The 1970s were a carefree time for mountain biking, but the joys of roasting Morrow coaster brakes while railing downhill on hefty piles of pre-WW2 mild steel would rapidly fade into nostalgia as the sport’s evolution and the accompanying technological arms race shifted mountain biking in new directions. And here we are 30-some years later, where the words ‘mountain bike,’ when applied to the average consumer purchase, imply a frame made from aluminum or carbon fiber, suspension at both wheels, disc brakes and somewhere between 11 and 22 gears.
Enter Hank, the throwback for people who really want to throw it all the way back. Long, slack, steel, no suspension, one huge gear, one little coaster brake in the rear hub doing the stopping for the whole shooting match. Is it a mountain bike? Sure! Is it a capable mountain bike? If we are to consider the broad range of terrain it may face, the variety of riding it might be required to endure and the huge technological advantages that the competition, also called mountain bikes, can bring to bear, well, no. Not really. It’s heavy, harsh and not very easy to stop.
But that would be missing the point. What the Hank represents is cleanly executed and attractively packaged fun. Fun that is easily attainable and very affordable and absolutely free of expectation. Over the course of several months, Hank railed dusty trails, muddy trails, bike paths and racked up quiet and steady miles without me ever once bothering to pull on chamois-lined shorts or cycling-specific footwear. No Strava KOMs were toppled at any point. Steep climbs were approached with dread, as the massive 42×18 gear mocked my not-manly-enough quads. Steep and rough downhills were suddenly a whole lot steeper and rougher than they used to be when tackled with suspension and working brakes. Fire roads, however, especially those with long, arcing downhill turns, were strafed with audacity. This may not be a full-on mountain bike (although the disc brake tabs at either end allow lots of room for user-modification and interpretation), but dear lord it can drift like a sonofabitch.
Forget any rhetorical attempts to define mountain biking. Just start pedaling that big gear, find a downhill long enough to make you question your sensibilities, crank this bare-metal beast up to speed, aim for the first corner apex going way too fast, load the outside pedal down at 6 o’clock, lean into the turn and practice swearing in Finnish or Swedish as you execute one flawless two-wheel drift after another. It’s a total soul recharge for pennies on the dollar.
MSRP: $450 (Not currently available)