Devinci debuted the original hatchet in the fall of 2016 at the second annual Grinduro in Quincy, California. The French-Canadian company chose to launch the second-generation of this gravel bike a bit closer to home at the inaugural Grinduro Canada. Roadbikereview was on hand to put this new gravel racer through its paces on a demanding and varied course.
Devinci Hatchet Carbon GRX LTD Highlights
- Clearance for 700x45mm or 27.5×2.1-inch tires
- Mountain bike-inspired geometry
- Shimano GRX build kit
- KS LEV-SI dropper seatpost – 65mm travel
- Lifetime warranty
- Price: $3,229
- Available now
- Visit http://www.devinci.com/ for more information
Devinci’s Hatchet was at the head of the pack when it was released in 2016. It had clearance for knobby, 700×40 treads when other frames struggled to fit low-profile 700×38 tires. The Hatchet’s frame geometry was also forward-looking, taking cues from mountain bike geometry with longer reach numbers paired with shorter stems to increase high-speed stability and minimize toe overlap with large tires.
The gravel scene has matured since this bike’s release. Devinci sought to keep the Hatchet relevant through several refinements. Version 2.0 gets additional mounts on the underside of the downtube for a third water bottle. There’s also a set of bosses located on the top-tube for a bolt-on feedbag (they’re not just for tri-geeks anymore.) The intake port on the down tube into which houses the shift and brake lines has been updated. Where there were four different covers, there are now just two—one for cables and one for Di2. There’s also a cover for the front-derailleur mount to maintain a clean profile when running a 1x drivetrain, which is how the top end Hatchet, tested here, is spec’d.
Devinci made some minor revisions to the frame geometry, including slightly longer reach numbers and chainstays that shrink from 435mm to 430mm even though tire clearance has improved.
As we head into 2020, tire clearance is one of the key indicators that a company is up to speed with gravel trends. The Hatchet is no slouch here. In typical Canadian fashion, the company undersells the Hatchet’s ability to fit big tires. According to Devinci, the Hatchet will fit 700×45 tires with fenders. Even better, there’s room between the stays for many of the new 700×50 tires that are just hitting the market. Devinci stops short of making a blanket statement that all 50mm-wide tires will fit, citing variations in tire casings and rim widths, but I was able to comfortably fit the new 700×50 Maxxis Ramblers with ample space for mud.
If 650b/27.5 is your thing, the Hatchet officially maxes out at 27.5×2.1. Once again, the frame will fit many larger tires. During the launch, one of Devinci’s engineers ran the voluminous 27.5×2.35 Schwalbe Rock Razor tires on his Hatchet. In this case, the limiting factor wasn’t chainstay clearance, but rather, the front derailleur rubbing on the tire in the small chainring.
Another sign that the gravel movement is maturing is purpose-build components, such as Shimano’s new GRX drivetrain. The top-tier Hatchet I tested is equipped with the mechanical GRX group along with a 65mm dropper seatpost, which proved quite useful when testing a bike in a gravel stage race that covered high-speed gravel descents as well as singletrack.
Rise and grind
Devinci hosted the inaugural Grinduro Canada in the quaint region of Charlevoix, Quebec. The terrain consisted of deceptively steep hills and roads that ran the gamut from smooth, to rocky, to sluggishly sandy.
For those not familiar with Grinduro’s race format, there are timed stages along the route. Between those bits of racing your pace is what you make it. The event prides itself on its “party to race ratio.” The untimed portions of the race are a great opportunity to meet new people, eat a slice of pizza, and take in the surroundings.
The 64-mile course included four timed stages: first, a gravel descent to shake out the nerves; then, a grueling paved climb to make us question why we signed up for this event; this was followed by swoopy singletrack flow trail, complete with berms and jumps, to separate the mountain bikers from the roadies; wrapping it all up was a rolling six-mile gravel TT with a pair of malicious climbs at the end.
If you’re reading this and thinking that it seems difficult, if not impossible, to customize a bicycle to excel in each of these situations, you’re absolutely correct. When it comes to Grinduro, it’s my opinion that if you don’t find yourself uncomfortable on at least one stage, you’re not trying hard enough.
The Hatchet Carbon GRX comes with a quality build kit out of the box, but I made some race-specific modifications in the hopes of minimizing my losses and maximizing my enjoyment. I swapped the stock DT Swiss G 1800 Spline 25 wheelset for the new Easton EA90 AX, which is a bit lighter and slightly wider. I also traded the tried and true 700×40 Maxxis Ramblers for the new 700×50 version. Running larger tires was the best decision I made.
Lugging additional tire mass up the timed climb didn’t do me any favors, but that was the only situation in which I wasn’t in love with these tires. The extra-wide Ramblers carried speed on the gravel and allowed me to ride like even more of a hooligan on the singletrack. This is my preferred tire width for rough gravel riding. As 700×50 becomes more prevalent, I have a hard time seeing a place for 650b wheels with high-volume tires, except on small and extra small frames.
Dropper seatposts are showing up with increasing regularity on gravel bikes, which strikes me as strange. Don’t get me wrong, I love droppers on mountain bikes and flinch at the thought of riding without one, but I’m not sold on them for drop-bar bikes. I’ll take the reliability, lower weight, and additional flex and damping of a traditional carbon seatpost over a dropper for 90-percent of my gravel rides and races.
Since a KS-Lev dropper seatpost comes stock on the Hatchet, I took full advantage of its meager 65mm of drop each chance I had. Was it fun? Yes. Is it a mandatory gravel component? Far from it.
The Hatchet itself was a very comfortable bike, made better by high-volume tires. In terms of geometry, the Hatchet leans more toward the stable end of the gravel bike spectrum, which makes it an excellent choice for endurance events as well as bikepacking. It’s not the snappiest machine, but it’s no tugboat, either—more like a hardtail 29er with drop bars, which is pretty much what the geometry numbers bear out.
Gravel bikes are all about versatility, and the Hatchet allows riders to have it their way. Want to run narrow, fast-rolling tires? Have at it. Need big knobby tires to mix it up on chunky gravel and singletrack? The Hatchet is willing and able. Best of all, even the top-end the Hatchet is a great value. Make sure the Hatchet is on your list if you’re looking to get into gravel this year.