Devinci Hatchet Carbon gravel bike review: Just enough MTB seasoning
We reviewed a whole bunch of gravel bikes at a wide range of price points at our recent Gravel Bike Field Test, but we still left a ton more on the table. One of the bikes that was most requested by CT fans for us to review was the Devinci Hatchet Carbon — and now that I’ve spent the last few months on one, it’s easy to see why. It handles superbly, rides nicely, offers tons of tire clearance, it looks good, and is even pretty good value. Well done, Devinci.
- What it is: Devinci’s flagship carbon fiber gravel bike frameset with a value-oriented build kit.
- Frame features: Carbon fiber construction, MTB-inspired geometry and handling, official clearance for 700×45 mm tires, mounts for three bottles and a top tube feed bag, front and rear fender mounts, internal cable routing, BB386EVO oversized press-fit bottom bracket shell.
- Weight: 1,135 g (claimed, frame only, medium); 470 g (claimed, fork only); 9.05 kg (19.95 lb), as tested, small size, set up tubeless, without pedals or accessories.
- Price: US$2,700 / AU$NA / £NA / €2,699
- Highs: Highly capable and confidence-inspiring handling on loose surfaces, smooth ride quality, far better tire clearance than official claims, very good value, elegant aesthetics.
- Lows: So-so frame stiffness, slow-engaging rear hub, mediocre gearing range.
The Goldilocks approach to handling
It seems that hardly a gravel bike is on the market these days that doesn’t claim to incorporate some level of mountain bike influence. Longer, slacker, lower, bigger, plusher, more fill-in-the-blank — you name it, it’s out there. If you’re paying close attention to the mountain bike world right now, though, it’s easy to see that it’s basically the wild west out there at the moment, with incredible amounts of variation in terms of frame geometry and rates of change that are obsoleting bikes at a truly insane pace.
But does that sort of radical adjustment work in the gravel world? I’m not entirely sure, but the folks behind the design of the Devinci Hatchet Carbon seem to have taken a measured approach to the whole thing.
The greatest amount of influence appears in the Hatchet Carbon’s front-end geometry, which sports a longer front triangle, a slightly slacker head tube angle, and a generous 50 mm of fork offset that yields a 73 mm trail dimension. On my size small Hatchet Carbon tester, the reach dimension is within a few millimeters of the long-and-low Specialized Tarmac road racer, but yet the more relaxed head tube angle and more raked-out fork nevertheless push the front wheel a full four centimeters further ahead of the bottom bracket.
Just as with modern mountain bikes, though, the high-speed stability suggested by that 73 mm trail number is offset at lower speeds with the short (just 70 mm on my sample) stock stem so the bike doesn’t completely steer like a barge in tighter confines.
When combined with the not-too-long/not-too-short 430 mm chainstays what you get is a roomy 1,035 mm wheelbase that works with the 70 mm of bottom bracket drop for a more stable and “in the bike” feel that’s designed to lend more confidence on sketchier terrain. Back to that Tarmac comparison, that not only makes the Hatchet Carbon 60 mm longer than that dedicated road racer in terms of wheelbase, but 10 mm longer than the latest Specialized Diverge as well (which was also touted as having MTB-inspired “gravel geometry”).
Devinci borrows from the MTB playbook for the Hatchet Carbon’s low-slung profile, too, which features a notably short seat tube and lots of exposed seatpost — not exactly the best in terms of fitting frame bags, but if ride quality is your thing, this is one surefire way to get there.
In addition to that extra stability, one major upside to all that wheelbase is tire clearance. Officially, Devinci says the Hatchet Carbon will accept tires up to 700×45 mm, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Hidden in the fine print is the fact that any 700×45 mm combination will fit (regardless of tire model or rim width), even with fenders installed and regardless of 1x or 2x drivetrain setups.
Speaking of which, Devinci hasn’t skipped on mounts, either. Fittings for full-length front and rear fenders are included, along with three water bottles and a top tube feed bag (although there are no accessory mounts on the fork blades). The internal cable routing incorporates an entry port on the upper side of the down tube with accommodations for mechanical and electronic drivetrains — and a dropper seatpost — and down below is a BB386EVO oversized press-fit bottom bracket shell.
Claimed weight is 1,135 grams for a medium frame, plus 470 grams for the matching carbon fork.
Devinci offers the Hatchet Carbon in two different build kits for gravel (plus another couple for all-road applications). There’s a higher-end version fitted with a Shimano GRX 600 mechanical groupset, Easton EA90 AX aluminum tubeless wheels, and short-travel KS dropper seatpost, but also a more value-oriented model equipped with a mix of SRAM Apex 1 and Rival 1 bits, a more generic tubeless aluminum wheelset, and house-brand aluminum cockpit components — which is the route I decided to go for this review.
Total weight for the complete bike is 9.05 kg (19.95 lb) in a small size, set up tubeless, but without pedals or accessories.
