Advocate Cycles Hayduke Review: Baja Winter
In 2010, I rode through Baja, Mexico on a Surly Long Haul Trucker. On our first off-pavement excursion, Nick and I pushed our bikes through long sections of sand and washboard. It wasn’t fun. We needed bigger tires. After this experience, we stuck to Highway 1 and pedaled past all the dirt tracks, wondering where they might lead. There is a lot more dirt than pavement on the peninsula. Five years later, Baja was still a huge question mark. This winter I came back with an Advocate Cycles Hayduke.
Words by Lael Wilcox, photography by Nicholas Carman
The Advocate Hayduke is my jeep. For three months this winter, Nick and I are riding in Baja to investigate a nearly 2000 mile dirt route down the peninsula called the Baja Divide. Most of the riding in Baja is either high and rocky or low and sandy; these are not the wide managed roads of the Great Divide. The Advocate Hayduke is a 27.5+ steel hardtail with a 120mm suspension fork. It’s the perfect Baja bike.
The 27.5+ platform puts the plus concept of wide rims and 3” tires on a 27.5” wheel. These bikes are the descendants of both fatbikes and 29ers. The 27.5+ wheel shares a similar outside diameter and rollover characteristic of a 29” wheel. The 3” tires have some of the flotation qualities of the wider tires found on true fatbikes.
Dirt roads in Baja are rugged and diverse. Tracing lines on a map from afar is very different from riding them. In the process of scouting the Baja Divide, we’ve encountered storm-damaged roads, sandy arroyos and routes torn up by the high powered trophy trucks of the Baja 1000. The 27.5+ platform is ideal for rugged road bikepacking; the Advocate Cycles Hayduke crushes this terrain.
Advocate Cycles is a new company based out of Minnesota. Their mission is “to create innovative bicycles and deliver 100% of profits from the company back to cycling advocacy efforts.” The headtube badge is a raised fist meant to symbolize empowerment, specifically the empowerment of cyclists. In it’s first year, the profits of Advocate Cycles fund five major non-profits: Adventure Cycling Association, IMBA, NICA, People for Bikes and Bicycles for Humanity. If you buy an Advocate, you choose which non-profit gets the money. Contact your local LBS about becoming an Advocate dealer, and for those out of dealership range contact Advocate directly. Currently, Advocate offers three different models in steel and titanium. The Advocate Hayduke comes complete as a 27.5+ steel hardtail.
Most steel frames are durable and heavy, but the Reynolds 725 chromoly tube-set keeps the Hayduke relatively trim. Steel bikes are good for the long haul, but not race-lite. In a two month span this summer, I wore a hole through a carbon frame during the Tour Divide. However, I’ve toured for years on the same steel 29er without issue, forcing mud between the stays, knocking the frame in wrecks or while leaned against street signs in the city. Steel bikes take a beating, again and again.
The Hayduke has a relaxed modern geometry (68.5° HTA and 51mm fork offset)
which inspires confidence on descents, while the plus-sized wheels eat up chatter. As a hardtail, the Hayduke climbs more efficiently than most full suspension bikes. Riding with 15-20psi, the tires stay planted on climbs.
I was skeptical of the 27.5+ platform. I’m light and I pack light. I figured I didn’t need bigger tires and that they were suited to bigger riders. I thought the wheels would be heavy and handle weird. I was wrong. After two months and 3000 miles on the Hayduke, I prefer 27.5+ to my old 29” hardtail for the kind of rough roads we are riding in Baja, and for the kinds of roads which are laced across the southwest USA.
The WTB Scraper i45 rims are easy to set up tubeless, which is essential in the desert and also eliminates the weight of a 3.0” tube. In a month, I’ve had zero flats, but ridden over plenty of thorns. Tubeless ready rims are awesome! My Specialized Ground Control tires seated easily with a floor pump. While the rims are not supplied with tubeless tape pre-installed, we found clear Gorilla repair tape to fit the inside diameter of the Scraper rims perfectly (although narrower tape is adequate). Weighing just 650g for an aluminum doublewall tubeless ready rim, the WTB Scraper is impressively light. Thanks to major companies like Specialized that are pushing the 27.5+ platform, replacement tires and parts are becoming available in major cities around the world. The 27.5+ concept seems to be growing faster than 29”, 29+, and fatbikes.
I would definitely consider a 27.5+ carbon wheelset to reduce wheel weight, which would enliven the ride. In my experience, carbon rims can be both light and durable, and make riding way more fun. There are in increasing number of carbon rims available a la carte for custom wheelbuilding, while complete wheelsets like the Specialized Roval Traverse 38 SL Fattie are a great off the shelf option.
