Hybrid Moments: A Hudski Doggler Review

As cyclists, we love bikes that can do more than one thing. A Swiss Army knife rather than a scalpel, if you will. So when a bike like the Hudski Doggler passes through my possession, I want to find its limits and then push through them. I’ve spent a few months riding the Doggler around Santa Fe, in and around our beloved Santa Fe National Forest, and I’m ready to spill the beans on what makes this bike so appropriate for gravel and mountain riding…

Hybrid Moments

Come on, did you really think I wasn’t going to make a Misfits reference with this one? Or take this opportunity to make a dank-ass meme? Bikes and their reviews are meant to be fun! On to the show…

“In biology, a hybrid is the offspring resulting from combining the qualities of two organisms of different varieties, species or genera through sexual reproduction.”

The term “hybrid” bike was interchangeable with “ATB” in the late 1990s when I first got into cycling (i.e. more than just cruising around on bmx bikes.) Growing up in North Carolina, a lot of the shops I went to were fascinated with what was happening west of the Rockies while relying on the limited trails in the western parts of the state. The mountains weren’t quite the same as you saw in MTB magazines and videos, but we still had singletrack trails. Tight, twisty, short, punchy singletrack trails.

Back then, ATB was used to describe department store mountain bikes to people who didn’t see mountains—at least, not like in the West—in their backyards and were curious why they needed a “mountain bike” to ride rail trails and gravel paths. In other words, ATB was a more general term used to describe a “mountain” bike for non-mountainous areas. There’s been confusion regarding both of the marketing terms “ATB” and “hybrid” ever since.

Take these anecdotes with a grain of salt because everyone has different experiences with these terms.

For instance, if you walked into a bike shop today and asked for a hybrid bike, you would not be handed a rigid mountain bike. You’d most likely receive a bike with maybe a +/-60mm suspension fork, super high stack, and riser bars to provide a more comfortable and upright riding position. Uhhh. Wait a second, that sounds like this bike… Doesn’t it? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The Doggler is not a “hybrid bike,” but it is a hybrid of sorts.

The Doggler is a non-boost flat bar gravel bike with a longer top tube, lower bottom bracket, and increased tire clearance. It has a proper stack height, a short stem, and riser bars inspired by 1970s moto handlebars used on early mountain bikes, klunkers, and mountain cruisers.

It’s actually quite genius, and as this review will layout, it is the bike that the greater bike industry has overlooked. Perhaps out of fear of being labeled a “hybrid?”

Hudski at the 2022 Sea Otter Classic and 2023 Sea Otter Classic

What Demons Made This Eleguin Abomination?

Before we jump down blindly into a loose and rocky chute of a review, let’s look at the genesis of this brand. Hudski, the word combines the founders’ names: Will Hudson and Brian Szykowny. I first met Brian when he worked at Specialized. At the time he was designing some incredibly intricate and wild paint jobs for various in-house concept bikes. If you saw Kyle from Outer Shell’s post about his PBP bike, Brian painted that fork too! He’s also got a sweet FJ60 Land Cruiser so we’ve exchanged stories and lamented owning old cars plenty. Meanwhile, Will’s education was in design and fabrication, which led the two to join forces and launch this kooky, weird but relevant and meaningful bike brand, starting with the Doggler…

One Chassis, Multiple Uses: City, Gravel, and Mountain

In a lot of ways, Hudski took the best things about gravel bikes and mountain bikes and combined them into a rigid chassis that can be built to suit various riding intentions. I.e., the terrain determines its use case:

Riding primarily in the city? Hudski makes a “City Bike” with 27.5 wheels and big, smooth tires. What about gravel? They make a “Gravel Bike” with 700x50mm tires. There’s also the model I sprung for to review; the “Mountain” bike, with 27.5 x 2.6″ tires.

What’s interesting to me is that all three configurations come with a dropper post, and it makes total sense. I love riding a dropper post bike around in a city. Especially where you have stoplights; it makes it more comfy and an overall more pleasant experience. Red light. Drop the saddle. Sit there. Green light. Pedal away, raise the saddle.

Ultimately, what you’re buying with the Doggler is the same bike with different tires.

If bikes don’t make you smile like this, you’re riding the wrong bikes!

About the Chassis Materials

Here’s where we get into a topic everyone wanted to know over the course of my review period. People slid into my DMs to get the honest truth: “How does the aluminum frame ride?” I’ll be completely transparent here. If you put me in a blind test (which would be funny on its own) and had me ride a steel frame with the same build kit and geometry and then switch to the Doggler, it would be hard to tell the difference. This aluminum frame flexes, isn’t overly stiff, rides damn well in mixed terrain, and is sure-footed in descents. … and it’s light!

