By Adam Newman
Let me start by saying this: if you’re going to ride this bike, you better have nice teeth and a strong neck, because you’re going to be doing a lot of smiling and nodding when your riding buddies start asking you where the cable is.
Yes, this is the same brand that has been producing the famous Sling Power system for decades. If you’re not familiar, those frames use a flexible fiberglass board, a coil spring, and a stainless-steel cable in place of a downtube to provide a unique ride. But not everyone watches cable—and not everyone wants to ride it. The folks at Slingshot say they don’t want to be known as a one-trick-pony. Slingshot’s sales manager, P.J. McDonald, says you can never have too many bikes. Sounds about right. Enter the DD-M (that’s Double Diamond, Mountain, if you were wondering). All steel, all real.
Designed and built in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the DD-M is based around stock geometry numbers, but can easily be modified to accommodate custom details for $150 more. The stock numbers might seem a bit extreme at first: 80mm of travel up front, 72-degree head tube, 74-degree seat angle. According to McDonald, Slingshot “is focused on XC riding and racing.” I found it just right for fast, flowy terrain. The tubing is a mix of Reynolds 853 main tubes and 525 seat and chainstays—the good stuff—and the complete bike weighed in at a respectable 24.1lbs.
There are no stock build kits as of yet, but we’re told they are in works. McDonald says the company is also working on a “virtual bike builder” on its website that buyers can use to fully customize their build. Our test sled was spec’d with an 80mm Fox Float RLC 29, SRAM X9 drivetrain and Velocity Blunt SL wheels.
The first thing I did with this beautiful white bike was get it as dirty as possible at our weekly if-anyone-asks-it’s-not-a-race short track race. Luckily, the frame offers plenty of clearance at the chainstays and the arched seatstay bridge kept the gunk buildup to a minimum.
The chainstay length is adjustable from 425mm to 445mm via stainless steel Paragon the sliding dropouts. The sliding dropouts are shared with the DD-M’s singlespeed sister, the DD-M1. Unless you have an irrational hatred of pulleys and cables, you might as well get the geared version, as it can easily be set up singlespeed and can benefit from the adjustable chain- stay length.
With the sliders pushed all the way forward the bike leaped into action, with the front end begging to be lifted up over obstacles. Later in the test I slid the wheel back as far as I could and it tamed the excitement a bit, but wasn’t nearly as much fun. Somewhere in the middle was just right. If a rider really prefers a standard dropout, Slingshot can accommodate them.
Between the short travel fork and the steep head tube angle, I was worried that the front end would be twitchy, but it felt natural enough at speed. Make no mistake though, I used every last bit of the fork’s 80mm of travel, especially when I took the bike to the Rattlin’ 50 in central Pennsylvania, a race known for traversing more boulders than dirt. The Blunt SL wheels are very light, but sacrifice stiffness. The combination of an ultra-light wheelset and a suspension fork with a 9mm quick-release left me wishing for a stiffer front end. If you want to get really stiff, a color- matched, steel fork is also available for an extra $250.
But Slingshot didn’t build the wheels or fork; they built the frame. McDonald describes the DD-M as a “classic XC rig” and I’d have to agree. The majority of my riding is on mildly technical trails that get more challenging the faster you go. The DD-M was perfect for this terrain; as it scoots along with that lively, quality-steel feel you don’t get from the more deadened ride of 4130 chromoly tubing. It’s not as stiff as an aluminum or carbon frame would be, but stiffer isn’t always better.
There are a few points worth discussing: The headtube is a straight 1.125”, so fitting the latest generation of forks with tapered steerer tubes is not going to happen. Though, as McDonald says, “we can always do custom.”
Then there’s the price. Building bikes here in America isn’t cheap. At $1,349, the DD-M is dangerously close to the price of a one-off, boutique frame from any number of framebuilders. Yes, it’s also hand-made by expert craftsmen, but it probably won’t wow your friends the same way it would if the builder’s name was on the side. Maybe that matters to you, maybe it doesn’t.
Despite its racer-boy attitude, I was perfectly at home on the DD-M. I’m a big fan of steel bikes, and though I would have enjoyed more travel up front, it handled predictably and smoothly wherever I took it.
- Wheelbase: 41.5-43.25 inches, 1,054.1-1,098.6mm
- Head Angle 72-degrees
- Seat Tube Angle 74-degrees
- Bottom Bracket 12 inches 304.8mm
- Chainstay Length 16.7-17.5 inches 425-445mm
- Weight 24.1lbs 10.9kg
- Sizes S, M, L (tested), XL, custom available for $150 more
- Age: 31
- HeigHt: 6’2”
- WeigHt: 175lbs.
- Inseam: 33”