A Hayduke Story: From Baja to Bend to Oaxaca
Long after taking her Hayduke on the inaugural Baja Divide Grand Depart, Emma Bucke shares a more recent reinvention of the bike. Discover how a few component changes and some evolving gear choices have turned a flawed favorite into a bike that’s far more tuned to her needs, transforming her confidence and enjoyment on trails and making this classic steel hardtail finally feel like it’s her own…
Words by Emma Bucke, images by Cass Gilbert
I bought my Hayduke back in 2017, with the plan to ride the inaugural Baja Divide. I actually applied to Lael Wilcox’s Globe of Adventure Scholarship, and although I didn’t get the award itself, the general response was so positive that Advocate (now Esker) generously offered a whole 40 percent off to all the women who submitted an application. This discount meant I could afford to buy the bike and in turn do the trip—so thanks for that Esker, it made a real difference! What’s more, the very name of this hardtail felt serendipitous. As an Outdoor Educator and a fan of the author and environmental activist Edward Abbey, it made sense that I would be especially drawn to the Hayduke, named as it is after a character from “The Monkey Wrench Gang.”
Sure enough, I was stoked to get my shiny Hayduke. I generally buy my gear second-hand, and it was definitely the most expensive brand new “thing” I’d ever owned. I rode the northern section of the Baja Divide that year, but I had to get back to work before I could finish the route. Although I’d bike toured along the Pacific coast before, riding in Baja California was my first off-road bikepacking trip, and I returned north completely inspired.
Over the fall, I organized a small women’s ride in Idaho, following Adventure Cycling’s Idaho Hot Springs Route, and a few months later, returned to re-ride the section of the Baja Divide I’d already done and complete the rest of it too—all 1,700 miles. By then, I’d also invested in proper bikepacking bags, mostly by Revelate Designs, and had a better idea about how I wanted to set up the bike for the long desert stints. Surprisingly for an “adventure” rig, the original Hayduke didn’t come with any eyelets at all (apart from those inside the frame triangle), so I had to get creative to carry enough water for the route. Cue a trip to the hardware store for hose clamps and lots of electrical tape!
Five years later and my perspective about what I want from my bike has shifted. When I first started bikepacking, I figured knee and wrist pain was part of the deal. More recently, however, I’ve mainly been riding a Jones Plus SWB. It’s a bike that’s made me realise I can be more comfortable when cycling, and those annoying aches and pains I used to feel aren’t something I need to put up with.
But, as good as the Jones has been for bikepacking and dirt road riding, I missed having a suspension fork, especially on the more challenging mountain bike trails that I’d begun riding here in Oaxaca, many of which are a lot more rugged than the loamy singletrack I rode with my friends in Oregon. Eventually, as Covid restrictions lifted, the chance came to pick my old Hayduke up from where I’d left it in storage. In the Covid confusion, it had actually spent a whole winter outside, so as you can imagine, it needed some work.
As I happened to be in LA on a work contract, I dropped it off at the Golden Saddle Cyclery and had them tune the suspension fork, bleed the brakes, fit a new chain, and generally give the bike some much-needed love. As an outdoor educator, I’m used to living on a tight budget, so I focused on getting the bike rideable again, rather than spending too much money on it straight away. I boxed it up and brought it back to Oaxaca. But as good as it felt to have my trusty hardtail back, it made me realize that I really needed to make some bigger changes to really enjoy it again like I used to.
Luckily, Chris Campbell and Amanda Andros—two friends from Alaska who work at a bike shop—had already planned a visit to Mexico and brought with them both advice and a collection of replacement parts when they arrived. In fact, this dovetails neatly into my Hayduke story because their boss at the Bicycle Shop in Anchorage, Nicholas Carman, co-founded the Baja Divide!
