Diamondback’s Knucklebox bikes have been around for a while, and it shows in the slightly tall geometry. The Mission has often struggled with its weight as a trail bike, but for 2012 it’s been refocused in a more overtly downhill direction, with strong, top-value kit. A very good move, we think.
Frame & equipment: Evolved frame for extra stiffness
The US-designed Diamondback frameset (originally called The Goat) is something of a cult classic among big terrain/small budget riders on the other side of the Atlantic. The Mission frame now has a tapered head tube, ISCG-spec chainguide tabs and an always-good-to-see 142x12mm screw-through axle on the end of its stout rear stays, to improve an already solid stiffness rating.
The wheel path is a simple arc, but the super-broad Knucklebox triangular flip link gives great control via a long-stroke (63mm) Fox shock, really letting the Mission chassis eat up the terrain.
For 2012, the complete UK bikes are ﬁnally equipped to make the most of it too, rather than focusing on ultimately fairly futile weight-saving on the heavy frame. The fat-legged 160mm Fox 36 fork is a great match for the frame – it’s a big step up from the shorter, twangier and lighter forks we’ve used in the chassis before. It wasn’t the smoothest unit we’ve ridden, but they’re simple to lube properly to release potential plushness, and have a super-strong and accurate structure.
There’s an appropriately wide-barred and stubby-stemmed cockpit controlling it, for a power-assisted feel. Big, seriously surefooted Stick E compound Kenda tyres on broad, burly wheels mean no backing off in boulder ﬁelds or corners.
The transmission is less important on a gravity bike, but this Race Face/SRAM mix works well enough through cleanly routed cables, winching the 14.9kg (33lb) weight around. The only equipment downers are the very wooden and uncommunicative Hayes brakes, though there is power there, which you’ll realise as they eventually lock up and totally surprise you.
Ride & handling: Shines on the downhills it’s designed for
At nearly 15kg (33lb) the Mission is fairly heavy, but that’s fair for a serious all-mountain machine at this price. The Knucklebox also pedals well for a long-travel setup, meaning the bike winches uphill on its sticky tyres as well as you could reasonably hope for.
Once up top, there’s very little to stop the Mission. Both front and rear suspension do a great job of soaking up big single hits, sustaining speed through rock heaps and dealing with stutter bumps. There’s no over-travel, wallow or twang – it remains precise and predictable whatever you throw it at. With gravity powering it, you find that weight means it doesn’t get thrown off line or bullied by the trail easily. Consequently, it’s fast.
Combined with the stiffness and high traction tyres that means a much straighter, more controlled and faster exit from big root sections, moguls or rock gardens – particularly if you get your weight low to push it through.
While the 67-degree head angle sets up a relatively stable and conﬁdent front end, the frame is a little shorter and noticeably taller than the latest low-slung all-mountain machines. Combined with the clunky fork on our sample that meant we had to deliberately squash it down into corners to get the best out of the tyres.
Once you’ve twigged that though, the stiffness and traction tenacity through corners is very impressive and lets you totally commit into the belly of berms as your eyes strain for the exit. Fitting a wider ﬂat bar would deﬁnitely be a decent aggro upgrade though.
Apart from the reasonably powerful but numb feeling brakes, nothing about our test sessions on the Diamondback suggests it wouldn’t be happy on an alpine holiday either.
The Mission is a lot of bike to lug around, but DBR have finally accepted that fact and specced it appropriately. For 2012 they’re making the most of the bike’s considerable strength, stiffness and big-hit capability, and doing it at a cracking price.
If you’re a proper black run bomber, freeride/DH play-biker or regular Alp visitor, the Mission is an absolute bargain.