Half Nelson, locking
Shifter SRAM GX1, 11 speed
Front Brake Shimano SLX Trail w/fin pad
Rear Brake Shimano SLX Trail w/fin pad
Rotors Shimano RT-68, 180fr, 160rr
Seatpost RaceFace Ride
Saddle WTB Rocket Comp
Front Hub Formula, 110mm, centerlock
Rear Hub Formula, 148mm, XD driver, centerlock
Spokes Stainless butted, black
Rims WTB Scraper i45, 27.5”
Tires 27.5×3.5″ Panaracer Fat B Nimble, folding

When looking at plus bikes, one of the first things to note are what tires and rims the company chooses for their build kit. I was very pleased to see that Advocate chose to mount Panaracer Fat B Nimble tires upon the WTB Scraper rims for their build.

Advocate Cycles HaydukeThe 45mm inner width WTB Scraper rims weigh in at a claimed 650 grams. Some carbon rims of similar width can weigh up to 200 grams less per wheel, but would make the complete build cost hundreds more and durability could potentially be compromised. Many other aluminum rims of slightly narrower width tend to weigh about the same. Having a rim this wide will allow for maximized volume and a flatter tread profile compared to narrower rims. Advocate Cycles HaydukeThe Panaracer Fat B Nimble tires measured 2.83 inches wide across the tread and the casing measured 2.96 inches wide while mounted on the WTB Scraper rims. This is much less than the nominal 3.5 inch width claimed on the sidewall of the tire. Nevertheless, the tires are very lightweight for their size at a claimed weight of 710 grams each.  These tires have a very aggressive knob pattern. The combination of one of the lightest weight plus tires and the fairly lightweight and wide rims proved to be a complete win. They spun up very easily, much like a normal 29er tire/wheel combo, but had a reserve tank full of traction. It was actually fairly difficult to break the rear tire loose even when it was unweighted by climbing out of the saddle up steeper climbs. Only on fist-sized cobbles did the rear wheel lose traction, and that was more of the cobbles slipping on one another like ball bearings rather than the tire losing its grip on the surfaces it was upon. Advocate Cycles HaydukeSpeaking of climbing, the SRAM GX1 drivetrain did not let me down either. With a 1X11 drivetrain, I knew what I was getting into. The lowest gear being a 30×42 tooth made climbs very possible, even when faced with steep trails while having tired legs at the end of a long ride. The highest gearing did not often have me wishing for more beyond the 30×10 tooth, but there definitely were occasions, especially on the slowly descending dirt roads that led into a climb. Although I wouldn’t often need additional gearing, on long days, and especially when bikepacking, I wouldn’t mind having a 2X chainring setup on the Hayduke, but for most days I would be very content with the 1X system. 23504332672_e0eb705666_kOne thing that was noticeable about the SRAM 1X11 system after having ridden Shimano cassettes so often is that the middle of the SRAM cassette has a noticeably bigger jump between cogs that left me wishing there were closer ratios in that particular range to choose from. I most often ride in the middle of the cassette, the range that most single speed riders choose their gear ratio from. Most of us do, but the jump on the XG1150 10-42t cassette was noticeable and I hadn’t noticed it before on any other drivetrain. Granted, on a Shimano cassette there is not as much range between the smallest and largest cog (SRAM’s 10-42 vs Shimano’s 11-42), but Shimano keeps the jump at 2 teeth per cog until reaching the 21 tooth cog, while SRAM made a 3 tooth jump from the 18 tooth to the 21 tooth cog. I found myself, not so much in the wrong gear, but in a gear that I had to adjust my cadence to with the SRAM cassette, instead of shifting into a different gear to keep the same cadence and change speed like I would with the Shimano cassettes which I have grown accustomed to recently. It may not seem to warrant such a discussion here on the Hayduke review, but I was intrigued while climbing this bike and had to find out why my cadence had to change to match the gearing. Many of you may not notice this at all, but for me it felt weird and just a little bit less smooth than I prefer. Here are the cogs used in each cassette I mentioned. SRAM 11 speed XG1150 10-42 cassette: 10-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36-42 Shimano 10 speed XT 11-42 cassette: 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-28-32-37-42 The SRAM drivetrain as a whole shifted flawlessly and I was impressed with how quickly the shifts were made with zero adjustments needed, from right out of the box, all the way to two months later, even with lots of El Nino mud thrown up into it from the 27.5+ tires. Advocate Cycles HaydukeThe Shimano SLX brakes were fantastic. I have tested many bikes built up with Shimano XT brakes and I could barely tell the difference at all when it came to the brake feel and responsiveness. I am not sure if I would be able to tell them apart very easily in a blind test, they were that good. The 120mm Reba fork locked out well and was pretty plush over the many rough patches of trail I subjected it to. I ride rigid forks a lot and thought initially that I would prefer a rigid fork on the Hayduke if I were to use this bike as a long distance or bikepacking rig. This fork slowly and subtly won me over without me realizing it. I switched bikes one week and quickly realized how much I had grown to take the Reba for granted. There are definitely lighter weight forks available and did move slightly when climbing out of the saddle with it locked out, but for the majority of the time I rode the Hayduke, it seemed like a great fit, allowing for a comfortable and fast ride through the rough sections. Advocate Cycles HaydukeThe WTB Rocket saddle is a fantastic choice by Advocate for this build. While saddle preference is very subjective, the WTB Rocket is one of the best selling mountain bike saddles in history. I have ridden many bikes equipped with this saddle and all have felt fine. This saddle never reminded me that it was there, which is a very good thing when it comes to saddles. When building up the Hayduke, I took the seatpost with WTB Rocket saddle and mounted it in the frame then clamped it into the work stand. After the bike was fully built, I adjusted the seatpost height and there it has remained. No adjustments needed. I have never had such an experience. Usually you will need to slightly adjust tilt or the saddle fore or aft to get a proper and comfortable position. It was comfortable right away and positioned perfectly for me. Although a bike’s saddle is one of the first things I replace with my own saddle that I prefer, it is worth mentioning how great the experience with this WTB Rocket has been. It’s also worth noting that while the build kit comes with