Immediately noticeable was the Hayduke’s stock gearing, which was too big, both for riding here in the mountains and as a bikepacking rig. The original bike came with a 30T chainring and an 11-42T cassette at the back. I’d made it work in Baja, but here in Oaxaca, it was definitely making life far harder than it needed to be. I couldn’t get hold of a bigger cassette, so I settled with swapping out the 30T chainring for a smaller one instead – I hoped a 26T ring but could only get hold of a 28T. I’m glad we did it though, as even two teeth have made a noticeable difference to how much I enjoy riding this bike on steep climbs, of which there is no shortage in the Sierra Norte.
After spending so much time on a bike with Jones H-bars, the crowbar-straight Race Face bars that the bike was specced with felt really uncomfortable. Chris and Amanda had both run Salsa Bend 2s in the past, and their wrist-friendly 23-degree sweep sounded about right. A trip down to my local bike shop in Oaxaca secured me a 50mm stem to go with them, dialing in the front of the bike.
I also fitted some grippy Race Face Chester pedals. Not knowing too much about pedals before, I’d been running a set of basic Welgos. I chose the Chesters primarily because they’re very affordable, but they’re also fully serviceable, which is great, as I hate throwing stuff out in the landfill. The biggest upgrade, aside from improving the cockpit, was fitting a TransX Kitsuma dropper post, as the stock bike came with a quick-release seat clamp.
Almost the moment he arrived through the door after the long journey from Alaska, Chris got to work helping to fit all the parts, and the next day I took my “new” Hayduke out on a litmus test trail ride. Escalones, aka the Staircase, is an out and back: long, rocky, slabby ascent on the way up, and a fun, burly reply on the way down. And what a complete transformation!
All these changes have done a massive amount for my confidence and made me realize that before, I was kind of in survival mode when I rode trails. Now I really enjoy them!
Suddenly, I felt like I had real confidence riding technical terrain. Running a 150mm dropper post made a massive difference to how I felt on rutted descents. The Salsa bars felt so much more natural on my wrists. And I really liked the way the bike steered with the shorter stem. I slid the seat forward a bit, which helped me control the front of the bike on rocky climbs, while the smaller chainring meant I could attack climbs more optimistically rather than having to jump off the bike and push. This bike has a higher bottom bracket than the Jones, which I like for trail riding, and the thinner Chesters further lessened the chance of pedal strikes. And did I mention how much I love the dropper? It’s such a game-changer! I use it all the time, wherever I’m riding, even on dirt road descents. All these changes have done a massive amount for my confidence and made me realize that before, I was kind of in survival mode when I rode trails. Now I really enjoy them!
If you spotted those beautiful Passchier bamboo handlebars, well, they were a more recent addition to my setup, thanks to Logan and Gin’s recent visit. They’ve certainly added some comfort – in fact, we were all surprised by how visibly they flex. I don’t ride the burly black diamond trails that are popular with the enduro riders here, but I’ve put them through some seriously rutted singletack and bumpy, potholed terracerías, and they’re holding up well. Besides, everyone comments on how good they look!
As for bikepacking gear, I moved from my Revelate seat pack, which I used on the Baja Divide, to a Tailfin AeroPack. As a smaller rider, I’ve always struggled to carry enough on this bike, even when I had a framebag, as the triangle is so small. Unfortunately, the frame doesn’t feature rack eyelets (or downtube eyelets, for that matter) or I might have gone with a minimal rack and small panniers. Running the Tailfin AeroPack has pretty much solved all my storage issues, between the bag itself and the fact that I can carry extra water or gear on the arch when I need to.
If you’re thinking of doing something similar to your Hayduke, I should point out that the frame did pose some challenges to making it work with the AeroPack. Even with Tailfin’s universal thru-axle, which allows the rack to be mounted to a bike without eyelets, the frame’s unconventional dropout snagged on the actual arch. Luckily, Tailfin suggested a workaround: modify the arch slightly by bending it out and repositioning the quick releases on the outside rather than the inside, which is the way they normally come. And it worked! What’s more, if I pack the bag carefully, I can use all the dropper post when bikepacking. And when the back is jammed full, I can still use enough of the dropper to make a difference. I’m 5’6” and run a size small frame, by the way.
