Diamondback XSL Elite £1999.99

Decent but uninspiring trail ride

BikeRadar score 3/5

Its simple frame has been evolving for a while and it’s carrying kit to kill for, but the Diamonback XSL Elite still feels docile rather than dynamic on the trail. Even the best forks and components can’t elevate basic performance above an affable average.

Ride & handling: Poor climbing and acceleration, but good traction and stability

The Elite is stiffer than previous XSLs we’ve ridden, but flex in the swingarm is obvious from the start. It only took a couple of rides for that to develop into a noticeable side-to-side knock, too. Add high weight for its cost and slow tyres, and neither climbing nor acceleration speed comes naturally.

On the plus side, that tyre traction – and the screw-through 20mm axle on the RockShox Revelation fork – helps it on wet, twisty technical descents, and while it slurs rather than carves, the long back end acts as a stabilising drag anchor.

That means you’re rarely worried about losing the front end or getting lobbed over it, even if you’re riding right over the bars to get the best from the fork.

Capable shock and predictable swingarm action means you can straightline bigger stuff without much bother and steering geometry is okay too. The XSL needs a wider bar to exploit its fork advantage though.

Frame: Wobbly welding and flexy back end are out of place on a £2k bike

A convex head tube swallows the integrated headset, while the top and down tubes are hydroformed into an octagonal ‘kite’ cross section. The latter flares at either end for increased weld area at the junctions and the top tube also deepens to the rear.

The oversized main pivot is punched through the down tube just ahead of the big ring, and the rectangular chainstays and seatstays extend back from the 3D forged and machined front of the swingarm piece, before ending in thick-cut cantilevered dropouts.

The seizure-stopping, forward-facing seat slot, Crud Catcher mudguard mounts under the down tube and internal swingarm gear routing are all obvious British design cues.

There’s no bottle mount though, and while the alignment is okay, the welding is wobbly in places and the boxy swingarm front end looks more like a kid’s shape sorter than the centrepiece of a £2,000 bike.

Equipment: Excellent spec for the money

With Shimano and RockShox prices rising, the XT/SLX stop/go highlights and Revelation Maxle Lite forks look even better value for money.

WTB and FSA finishing kit is decent quality too, although the slow tyres and narrow handlebar are a definite mismatch.

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