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First Look: Esker’s Updated Hayduke Hardtail

by News Desk
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As a small brand that regularly marches to the beat of its own drum, it’s no surprise that Esker incorporates design elements not often found on other bikes. The Hayduke has been their running his model for several years now, offering it as a versatile bikepacking, trail-riding and adventurous hardtail for everyone who needs it. With a frame shape focused on balance, adaptability and carrying capacity, this latest generation update takes that intent to the next level. Maybe, but I think it’s a very small niche in the market.

Esker Hayduke

• Quad butted 4130 steel frame
• 120mm forks
• Designed around 29 inch wheels
• 5 sizes available
• 4-position adjustable dropouts
• Weight: 2589-2899 grams (frame only)
• Colors: Darkness, Bluebird, Chili
• Frame: USD 1,000
• GX Complete: USD 3,000
• XT Complete: USD 4,000

Central to why many of us started this sport is the joy of running far and on your own. In Esker’s own words: “The Hayduke is your most trusted adventure companion. Always ready to venture into the unknown. Loaded for long distances or light and nimble single-speed missions, this is your adventure ride. It’s a bike.”

Although more tame than fictitious eco-terrorist That’s how it got its name, but Hay Duke is still an interesting beast, so let’s dig into it.


It’s no surprise that touring and long distance bikes don’t have the most cutting-edge geometry on the market, but the Hayduke isn’t as conservative as you might expect. With a static head angle of 10, this bike isn’t necessarily the best bike for descending the steepest tech, but it’s never going to hold you back on the typical trail. It grows reasonably large, with the largest option being 490mm long and 626mm high. Coupled with his slightly lower 60mm bottom bracket drop, Hayduke’s body position should be fairly upright. A comfortable body position is important, especially during a long day back-to-back.

The rear end of the bike is fairly adjustable, with chainstay lengths between 425 and 437mm. This is accomplished with Esker’s four-position Portage dropout system, which allows you to bolt on different dropout plates to achieve your desired setup. The Portage system is also how Hayduke achieves his clearance for tires up to 29×2.8 inches. This is welcome news for those still using the fat tire program.

The Hayduke is billed as the bikepacking-only bike in the Esker family. I think this geometry is very well suited for that niche.I’m not going to collect levies and call this the government down country hardtail, although the angle is very suitable for most trail riding. This is a bike designed to be balanced, comfortable and predictable, even when fully loaded with gear.

When it comes to loading it up, this frame’s finer details outperform the more common options.

frame details

We’ve already covered the usefulness of Portage Dropouts and their ability to change geometry, tire clearance, and axle standards, but Hayduke’s secrets don’t stop there. Pinkbike commenters are delighted because there are about 50 different ways to attach a water bottle to this frame. With the provision of a bolt-on frame bag, a 3-bolt cage mount on the downtube and a threaded rack mount on the rear end, cargo capacity is the name of the game.

I’ve done quite a few long haul bikepacking trips and it’s hard to overstate the convenience of built-in mounts like this. The fixed connections make the whole setup really easy. We know that touring isn’t the focus here, so we can’t help but be excited about how many Poptarts we can strap to this one.

The other frame hardpoints have been nicely modernized so if you want to start with a bare frame you can build a complete one from a wide range of parts.The 31.6mm seat tube has plenty of insertion depth. , allowing for ample dropper travel for each size. The 44-44mm headtube is a great feature. Because if you want to get funky, you can play around with the angle/reach adjustment headset. The steel frame itself is ED (Electrophoretic Deposition, what you need to know) coated to protect against rust and extend the life of your bike.

build kit

Hayduke comes in frame only, GX complete and XT complete priced at US$1,000, US$3,000, and US$4,000 respectively. None of the options are extremly cheap, but I think they’re pretty good value for people looking to buy a turnkey bikepacking bike that works well for a variety of uses. It features a thoughtful selection of parts that not only withstands the rigors of backcountry touring, but performs well on the trail.

Beyond the drivetrain, there are a few things that distinguish the XT from the GX. The Industry Nine 1/1 wheelset is a significant upgrade over the Stan’s Flow alternative with a more robust design and superior longevity. The Wolf Tooth Dropper Post is good to see at a higher spec as its fully rebuildable and serviceable design lends itself to adventure-ready bikes. One is the MRP Raven fork. This is because you don’t have time for yourself. It’s hard to say how it compares to Pike and 34 in the same application.

For those looking to equip the best possible camping or trail riding bike, Esker offers several upgrade options that can be added to the stock build.The forks can be upgraded to Fox Factory 34 with Grip2 dampers , the wheelset can be swapped for the Industry Nine Enduro S Carbon option. Obviously these raise the price, but that’s to be expected for better performance.

last thought

The rapid pace of change we see in the world of bike design is moving a little more slowly and steadily in the bikepacking niche, but pack mules are still modernized alongside their sportier cousins. My personal touring rig is a bit dated at this point. Given the well-thought-out details and geometry of a bike like the Hayduke, I’m left wondering how much better the new frame will improve my days of constant pedaling. As spring approaches, we might try something similar to this Esker to see how it performs on both singletrack and long haul.

Hey Duke Lives!

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