22/03/2013 | 6 comments
Who are Haibike?
First off I should address who Haibike actually are, as this is more than likely an unfamiliar brand to most. They were founded in 1996 and started developing carbon full suspension mountain bikes in 2005. Part of the Accell group, they come under the same umbrella as such brands as Lapierre, Ghost and Raleigh – the latter distributing them in the UK. This should explain why the EI technology (automatically adjusting suspension) is being seen on all three of these brands at present.
Rather than just adding to their broad catalogue, Raleigh are working hard to establish the German brand in the UK and have set up a dedicated team to do this. Richard Dobney, Raleigh’s Haibike brand manager, told me that Haibike were in fact the first to start working with Rockshox on the technology as their headquarters are just across the road from the SRAM group – handy!
What is EI technology?
EI technology has been in development for 5 years and was first seen last year at a press launch in France, but seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth until then. Fox Shox released their own electric switch just before and this, on the face of it, seemed to be Rockshox achieving what Fox hadn’t even tried. The electronic damping reads the terrain and feeds back to the shock to adjust the settings most suitable for the trail. The battery was also developed in hand with Trelock.
What we’ve got here is, in theory, the ability to ride a bike that will always be optimized for whatever you are riding, changing compression damping within 0.1 seconds of the information being recorded. This is handled by acceleration sensors on the fork that measure both your overall speed and the compression movements of the fork. Coupled with this is a cadence sensor measuring your pedalling efforts.
It’s straight forward how each variable will cause the shock to change. Fast pedalling, fast speed and little fork movement will make the shock stiffer, for example. It is important to understand that in its ‘default’ setting the damping remains open. So this system works in the opposite way, where the suspension firms up when you need it to.
With adjustments of Open, Mid, Locked and Auto available, you can choose any option that you feel most comfortable with. I was really testing the automatic performance of this shock and general left it in this setting. This particular model didn’t have the most up to date software, but you are also able to tune the automatic setting to be weighted more firm or more open in 5 increments. For the time being the bike came with the middle of these as default – ‘Auto 3’.
The spec on the Heet RX is their top of the range. Drivetrain is a full SRAM XX affair that provides slick and punchy shifting and super stiff carbon cranks, however I was baffled as to why XX1 wasn’t chosen for the spec. 1×11 would have been ideal on this machine. With 155mm of rear bounce and an adjustable travel Revelation fork (120mm-150mm), with bar mounted lockout, we could be looking at the ideal UK enduro race machine here.
The Magura MT 8 brakes are fully carbon and pack a powerful punch when it comes to bringing the machine to a halt, but bear in mind that it only weighs 11.4kg/25lbs (without pedals). I was impressed with the brakes on this first ride, definitely powerful enough, but longer tests will be needed. Featuring a dropper post, the crank brothers’ kronolog post is a reliable unit, but it came set up in lightspeed and caused an unfortunate bit of pain. Given the proximity to SRAM it is odd that Avid and Reverb aren’t featured here.
The Reynolds All Mountain carbon wheels with Schwalbe Fat Alberts combo deserves a lot of praise. These rims are just so stiff and the tyres provided a great rolling feel with dependable grip in what was a rare dusty day. I didn’t get a chance to get the actual weight of the pair – but it’s one of the lightest tube set ups I’ve experienced.
The cockpit is a Haibike own 700mm bar with un-branded stem which, while stiff and ok for comfortable climbing, is really behind the times when it comes to where UK trail riding is moving to. For even XC, 720mm and above should be standard issue.
Overall, the spec is relevant to the price. Incorporating the EI tech shock, the bike’s incredibly light weight and highly desirable parts I would say this is a fair number. The guys did say that they are expecting an aluminium version to appear in the future that would cost a bit less, but if you are after ultimate trail bike kit this is worth a look.
How does it ride
In the first task the bike had to deal with was a long fire road climb which was dispatched with no trouble whatsoever. The light weight frame and comfortable position made it efficient and this is where I began to notice the shock adapting and firming up. All going to plan so far.
On the first decent the specing of a poor cockpit came to be realised. I felt constantly pitched over the front and lacked steering confidence in tighter corners. The low weight nature of the bike did redeem this though and I found was able to manoeuvre the bike with little effort over all, but more personalised set up is a must.
Littered with small drops, rough corners and fast, narrow singletrack I didn’t even notice the shock working – which was what I was looking for. I began to pay more attention and you can hear it doing its constant adjustment. I gave it trust almost instantly, with only one section with the shock set fully open. I really thought the 5 auto adjustment settings was a bit of marketing spiel initially but I can see how you could really use this to your advantage based on your riding location.
By the end of the day’s riding I felt comfortable to believe the shock would work in most situations and noticed that I was able to get a bit more speed out of each trail, especially the flatter ones. With a bit more time I know that I would be able to perfect my choice of auto settings and potentially move up a fair few places at races. It is annoying to have so many cables on the handle bar though.
The frame is beautifully designed and a great use of carbon. The head tube and bottom bracket have a very distinct look and definitely gets a big thumbs up. The geometry of 68 head angle, 1126mm wheelbase and 590mm give the bike good handling on the downs but still suitable for the ups – on our medium 18.5″ frame.
At £5,500 it is a lot of money to be spending on a trail bike and the sensible side of me really thinks you could get a pretty similar ride for over £1,000 less. But the EI technology really does work if you are looking to get the most out of your pedalling and this really is top of the mountain bike tree. With a weight not a million miles away from some hardtails mixed with 150mm of suspension, the Haibike Heet RX left me with something to think about. The Heet model is available in small, medium and large, and a 29er option is out there for the wagon wheeler fans. Let’s see what it’s like after a few more miles….