“TOEING THE LINE BETWEEN COMMUTER AND MOUNTAIN BIKE”
This quote is how Diamondback introduces the Trace.1
We’ve been seeing more manufacturers add these between-category bikes. It’s as if they ask “what would happen if we combined a hybrid with a mountain bike?”
And then we end up with these highly specialized hybrid models that break the mold and create a new category.
If I were to create a category for these bikes, I’d call this the “fire road category.”
A More Robust Hybrid
Fire roads are those roads that go back into the woods for logging trucks. Barely passable by vehicles, they are fun for riding your ATV and bicycle on.
Now your “fire road” might never have had a logging truck on it. But the term is an excellent distinction between singletrack with a lot of drops and bumps and a trail that is smooth enough for a pickup truck to traverse.
When I was a kid, we’d ride all over Grandpa’s farm. We would mostly follow the cow trails or just bounce our way through an open field.
Flat tires aside, you could even do this riding on a road bike (uncomfortably, though!)
The Diamondback Trace and the others in this category are designed to handle this type of well-constructed trail or field riding with ease.
Diamondback uses the term “Dual Sport” and likes to pitch this as both a mountain bike and an urban rider.
Coming from a world of hardcore mountain biking, I have to soften their marketing.
Think of this like a Jeep. Or a Land Rover. Yes, you can take them off the road, but just like you shouldn’t take one of these SUV’s off the showroom floor and go rock crawling with it, you probably shouldn’t try dropping in at Whistler with one of these bicycles.
The upside of this design is that it will have no problems with the aggressiveness of urban life. Can someone give me a #overbuilt?
Diamondback comes flying into the Dual Sports field with an impressive bicycle.
This machine is spec’d out as a mountain bike with a nine speed rear cassette and Alivio Derailleur. This is as nice as you can get without stepping up the hardcore Deore line.
The cool thing is that you can still find nine speed Deore components to upgrade to. And, some would argue, that the Alivio componentry is what the Deore components were five years ago.
Either way, it is a reliable drivetrain.
The forks are what you would find on an off-road machine. The Suntour NVX will handle the hits of off road exploring and converts to a city machine with a rigid fork with a simple flick of a lever.
If you want the best, and the ability to upgrade the components on this bike to the next higher level as they wear out, this is a stellar machine.
That said, I think most of our readers will find the most value in the “Sport” and “Standard” models reviewed below.
Note: There is an exclusive “XT” model that incorporates all of those Deore upgrades I mentioned. Scroll down to find it.
For the Sports model, they systematically walked through this machine and upgraded every component.
It’s like the fairy godmother was here with here magic wand. The Sports model is the mouse that became the horse.
Most of the upgrades here are the “durability” upgrades. Things like a Shimano crank instead of the more off-branded Suntour. You also get the Acera rear derailleur and the upgrade from the EF-51 shifters to the SL-M310.
Because all of these components are designed by the same company (Shimano), the thought is that they will work together better than when you try to mix and match the brands.
Additionally, the entire drivetrain is a step up from what is on the standard Trace model, making the whole system more “bombproof.”
This is critical for those riders who plan on doing a lot of mileage. If you think you’ll be riding 4 hours a week, then those miles can add up quickly over the life of a bike.
In one summer you can easily travel 500 miles — the distance from Chicago to St. Louis!
This could easily be the last one you need to buy.
The winning upgrade, though, is the front shock. They step it up from a no-name shock to a Suntour.
Additionally, this shock offers lock-out capabilities. So you can lock the shock making it rigid.
This gives you the best of all worlds. Riding in the city where a bouncing shock can waste energy and slow you down? Just flip a switch and make it rigid.
Ready to go off road? Flip the switch, and you have 75 mm of travel!
Plus, one of the things I love about Suntour is how they offer these super cheap fork upgrades. So if you decide you want a more robust fork, you can often get one at a steep discount.
This bike is ideal for the athlete who values quality and wants one that is designed to last. Additionally, if you expect to be doing a lot of off-road, it is worthwhile to consider upgrading to the higher quality of components.
Standard – Top Pick
I love everything about this bicycle.
It has the best balance (in my opinion) of features. You get the three-inch front shock, so if the paved trail runs out before you are ready to be done, you can just keep on pedaling.
This shock can also take a lot of pressure off on your daily commute. Those potholes stand no chance with this setup.
The Altus rear derailleur and the Shimano EF-51 shifters are an ideal pairing. I love how quickly you can get through these gears and the substantive “click” you get out of every shift.
Frankly, this setup feels like it is reading your mind. You click, and it instantly jumps into the gear you wanted. I’m bad about waiting until the last minute to shift, and this setup has never disappointed me.
The disc brakes are another nice feature. I don’t overhype disc brakes like some bloggers do, simply because the tradeoffs aren’t that amazing until you get to hydraulic brakes.
Yes, you can stop faster, especially in wet conditions. Just be prepared for the learning curve that comes with adjusting theses brakes. Not impossible, you just need some patience the first couple of times you do it.
As if I can’t rave about this model enough, it uses a Kenda branded tire. I’ve personally had good luck with the Kenda brand, and it means that you shouldn’t have to upgrade these tires right away.
Overall, this is a bike that delivers an aggressive urban riding experience and should be a top consideration for any campus commuter or fitness fanatic.
It is the first in the Trace lineup that I feel lives up to the Trace mantra of “Dual Sport.”
This is an excellent entry-level ride for people getting into the sport.
Built to bomb down the stairs at your college campus (caveat, bomb at your risk.) without a lot invested into features that you will never use.
The Trace ST saves a lot of money by going with a solid front fork. I’m a fan of solid forks for city riding. You don’t get any unnecessary bounce, and it can make you faster when standing and pedaling.