Doggler Specs

  • Size XL aluminum frame, carbon fork
  • Size XL weight: 26 lbs
  • 67.5° head angle, 74° seat angle
  • Non-boost frameset: 142×12mm; 100×15mm
  • BB drop: 76mm, approx BB height 10.5″ measured with 27.5″ x 2.6″ tires
  • 450mm chainstays
  • 73mm English threaded BB
  • 27.5″ x 2.6” or 29″ x 2.25″ tire clearance
  • $2,200, as reviewed

The head badge is made from unfinished brass and will patina naturally over time, or you could mess with patina agents to achieve your own unique look…

Hudski achieves this by using double-butted top and seat tubes while relying on a 48mm diameter downtube to enable the longer top tube. If they had chosen a smaller diameter downtube, the bike would most likely be a noodle, so increasing the downtube to 48mm gives it some “squiggle stiffness” while eliminating that teeth-rattling feel many folks experienced with 1990s aluminum mountain bikes.

Then there’s the fork. Big. Beefy. The Doggler carbon fork has fat blades and generous tire clearances. It clears a 2.6″ tire with plenty of room for mud or side knobs. It felt very stiff on my first ride, but I let some air out of the front tire (from 25 psi down to around 18), and the ride quality smoothed right out.

Both the fork and the frame have touring accouterments, allowing the use of a rear rack, front rack, basket, cargo cages, fenderz, and beyond.

Hudski gives the Doggler an official tire clearance of 27.5″ x 2.6″ or 29″ x 2.0″, but people have shown me their Dogglers with a 29×2.25″ tire crammed in there.

Parts of a Whole

Built upon the reliable platform of Shimano SLX, the Doggler comes equipped with mountain gearing, flat mount brakes, Race Face cranks, a PNW dropper post, a short 50mm stem, high-rise, back swept bars, and Oury grips. It comes out of the box with inner tubes but includes everything you need to set it up tubeless.

I love that dropped non-drive-side chainstay, allowing for the flat mount to be tucked in all nice-n-neat.

Everything is bomber in this kit, and it exemplifies the current “gravel” demand of flat mount brake calipers (which, if you wanted to swap drop bars onto the Doggler, you could switch to a Shimano road/gravel lever), with a compact gear range more akin to a mountain bike. I want to see a LD stem with some dirt drop bars on one!

Yet, the wheels and fork are non-boost, so if you have an existing gravel bike or a decade-old mountain bike, chances are, the wheels from those bikes will fit the Doggler. When I asked Brian Szykowny why Hudski chose a non-boost (100mm fork, 142 frame) chassis, his response was what I suspected:

“It wasn’t long ago (about 8 years) that non-boost wheelsets were the standard on mountain bikes, and the upside to that is now you can find high-end 29er and 27.5 wheelsets at good prices on the used market. Score.”

You get all of this for $2200, ready to ride. While there are other, actual mountain bikes or gravel bikes for hundreds less from brands like Marin, Salsa, Canyon, Vitus, Nukeproof, etc, the Doggler is specced and designed to be “entry-level” in price but “intermediate” in weight. This size XL with big tires, pedals, cages, a dropper, and yeah, that cute little Moosepacks frame bag tips the scales at a mere 26 pounds. Most of those entry-level mountain bikes will be much heavier.

There’s also a new “even more entry-level” Doggler specced with Deore 12 speed, Shimano BL-MT201/BR-UR300 brakes, different crank w/ steel chainring, no dropper seatpost, for a scant MSRP of $1600.

I Like Lines and Angles, and They Do Things

Bicycle geometry is a simple construct of a scalene triangle and a rhombus. The front triangle is, in reality, a rhombus made of different angles. The head tube and seat tube angle determine a bike’s handling characteristics. Then the rear scalene triangles (seatstays and chainstays) help dial in the front triangle’s foundation. If you lengthen the rear triangle, it can make a bike less responsive. If you shorten the chainstays, suddenly, the rear end gets more twitchy.

The hitch pin to this train of thinking is the bottom bracket height. A higher bottom bracket makes the bike even twitchier, whereas a lower bottom bracket makes it more sure-footed and comfortable at high speeds.

Side note: In bicycle geometry terms, “stability” is how quickly the bike responds to the rider or terrain input. So if you abruptly turn the bars, the bike responds to this input and resituates itself under you immediately. What I’ve noticed over the years is most people think of “stable” bikes as bikes with longer wheelbases that are less responsive. In reality, a stable bike with steeper angles and a higher bottom bracket will respond to input faster. Of course, this has endless permutations, but that’s the gist. This makes talking about geometry in reviews all the more difficult.

