Announced at this year’s Moab Outerbike, the Esker Cycles Hayduke LVS –available as a frame ($2,950) or a complete ($4,950)–is a hardtail mountain bike with 600-millimeter chainstays and touring accouterments aplenty. Esker even developed a specialty rack for this bike, dubbed the Molle Rackwald ($300.) Needless to say, it’s a unique offering from the brand.
John was able to ride one for a bit, including on an overnighter with the Esker Cycles team and Sincere Cycles in Santa Fe, so read on for an in-depth look at this rare and funky bike!
Esker Cycles Hayduke LVS Longtail 29er Overview
Oftentimes, our reviews end up inspiring heated discussion in the comment section. Particularly when the talk turns to a bike’s geometry, be it trail numbers, bottom bracket height versus drop, and yes, even chainstay length. In years prior, the “tukt,” or super short chainstay/rear end on bikes has been favored by many of our readers for a number of reasons. For one, bikes with a short rear end look super cool. They also wheelie easily. Due to their short, responsive rear triangles, these bikes also bounce around and course-correct on trails with minimal input.
But what if you want something a little more secure-feeling? “Sure-footed” as I like to say. How is that achieved? Well, you’re looking at it! The Esker Hayduke LVS subverts that “tukt” mantra with a 600 mm chainstay. It’s the anti-tukt philosophy, and while this has a place in the history of mountain bikes, there’s one voice that has been promoting an elongated end on bikes for a while now: Grant Petersen of Rivendell. We’ll get to Grant in a bit, but let’s look at an overview of this bike first.
In my review of the Esker Cycles Hayduke LVS “Longtail,” I’ll be looking briefly at the history of long rear ends on mountain bikes and discussing a term Rivendell fans have seen periodically to describe a bike’s effective chainstay length. But how does that handle the bike’s handling? And what does it mean when you want to load it down for an overnighter or some bike camping?
But first, let’s look at the Hayduke LVS’ specs.
- 130 mm Hardtail 29er
- S, M, L, XL sizing
- Titanium Frame
- Tubing: Seamless, butted and cold-shaped 3/2.5 titanium
- Thru Axle Spacing: Boost 148 mm rear / 120 mm front / M12x1.0 thread pitch
- Frame Includes: Seatpost collar, rear axle, sliding 148 mm dropout, Wolf Tooth Components headset
- Headtube Diameter: 44 mm ID, 50 mm OD
- BB Type: Threaded 73 mm English
- Headset Lower Stack Height: 13 mm
- Wheel Size: 29 x 2.6 – 2.8. Tire clearance on the Hayduke LVS is heavily reliant on the chainline of the drivetrain. 49-52 mm chainlines have a max clearance of 2.6″ and 55 mm chainlines have a max clearance of 2.8″. Some drivetrain brands and models may also have variances.
- Seatpost: 34.9 clamp, 31.6 post, internally routed
- Max Chainring: 34t round / 32t oval / Boost Chainline
- Weight: 4.55 lb bare frame, 4.95 lb includes dropouts, axle, seat collar, and cable guides for a Medium frame. As shown, without the rear Molle rack, this size XL weighs 34 lb.
- Molle Rack: 5 lb 12 oz
- Brake Mount: Post Mount direct, 180 mm rotor
… and now the numbers!
In terms of Hayduke’s “standard” geo, the LVS maintains the front triangle dimensions and angles across all four sizes. Where the bike geometry of the Hayduke LVS gets weird is with the chainstay length, which is 600mm across all sizes. The standard Hayduke in size XL has a variable chainstay length of 425-437mm. The LVS is 163mm longer.
To understand the “why” of this we have to look at the effect that wheelbase has on ride quality. The longer the wheelbase, the more predictable a bike will be. It will careen rather than dart and be more sure-footed at high speeds. The shorter the wheelbase, the more stable it will be, meaning it can course-correct under the slightest amount of input; twitchy, responsive, etc.
