Diamondback XSL Elite review

Decent but uninspiring trail ride

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
GBP £1,999.99 RRP | USD $2,970.00

Our review

A decent bike and good descender with great kit, but it never got our pulses racing
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Its simple frame has been evolving for a while and it’s carrying kit to kill for, but the Diamonback XSL Elite still feels docile rather than dynamic on the trail. Even the best forks and components can’t elevate basic performance above an affable average.


Ride & handling: Poor climbing and acceleration, but good traction and stability

The Elite is stiffer than previous XSLs we’ve ridden, but flex in the swingarm is obvious from the start. It only took a couple of rides for that to develop into a noticeable side-to-side knock, too. Add high weight for its cost and slow tyres, and neither climbing nor acceleration speed comes naturally.

On the plus side, that tyre traction – and the screw-through 20mm axle on the RockShox Revelation fork – helps it on wet, twisty technical descents, and while it slurs rather than carves, the long back end acts as a stabilising drag anchor.

That means you’re rarely worried about losing the front end or getting lobbed over it, even if you’re riding right over the bars to get the best from the fork.

Capable shock and predictable swingarm action means you can straightline bigger stuff without much bother and steering geometry is okay too. The XSL needs a wider bar to exploit its fork advantage though.

Unfortunately the fl exy back end isn’t so convincing…: unfortunately the fl exy back end isn’t so convincing…
Seb Rogers

Frame: Wobbly welding and flexy back end are out of place on a £2k bike

A convex head tube swallows the integrated headset, while the top and down tubes are hydroformed into an octagonal ‘kite’ cross section. The latter flares at either end for increased weld area at the junctions and the top tube also deepens to the rear.

The oversized main pivot is punched through the down tube just ahead of the big ring, and the rectangular chainstays and seatstays extend back from the 3D forged and machined front of the swingarm piece, before ending in thick-cut cantilevered dropouts.

The seizure-stopping, forward-facing seat slot, Crud Catcher mudguard mounts under the down tube and internal swingarm gear routing are all obvious British design cues.

There’s no bottle mount though, and while the alignment is okay, the welding is wobbly in places and the boxy swingarm front end looks more like a kid’s shape sorter than the centrepiece of a £2,000 bike.

Equipment: Excellent spec for the money

With Shimano and RockShox prices rising, the XT/SLX stop/go highlights and Revelation Maxle Lite forks look even better value for money.


WTB and FSA finishing kit is decent quality too, although the slow tyres and narrow handlebar are a definite mismatch.

The revelation maxle is a great aggressive fork: the revelation maxle is a great aggressive fork
Seb Rogers

Product Specifications


Name XSL Elite (09)
Brand Diamondback Bikes

Available Colours Green/White
Rear Tyre Moto Raptor
Top Tube (in) 23.2
Standover Height (in) 30.5
Seat Tube (in) 18.1
Chainstays (in) 16.7
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 13.3
Weight (lb) 29.72
Year 2009
Stem ST-150LX-OS
Shifters XT trigger shifter
Seatpost SL-250
Saddle Rocket V Comp Cromo
Rims Dual Duty XC
Rear Shock Monarch 4.2
Available Sizes 16 Inches 18 Inches 20 Inches
Rear Hub Deore LX 32H
Rear Derailleur XT
Handlebar XC-190-OS
Front Tyre Moto Raptor
Front Hub Deore LX 32H
Front Derailleur XT 31.8 top pull
Frame Material Alloy
Fork Revelations 426 Dual Air 130mm
Cranks Deore XT
Cassette M580 9SPD 11-32T
Brakes XT Hydro disc brakes with 180mm front and 160mm rear discs
Bottom Bracket Giga X Pipe Team
Wheelbase (in) 44.1