MBA Team Tested: Hudski Doggler Mountain Trail Bike
HUDSKI DOGGLER MOUNTAIN
Based in Sausalito, California, Hudski started with two friends who both have design backgrounds and a passion for cycling. The creators of this new direct-to-consumer brand, Will Hudson and Brian Syzkowny, have always envisioned starting a bike company. They both slowly transitioned from their lighting design business into creating their very own cycling brand.
With a shared admiration for bikes that combine function and a simple aesthetic, the two set out to produce a bike that “integrates the function of speed with the simplicity of oneness.” With that in mind, Hudski released its first frame, called the Doggler, with several build options in September of 2020. To see what this new and hip Northern California brand can offer, we leaped on the Doggler Mountain test subject that was sent to our wrecking crew.
The Hudski Doggler is a rigid frame designed to be durable on the mountain while avoiding the complexity of suspension pivots and linkages. To keep things lightweight, the Doggler is made of aluminum with Hudski’s very own full-carbon tapered fork design. From there, the team employed modern trail geometry while adhering to current industry standards throughout the Doggler’s construction.
The long wheelbase and slack 69.2-degree head tube angle add to stability on the trail, while the steep 74.2-degree seat tube angle sets the rider properly over the frame to transfer power to the pedals. The modern perspective does not stop at geometry. The Doggler has internal routing for a dropper post, a 12mm thru-axle on the frame, 12mm or 15mm thru-axle capability at the fork, a threaded bottom bracket, clearance for a 27.5×2.6- or 29×2.25-inch tire, a flat-mount rear brake, and a post-mount front brake. The bike also sports 24 mounting points for all your adventure gear while still being able to run some fenders/racks.
Like other cycling brands in the direct-to-consumer world, Hudski is able to give riders accessibility to quality parts while keeping their products reasonably priced. Sticking with the idea of oneness, Hudski has created three models based on the same frameset design that are all priced at $1999. The Doggler can be purchased as a City, Gravel or Mountain build. All three versions have the same Shimano SLX 12-speed drivetrain, Race Face Ride crankset, Shimano SLX brakes, PNW Rainier dropper post and Oury V2 lock-on grips. The only differences among the models are the wheels/tires and the sweep of the handlebars.
The Doggler Mountain comes with 27.5-inch Jalco i30 rims, while the City and Gravel come with 700c Jalco i25 rims and skinnier tires for city and gravel terrain. Giving riders traction on the dirt, our Doggler Mountain test bike maintained trail grip with 27.5×2.6-inch Maxxis Rekon tires. Each Doggler comes with tubes installed, but can easily be swapped to tubeless with the pre-taped rims and included tubeless valves.
DOWN AND DIRTY
Choosing to ride a rigid bike is a personal preference and largely dependent on your age, terrain and style. Rigid bikes are seen as throwbacks to a simpler time in mountain biking history, but they can make your usual trails interesting again—and much more challenging. While suspended bikes dominate the sport, there are some advantages to owning a simplistic, rigid machine that might outweigh staying at the top of a podium. Riding a rigid bike will force you to hone skills you may have been able to neglect on a full-suspension bike.
The Hudski Doggler Mountain build is intended for multi-day trail and off-road bikepacking adventures. With plenty of tire clearance, modern geometry, accessible brake/shift cabling, sturdy alloy construction and a variety of mount placements, the Doggler hits the mark for those who want to explore. With the excitement level set high, our wrecking crew adjusted its usual trail session schedule and headed out for a few overnight trips.
Given its rigid nature, the Doggler is very efficient with every bit of energy that is put into the pedals. The bike proved stable on steep fire roads, and running low tire pressure gave us some extra traction over loose sections of trail. Out of the saddle, the 16-degree sweep of the bars does take some getting used to for a rider more accustomed to a flat-bar feel. Although the wheelbase is long, the Doggler is still manageable through tight corners.
We tested the Doggler fully loaded for adventure, but we also took the time to play around with the bike completely devoid of gear bags. The dropper post really is the icing on the cake. Our test riders felt like they were pumping a BMX bike when cutting through lively singletrack sections. The wheelbase enhances the stability on downhills, while the head tube angle is just slack enough for quick and manageable steering. While you won’t be taking the full-suspension line on the Doggler, it challenges you and teaches you to take the smoothest lines. Just like when climbing, riders must learn to take advantage of the large-volume tires with low air pressures as a means of suspension for the rough stuff.
Some of us at the office would have loved to play with the possibility of installing a suspension fork; however, keeping the bike rigid does allow for more space when mounting gear on the downtube. The Doggler is a great platform for riders who want to build the dirt-tour rig of their dreams or just ride it out of the box and become a more skilled rider. You can always upgrade the components as you go.
The Doggler Mountain comes with 160mm rotors that we recommend upgrading to 180mm for more stopping power. This is especially important when the bike is loaded with gear. Given the versatility of being able to switch wheel sizes on the Doggler, it would also be worth having a 29-inch/700c wheelset wrapped with a different mountain tread or even a smooth slick for commuting (just like the City/Gravel builds). The bike is loaded with mounting options and clever cable guides to keep things tidy. In keeping with the dirt-touring mindset, Hudski even made sure its fork design had an extra internal routing port for the rider who wants to run a Dynamo front hub system.
Some people use their old mountain bikes to create what the Doggler offers. Of course, it’s hard to find parts when trying to polish up an old bike. Hudski simply saw the opportunity to make a versatile option more accessible to everyone while sticking with the industry standards for those who want to customize their rides. Okay, so it’s not the first choice for a cross-country race, but if you are looking to add a versatile bike to your stable, the Doggler will not disappoint. The Doggler is an affordable bike that is ideal for a getaway and discovering what mountain biking is all about—having a blast and going on an adventure!
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.