a rigid seatpost, the frame comes with internal dropper post routing. I think that I would add a dropper post immediately to this bike. It would make this bike that much better at being a fantastic trail bike. When looking at the Hayduke’s closest competition, the Marin Pine Mountain 2, I had wondered why Marin spec’d a dropper post on a bike they had specifically marketed as being bikepacking ready. While there are no rules in bikepacking, it is pretty standard to run a large seat bag and a dropper post would pretty much prevent that ability. Marin included rack mounts on the seat stays, so I figured maybe they intended on giving riders the option to put the gear that would normally be stowed in the seat bag upon the rack so the dropper post could be utilized. Most bikepackers I know would prefer to swap out the dropper seat post for bikepacking trips in order to run a bikepacking seat bag off of a rigid seat post. It’s nice that Marin includes the options to run a rack (although the need to purchase a rack and bags remains) and they include the dropper seat post in their complete build, but I honestly prefer having a rigid seatpost included in the build Advocate has chosen. This would allow me to choose the dropper seatpost of my liking, with the option to internally route the cable. I don’t miss rack mounts on a trail oriented bike. They would rarely, if ever, be used by me for carrying a load. Advocate Cycles Hayduke When loaded up with bikepacking bags, the Hayduke did not disappoint. It felt more sluggish and on the steepest climbs, it tended to wander more than would be preferred due to the slacker 68.5 degree head tube angle, but for all but the steepest climbs, the 30×42 tooth gear combination did remarkably well for seated climbing. I would still prefer a double chainring setup for long distance, multi-day trips with any significant climbing, but as it is setup currently, its only going to leave you walking up the climbs that you would be pedaling up at the same speed if you had a lower gearing combination anyways. When loaded, its important to adjust the pressure of the fork and tires accordingly. I adjusted the tire pressure, but did not adjust the fork pressure and it was entirely too soft when lots of extra weight was loaded up on the handlebars. I ended up using the lockout significantly more than I did without it loaded with gear, but it was still a pretty comfortable ride, especially with the plus tires, slacker head tube angle, neutral handling, and upright geometry. 23546015033_8c4e5abdc4_k 24146700066_19069a5b94_k One morning I had an opportunity for a #coffeeoutside session with a couple friends, so I loaded up a Defiant Packs Malamute seat pack with a 1L Hydroflask filled with hot water, Aerobie Aeropress, GSI Javamill coffee grinder, 100 grams of coffee beans, and a couple camp mugs. I also threw in a bivy to take up space and serve as packing material to fill the voids. After the climb up to the top, I still had half a liter of hot water to bring back down, and although I was a little apprehensive of having a good amount of weight off the back before the very technical downhill that lay ahead of us, I decided that everything was cinched up tight enough to really let her rip. I had ridden this technical downhill trail many times as it was part of our weekly group ride all summer in 2015. The top is a section of chunky rock-laden fireroad that too often I find I’m going too fast and careening off my line, so brake control is very necessary. Aboard the Hayduke, I was able to lean back and lay off the brakes more than ever before. The next section was one that many riders tend to walk. It is both steep and loose with large 1-3ft rocks that prevent choosing a good line to follow. Although it was challenging, it was easier to descend than any time I had ridden it previously. In fact on both sections, I found that I had new PR’s after uploading to Strava later that day. The next section is called Miner’s Loop and it’s one of the most fun downhill sections in western San Diego County. It has lots more of the chucky rock and drops as well as some very technical sections, with some loose over hardpack and smooth flowing loamy sections thrown in. I felt more in control than I ever had on that section. I was able to quickly change lines and the tires stuck everything I threw at them. Braking was significantly better than with normal width tires and I was able to position my center of gravity side to side as needed and remained glued to the ground until choosing to bunnyhop features that would inhibit speed along my line choice. The bike was very nimble to handle and very controlled. I got to the bottom of the run and remembered I had all the coffee gear hanging off my seatpost. Remarkable. Advocate Cycles HaydukeWhile I wouldn’t necessarily choose this particular bike for most bikepacking adventures where I would want an efficient, endurance XC type rig that excelled at climbing and long, flat sections, I could definitely see it being a welcomed addition to my stable. This would be the bike I would lean towards riding where the intended application would be an everyday trail bike, excelling in longer rides with nearly impassible terrain, where fatigue and technical riding are anticipated. The Hayduke is one of the most attractive bikes I can remember coming across. From the pearlescent paint, to the art on the top tube, and even Advocate’s badge itself, the bike’s aesthetics are perfectly tasteful, understated, and eye catching. Advocate Cycles Hayduke Advocate Cycles Hayduke Advocate Cycles HaydukeAdvocate Cycles didn’t set out to just create good looking bicycles however. Yes, the Hayduke exceeded my expectations in how it performed, but that is only the beginning of what makes this bicycle company pretty rad. Take a look at the non-driveside chainstay and you will see a few logos from different organizations. Advocate Cycles HaydukeAdvocate is ALL about ADVOCACY. Yep, they are purposeful in advocating for us cyclists. Below is a little about how they take profit of each bicycle sale and give it to their partner organizations that inspire, enhance, empower, create, preserve, unite, support, and develop character in and through the bicycling community. Advocate Cycles is a bike company that exists solely to create innovative bicycles and deliver 100% of profits from the company back to cycling advocacy efforts. Advocate Cycles is working with five major bicycle advocacy groups and will begin allocating funds to them immediately, based on sales of our Hayduke™, Watchman™, and Lorax™ models. Even better, when you purchase a new Advocate bike, whether through a participating retailer or direct from us, you’ll have the opportunity to select from which of these worthy groups will get the profit from your purchase on our Registration page. 

