Because forks are so often the major letdown on bikes around the £500 mark, we’re always happyto see a RockShox model fitted. The Dart 2 on the Reponse is by no means a great fork, but it’s slightly better controlled than most other entry-level offerings and that considerably boosts off-road confidence.
A quick look at the rest of the componentry confirms that Diamondback have put a lot of thought into creating a proper mountain bike here. The frame is good enough to warrant future parts upgrades and the only reminder of the low price is the trouser guard on the crankset.
Ride & handling: Relaxed geometry and wide handlebar give a big boost to riding confidence
Unusually for a bike at this price, the Diamondback instantly felt just right on any trail. Initially, it’s the fast-rolling tread of the tyres and sub-30lb (13.6kg) weight that you tend to notice, because that makes an obvious difference on climbs and in acceleration.
Then, as soon as you hit the rocky, rooty stuff, you’ll notice that the generous (686mm) handlebar width offers you massive confidence and control, especially when the going gets rough on fast descents. This combines with acceptably well controlled fork performance – albeit still not well enough damped to make you forget about the bike’s low price.
The rangey and efficient ride position and relaxed but never sluggish steering combine to make the Diamondback feel at ease on all terrain types. We’ve seen slightly better equipped bikes than this for £530, but we’ve very rarely come across one that feels this good to ride.
The frame’s well worth treating to eventual componentry upgrades, but the parts it comes with are already good enough for more than just casual jaunts. This is a bike that we were happy taking on the more demanding test routes that we usually reserve for more advanced – and more expensive – bikes. That’s as good a recommendation as you’ll get for the Response.
Frame: Nicely designed chassis, well worth upgrading the parts on eventually
Hydroformed tubing plays a major part in aluminium frame technology these days. Every tube on the Response is totally different in profile. The fat biaxially-ovalised down tube is rib-flared into the head tube for extra resistance to frontal impacts. A coffin shaped sloping top tube flares into the down tube for maximum weld contact area.
The chainstays are box-sectioned and the seatstays wiggle out around the tyre then back in for extra heel clearance. The seat clamp slot faces forward, out of the spray, and Crud Catcher mudguard bosses under the down tube are indicative of the fact that the frame detail has been thought out in the UK. Rack bosses and two sets of bottle bosses extend the Response’s all-rounder appeal.
Equipment: Decent fork for the price, plus powerful discs and comfy saddle
The RockShox Dart 2 fork should offer 100mm (3.9in) of steel coil-sprung travel, but the full 100mm is almost impossible to achieve. Still, the rebound is a lot better controlled than many other budget forks and the spring preload dial on top of the left-hand leg lets you stiffen or soften the force needed to get the fork on the move. Despite its lack of lockout, this is probably the best fork to go for on a bike at this price.
Some bikes around £500 offer nine sprockets at the back, but most offer eight. The 8x3 setup on the Response gives a wide enough range of gears for almost any terrain and the Shimano Alivio gear mechs/shifters performed well throughout the test, as did the hefty steel-ringed Truvativ crankset after a couple of middle ring chain slips on the first ride. Quad’s hydraulic disc brakes are among the most powerful and best modulated available on bikes at this price.
The tough 36-spoke wheels might be overkill for some, but again they’re pointing to the fact that Diamondback obviously expect the Response to be ridden hard from time to time. The WTB MotoRaptor treads are grippy in both the wet and the dry as well as being reasonably fast-rolling. All the finishing componentry is good-quality stuff, with the well-padded WTB Rocket V saddle adding the extra edge of comfort that’s always welcome on a stiff aluminium chassis.