The Hayduke is designed around a 1x drivetrain and Boost spacing, recent innovations which have enabled the development of plus bikes. It is specced with a SRAM GX1 11-speed drivetrain, which compares favorably to the XO1 and XX1 groups I have used. 1x drivetrains are simple and work well almost all the time. I appreciate having one shifter because it feels more natural to simply shift up or down. When bikepacking on a 1x I prefer a smaller chainring to ensure I have climbing gears, and the Hayduke comes with a 30T ring which has been adequate. My only issue with narrow-wide chainrings is that serious mud accumulation causes the chain to drop. It’s frustrating. The tight fit of the chain on the ring leaves little room for mud to escape, forcing the chain to ride high over the teeth. In dry conditions, the narrow-wide pattern works as intended to keep the chain on the ring without the need for additional retention.
Out of the box, the Hayduke is an adventure capable machine. I changed very little from the stock build. I installed my carbon Answer 20/20 handlebars and carbon Syntace P6 Hi-Flex seatpost, one of my favorite components ever. The 80mm stem was replaced with a 50mm to quicken the handling. I replaced the Panasonic Fat B Nimble tires for Specialized Ground Controls because I wanted tougher side walls for desert riding. I would also like to see a replaceable derailleur hanger, or the availability of replacement drive-side dropout plates in case of a broken hanger (or even a swinging dropout plate to tension a backcountry singlespeed repair). At $2699, the Hayduke is competitively priced to its two nearest competitors, the Jamis Dragonslayer and the Marin Pine Mountain 2, or any similarly specced steel 29er. The essential parts of the bike, including wheelset, fork, brakes and drivetrain, are exactly what I expect at this price. The RaceFace seatpost, stem and handlebars are utilitarian, but a bit heavy.
- Frame Reynolds 725 Chrome-Moly, Pearl White
- Fork 120mm RockShox Reba RL, Boost
- Headset Cane Creek 40, tapered
- Stem Specialized Mountain 50mm
- Handlebar Answer Pro-Taper 20/20, 720mm
- Grips RaceFace Half-Nelson locking
- Brakes Shimano SLX w/fin pads
- Rotors Shimano RT-68, 180mm F, 160mm R
- Shifter SRAM GX1, 11-speed
- Rear derailleur SRAM GX1, 11-speed
- Crank and chainring SRAM GX1000, 30T, 94BCD spider
- Cassette SRAM XG1150, 11-speed, 10-42
- Chain KMC X11
- 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 Specialized Ground Control 27.5×3.0”, 2Bliss
- Seatpost Syntace P6 Hi-Flex carbon, 27.2mm with shim
- Saddle Cannondale take-off
- Pedals NS Aerial Pro platform
- Luggage Revelate Designs
- Frame mounts 2 water bottle mounts, Portage rear dropouts, stealth dropper routing
- Extras King Cage top cap mount, Salsa stainless cages to fork, Salsa Anything Cage to downtube
- 27.5×3” tires and a 120 mm RockShox Reba crush jeep roads and inspire confidence.
- Wide, lightweight tubeless ready WTB Scraper rims.
- Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and SRAM 1×11 drivetrain, my favorite combination.
- 1x drivetrains dump chains in the mud.
- No bottle mount under the downtube.
- Stock RaceFace bars, seatpost and stem are a bit heavy.
Appropriately named for George Hayduke’s backcountry bomber from Ed Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, the Advocate Cycle’s Hayduke rides like a jeep. 27.5+ is superior to 29” for rugged bikepacking because it increases the fun, safety and comfort of riding with gear. Wide and light 27.5×3.0” tires offer the roll-over of a 29er with increased flotation similar to a fatbike. The modern geometry paired with a 120mm RockShox Reba takes on technical descents and when the quality of the road diminishes, the Hayduke keeps going. It need not be the last bike you ever buy or the solution to every ride, but it’s a great bikepacker and my only bike for now. I’m exploring new terrain every day while researching the Baja Divide route and I think the Hayduke is the best tool for the job.
- Size Tested Medium
- Sizes Available S-XL
- Weight (stock build) 30lbs (13.6kg)
- Price $2,699 (100% of profits go to cycling advocacy)
- Contact Advocate Cycles
- Recommended Uses desert adventures, rough jeep tracks, sandy roads
Lael Wilcox has been touring for eight years on a variety of bikes. She’s ridden several winters in Anchorage, Alaska on a fatbike. She recently began racing and holds the women’s record for the Tour Divide. She spends most of her time traveling by bike with Nicholas Carman.
Weight: 130 lbs
The bike for this review was provided by Advocate Cycles for long-term use in researching the Baja Divide route.