Adventure Cycling Association, IMBA, People for Bikes, Bicycles for Humanity and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association 

The MSRP for the Advocate Hayduke, as specified with the build kit tested in this review is $2699.

The Hayduke frames go for $750 for the steel version and $1950 for the titanium version.


  1. Smithhammer

    Great in-depth review! I’m loving my Hayduke – a really versatile bike that gives up nothing in the “fun” department. And I’m glad to see a company like Advocate finding success and putting out some great bikes (my wife recently bought a Watchman as well). I predict the Hayduke is going to be a really popular bike this year.

  2. I’m in the market for a new bike (when I can have only 1) and the hayduke is in the running for the bikes I’m looking at. Mostly I’ll be commuting on road, S24h bike backing trips (wanting longer ones) and also throwing in some dirt roads that are not well groomed and can be downright nasty. So basically a good mix of ridding. I’ve considered the El Mar and Fargo but like the idea of the 27+ for the southwest where I live.

  3. Pingback: Thoughts on the Advocate Watchman from a Guy Who's Never Really Ridden a Fat Bike - Bikepacker

  4. Joe Strickland

    Very intrigued by this bike! I’ve been looking to get a hard tail for my 50th birthday,Something I could be proud of, And The Niner ROS 9, Jamis Dragon slayer, and Marin Pine Mountain are all so close to this quality ,but there is something about this bike with its rear triangle and dual water bottle cage set up that is very interesting. I

  5. Marin Pine Mountain 2 uses the NAILD 12, 3, 9 Boost hub in the rear. Before you purchase one, try to remove and then reinstall the rear wheel in the shop. Do it yourself, as if you need to repair a flat out on the trail, do not let the mechanic do it on the stand. Bet you can’t reinstall the rear wheel.

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