The Hayduke was named after George Hayduke from Ed Abbey’s Monkeywrench Gang. Ed Abbey’s writing, most notably Desert Solitaire and the Monkeywrench Gang, brought environmental awareness (and activism!) to the deserts of the American West. We’re not co-signing on Abbey’s racist and misogynist tirades here, just supplying context. We would like to offer up Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness by Amy Irvine for a more modern, inclusive approach to the same topics Abbey discussed. Or anything by the author Craig Childs!
If you’re looking for reviews of the standard Esker Hardtail models, check them out here:
- Monkey Wrenching with the Esker Cycles Hayduke Hardtail in Arizona
- The Esker Japhy Review: One Scrappy 29er Hardtail
- Dancing with Titanium: An Esker Japhy Ti 29er Hardtail Review
One of my critiques with the Esker Japhy 120mm hardtail 29er was the low stack height of the size XL frame. When I got the bike in over its head in the steep and chunky stuff we have here in Santa Fe, I felt like I was going to go over the front end. This is partially due to the stack height but also due to the bike’s geometry itself.
Riding the steel Japhy down a steep bit of trail on Mount Atalaya in my 2021 review…
As seat tubes get steeper, it puts you more over the front end; while this can make for more efficient climbing, the forward position can feel insecure when going downhill. A slack head tube compensates for this by offering low trail numbers and fork travel. With a 120 mm fork, where sag, or the amount of suspension you engage just by sitting on the bike, is already at 20-30%, the seat angle steepens more, thus putting you even further over the bike. As you bound down the steep stuff and push the fork through its travel, this sensation can heighten.
A higher stack works to counteract this effect by raising the position of the cockpit and bringing the rider more upright. For the Japhy, I remedied this by simply adding a few more spacers under the stem. In the case of the Hayduke LVS, a longer rear end almost all but eliminates this sensation.
Why? Ok, let’s get Weird. With a capital W.
With the above mountain bikes, if you consider the smaller wheel diameter of a 26″x2.2″ tire, versus a 29″x2.6″ wheel like the Hayduke LVS, the proportions are very similar to the Hayduke LVS.
W-Factor: A Short Story on Long Chainstays
Longtails have been a thing for as long as mountain bikes have been around. Even my 1980 Ritchey has a long rear end, comparatively. I recently documented a 1981 Chris King Cielo that also sports a longer rear end. VVA’s Topanga! bikes had long rear ends, too.
Back then, mountain bikes were machines for exploration. They were taken on singletrack, dirt roads, and terrain that was, up to that point, maybe not suited for the of-the-moment bicycle zeitgeist (i.e., road bikes).
Mountain bike specific tires were also still becoming widespread in the 80s. Trail bikes designed around longer rear ends were made to accommodate the only wide tires available, from 26″ BMX cruisers in the 2.3″ ish range. And, everyone at the time was using French touring triple cranks, which infringed on some of a frame’s tire clearance real estate, so lengthening the chainstays gave you clearance for a 2.3″ tire, while still being able to run the triple crank chainring.
Photo: Wende Cragg
Longer wheelbases and slack front ends made these bikes much more capable for off-road riding. But as the mountain bike evolved from this use case and the sport favored designs with more race-focused pedigrees, the chainstays got shorter and the angles steeper. In the early 1990s, mountain bike geometry looked worlds different. When you’re racing XC courses, steeper angles often prevail.
Yet, when I think of longtail bikes in a modern setting, one brand comes to mind: Rivendell!
Founded by ex-Bridgestone designer Grant Petersen in 1994, Rivendell has long been the antithesis of the bike industry’s rampant pursuit of “innovation” and “speed.” Rather than adopting larger diameter head tubes, Rivendell stuck with a 1″ threaded headset. Disc brakes? Nah, rim brakes. Grant and the team at Rivendell have been making classic bikes for modern uses for nearly thirty years. Grant’s “been right” about a lot. From the utilitarian practicality of the almighty Wald basket to sub-24-hour overnighters, much of the brand’s influence can be seen in modern applications from mainstream bike manufacturers.
Your favorite adventure bike brand, whatever it is, has been most likely inspired by Rivendell in some capacity.
The recent Rivendell designs feature longer chainstays and a term that has been used casually to describe this: W-Factor. I reached out to Will and Grant from Rivendell to explain what W-Factor is, where it came from, and what it’s all about.