A lot of a bike’s handling characteristics are the result of minute tweaks between chainstay length, bottom bracket drop, head angle, seat angle, and fork offset. As you can imagine, tweaking any number of these characteristics can drastically alter a bike’s behavior.

The original V1 Doggler had a higher bottom bracket and a steeper head angle. This made for a more twitchy ride quality. Kind of like a ‘cross bike with a high bottom bracket and a steeper head angle versus a road bike with a lower bottom bracket and a slacker head angle. A road bike will careen around a hairpin road, while a ‘cross bike will snap around a 180º course turn at a much slower rate of speed. Road bikes are designed for high-speed descents and ‘cross bikes for slower-speed maneuverability. Generally speaking.

This new model V2 Doggler has a lower bottom bracket, a slacker head angle (67.5°), and a steeper seat angle (74°), making the bike more comfortable at high speeds on smooth gravel roads or buffed singletrack. Honestly, when I first rode the Doggler, I immediately thought: this bike must be a blast in the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate Park. The Bay Area is where the Doggler was born, and it shows!

Ride Quality and Who’s This Bike For?

It’s not often that a bike like this comes into the bike industry. Don’t get me wrong; there are a few similar bikes in this space. The Marin DSX comes to mind, and as weird and quirky as it is, the Evil Chamois Hagar looks like a drop bar Doggler. The Doggler’s got gravel bike and mountain bike DNA with the best of both worlds and none of the social stigma of either platform. It ain’t a full-face helmet bike park elephant, nor an aero grav grav penguin. It’s a uniquely situated hybrid.

Riding the Doggler, you want to wear plain clothes, sneakers, and just pedal around town, jibbing curbs, riding slasher trails, and yeah, pedaling up that gravel road to the singletrack. I thought about this a lot as I meandered around Santa Fe, but honestly, I had the most fun riding singletrack and Forest Service roads on the Doggler.

People who I interacted with on Instagram while sharing ride photos exclaimed that they recommended the Doggler to people just getting into cycling or riders who were tired of underbiking their gravel bikes but unsure if they’d want to go all in on a proper mountain bike.

Travis penned a Dust Up on the latter point, which is somewhat counter to how I feel about “beginner” mountain bikes, but the exchange in the comments provided a compelling look into what people want from a “mountain bike” experience. I still think for most trails in the USA–trails not cut on the side of mountains–but trails in the woods, a Doggler is ideal.

Meanwhile, I feel like the Doggler is a bike for all that and more. Here I am, a 42-year-old Gen-X/Millenial, and I still love riding rigid mountain bikes for a lot of the reasons many of you express in countless comment threads here at The Radavist. Riding rigid bikes keeps my skills honed and my abilities honest. If something is too sketch, I’ll walk it. No worries. There’s no desire within me to push my rigid bikes as hard as my bikes with suspension either, which is more sustainable for other trail user interactions if I’m being quite frank.

The angles of the Doggler make it a proper “do it all” bike; it climbs steep switchback trails just as easily as it ascends mountainous doubletrack dirt roads. Descending on gravel roads, it loves to be pushed into the corner, foot out, leaned sideways (remember not to skid singletrack as it damages the trails.) Meanwhile, while on singletrack, the longer reach and riser bars put you in an engaged yet predictable steering arch. Rocky moments are gleeful, yet challenging, and buffed singletrack with brown ribbons of dirt careening around trees is where it truly comes alive. Best of all. You are engaged with the terrain. Zoom, zoom, baby. But don’t clip that rock!

On my first big “mountain” ride, as I was coasting down a traversy ridge trail, the rear Shimano freehub began to hum in tone with the cicadas. I stopped the bike, and the drone of the cicadas continued. It’s a moment that stuck with me throughout this bike review, and it’s those experiences that make mountain biking so wonderful. You are away from the cars, the cops, and the concrete, as the old Repackers used to say, but most importantly, you are moving at a unique pace that I’ve yet to experience in any other form of travel. Get out into nature and get dusty. On a bike like the Doggler, even riding to the trails is a pleasant experience.

Let me be honest with you. The Hudski Doggler, or at least the platform it represents, is what a modern “gravel bike” should be. Now, let me clarify, not a “gravel racing bike” but a “gravel bike” or that interstitial branch off the bicycle phenotype genetic tree between a drop bar road bike and a proper flat bar “mountain bike.”

