BEST FOR: Rock crawlers, tech lovers, step droppers. THE TEST: Diamondback’s KnuckleBox suspension may look unwieldy—“It seems to defy physics,” noted one tester—but the Sortie delivers a surprisingly nimble ride for such a big bike. With 4.7 inches of travel and 29-inch wheels, this is the evolved trail bike we’ve been waiting for. We were able to low-gear up almost anything, and on downhills we felt like bulldozers. On Santa Fe’s most technical trail, we cleared tight corners and steep washouts, never once unclipping on the ass-on-the-tire steeps. Too bad Diamondback discontinued the top-shelf Black model, which would have brought this bike into a much more reasonable weight range. THE VERDICT: A powerful linebacker that could use a diet. 31.1 lbs
Through-axles, which replace standard nine-millimeter quick releases with threaded, bigger-diameter, hollow shafts, are becoming standard. Given the inherent flex of big wheels, the added rigidity is especially helpful on 29ers.