An old Rivendell newsletter sums it up nicely:
“W-factor is a term we made up to describe the distance from the middle of the saddle to the rear axle. We made it up years ago but at the time I thought it was too boring to write about (maybe it’s still too boring) and, although we use the term internally, I don’t think we’ve ever explained what it is and why it might matter.”
“W Factor doesn’t have the pizazz and direct effect on steering that headtube angle does, and nobody will wring their hands and bite their nails over it like they do for top tube length or trail (nor should they), but it does play a part in how the bike feels.”
Grant so kindly replied to my email with a long response filled with many gems! Of which:
“The Will Factor, because Will is tall, has a high saddle, and was sitting too close to the rear hub with a “normal” length chainstay – my opinion.”
Without going off on a longer-than-necessary tangent, I found this description of the Gus Boots fitting here:
“Length adds stability in surfboards, skateboards, cars, skis, boats, and bicycles. Our Hillibike chainstays are almost half a foot longer than your garden-variety modern mountain bike chainstays, and the bikes ride better for it.”
Surfboards are a great example! Depending on a number of factors, a surfer will go to their quiver and either grab a 12′ longboard or a 6′ thruster. The longer the board, the more it’ll plane like a Cadillac. The shorter, it will be more shreddy. Or as Grant puts it:
“The longer=less wiggly (a more positive-sounding description than the “more stable” we’ve been using)…is easy for anybody to understand, with all those other examples or by simple experiments anybody can do with sticks on table or something.”
The email ended with a quote that is relevant to bike reviews:
“So I think the contribution WF can make ‘to the conversation’ is just another thing to think about that makes bike and bike design more interesting. I totally believe that it matters, not just in feel, but to an extent in safety. A less wiggly bike is safer. People like the idea of a quick-handed surgeon with a scalpel, cutting their way down the trails or steering totally with their eyes on a road, but when a bike responds so quickly to a rider’s input, it also responds quickly to invisible (wind) and unexpected physical inputs (low traction, reverse camber, bumps while picking one’s nose, brief unadvised high-speed no-hands riding, video-ing a friend while you’re riding, all that.”
“People who don’t know our bike but ‘know’ bike geometry will/have/still do say or suggest that they are sluggish, ride like trucks, can’t go around hairpins, etc. Absolutely not true. The hardest hairpin I’ve ever ridden (made it 2x in 100 tries), my buddy on a Large GUS makes every time. It’s all rider. I’m a good rider, but by my own standards.”
Thanks to Grant and Will for this input!
Back on Track: Riding the Hayduke LVS – Loaded
A few weeks back, the Esker boyz rolled through town with an LVS for me to ride for an overnighter with Sincere Cycles in the Santa Fe National Forest. I arrived at Sincere in the early afternoon, picked up the LVS, and took it home to pack it up for everything I’d need to sleep out under the stars for a night.
Like many of you most likely feel, my “overnighter” kit is the same as a “week-long” kit with the only variable being how much food I carry, so this series of anecdotes applies to longer tours as well.
I began stuffing the cavernous frame bag, the rear seat tube bag, and the front cockpit (Thermarest Ridgerest, Helinox chair, and a Rogue Panda pocket) before mounting the Buckhorn waxed canvas panniers to carry my bedding, water filter, and “down suit” as the temps were to dip to freezing.
To be completely honest here, the Hayduke LVS with its Molle rear rack dubbed the Molle Rackwald, is heavy. The rack on its own is 5 lbs 13 oz ! My initial inclination was to remove it and throw on a rear Old Man Mountain or Tumbleweed T-Rack, but I gave it a go because it just looks so good on the bike. I thought for sure I’d be huffin’ this beast up the steep singletrack climb and be in a world of pain the whole while.
Inch-worming it up a steep and punchy moment on Saddleback trail…
Yet I was immediately surprised by how well the Hayduke LVS climbed. On a few techy sections of root and loose rock that I sometimes walk on my hardtail or full suspension, I just tractor-crawled right up like I was in 4-Low! The extra long wheelbase aided in traction so much that I didn’t have time to notice the Teravail Ehline 29×2.5″ on the rear (a tire that I’ve sworn off for riding here due to its lack of traction in our kitty litter trails.)
