Review: Diamondback Mason

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The Mason is a serious departure from most 29-inch hardtail geometry, with numbers more often found on all-mountain rigs. A 66.5 degree head angle, 17-inch chainstays and 13-inch bottom bracket is closer to full-suspension bikes. This bike was ready to rip out of the box, assuming you can look past the skinny rear tire. The KS dropper post, short stem with wide bar, Fox 34 and a 1×10 drivetrain are just the right balance of burly vs. ride -all-day light.

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To be honest, I kind of figured the Diamondback was going to be a bit of a pig on the tight terrain we call home. From ride one I was proven wrong. That isn’t to say I didn’t have to adjust my riding style. The Mason responds best to speed, body English and stoke, not the typical 29er sit-and-steer Midwest style. I made regular use of the dropper post, which allowed me to both get low and scoot around tight corners, but also absorb impacts and better control the fast and loose riding style this bike thrives on.

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The 1×10 drivetrain is well matched to the character of the bike, and worked well even on rides that involved a lot of pavement between trailheads. I never really wanted more gears, at least as long as I stayed in attack mode. If you really feel the need for more gears, the frame can accommodate front derailleur and multiple ring cranks.

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Momentum is your friend with this bike, and riding it like a single speed is your best bet. The frame, fork and wheels all worked well together; I never thought about anything being flexy or overly harsh.

If this bike has a flaw, it might be a bit too confident. It took me a few rides to turn off the full-suspension switch in my brain. For a hardtail, the Mason is hugely competent when things get hairy, but there is no making up for the lack of rear travel sometimes. The more I rode the bike, the less I worried about it. I managed to ride out some pretty ugly situations, and still charged at burly lines with a level of abandon unmatched by any other hardtail I’ve ridden.

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Other than swapping out the rear tire to a 2.4 Maxxis Ardent, I was satisfied with the components’ performance. I used the TALAS travel-adjust once, I forgot to turn it off and realized I was just fine with it at full travel all the time. The SRAM drivetrain was a bit wonky for a while, but it settled down after some use. The MRP guide and Type 2 clutch X9 rear derailleur never dropped a chain, and the brakes neither impressed nor let me down.

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The Mason likes commitment—slowing down and second-guessing makes the slack front end feel ponderous. The same could be said for low-speed climbing, but the wide bar and the Fox 34’s increased offset (51mm vs 48mm for the Fox 32) helped to keep low-speed steering well within acceptable limits for me.

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Considering the geometry and spec, the level of terrain gobbling goodness the Mason possesses is only slightly surprising. The real kicker for me is how well this bike works as an everyday bike. Even with the limited gearing and slack geometry, this was almost always the first bike off the hook for a ride, from a short sprint through nearby trails to a pedal-heavy Super D race and even a 50-mile mixed surface ride sampling the local urban single track. If I had a complaint, I could whine about the bike being over 30 pounds ready to ride, but the Mason is not a bike for whiners, it is a bike for rippers. Deep down, you know which one you are, and whether this bike is for you.

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Vital stats

  • Top tube: 24.4-inches, 595mm
  • Wheelbase: 44.37-inches, 1,127mm
  • Head angle: 66.5 degreess
  • Seat tube angle: 73 degreess
  • Bottom bracket: 13-inches, 330mm
  • Chainstay length: 17.52-inches, 433mm
  • Weight: 30 lbs., 13.6kg
  • Sizes: 15.5-inch, 17-inch, 19-inch (tested), 21-inch
  • Price: $2,500 complete, $800 frame (w/dropper post, headset and rear hub)
  • Made in: Taiwan