Diamondback bikes have been around in the UK for a long time. Although they’ve never hit the big time in terms of popularity, many riders cut their mountain biking teeth on one of the brand’s hardtails. The Apex is a long-standing Diamondback mid-ranger. In 2011 form it boasts a hydroformed alu chassis, 10-speed transmission and an air-sprung fork – all at a price that should have the competition worried.
The Apex does tick most of the right boxes but never really comes alive the way we’d like it to. Still, it’s undoubtedly good value and hard-hitting riders on a budget should seriously consider this bike.
Ride & handling: Tidy handling makes for a great trail companion
Credit where it’s due: Diamondback’s design team has nailed the Apex’s geometry. A roomy top tube, just-so angles and stubby stem deliver a ride position that’s relaxed when you want it to be… and instantly flickable when you don’t. There’s enough space to get stretched out on long climbs for efficient forward progress, making day-long excursions less of a chore than you might imagine on such a long-forked bike.
On the other hand, the compact front end makes chucking the Apex around at speed – whether through choice or necessity – a pleasure. Minor spec niggles and a slightly cheap feel to some components take some of the shine off, though.
Frame: UK-speciﬁc design makes sense
When you’re designing around the needs of a 130mm (5.1in) fork you want to end up with a frame that’s strong enough to withstand some abuse – whether intentional or not. Hydroformed top and down tubes feature chunky built-in box section gussets where extra strength is needed and thin walls where it isn’t, shaving weight and adding some ride quality in the process.
The other mainstay of cutting-edge long travel design – a tapered head tube – is missing, although it’s not an omission that’s worth worrying about. Out back, the stays carve a sinuous path from the seat tube to the dropout, leaving enough mud room to run a decent-width tyre even on filthy trail days. There’s even a set of Crud Catcher mounts under the down tube, betraying the Apex’s UK-designed roots and adding a dose of welcome mud-friendly practicality.
Equipment: Bargain 10-speed transmission but brakes that bind
The RockShox Tora 302 air-sprung fork works well for the money. The headline specs – 10-speed and air – are great, and RaceFace finishing kit adds a touch of class. You don’t get something for nothing, though. Our test bike’s Quad brakes came badly set up but, even after 30 minutes of fiddling, we couldn’t prevent the rotors from dragging on the pads – on both front and rear.
More workshop time would probably sort this out, but when there are brakes on the market that take 30 seconds to set up it’s frustrating having to spend so much time wrenching rather than riding. We also didn’t like the cheap-feeling quick-releases. The one on the seatpost was so poor that we had to resort to using an Allen key to stop the post sliding, making the quick release too tight to release by hand and rendering it rather pointless.