With a Raleigh UK-based design team behind it, the 2009 Diamondback range is looking better than ever. The Axis boasts Shimano XT gears and brakes, a lockout option on the fork and a frame that uses up-to-date hydroforming techniques in pursuit of an ideal combination of high strength and low weight.
Ride & handling: Confident at speed and can cope with a little clumsiness
We couldn’t find anything to moan about after riding the Axis, even though our test took us through the filthiest woodland sessions we’ve subjected ourselves to for years. It’s a bike that does everything competently without showing any particular flair or personality in one area.
The Axis can take a bit of trail aggression or clumsiness in its stride. The 130mm (5.12in) fork allows you to approach rocky sections of trail with a bit more gusto than you would on a bike with a 100mm (3.9in) fork and the frame geometry is well configured to encourage a confident ride posture. It places a fair bit of weight over the fork, allowing the rear wheel to skip rather than slide out.
It’s this ability to carry speed confidently that sets the Axis apart from shorter forked brethren, and it’s especially relevant on tricky downhills where an ability to maintain flow through speed makes a big difference to the overall ride experience. In a nutshell, the confident handling of the Axis makes trail taming easier than similar but shorter forked rivals.
Frame: Stout but light, with good clearances and some practical touches
While the distinctive graphics are a personal love/hate thing, there’s no doubting the build expertise behind the Axis frame. Stout but light tubes dominate, with some clever hydroforming getting a look in, especially the clever shaping and flared ends on the top and down tubes.
Weld contact areas are taken to the maximum and the head tube area is sturdily reinforced to resist the stresses of frontal impacts. The down tube has Crud Catcher mudguard bosses, a nod to the bike’s UK design heritage, and there are two pairs of bottle cage bosses.
The back end has loads of mud and heel space around fancy manipulated seat and chainstays but the seat clamp quick-release slot faces rearward rather than forward, an oversight on a frame that’s going to be barraged with spray from the rear wheel.
Equipment: Superb fork and faultless XT kit
The Recon 335 is one of the best offerings from RockShox in this price category. We welcome the lockout lever on top of the right hand leg and the air action is well controlled with good rebound damping adjustment.
The full XT gear and brakeset is the highlight here, with a Truvativ Stylo GXP crankset completing the drivetrain. The shifting was crisp and we like the modulation adjustment potential of the XT brakes. We also like the removal/refit ease of Shimano Center Lock rotor attachments, and a 180mm rotor up front gives a boost to braking power.
The Axis wheels aren't especially light but WTB’s Dual Duty XC rims are tough and Shimano LX hubs have a good reputation. Continental’s Mountain King tyres roll fast, rarely block and offer reasonable grip, though a higher profile tyre would be preferable on the back to add a bit of comfort to a noticably stiff frame. The rest of the finishing parts are fine and we appreciated the locked on grips and 25in bar width.