Diamondback unveiled a prototype of the Mason, a slack, trail-oriented 29er hardtail, at last year’s Interbike show. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, so the company decided to make the Mason a production model for 2013.
There’s an increasing number of trail-oriented 29er hardtails available. But with its 66.5-degree head tube angle, 16.75in chainstays and 140mm-travel fork, the Mason is in a class of its own in terms of suspension travel and slack head tube angle.
On paper, this might seem like a recipe for a bike that only handles well when pointed downhill. Even Diamondback-sponsored rider Eric Porter was skeptical of the practicality of a big-wheeled hardtail with so much travel and such slack angles. He quickly came to appreciate its handling, though, saying “it rides like a dirt jump bike on the trails”.
On dirt, the Mason’s ride is quite spirited. The Fox TALAS 34 fork allows riders to dial down the 140mm of front suspension to a more manageable 110mm for extended climbs.
We found that the Mason handled just fine in the 140mm mode on the trails at Bootleg Canyon, Nevada. It’s no cross-country racer but it’s far from a pig when the path trends upward – the front end tracked predictably, and the wide handlebar/short stem combination kept the steering quick.
A 40mm stem and a 740mm handlebar keep the slack front end under control: a 40mm stem and a 740mm handlebar keep the slack front end under control Josh Patterson/Future Publishing
The 40mm stem and 740mm handlebar on the Mason
On descents and rolling sections of trail, the slack front end and ample front suspension allowed the Mason to plow through almost everything in its way, while the short chainstays gave the Mason a playful feel missing from many 29ers.
Gravity riders looking for an everyday bike, and those who enjoy all-mountain riding but appreciate the simplicity of a hardtail, might find the Mason to their liking.
The bike will be available this November, at US$2,600 for a complete model. A frame-kit option will be available as well, for about US$800 – it will include a headset, Kindshock LEV dropper seatpost, MRP direct-mount 1x chainguide and a 142×12 rear hub with Maxle.