As I mentioned in my on review article, the Diamondback Sortie 3 29er is the type of mountain bike I could ride day-in and day-out. And during my month-long road trip this summer, I did just that, and logged over 400 miles of incredible big-mountain singletrack in Bend, Oregon; Oakridge, Oregon; Salida, Colorado; and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. After punishing this bike day-in and day-out for weeks on end, here are my final thoughts.
Diamondback Sortie 3 29er, Out on the Trail
Trail Bike Category
The Diamondback Sortie 3 29er falls squarely in the “trail” category, but saying that a bike is good for trail riding seems like a no-brainer: aren’t all mountain bikes supposed to be ridden on trails?
“Trail” bikes fall in the middle ground between cross country and all mountain. Nowadays, the category “cross country” generally refers to XC race bikes, or those riders who want to go fast on mostly smooth trails. All mountain is on the burly end of things, with 6in (or more) of suspension, with jumps, drops, and other gnarly features in mind. But to be honest, many riders, myself included, like doing big-mountain rides with big climbs as well as big descents, and want a bike that is capable in all situations.
For me personally, I like to have a do-it-all bike that can tackle all the different types of terrain I might encounter during a big-mountain ride, and as a general rule that requirement calls for a full-suspension rig with 5-6 inches of travel.
About those wheels…
Yes, this new version of the Sortie is sporting wagon wheels. The Sortie isn’t the longest-travel 29er out there, but 5in of squish front-and-back is still considered to be pretty big for the big-wheel segment of the market.
With this much travel plus 29-inch wheels, I had a bit of trouble getting my cockpit low enough for a decent blend between aggressive climbing and descending. But with the addition of Thomson’s Carbon Flat Bar I was able to make it happen.
Cockpit issues aside, the big wheels meshed superbly with this much travel, creating a bike that could climb confidently and descend aggressively.
Weighing in at 32.5lbs with my customized build, the Sortie is by no means a featherweight… and you can feel that weight on the climbs. Switching back and forth between this bike and the Trek Superfly 100, the difference in climbing legs on these two bikes was readily apparent. Still, with 5in of travel, this bike is designed to be aggressive and competent on the descents, while the Trek Superfly 100 isn’t nearly as much.
Thanks to the Fox CTD suspension, I was able to dial down the suspension rebound while climbing on smoother terrain in order to compensate for the longer travel a bit. However, I found that in general I preferred to leave the fork completely open and the rear shock in the “trail” or “descend” setting when climbing on singletrack. Out west, there’s rarely such a thing as a fully-smooth singletrack climb, and I found that having the suspension active and ready to respond to changing trail surface conditions made for a better all-around climbing experience.
I chose this bike for my western road trip this year because I thought it would climb decently well while allowing me to really open it up and shred balls-to-the-wall on the descents. I punished the Sortie on the descents, blasting through rock-choked gardens that were more akin to boulder fields, off drops, through root webs, high speed sections, jumps, switchbacks, bridges, berms, and off camber turns… really, over the course of my month of testing, I tackled almost every condition imaginable.
The combination of big wheels and 120mm of squish was adequate to navigate all of this gnar. I did run through the full travel on some of the bigger features and obstacles, but a step up in the length of travel would definitely come with a sacrifice in climbing ability.
Diamondback’s signature Knuckle Box suspension performed superbly. Over the course of my test, I continued to appreciate the low center of gravity that the linkage provided. Railing turns and getting freaky in the air were much more achievable thanks to the low CG. While the scale might say the Sortie weighs 32.5lbs, having most of the weight low and at the center of the bike helped it handle and ride like a much lighter bike. Many times people don’t consider weight distribution when comparing bikes but it is definitely important to think about.
I made good use of the stock dropper post cable guides and installed the Gravity Dropper Turbo LP right off the bat. I highly recommend installing a dropper post immediately: the aggressive descent opportunities that this bike opens up is enhanced with the seat dropped out of the way.
After making a couple of key changes to the cockpit and throwing on a dropper post, I haven’t had a single issue from any of the stock components. The XT drivetrain and XT brakes performed flawlessly. I feel like I always say this, so it gets glossed over, but XT just performs and does its job without complaining… and that’s exactly what I want out of my bike and components. The Shadow Plus rear derailleur is a nice touch and helped prevent chain slap and missed shifts even on the roughest descents.
The WTB Laserdisc wheels aren’t the blingiest set of hoops on the market, but they’re reliable. I’ll take reliable, no-fuss wheels over bling any day of the week!
The Diamondback Sortie 3 29er is a trail bike that is designed perfectly for everyday use. Whether it’s rolling through flowy cross country trails or tackling big-mountain routes with tough climbs and nasty, extended, technical descents, the Sortie is equipped to excel. The suspension design and components don’t complain, they just do their job and perform. A mountain bike that takes a beating and keeps on giving? Sounds about perfect to me!
Many thanks to Diamondback Bicycles for providing the Sortie 3 29er for review!