The Response Comp is third from top in Diamondback’s UK-designed hardtail range. Its relaxed angles and 'bring it on' attitude will suit more aggressive riders but the RockShox Dart fork soon shows its limitations in this long-travel guise.
Ride & handling: Entertaining and conﬁdent handling but long, skinny fork is a bit twangy
A 120mm-travel (4.7in) fork, short stem and big bar is a popular setup with riders assembling their own bikes from frames, but it’s an overlooked style among mainstream manufacturers. Perhaps because the UK is about the only place where such bikes have a following.
That front end setup and relatively relaxed angles make for a lively yet stable ride. And thanks to a long-ish top tube (for the bike’s size), you’ve still got room to stretch out. The Response Comp climbs happily too. Its enthusiasm is blunted somewhat by the heavy wheels and the Dart fork, of which quite a lot starts to be asked when you’re pressing on.
The Dart is RockShox’s most basic fork, with small-diameter chromoly stanchions, a coil spring and simple damping. Adjustments are available for spring preload, rebound damping and there’s a lockout lever too. It's not the stiffest fork at the best of times, and in its 120mm-travel incarnation it can be distractingly twangy.
In itself, that wouldn’t be a big problem, but ﬂex in the fork means binding in bushings and compromised suspension action. Slightly ironically, it’s the Response Comp’s gung-ho demeanour and stiff chassis that highlight the fork’s shortcomings – if the layout and geometry didn’t encourage hard riding, you’d be less likely to hit the limits of the fork. The Diamondback remains a rewarding ride though.
Frame: Purposeful looks and features that will please wet weather riders
Diamondback’s hydroformed aluminium frame is used on several bikes in the range – you’ll ﬁnd it on the £1,399 Axis too. It’s a clean-looking chassis, with prominent but not over-the-top tube shaping. The tubes have approximately triangular cross-sections and there’s a slight curve and a ﬂare at the head tube/down tube junction, but it’s nowhere near as curvy as some.
The main distinguishing feature is the ‘hump’ on top of the rear end of the seat tube. It’s a visual echo of the ﬂared down tube and also provides a handy place for a Response Comp decal. At the back, the stays follow a double curve for maximum tyre- and foot-clearance. The heel-clearing effect of the swoopy seatstay is somewhat diminished by the rear gear cable, which runs in a straight line where the stay curves and ends up out in space, but that’s a niggle.
All the cables run under the top tube. Up front, a fat, straight head tube takes a semi-integrated headset. There are plenty of neat detail touches on the frame, including a forward-facing seat clamp slot and Crud Catcher bosses under the down tube. You get plenty of room around the tyres too. It’s worth noting that the Response Comp only comes in three sizes, so unusually short or tall riders may have to look elsewhere. Most people will be covered though.
Equipment: Good value component spec but could do with bigger tyres
The Response Comp eschews Shimano parts in favour of a SRAM transmission and Quad brakes. In many ways it’s a brave decision – keeping it wall-to-wall Shimano is a safe bet, but makes it harder to differentiate your product on the shop ﬂoor. We’ve no complaints about the performance of SRAM’s X7 parts. There’s a clear ergonomic beneﬁt to Shimano’s ﬁnger-or-thumb release lever, but X7 delivers light and accurate shifts.
Quad’s Torque disc brakes crop up on various budget bikes and, although it’s tempting to think of them as a step down from a brand such as Shimano or Avid, they’re good performers, with ample power (helped by Diamondback’s choice of a 180mm rotor up front) and good feel helping control.
According to the spec list, the Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres are 2.25in boots, but the test bike arrived with 2.1s ﬁtted. That’s good for tyre clearance, but the bigger treads would offer more grip and comfort and would be a better ﬁt for the style and attitude of the bike.
Impressively at this price, all the ﬁnishing kit is branded Race Face gear with the bar, stem and seatpost all coming from the Canadian brand. The Diamondback is noticeable for having a very short stem – 60mm on our 18in test bike. That combines with 660mm low-rise bars to yield a very contemporary, attacking ride position.