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Trail Tested: The Diamondback Sortie 3 29

July 9, 2014
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The last time we had a Diamondback Sortie in our test fleet (also a Sortie 3 model), the bike sported 26-inch wheels. What a difference four years makes in the mountain bike world! The latest version has been upgraded to 29-inch wheels, about an inch more travel, and dimensions that don’t come close to the Sortie of 2008. Will that be a good thing or a bad thing? Let’s find out.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Sortie is intended for the trail rider who wants a serious trail bike with ample suspension travel and high-speed stability. It is best suited for technically rough trails with lots of drops, rocks and unfriendly trail surfaces. The 3 model is followed by the $6500 29 Black and preceded by the $2700 Sortie 2 and $2200 Sortie 1.

DIAMONDBACK-FULL

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The Sortie is made from aluminum with a hydroformed top tube, a butted and formed downtube, a seatstay bridge, tapered headtube, a 142×12mm E-Thru Axle drop out and Diamondback’s Knuckle Box Suspension. The Knuckle Box, a pivoting triangular rocker, connects the shock to a single-pivot, four-bar suspension platform. The top shock mount is beefed up compared to our last test bike, and instead of connecting to the seat tube now attaches to a bracket below the top tube.

WHICH COMPONENTS STANDOUT?

It is the ensemble that jumps out at the rider. The Fox suspension, Shimano brakes, dropper seatpost, Race Face bar and stem, and WTB saddle are all familiar and welcomed components on any serious trail bike. And will wonders never cease? The bike comes complete with Shimano clipless pedals. We don’t see that bonus very much anymore.

Diamond-3

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

The setup: Suspension setup (20-percent sag front and rear) is simple enough, but the Knuckle Box makes it a little tougher to eyeball the shock’s O-ring.

The fit: The Sortie rider finds himself nicely centered and in an upright, trial-riding position. The bar, stem and saddle are ready to rage. The swingarm is a bit wide due to the Knuckle Box, and some riders may note rubbing their calves while pedaling.

Moving out: Our large-sized Sortie was just shy of 35 pounds, and you could feel it pulling away from a dead stop. Add 29-inch wheels to the weight and that makes it just a bit tougher to get rolling up to speed. The plus is the rear suspension remained active without being springy under these pedaling efforts.

Cornering: The Sortie has a long wheelbase, so flicking the bike into and out of corners is not going to happen. The bike likes to take a wide approach to corners, and the pay off is a level of stability at speed that will have you laughing.

Diamond-2

Climbing: The Sortie is an efficient pedaler, but 35 pounds is 35 pounds. We found ourselves wishing for a granny gear, especially on those occasions when a punchy little effort was required in the middle of a climb. The long wheelbase pretty much ensures you are not going to break the rear wheel loose when out of the saddle. That’s a good thing.

Descending: The Sortie feels unstoppable on a fast decent, and the rear suspension feels like it is giving you more than the claimed 4.9-inches. The rear suspension feels active under braking, and the bike’s suspension has a totally balanced feel, front to back.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

Diamondback gives you a Crankbrothers Kronolog dropper seatpost, so why the quick-release clamp on the seat tube? Replace it with a lighter and smaller traditional seat post clamp. There is another reason to do this, too. The Kronolog’s remote cable is sensitive to routing. The less it can snag on, the better.

Anything you can do to reduce the wheel weight is going to help this bike. Going tubeless is one option and, if your trails allow, a lighter cross-country race tire with a less aggressive knob pattern will help (but you will lose braking performance and some cornering stability).

Diamond-4

BUYING ADVICE

Checking our notes from the last Sortie review reveals that it was indeed a different creature. The two bikes are almost polar opposites. The Sortie 3 29 eliminates the nervousness of the old 26er on descents, but that comes at the price of climbing and cornering ability. So whom is this version best suited for? This bike is for the young charger who has energy to expend on the climbs and enjoys fast, wide-open descending.  

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