The 29in-wheeled Diamondback Apex is as well equipped as any £800 bike we’ve tested. At 13.2kg (29.4lb) it’s also, relatively, very light.
Diamondback offer a few other bikes around this price in both wheel sizes – notably the £650 Ascent – but as usual the fork specification suffers as you drop down in price. The Apex has a RockShox XC30 and an excellent drivetrain.
Ride & handling: Quick to climb but harsh over rough ground
The combination of a reasonable overall weight and those fast rolling Schwalbe tyres makes the Apex feel more sprightly in acceleration and on climbs than some other big-wheelers we’ve tested, but it doesn’t feel quite as calm and confident on twisty singletrack or rough descents.
As a rolling chassis the Apex is less forgiving than some: we suspect that’s mainly a function of stiffer frame triangles, but the fork is also a little less plush and more fluttery under heavy braking.
Frame & equipment: Lightweight, with quality drivetrain and finishing kit
The Apex frame is designed with the UK in mind. This means it has loads of mudroom for ‘summer’ and Crud Catcher bosses under the down tube, for easy mudguard fitting. The head/top/down tube juncture is well reinforced and designed to keep the front end low, with the steerer washers and stem offering about an inch of up/down adjustment.
The top tube is unusually low on our 16in sample, and on the next size up too. It’s worth comparing top tube reaches with rival bikes in the shop as the top tube on our sample was slightly shorter than average for a 16in big wheeler: that will suit some riders and not others. The 18in version is closer to average.
Diamondback apex: Russell Burton/Future Publishing
The drivetrain, a triple two-piece crankset with outboard bearings and a 3×10 Shimano Deore gearset, is about as good as you’re likely to find on an £800 bike, as are the brakes – Shimano hydraulics with 180/160mm rotors on Centrelock hubs.
The RockShox XC30 splits opinions: it’s not as sturdy as an XC32, but its performance is acceptable and the lockout, preload and rebound damping all work well enough.
The wheels are tightly built, with white WTB rims, black spokes and Shimano hubs wrapped up in Schwalbe’s grippy, fast-rolling Rapid Rob 2.25in treads. The Truvativ 27in low rise bar, stem and seatpost are all decent offerings, and most riders found WTB’s Volt saddle to be comfy enough.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.