On paper the Diamondback Response looks like a good bet with its RockShox XC fork, 27-speed Shimano Deore gears and Shimano disc brakes. But it suffers from a few downgrades, presumably to make price-room for those highlights, and its heavy wheels and tyres make it a dull ride. You’d need to spend a little money on upgrades to make it a decent workhorse.
Ride & handling: A confusing mix of upgrades and downgrades makes for a weighty bike
The combination of its 15.1kg (33.5lb) weight and leg-hatingly draggy tyres means the Response can’t really live up to its name off road. It feels sluggish compared to other bikes at this price. You feel it on the uphills more than anywhere, but even initial acceleration and handling are affected.
It’s stable, but even the well- behaved fork can’t prevent it feeling dull until you can get it up to speed – preferably with the help of a hill. Once there, it trundles along nicely. The fork can deal with a fair amount of punishment, leaving only the constant clunk of the rear derailleur on the underside of the chainstay to irritate when the going gets rough.
A better crankset and lighter, livelier wheels and tyres would make this a much better bike. As it is, it’s a confusing mix of impressive and cheap, and heavy too. The deep block tread of the tyres doesn't help, but has the advantage of gripping the ground where faster-rolling tyres don't.
Frame & equipment: Decent fork but budget-compromised ﬁnishing parts
The Response frame is a curvy aluminium offering with hydroformed tubes creating an interesting mix of shapes, with big weld contact areas for added strength. Tyre room is generous but there’s just one set of bottle cage bosses and no rack mounts, which is odd on a bike that’s bound to appeal to a lot of riders looking for utility-all-rounder usage.
It’s good to see a RockShox fork on a bike at this price. We achieved its promised 100mm of travel – something that’s not always possible on budget forks – and although it's a bit fluttery over heavy-duty terrain and when braking hard, it offers a much better controlled rebound action than most. It also has a lockout lever that leaves a smidge of useful movement.
Other pluses are Shimano’s Deore 27-speed gears and hydraulic disc brakes, but unfortunately the obvious upgrades don’t quite make up for the obvious downgrades. The crankset is a functional but hefty affair with a plastic trouser guard that, like an oil tanker taking a short cut, will snap in half at the ﬁrst sign of rocks. We continually suffered chain suck in the granny ring as well – to the point where the chain jammed then twisted, and we had to remove a link to carry on. Hardly ideal.
The deep-rimmed wheels and tyres (according to the Diamondback website it should have Schwalbe’s Smart Sam tyres, not the Meghnas of our test bike) are heavy and draggy in acceleration, only making up for that via the deep block tread pattern that grips tenaciously to muddy climbs. The handlebar, stem and saddle do the job but the seatpost is a very basic (and heavy) steel-clamped model.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.