Jon Kennedy shows off his Diamondback at White Mesa. Photo: @portermtb.
Review season is upon us here in Santa Fe, with stacks of bikes arriving on the UPS truck each day, daily rides underway, and Outside's annual Tucson test trip just a month away. Rather than ship us their bikes, the guys from Diamondback decided to drive down and drop off their testers. Given the 1,400-mile drive from Seattle, that might sound excessive. But what mountain biker doesn't want to trade northwest rain for a few days of southwest high pressure? And besides, we love it when companies visit and we can get the skinny on the bikes straight from the source.
So last Thursday, marketing manager Jon Kennedy, fleet manager James Weigand, and pro rider Eric Porter rolled into town with a Diamondback sprinter full of new bikes. Most of the bikes were one of two varieties: The Sortie 29er, a 120mm big-wheeler that we tested and liked quite a lot last year, and the new-for-2013 Mason. This bike represents a segment coming to market this year, namely hardtail 29ers not aimed at XC riders. With a 140mm fork, super-slack 66.5-degree head tube angle, and a standard dropper post, the Mason combines the quickness of a dirt jumper with the rock-dropping agility of a park bike. About half the Outside crew that turned up for the first ride at our local in-town loop, the Dale Ball Trails, rode the Mason, and initial feedback was solid.
The Podium 7, not your Daddy's Diamondback.
The truck was loaded with a few surprises, too. First up, Diamondback's top shelf road bike, the Podium 7. "Road bikes by Diamondback?," a number of people asked incredulously. Actually, the company has had a pavement segment for years, though they stepped it up last year with the revamped Podium, which is designed in house and uses all proprietary technology. Our tester is hung in full Campangolo Super Record and Easton EC90SL wheels. It tips the scales at 14.1 pounds and retails for a moderate (for this spec level) $8,500. We didn't get a chance to ride on the road while the guys were down, but I've since been out on the Podium and can confirm that it will easily keep pace with any high-end road bike on the market. And just importantly, it's damn sexy.
Finally, Kennedy and the crew were packing a couple of prototypes of the company's brand new Mason FS. It's a 140mm 29er, with comfortably slack head tube and, most key to our eye, a revised rear triangle and linkage from the Sortie 29er that significantly stiffens up the back end. (Incidentally, this year's Sortie 29er has seen similar changes to the back half and, based on our rides, is also definitely improved in terms of lateral stiffness.) The Mason FS is still in testing and won't release until mid-year in 2013, so we were quite lucky to get a look and a few rides.
"It looked frozen!" Photo: Jon Kennedy.
After our our XC loop on the Dale Balls, we took the crew up to Ski Santa Fe for the 10-mile downhill run on the Winsor trail, where I was incredibly impressed with the Mason FS. We slammed down this run, which is chunky at the top then smooth and fast thereafter, and the bike swallowed the trail whole. Watching Eric jump logs, rip wall rides, and generally shred the Winsor at high speed has me anxiously anticipating this bike's release. Low point of the day came when Eric pulled a German ice-swimmer maneuver after inadvertantly discovering that one of the stream crossings wasn't completely frozen. High point: rolling straight from the trailhead a mile into Tesuque Village Market at sunset for post-ride burritos and bourbon.
Eric Porter's prototype Mason FS, not available till late next year. Photo: @portermtb.
Epilogue: On Friday, we took the Diamondback boys down to White Mesa, a desert loop about an hour south of Santa Fe, for one more ride aboard the bikes. The trails are mostly quick and fast, but there's a six-foot rock drop on a feature called The Spine that has stymied me for years. Aboard the Mason FS, however, I rolled it easily—my first time ever—then did several repeats to make sure I had it down. All I could think was, God bless Diamondback and the Mason FS. Oh yeah, and when can we get one to test?