Although I see the Hayduke as primarily my trail bike here, and plan to use the Jones for longer bikepacking trips, I really like how I can quickly clip on the AeroPack for the occasional weekend loop into my local mountain range, especially when there’s an emphasis on riding trails. I leave the Swift Catalyst handlebar bag on the bike pretty much all the time, either for extra layers or hitting the market on the way home.
For bikepacking trips, I also added a pair of Tailfin SFMs to the suspension fork, which are way nicer than the fiddly hose clamps that I used before. I don’t anticipate carrying a lot on the fork, but it’s handy to have an extra couple of water bottles, especially in the dry season. The mounts are small enough that I now just leave them on there all the time. If you’re wondering about that bag below the downtube, it’s something that Tailfin is launching soon and I’ve been trying out. I can’t say much about it for now, except that it’s been really useful, given that this generation of Haydukes have no eyelets on the downtube, and I don’t currently have a framebag.
Speaking of which… a friend, Nicholas from Peregrinus Equipment, in Mexico City, is making me a custom framebag, which will include a beautifully hand-loomed swatch from Teotitlan del Valle, a town that’s half a day’s ride from here and is known for its textiles. I think it will tie in the bike perfectly with its current home.
Elsewhere, I’ve stickered it up with my own mushroom artwork, as well as that of friends, to add to the Mexican flag electrical tape chainstays I made when I was first in Baja. There are still a few more upgrades I’d like to make to the bike itself—a wider cassette and some ESI grips are on the shopping list. When it’s time to replace the tires, it’ll probably be Nobby Nics front and rear, as they feel like great tires for the terrain here. But what I’ve done so far has already been enough to completely transform how I ride it, giving me so much more confidence on trails than I used to have.
The life of the original Advocate Hayduke may have been short-lived. But now that it’s set up just the way I want it, I hope to have this particular one for plenty more years to come. It’s always been special to me, in part because it introduced me to bikepacking and because of the places that it’s taken me. Just as Hayduke the character was a rugged individualist in the books by Abbey, my Hayduke feels much more individualized after all the tweaks and touches made over the last many months.
- Frame Reynolds 725 Chrome-Moly (size S)
- Fork 120mm RockShox Reba RL, Boost
- Headset Cane Creek 40, tapered
- Stem 55mm
- Handlebar Salsa Bend 2 23 degrees/Passchier Gump 760
- Grips RaceFace Half-Nelson locking
- Brakes Shimano SLX
- Rotors 180mm F, 160mm R
- Shifter SRAM GX1, 11-speed
- Rear derailleur SRAM GX1, 11-speed
- Crank and chainring SRAM GX1000, 28T, 94BCD spider
- Cassette SRAM XG1150, 11-speed, 10-42
- Chain Sram GX
- Front hub Formula sealed cartridge, 110x15mm, centerlock
- Rear hub Formula sealed cartridge, 148x12mm, XD driver, centerlock
- Spokes Stainless butted, black
- Rims WTB Scraper i45, 27.5”, tubeless ready
- Tires Schwalbe Nobby Nic and Rocket Ron, 27.5 x 2.8in
- Seatpost TransX Katsuma Air 150mm
- Saddle Jones
- Pedals Race Face Chester
- Frame mounts 2 water bottle mounts, Portage rear dropouts, stealth dropper routing
- Luggage Tailfin AeroPack w/universal TA and modified arch, Swift Catalyst
- Extras Tailfin SFMs, Buckhorn Rattler Stem Bag, Revelate Mountain Feedbag, Revelate Gas Tank, Quadlock mount
If you’d like to purchase one of Emma’s mushroom stickers, contact her through her Instagram @notjustforfungis.
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