In fact, the only issue I had was with a “breakover” moment: breakover angle or rampover angle is the maximum possible supplementary angle that a vehicle, with at least one forward wheel and one rear wheel, can drive over without the apex of that angle touching any point of the vehicle other than the wheels (read: gettin’ turtled on a rock).
I went to roll up, and over a rock ledge I’ve done hundreds of times and hit the chainring to my surprise. Dowh. This makes complete sense, though! A 600mm chainstay and 1376mm wheelbase means you’ve got to be mindful of your breakover!
Parker on his medium LVS and Bailey on my XL loaner, giving these off-road Cadilacs a proper send!
We made it to camp, and the next morning we climbed up the Chamisa trail to Saddleback, Juan, and Dale Ball trails. These are what many people call “technical trails” and feature a number of super punchy, steep climbs, with tight switchbacks and loose, rocky chutes. I’ll ride this trail on everything from a rigid 29er, to a drop bar touring bike to my big bike.
The Hayduke LVS ate it all, alive and kicking, without protest. Even the switchbacks were no issue. While the one pictured above is not necessarily a particularly tight corner, it is after a steep downhill, and you usually hit it going Mach 10. If I were to note the one characteristic of this bike that impressed me the most, it’s how fast and secure the LVS is as a descender. Letting go of the brake levers quickly turns this bike into a juggernaut.
Then, when you hit the steep and chunky stuff, the longer rear end (and thus, longer wheelbase) eliminates that “diving forward” sensation I get with 120-130mm hardtails and shorter stack heights. The extra length “centers” you more, rather than the steep seat angle and short rear end pushing your weight over the front end; I never felt like I was going to endo or dive forward. On the fast and flowy sections, I was quickly verging on going too fast for comfort!
We finished the overnighter–check out the super fun video above–and rolled back to town. I took off my camping stuff, the Molle rack, and front framebag and immediately went out with Parker on a favorite singletrack loop here in Santa Fe. I was giddy with excitement and had to know just how well this bike rode unloaded.
Not Just for Touring: Riding the Hayduke LVS Unloaded
While I love bike touring and bike camping and would love to take off on week or month-long trips, the reality is, that’s just not something I can do these days. Yes, we have a great editorial team but there is so much work that keeps me on the computer from before the sun is up until late at night.
Even with my busy schedule, I’ll always make time for my favorite hour to two-hour ride and when I break away from the computer’s tether, I take off for Atalaya Mountain, home to my favorite in-town trails.
Parker and I began climbing the “Hateful Eight” switchbacks of Dorothy Stewart Trail. I figured if the “longtail” would prove a hindrance, it’d be on these steep and loose switchbacks. I always walk the first two turns, but I usually have a 50/50 chance of making the rest without putting a foot down. If the bike was going to fail at something, it’d be on that trail.
The Hayduke LVS crawled up these tight turns. With ease. Again, the tires on this demo bike were not my choice for the terrain—with a lug pattern more like a gravel bike tire than mountain bike tread—but I never lost traction and was able to swing the rear end around with ease. It left me wondering: Does a longer wheelbase increase its traction?
For a point of reference, my Starling Murmur 140/160mm has a wheelbase of 1298mm, while the Esker Hayduke LVS has a wheelbase of 1376mm. The difference here is 78mm or about 3″. This bike, even though it looks long, is not wildly long.
What I found when riding the Hayduke LVS was if you could maneuver the front end around something, the rear always tracked right behind you. Slow, steep tech stuff was maneuverable, tight switchbacks were a cinch (as long as you could ride them on a “normal” hardtail or trail bike.) There really wasn’t anywhere in my normal riding routine where I felt: “dammnnnnnn this sucker is LONG!”
That same stretch of steep, loose, rocky trail I referenced earlier from my Japhy review…
We summited and began to descend. Here’s where I just can’t get over the Hayduke LVS’ prowess. I experienced the same “centered” feeling while descending as I had on the loaded-down bike and on the same trail where the Esker Hayduke and Japhy “standard” tail bikes made me feel like I was going to go over the bars; I barely had to feather the brakes! It was like rolling a bowling ball down the trail. The front suspension almost felt bottomless!
