DiamondBack might not currently have the profile of other high value brands such as Giant, Saracen, GT and Mongoose, but bikes like the new Apex look set to put them firmly on the map. This ready to rage bike is certainly very impressive for punch per pound.
average, it's a belter
DiamondBack's all-new 'All Mountain' frameset is yet another chassis that sports blown and squashed hydroform tubes. Flared sections take the place of separate welded gussets at the head and seat tube end of the top and down tube, while an integrated headset keeps things neat up front. Out back, the straight gauge, A-frame disc specific seatstays meet neatly pocketed forged dropouts, while the chainstays twist from a deep blade near the bottom bracket for maximum tyre clearance to a flatter, springier profile alongside the wheel. You get twin bottle cages, a Crud Catcher mount and QR seat post collar too - although the slot faces backwards, so beware corrosion from wheel spray.
In size terms, the Apex is relatively long for a hardcore hardtail with the same top tube length as most XC bikes. The short stem and supple frame keep things from getting too stretched and snapping your back on the rough stuff, though.
Which pitches us straight into describing the ride. With the long frame and what must be fairly thin wall tubes - given the overall weight of the bike - it does a great job of soaking up sharp step edges, rocks and other debris. This makes it a surprisingly comfortable bike to hammer through the rough, although it can get slightly whippy and out of shape if you're trying to wrench it from one line to another or trying to cross cut the natural grain of the trail.
Its low weight certainly helps overall agility, acceleration and climbing, with the chunky WTB treads digging deep to claw their way up most things, but we had real problems with the Manitou Splice Super fork.
The bike was a pre-production sample and came with a super soft main spring which dived horrifically when turning in or braking, slamming straight to the stops with the slightest provocation. This made the already sharp steering really treacherous. DB assure us this will be sorted on production models though, in which case you can expect up to 130mm of smooth, easily adjustable travel. Steering with the 75mm stem is still on the rapid side of things though, so we'd nudge the saddle forwards on its rails for a bit more slippery cornering authority.
If the forks are sorted, you'll get the benefit of great best value kit. The Truvativ cranks are decent enough and the full suite of LX is super slick. While our sample bike was Rapid Rise, DB assure us that production versions will get conventional shifters for an easier multiple downshift on stop/go terrain. The LX brakes are also far softer feeling and more subtly controlled than the Hayes competition. You'll need to replace the resin pads with sintered pads ASAP to counter rapid wear though, and a 180mm or even 200mm front rotor upgrade would certainly benefit the occasionally underpowered braking. No complaints about the surefooted WTB Moto Raptor tyres though, and the Alex rims and Shimano hubs as reliable and tough as ever.
We knew this was a pre-production sample before we got it, so we'll give DBR the benefit of the doubt on the soggy forks. With those sorted, the Apex is an impressively smooth and agile frame that makes mincemeat of tight singletrack and long rides alike. Kit and componentry is excellent for the money too, and even the tyres are spot on. It's not the tightest and stiffest bike if you're a jumper or a generally brutal, drop hungry rider, but for whipping along technical trails faster than the average XC bike, it's a belter.