The porridge is just right
As is the case with many other people reading this, I’m sure, the COVID-19 pandemic (and a sudden switch to homeschooling) certainly tossed a big wrench into my work schedule, so finishing up this review took far, far longer than originally planned — so much so, in fact, that this model has already been replaced with an updated 2021 version, which is thankfully similar to what I tested.
The upside, though? I was able to spend an awful lot of time on this thing, and certainly more than enough to see why so many of you clamored for us to cover it.
TL;DR version: this is a fantastic little bike.
Devinci isn’t exactly the biggest brand in the bike industry, but I’ve always held the opinion that good frame geometry is one of those things that doesn’t actually require a huge R&D budget — and when it comes to the handling on the Hatchet Carbon, the Canadian company has nailed it.
Not surprisingly, the bike’s long front-center and commodious wheelbase make for excellent high-speed stability where that extra length is simply more resistant to change directions than something with shorter and more nimble dimensions. It’s particularly good on steep downhills and when the ground is loose and slippery, too. In the former situation, having that front wheel further out ahead of you makes for a more confidence-inspiring weight distribution. It’s basically akin to sliding your butt off the back of the saddle, but without actually having to do so. And then if and when traction is lacking, the long front-center seems to slow everything down (in a good way). You have ample time to catch a slide if the front wheel starts to push mid-corner, and when the traction is good, you can lean on that contact patch extra-hard, all with the reassurance that if it does let you, it won’t just instantly dump you to the ground.
The Hatchet Carbon isn’t just about going straight and carving big, sweeping corners, though.
Just as with modern mountain bikes, pairing that long front end with a short stem also reduces the amount of arm movement required to initiate a turn, effectively offsetting that stability-enhancing trail dimension at lower speeds. There’s still a fair bit of overall bike length to contend with, of course, but the end result is like a barge with a really big rudder.
There are downsides to this, of course.
Gravel bikes are typically used on a wide range of surfaces, and while the Hatchet Carbon is surprisingly agile at lower speeds, there’s no hiding its true nature when it comes to fast, paved descents. In those situations, the bike demands a particularly aggressive lean into the corner; otherwise, it seems to constantly want to veer toward the outside of the curve. That’s not to say it’s a cumbersome beast in that environment, but there’s certainly a particular way it needs to be piloted to extract the best result.
Roadies who already have good countersteering technique likely won’t be too fussed, but if you’re still trying to snake your way through turns by rotating the bars toward the apex, expect to blow a few corners. That said, I think it’s a fair tradeoff given the bike’s intended use.
Ride quality is another high point for the Hatchet Carbon.
All that exposed seatpost provides a nice, long lever to flex beneath you when the going gets rough. Devinci is eager to point out the fancy-looking S-curve in the seat cluster, which supposedly enhances the flex characteristics of the frame, but experience has shown that it’s likely the seatpost that takes most of the credit.
Whatever the case may be, the rear end of the Hatchet Carbon is notably smooth on bumpy roads and poorly maintained dirt paths, so much so that it’s easy to forget that there are still limits to 40 mm-wide tires at low pressure in terms of rim protection (sorry, Devinci). As is often the case, the front end can’t quite keep up when it comes to ride comfort, but even then, the overall feel is still more cohesive than, say, a lower-level Trek Domane or Checkpoint, both of which only have that awesome IsoSpeed pivot setup at the rear end. It’s a very pleasantly planted and controlled feel overall, and it’s nice that Devinci has achieved that without any gimmicky stuff.
Devinci really is very conservative when it comes to those official maximum tire sizes, too. If you want more cushioning down at the contact patches, there’s ample space to go bigger. Even the vast majority of 700×50 mm tires should fit just fine.
However, one performance area where the Devinci Hatchet Carbon isn’t likely to blow anyone’s socks off is frame rigidity. Although the frame’s relatively lower-profile tube shapes are great for ride quality, it’s a little lacking in that get-up-and-go eagerness under power. I wouldn’t say the Hatchet Carbon is by any means sluggish-feeling, but it’s certainly more of a steady cruiser as opposed to a mash-the-pedals sprinter.
And as for that BB386EVO bottom bracket shell, I’d still prefer a threaded setup, but as far as press-fit goes, this is one of the less problematic formats given the wider cup spacing, and the one on my sample stayed quiet throughout testing.
Just as good frame geometry isn’t limited to the bigger brands, Devinci’s product managers have made some savvy decisions on the bike’s build kit. On paper, the Devinci Hatchet Carbon Rival model that I tested pales in comparison to some of the super high-end gravel machines we’ve tested in recent months with its lower-end SRAM mechanical groupset, fairly basic wheelset, and mostly generic finishing kit — but the fact the bike still performs so well in spite of that makes its value positioning even more noteworthy.
I’ve always liked SRAM’s mechanical drop-bar groupsets, and one of the things I’ve particularly respected is how their basic functionality changes little from flagship to base model. In the case of this particular tester, the model name is more than a little misleading. Although it’s called the “Hatchet Carbon Rival”, in reality, only the rear derailleur on the 1×11 drivetrain wears the SRAM Rival label (Devinci has since changed the model name to “Hatchet Carbon Apex”). The rest is lower-end Apex stuff, but aside from some extra weight, most people aren’t going to notice much of a difference.