Much to my surprise, it wasn’t even that hard to whip the rear end out on a favorite hip. Eventually, after riding it for a few more weeks, my form got better, but I wasn’t able to get a photo of that in time for this review. I’m a good rider, but by my own standards. What I will say is the Hayduke LVS suffers in a few areas of trail riding, most notably ledge drops. There is no “slowly dropping down” the front wheel of this bike off a ledge.
You have to pedal at Mach 10 and just send the entire bike off, like Clark Griswold in the family station wagon! The reason is that once your front wheel is off the ground, the rear wheel still has a few more inches before it is ready to “lift off.” So even just wheelie-dropping off a curb takes some getting used to. If you’re going to take one of these bikes down your favorite ledgy trail, get some practice in first before you just go full send.
Parker explained to me that it took him a few days of constant riding to get comfortable on the Hayduke LVS. Here he is putting the size medium through the wringer. That nose bonk photo looks INSANE!
We wrapped up our ride and spent the next 10 minutes riding back to my house, waxing poetic about why this version is superior to the Hayduke “standard” in just about every way. Although, I do have some notes on that after riding the LVS for another month.
Praises, Observations, Critiques and Etcetera
This review has been a breath of fresh air. I don’t often get to review quirky and weird bikes like this and I hope my enthusiasm reads clearly here. If not, let me be blunt: I fucking love this bike. Yet I don’t fuckin’ need another hardtail. Nor another mountain bike. I love my rigid 29er, my hardtail singlespeed, my geared hardtail, my full suspension, and my fleet of vintage 26ers. But man, if I could convince Cari that I “need” another bike, it would be this. For a few reasons:
It’s lightweight. 32 lb as pictured here, sans Molle Rackwald. Not as light as my Womble, but my Womble has considerably lighter components on it. Tim, Esker’s co-founder, built a size XL up in the low 20s range for his desert ramblings.
Riding a longtail is just better. It’s faster, and less prone to washing out in loose corners, or duffy turns. The rear end doesn’t bump around in the steeps and it doesn’t throw you over the front in the steep ‘n’ chunky stuff. Plus when you finally figure out how to wield this broadsword, it slices through the air!
The behind-the-seat tube bag carries all my essentials! Man, I loved not carrying anything on me. I just left all my hip pack items in the seat bag full-time during this review. Tools, food, filter. It all fit with room to spare.
Extra cargo capacity and better weight distribution. Having a longer rear end made the rear end less wiggly. Out-of-the-saddle efforts made the bike resonate harmoniously instead of wagging all over the place. Whereas loading down a “trail bike” with a bunch of gear can cause it to get very twitchy due to the weight distribution. By loading the panniers over the rear hub, the weight was secure and distributed correctly. You could really load that rack down too (if you have the legs and lungs for it).
Molle Rackwald. What a great name. Also a great system. Molle bags are prevalent in the off-road, 4×4 world and are dirt cheap compared to specialty bike bags. Plus, just think of all the extra stuff you can stuff on it!
A longtail allows for more geometric experimentation. This isn’t related to the Hayduke LVS as much as an observation on longtail potential. You could really steepen or slacken the head or seat angles on this bike for various reasons. A steeper head angle–around 67º–would make the bike more stable, or able to course correct quicker, on the front end (good for XC riding) while a slacker front end–around 65º–would make it even more sure-footed descending (great for riding chunky, steep singletrack, and fully loaded riding).
Portage Dropouts rule! I love the Esker Portage dropouts. They’re a modular, forward-compatible design (i.e. if you have an older Japhy or Hayduke, the new T-Type Transmission Portage dropouts will most likely mount right up, no worries). In the future, Esker might even be convinced to make a super boost pair so you can properly run a 3″ 29er tire too, although no promises there! (I’d love to see this!)
Grant was right. Again, it’s just nice acknowledging one of the pioneers of non-competitive bike geometry and validating his theory about chainstay length and the “W-Factor.”
