The Response Sport was introduced to the UK shortly after the whole range was launched. There is a US version with different ﬁnishing kit. You won’t ﬁnd many £500 bikes with 27 Shimano Deore gears, Shimano disc brakes and a RockShox fork. While the Dart 2 is basic compared to more costly RockShox forks, its controlled rebound sets it apart from the more clunky rebounds of many rival forks on £500 bikes.
The nine-speed rear gears and hydraulic disc brakes mean it’s more future proof than some of its price rivals. Add that to conﬁdent handling on all types of terrain and you have a bike that we’d recommend to anyone with trail ambition. Beefy tyres, strong wheels and a wide handlebar add to the appeal, but also make it harder work than some other bikes if you spend a lot of your time on blacktop.
Ride & handling: Behaves itself on the all-condition trails that often challenge budget bikes
We had to adjust the front mech way higher than its recommended clamp spot to get clean gear shifts, and the rear gear mech knocks on the underside of the chainstay when descending on bumpy terrain in the big chainring. Apart from that, the Sport is a fun bike to ride on any terrain type. We have seen better cranksets on £500 bikes, but Shimano brakes and gears are efﬁcient once you’ve got them set up and the ﬁnishing kit is decent quality.
You’ll notice the drag of the big grippy treads and hefty 36-spoked wheels on the uphills and in acceleration but they add to conﬁdence on rough descents, as does the relaxed frame geometry, wide handlebar and well controlled fork rebound. The Diamondback’s hard hitting trail credentials set it apart from a lot of other £500 bikes we’ve tested.
While the back end of the frame is fairly harsh over rough terrain when you stay sitting, the padded saddle and big treads take the edge off bumps and the soft rebound of the fork gives the conﬁdence to hover over the bike using bent knees and elbows to maintain a steady rhythm as you nip and dip across twists and bumps. Steering is reassuringly neutral, in that you’re hardly aware of it, across high and low-speed terrain.
Frame & equipment: RockShox Dart 2 fork boosts ride conﬁdence
Diamondback bikes are distributed by Raleigh in the UK, and the ‘made for the UK market’ aspect shows itself in under-down tube Crud Catcher bosses, generous mud clearances and tyres that work well in poor trail conditions. A wide riser bar, big proﬁle grippy tyres, soft saddle and relaxed frame geometry all add the sort of comfort that will boost the ride conﬁdence of someone who’s a relative beginner to rough trail riding.
A lot of bikes at this price make compromises to off-road ability in order to double up as utilitarian workhorses. The Response Sport’s concession is luggage rack bosses. The frame is straightforward in construction, with neutral geometry and hydroforming in the main tubes to boost stiffness and crash resistance without adding excessive weight. All-in weight is 31lb without pedals so it’s no lightweight.
Ride comfort is left principally to soft saddle padding, the tyres and the fork. The RockShox Dart 2 theoretically offers 100mm of compression but it’s hard to get more than about 70mm even on the biggest hits. It’s not really a fork designed for aggressive riding and the lockout is basic and clunky but we prefer the rebound control to most other forks on bikes at this price, because it’s controlled rather than simply bouncing back like a loaded spring.
If you can ﬁnd a bike with 27 gears at this price, go for it. You might not feel a lot of difference on the trail but you’ll be getting a bike with a better quality set of gears that should serve you well for a little longer. Look for downgrades elsewhere though, here the crankset was the obvious one. The 2.25in CST Caballero treads are a drag on Tarmac but add to poor condition trail traction conﬁdence, as well as comfort, something many £500 MTBs lack because of heavier duty frames and basic contact points.
A wide, in this case 27in, handlebar can have a big impact on the way you’ll feel about the handling of a bike when you’re powering through twisty, bumpy singletrack. You can also tweak the back-sweep of a bar like this to give you the precise hold feel you prefer.