SRAM unfortunately hasn’t updated its mechanical road drivetrain components in several years, but one could easily make the argument that the Chicago company hasn’t really needed to, either. Even on the entry-level Apex 1 controls — and as has always been the case with SRAM — shifter feel is the antithesis of Shimano’s “Light Action” philosophy, characteristically rich in feedback with a firm click that you can both feel and hear. The shifts themselves are capably executed as well, with reliable movement up and down the cassette. The overall performance is somewhat less refined than what you usually get from Shimano, but in this 1x form, the shifts are nonetheless quick in both directions (aided by the ability to downshift three gears per swing and that typical rapid-fire upshift action of SRAM’s DoubleTap lever design).
The clutched rear derailleur also virtually eliminates chainstay slap (also aided by the Hatchet Carbon’s dropped chainstays), and while some still object to the chunky look and feel of SRAM’s hydraulic drop-bar levers, I personally find them quite agreeable in my large-sized hands, offering a comfortable perch that’s mostly well-shaped and secure without requiring too firm a grip — and the bonus hand position up top has always been a plus in my book as well.
In this application, though, the 11-42T cassette won’t provide quite as much range as you might like. Together with the 42T narrow-wide chainring, you get a reasonable 1:1 climbing ratio, but steeper pitches will still hurt, and the 42-11T combination at the other end will leave you spinning out pretty quickly on paved descents. Hey, SRAM, isn’t it about time you update your mechanical road groupsets to 12-speed, and with compatibility with your wide-range mountain bike cassettes? Your electronic stuff is very good, but so is your cable-actuated stuff, and the latter is far more affordable for regular folks.
SRAM also handles braking duties with matching Apex two-piece aluminum hydraulic disc calipers, clamping on 160 mm-diameter rotors front and rear with stock organic pads. There’s good peak power and a pleasantly steady progression as compared to Shimano’s more binary operation, and at least on my test bike, they only audibly protested when wet or extremely hot; otherwise, they were pretty quiet. One key difference between the Apex 1 levers here relative to higher-end SRAM units is that the lever throw is fixed at the factory, and in my opinion, they travel too far before the pads contact the rotors.
You’ll have to take the rest of my comments on this particular model with a grain of salt. As noted, I actually had this bike for so long that it’s already been replaced by an updated model, although truth be told, it hasn’t changed very much (aside from a name change to “Hatchet Carbon Apex, which is admittedly more accurate, anyway).
One key change is the rims, which were generic 19 mm-wide (internal width) alloy hoops on my sample. They readily convert to tubeless with an appropriate tire bed shape, but were a little more prone to denting than I’d prefer. Devinci also didn’t wrap them with airtight tape from the factory, nor were tubeless valve stems included. The new Easton ARC 25 rims on the 2021 version are 6 mm wider and are hopefully made of tougher stuff, plus Devinci now includes proper tubeless tape, valve stems, and even a couple of little bottles of Stan’s NoTubes sealant, so that’s most certainly a welcome upgrade.
The Formula cartridge bearing hubs are still uninspiring, however, fitted with a slow-engaging driver body that hampers the bike’s capabilities on more technical terrain where a quicker response under power would be handy. Build quality on the wheels was thankfully pretty decent on my test bike, with only minimal truing required during testing.
Nevertheless, while the wheels didn’t exactly blow me away, they got the job done, and as far as gravel setups are concerned, the ability to run them tubeless is the most important factor.
Devinci has thankfully stuck with 40 mm-wide Maxxis Rambler tubeless-ready tires on the 2021 version, which is a good thing because they’re one of the best all-rounders currently on the market: reasonably fast-rolling, reliable traction in all but the wettest or dustiest conditions, decently light, decent ride quality, good durability. Unless you’re specifically after something faster-rolling for less taxing conditions or grippier for looser ones, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better suited. It’s the Toyota Camry of gravel tires (and I mean that mostly in a good way).
Finishing kit is straightforward aluminum stuff all around: nothing super special, but reasonably lightweight, sturdy, and — perhaps most importantly these days — creak-free, and the made-by-SDG saddle was well shaped and nicely padded for long hours off-road. No complaints there.
Great geometry and a solid package at a good price
There’s that classic saying about smart real estate purchases being all about location, location, location. We’re obviously talking about bikes here, not houses, but just like you can’t change where a house is built, you (usually) can’t alter a bike’s geometry or its overall personality. Based on that, the Devinci Hatchet Carbon is honestly one of my favorite gravel bikes I’ve tested in the last year — value category or otherwise — because it nails the most fundamental aspects of performance.
It’s not the flashiest, definitely not the lightest, and certainly not loaded with as much tech as some of the fancier machines I’ve ridden in the last few months. But it’s nevertheless one of the most entertaining bikes I rode this year, with superb geometry, an excellent frame worthy of later upgrades, and a solid build kit that gets the job done if you’d rather not bother.
The price is relatively easy to swallow, too, so all in all, I’d say this thing is a winner.