Diamondback’s Mission has been a sturdy, top-value hardcore bike for several years – and this entry-level 2014 version is the best yet.
Frame and equipment: some impressive choices… and some so-so ones
The stout mainframe and swingarm dance to the tune of a low and centrally mounted Fox shock driven by Diamondback’s Knucklebox ‘rollover’ linkage. The IS brake mounts are old school, but you get a bottle mount and clips for gear, brake and dropper post cables/hoses.
You can slam the conventional post the bike comes with pretty low into the frame too, and a dropped brace on the seatstays provides plenty of tire clearance. The pivot axles, bearings, linkage, head tube and stays are all oversized for stiffness, and a 142x12mm rear axle ties things together. It’s a heavy frame though, and limited to two sizes (15in and 17in).
The metal bashguarded Race Face cranks should take plenty of abuse
While that's annoying if you can't get a bike to fit you, it means Diamondback can spend less on the frame and more on the components, so you get some impressive kit for the money. The bashguard-equipped Race Face cranks, Shimano Deore gears with chain-taming clutch mech and big-rotor brakes are definitely keepers. The vertically mounted Fox Float CTD rear shock is the noticeably better Performance version too, rather than the Evolution model you’ll still find on a lot of pricier bikes.
The decent width rims fatten up the Schwalbes' rubber, but their plasticky compound is slippery when wet. The stuttering, choking Evolution spec Fox fork isn’t great when pushed hard either, and the long 90mm stem makes the bike feel like it has a much steeper head angle than it actually does, which makes the front end even more nervy.
Ride and handling: tweak to get the best from this bike
With the stem swapped and a stickier front tire on, the basically sound ride of the Diamondback shines through. Because the rear pivots are on the seatstays, not the chainstays, the linkage only affects the shock curve, not the axle path. This means the Mission has the typical spongy feel under pedalling of a single-pivot bike, caused by the chain line shortening under power.
There's lots of fun to be had descending on the Mission…
As a result, you’re likely to find yourself toggling between the shock’s ‘Descend’ and ‘Trail’ modes a lot to stop bounce and wallow. Careful pressure setting is needed to find a happy medium between small-bump sensitivity and mid-stroke dive, but the bike is smoothly comfortable once this is sorted.
The high-riding Evo fork is also hard to balance with the soft shock, though it actually emphasises the relaxed head angle and long wheelbase when you start pushing hard. Add solid frame stiffness, and the Mission rails round corners pretty well. The brakes have plenty of power too, so as long as you’re not in a hurry heading up, you can have a lot of fun coming down. The tough, upgrade-worthy frame adds to the long-term value too, especially with 26in gear starting to drop in price.