Upon seeing the new Diamondback Mission Pro in my garage, a friend and downhiller remarked, “Diamondback’s back? Who knew?”
Diamondback has had a design renaissance in recent years, producing a series of great-riding, high-value bikes that have repeatedly surprised our testers.
The Sortie 29 was at the forefront of the big-wheel-trail-bike movement. And after the company launched the Mason, an all-mountain hard tail 29er, it followed up with last year’s excellent Mason FS, which, along with bikes such as the Niner WFO and the Intense Carbine 29, proved that long-travel and big wheels aren’t mutually exclusive.
The latest offering from the Kent, Washington-based brand is the 2015 Mission, which is a complete redesign of the 2013 bike of the same name. The upsize from 26- to 27.5-inch is the most obvious change to this 160mm-travel aluminum bike, but the suspension design is also significantly tweaked.
Diamondback still uses its patented KnuckleBox design, which is a single-pivot driven by a beefy rocker arm, but the linkage has been simplified and the shock is now mounted on the down tube rather than the top tube. The result is both a cleaner look and a lower center of gravity, and though we initially worried that the short rear triangle would prove flexy, the new design is actually surprisingly stout.
Though it’s hardly heavy at 30.2-pounds for our size large tester, the Mission Pro is clearly built around the descents. The bottom bracket is low, the cockpit is short, the chain stays are fairly long for stability, and the head tube is reasonably slack at 66.5 degrees. Fox takes care of both pieces of suspension, with a rugged, but not excessive, 34mm CTD fork and the highly tunable Float X out back. The rest of the part spec underscores the bike’s aggressive all-mountain cred: wide bars and a short stem from Raceface, a Stealth Reverb dropper post, and Easton Haven wheels, which set up tubeless with ease.
So far, the Mission Pro lives up to the company’s string of recent successes. It pedals fine, especially with the shock set at climb, which turns the suspension almost rigid. Having said that, the weight and geometry make it good for days with short ups, but we wouldn’t want to climb long fire roads on it.
Descending, however, is another story. We spent an entire day doing lift-served runs at Angel Fire, and the bike was agile and deft even on the steepest, burliest terrain. It isn’t an especially plush ride. The suspension feels hard-edged, like it’s tuned to race. We suppose this makes sense in a way given that the Mission is aimed at the enduro market. And in the end, an aggressive, stiff-feeling bike is generally a good thing when slamming through meaty roots and long rock fields.
In addition to the traffic-cone orange Mission Pro ($6,500), the color of which we’ve come to love, the bike will sell in two additional specs: the Mission 2 ($3,300), with SRAM X7/X9 drivetrain, Crank Brothers dropper post, and house-branded wheels; and the Mission 1 ($2,400), with Shimano SLX, no dropper, and the same wheels.