Yet, I did have some moments of critique with the Esker Hayduke LVS…
Donk wheel. When you add weight to the rear and hit a ledge or a rock/root, you definitely feel it more on your feet at the pedals. I jokingly called this sensation “donk wheel” while we were out on the overnighter. The right tire pressure helps alleviate this sensation, as would a tire insert, but the rear end is pretty stiff. I imagine since Esker didn’t want it to be a noodle at that length, they stiffened it up a bit. It’s just not the “leaf spring” sensation I was expecting.
It is long. The length of this bike can max out a lot of bike racks. My 1-Up rack had one notch engaged on the front wheel, and two in the rear, which isn’t the safest. This wasn’t an issue for me during the review period since I ride from my front door and never drive to trails. But if you do drive to ride trails, you should check the wheelbase of your rack to ensure it will fit. Or if you have a van or a pickup bed, it’s a lot easier to transport that way. That said, clearly the size XL fits a 1-Up rack just fine, which is all I really need!
It is fair to note: All these size-related qualms apply to the size XL only as I have no experience with the other sizes.
It requires two chains. No, not that 2 Chainz. Two bicycle chains.
Oddly-placed rack mounts. Yes, the Hayduke LVS has “26 attachment points for adventure accessories, and M6 threaded rack mounts built into the frame for the attachment of Molle Rackwald, Esker’s proprietary direct-fit rack.” – from Esker’s website. But the seatstay mounts are in awkward locations for standard racks. You’ll have to get creative with longer rack struts. Or just run a butt-rocket-style saddle pack as Parker did. Personally, I’ll do everything and anything to avoid using a saddle pack. I disdain them.
TL;DR and the Take-Away
Longtail mountain bikes first arose from necessity, a byproduct of the available equipment. They were shortly lost to technological advancements in frame design and the desire to make bikes that rode a lot faster, yet they never faded away completely. Lots of framebuilders have experimented with longtail designs over the years. Yet we rarely get to see production bikes in this phenotype unless it’s a dedicated cargo bike–like the Surly Big Dummy or Salsa Blackborow–The Hayduke LVS is a mass-produced, titanium chassis, trail-ready hardtail in stock size options. After riding it for several weeks, loaded and unloaded, I dare say it is superior to a “standard tail” Hayduke for several reasons.
But the LVS is not without a few notable shortcomings; it is long! The LVS is awkward in tight home or apartment spaces (not to mention bike shops without a lot of floor space!), and my size XL gave me pause the one time I had to transport it on a car rack. But, it is a sure-footed ally on the trail and fire roads alike. It climbs incredibly well and is lightning fast on the descents. Mobbing it fully loaded on singletrack with your buddies sure is a lot of fun! I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun on a 130mm travel hardtail before!
While it falls into the N+1 category, it could easily replace your dedicated touring mountain bike and standard hardtail if you are an adventurous person who likes a challenge! Or if you spend more time camping from your bike than riding it unloaded, this is superior in every way to a standard hardtail. Tim from Esker literally designed this bike for touring in the Four Corners. If this bike is any indicator of what’s coming down the pipe from Esker in the future, hold onto your butts!
If I were in the market for another hardtail, I’d be buying this very bike from Esker, without a doubt.
- Climbs incredibly well, loaded and unloaded.
- Touring add-ons for days—26 dedicated touring mounts! Plus, a bolt-on Cedaero frame bag(s)!
- Molle Rackwald is a great name for the rear rack! Molle bags are cheap compared to bike-specific bags.
- The lightweight titanium chassis rides super smooth.
- Due to the longtail design, the 130mm front travel feels appropriate and doesn’t feel like you’ll go over the bars on tech descents.
- Esker Portage dropouts could be machined to make the bike super boost in the future. Neat!
- It’s long! Storing it indoors and transporting it in a car can be difficult.
- Rear-end impacts are accentuated and exaggerated due to the longer chainstays.
- Wheelies are very difficult.
- Needs 2 Chainz.
- Ledge drops take some re-programming.
- Rack mounts are in awkward positions for standard racks.
- Molle Rackwald is heavy, at 5 lbs 13 oz
- The LVS is not always in stock. There’s a pre-order now, so get on it because it might not live long-term in the Esker catalog!