By Eric McKeegan,
I’d like to make a prediction. Although the 650b bikes might get all the buzz this year, the sleeper hit, both in shops and on the trail will be the 29-inch hardtail trail bike. The Mason, Diamondback’s entry into this still embryonic genre, has geometry that bares no resemblance to the average XC hardtail. Its slack and low geometry stacks up favorably against even the most extreme 29” trail full-suspension trail bikes on the market.
The frame is aluminum and includes all the modern standards: tapered headtube, 142mm rear end, etc. A Fox 34 TALAS props the front end up to an aggressive 66.5-degree head angle and the rear end is tucked with 16.75”-inch chainstays. The bike comes set up with a 1×10 drivetrain, but the direct mount MRP chain guide can be swapped for a front derailleur if your legs are weak sauce.
The rest of the build is pretty all-mountain-y: short stem, wide bars, KS dropper post, and big rotors. I was a little put off by the skinny 2.0 Kenda Straight Six rear tire (the front gets a 2.35 Nevegal) but it made it through the sharp rocks of Bootleg Canyon just fine. I did pinch flat the front through, but that is pretty par for the course out here.
Out on the trail the Mason took a little adjusting too, its aggressive geometry and long travel fork sucked me into a few aggressive lines that the skinny rear tire and no travel rear end were not prepared to deal with. But once I got my hardtail groove back on I was feeling good. Carve that turn, skip over those rocks, wheelie through that dip, this bike is FUN.
I spent most of my test ride with the seat down a few inches, giving me room to absorb the terrain with my legs and crank around turns, making good use of the relaxed geometry. No rear end monkey motion meant I could flail away at the pedals a still move forward with mucho gusto, although the loose over hard conditions had me hunting for traction when I got too sloppy on climbs.
Retail prices are still being set, but the complete bike will be somewhere north of $2,500, and a frame kit (including headset, 142×12 hub (weird), MRP guide, and KS dropper post) will be available for about $1,000.
A quick take: A trail bike for dirt jumpers or an all-mountain bike for hardtail holdouts.
Plans are in motion to get one of these to DRHQ for a proper long term test, so expect a longer and more formal review soon.