One ride to rule them all. That may have been the refrain playing in the heads of Will Hudson and Brian Szykowny when the two lifelong friends got together to start a bike brand, combining their names to form the word Hudski.
The dream? A bike that could cruise city streets as easily as it could mountain trails. The thinking? A lot of stuff that’s awesome for a mountain bike could be great for a road bike too. The result? The Hudski Doggler, which just about gets there.
In truth, the bike is a single platform for three different builds — City, Gravel and Mountain — but they essentially exist on a spectrum, with major distinguishing factors being the sweep of the handlebars, the type of rims and tires and the frame geometry.
I’ve been test riding the City edition here in New York, and it basically feels like someone threw a suit and tie on a mountain bike — in a good way. Even this refined version borrows liberally from the off-road world, and the takeaways I’m about to share tend to concern qualities all three iterations of this $1,999 beast possess. One ride to rule them all indeed.
What We Like
Long and light platform
As a mountain biking fan, I dig the geometry of this bike, which supports a relaxed, upright riding position that makes cruising around the city comfortable and fun. It's also super light weight: an aluminum frame and carbon fork help keep the City and Gravel versions at 24.2 pounds and the Mountain one at 24.9. The shape and weight combined leaves me unable to resist the urge to hop on and off just about every curb I see. The childlike joy of rambunctious go-anywhere biking instantly returns, much to the mild annoyance of my riding buddies.
A year ago, GP documented why and how the 1x drivetrain was taking over the mountain and gravel bike worlds — and daydreamed about it migrating over to road bikes. Well here we have it, and it's glorious. Just a flick of a thumb and forefinger lets me toggle through 12 rear chainrings and a massive gear range, more than enough to handle the climbs and descents most city streets and singletrack trails present. The convenience of controlling all the gearing with one hand can't be understated, especially when I'm, say, squeezing between a cab and a delivery truck as I bomb down Ninth Avenue.
A related mountain bike breakthrough we salute is the mighty dropper post, a feature we've been itching to see the road world adopt. So it's rad that Hudski snuck one into all three versions of the Doggler. They sourced from one of our favorite brands, too: Pacific Northwest Components, or PNW. Having a dropper post is pretty indispensable for mountain biking, as it allows you to quickly get the seat out of your way during steep, technical descents. But it's just as fun to drop the seat in the city. I find myself using it all the time to get low and fast as I coast down the backside of bridges and some of the city's sweeter downhills, like up around 130th Street in Harlem.
Any regular city rider will tell you that the bane of such an existence is roads seemingly designed to flatten tires. With potholes, broken glass and general urban debris being staples of a daily commute, you'd be a fool to hit the streets without packing a patch kit, a 15 wrench and a pump. I don't worry about it with this bike though. Generous Maxxis Grifter 29x2.0 tires ensure flats are the least of my worries. I can literally roll right through potholes with these tires; dirt and gravel are totally crushable too. The frame and fork allow swapping in the Mountain editions 27.5-inch rims and tires, too, should the true off-road urge strike.
So many mounts
With bikepacking on the brain, Hudski outfitted the Doggler with plenty of mounts to accommodate water bottles, locks and luggage. There are two bolts on the seat tube, three on the downtube and four on either side of the fork, plus rack mounts, so you can load up as much as you can possible carry across the city or far out on the trails.
Watch Out For
The standard bars here are high risers with a 27-degree sweep. (The gravel and mountain versions are just about flat.) Interestingly, Hudski has provided an option for customization: remove the handgrips, and you'll find little rulers printed right on the bars, enabling you to have them cut to your exact specifications. However, if you don't take that step, you'll have bars that are incredibly comfortable — and insanely wide for city riding. As someone who likes to dart through traffic, I find myself dangerously close to taking out rearview mirrors whilst making moves on narrow or crowded streets.
Versatility adds up
As mentioned, you can modify this bike to make it better equipped to optimize it for other kinds of riding. As is it can definitely handle some off-road action, but swapping in mountain bike tires would definitely make a difference on the trails. But by my calculations, the rims and tires on the Mountain edition will cost you upwards of $300. Considering the base price is already $1,999, that's hardly chump change.
It can't do everything
In my testing, the City edition of the Doggler is a pretty fantastic commuter that can handle a bit of off-road activity. My sense is that the Mountain edition is a competent trail bike that can also ride on the street. As much as these bikes do span a spectrum, however, it is cut off at both ends. The City edition can't compete with a standard drop bar road bike — even a cheap one — for pure speed. And even with its 1x drivetrain and dropper post, the Mountain edition has no suspension, so you can't exactly downhill on this thing.
Is It For Me?
Great question. If you only have room in your life/living situation for a single bike — and want something that can at the very least handle a wide variety of surfaces and types of riding, the Doggler is pretty tough to beat. Just assess what type of riding you do the most to decide between the three different — but not that different — versions.
I started by referencing The Lord of the Rings, and I'll end by paraphrasing Jerry Maguire: I love the Doggler for the bike it wants to be. And I love it for the bike it almost is. Seriously though. I am a huge fan of the ambition and innovation of this bike, and for what Hudson and Szykowny did not lose sight of when creating it: the simple joy of riding. From the very first moment, the Doggler is fun as hell to ride. Together with all the technical features, that factor makes this bike a big winner in my book. At the same time, I can't wait to see what these boys come up with next.