What’s funny to me is if you had a framebuilder construct a Doggler copy out of steel or titanium, just about everyone reading this would want one. But that’s not what the Doggler is. It’s a $2200 (or $1600) complete bike that does every single thing you’d want from your gravel bike, but it does it better. Hands down. Better gearing. Better suited geometry. Better riding position. Better, better, bettttttahhhhhhhhhhhh!

You can ride dirt roads on this thing. You can ride singletrack. Even rocky, chunky stuff, but beware of my one qualm…

Nit Picks

No bike is perfect. Especially genre-melting, hybridized, funky, flat-out fire road skidding, kooky-looking bikes like the Doggler. None of those are critiques, mind you! Opinions on bicycle geometry are highly subjective, and no singular truth can steer a bicycle designer to perfection. And ya know what? No bicycle is perfect. The V1 of the Doggler had a higher bottom bracket, which would have made this bike more suited for our foothill trails, which tend to be rocky. Yet a steeper head angle like the V1 had would have made it too twitchy for those same trails.

The V2 Doggler, reviewed here, has a low bottom bracket. Not just low in terms of pedaling up rocky trails but low in terms of zipping around town in sandals, only to scrape your big toe on the asphalt low.

(Totally my fault for wearing sandals and pedaling hard coming out of a turn.)

Comparing bottom bracket drop is moot, but comparing bottom bracket height is perfectly appropriate. The reason for that is bottom bracket drop is determined by measuring down from the horizontal line between the rear hub and front hub. Which is great, on paper, but what if you change your tires? Or wheel diameter overall? Then what? Well, then you’re looking at bottom bracket height, which is beholden to those factors.

The size XL I reviewed in the “Mountain” spec is 76mm of bottom bracket drop. With the stock 2.6″ Maxxis Rekon tires and 27.5″ wheels, the bottom bracket height is around 10.5″ from my driveway’s concrete to the center of the bottom bracket. That means with 175mm long cranks and flat pedals, the underside of the pedal is just under 3″ from the ground. It’s hard to get an accurate measurement of this, but I used a plumb bob and framing level to approximate these measurements.

Similar bikes, like my rigid mountain bikes, have a 11 3/4″ – 12 1/4″ bottom bracket height. Two full inches of bottom bracket height means 2″ more clearance pedaling over rocks.

Yet, humans are biometric wonders and can correct riding habits from bike to bike. I only took a few rides to develop my “Doggler” modus operandi for pedaling our intermediate trails here in town. I would ratchet the cranks to position my feet accordingly and keep my pedals perfectly flat through rocky sections.

Part of the enjoyment of riding various bikes is adapting my riding style to each and offering constructive feedback and perspective. Yay, bike reviews!

If Hudski raised the bottom bracket an inch or two, the bike wouldn’t be as sure-footed on high-speed gravel descents or fast and flowy trails. The lower bottom bracket doesn’t ruin the Hudski Doggler for me; it makes it an even more fun bike to master.

Like a 6-foot-long broadsword rather than a 2-foot-long machete.


Bang for your buck, there are few bikes as well specced, well designed, and well thought out than the Doggler. While $2200 might seem like a lot of money for this bike, and sure, there are cheaper hardtails, touring bikes, or gravel bikes out there, the ride quality, weight, parts spec, and *sigh* versatility (I hate that word) is hard to match. It is a hybridization of a gravel road bike with a rigid mountain bike, borrowing the best of both worlds with a lightweight and sure-footed package.

Take it on a gravel path, singletrack, or on coffee runs, pavement tours, dirt tours, S24O, the Doggler is ready for it all, and while the bottom bracket height is a little low for my home turf, overall, it’s a competent bike that climbs predictably and descends just as well in steep terrain and is a veritable juggernaut on long gravel descents. Let. ‘er. Ripppppppppp!


  • Lightweight for the size XL with “Mountain” spec: 26 pounds.
  • Looks great! Great color options and the jet-black build kit make it a very unique-looking bike.
  • Lots of rack/cargo/basket/fender bosses
  • Modern reach numbers (long TT and short stem)
  • Specced well with a dropper, Shimano SLX 10-51 cassette, Maxxis tires, and Hudski Longhorn 16º bars
  • No toe overlap on any model or size
  • The low bottom bracket makes riding buffed singletrack and gravel descents a blast
  • Flexy, comfortable aluminum frame


  • The low bottom bracket can make riding in rocky terrain tedious
  • The Carbon fork is stiff, but once you dial in the front tire pressure, it’s less noticeable


Got a Doggler of your own? Or your input you’d like to add? Any questions? Drop them in the comments!

Thanks to Hudski for loaning me a Doggler to dork around on and scribble down these words. And a huge thanks to my good friend Kyle Klain for the action photos! You killed it! Check out more at Hudski Bikes.