The downside is that you also give up a lot of your off-road capabilities. This thing is going to be a real bone shaker when riding off the road.
The other advantage with a solid fork is that there are fewer parts to break. You don’t have to worry about leaking or rusted shocks. Right there are some money savings for you.
There are three other things I don’t like about this ride: (1) The Revo Shifters, (2) The Tourney rear derailleurs (3) The freewheel rear gear setup.
I’m not talking this bike down. It’s a good option. I just personally have replaced a lot of these Revo shifters after a couple of years of riding. I also feel like they have a very “mushy” action.
The tourney rear derailleur is a dependable piece as long as you aren’t demanding a lot of fast shifting or trying to shift while rattling over rocks and logs. It performs well in the urban environment but can get bungled when trying to shift gears under pressure.
And the rear freewheel is one of those that are more likely to wear out than the cassette version used on the more expensive Trace models.
The upside is that each one of these parts is quite cheap to replace. And, except for the rear cassette, you can likely upgrade them a little bit when you replace them.
Some people will wonder if the lack of disc brakes are a big deal. Sometimes it is, but this model uses a high-quality linear-pull brake. Unless it’s raining out, I think you’ll find the stopping distances to be quite suitable
What I love, love, LOVE, is the double-walled wheels with 32 spokes. These guys are perfect what you need for navigating curbs and potholes.
They are also ideal for the heavier rider. I’m sure the official weight limit is less than this, but this wheel is what I’d like to see our 300-pound-plus riders use (and this wheel or better is found on all of the Trace models)
If you are picking up a bicycle for the weight-loss benefits, this ride can handle it without catastrophically failing.
(Side note, it ticks me off that some bikes aren’t designed to support the weight loss journey).
If you plan on doing a lot of off-road riding, I’d suggest getting an entry-level mountain bicycle over this ride.
But for urban commuting and the cyclist who is picking up the sport to lose weight, this bike is hard to beat.
This model looks to me to be custom-built for Performance Bike Store.
These guys sell so many bikes for Diamondback that they get to have a custom version of the Trance built for them.
This used to be a lot more common practice in the cycling industry. Little shops would have their brands of bikes.
For someone who’s been in the industry forever, it’s fun to see that the practice is alive and well.
Frankly, it looks like a bicycle shop employee who commutes all the time decided to have their dream bike built. Spec-wise I would place this one above Diamondback’s highest model. We’re talking Rockshocks, Hydraulic brakes that give you the stopping power of a car and a Shimano Deore drivetrain.
This is the bike for serious riders who want a hybrid that can do it all. You’ll love the smooth shifting, the responsiveness of the shocks and the stop-on-a-dime brakes.
For a more in-depth discussion of sizing (including metric measurements), check out our article here.
Here’s a quick sizing chart.
Small = 5’4″ to 5’7″
Medium = 5’7″ to 5’10”
Large = 5’10” to 6’1″
Extra-Large = 6’1″ to 6’4″
I pulled these sizings from Diamondback’s site, but I would recommend that (unless you have extremely long legs for your height) if you are on the line between models to go with the next smaller size.
So if you are 5’10”, go with the medium. The 6’1″ rider needs a large.
That’s based on what I’ve seen when fitting people to bikes.
Comparison To Other Diamondback Models
The Insight line is a pure road machine. More of what I would call a “fitness hybrid.”
It is made to move quickly on the road.
In a way, you might feel that you are getting a better deal with the Trace because you are getting cool front shock features that the Insight doesn’t have.
However, it is my experience that front shocks add weight and bounce. And if you are going to be doing 100% of your riding on the road, you’ll be best off going with the Insight for hardcore street speed.
The Insight removes the off-road option, offering a slightly better street riding experience in its place (although folks will argue me on this statement).
I love the Overdrive. It is one of the best mountain bikes on the market.
If you are a reluctant road rider, then get the Overdrive. It’ll get you to class on time and be ready to play when you get out of school.
But it is best chosen by our off-roading friends. If you spend a lot of time commuting on the roads, you’ll likely be frustrated by how heavy and slow it can be.
The Trace is a well-built road machine when you want it to be. The Overdrive is a pure mountain bicycle. And it won’t let you forget it.
The Edgewood is the “comfort hybrid.”
It sits you more upright, which is a much slower, less powerful position.
However, it is way more comfortable.
If you equate biking with discomfort, you will find the Trace to be uncomfortable. Get the Edgewood instead.
But the Trace is faster than the Edgewood for most people, thanks to the more aggressive frame geometry.
Edgewood = comfort
Trace = Speed
This is an excellent time to remind you that I get a commission for referring you to the Diamondback and I likely don’t get one for pushing you to the competitor brands.
The reality is that there are two major bike frame manufacturers Kinesis and Giant. Kinesis makes the Diamondback (and a bunch of others).
For the most part, the frames from model to model are going to be equally well-built. You might save weight with one, or there might be a cool engineering tweak on the higher end models.
But at the level we’re talking about, they are very similar (in my opinion).
Then, after the frame is made, the companies negotiate with companies like Sram, Shimano, and Suntour to get the rest of the components (shifters, forks, etc.).
In a lot of respects, it comes down to getting the best price. I’m a big fan of supporting your local shop, so if you want to see what your local boys can do for you, I’m all about that.
Without going Spec-by-Spec on these, it’s impossible to choose the optimal bike for each model and price range.
But let me also say that I think a lot of cyclists go too far in their anal analysis of their next purchase. Even if you have the best spec-for-price setup, the bike can still ride like crap.
I’ve experienced it.
As long as the bicycle is in your price range, you shouldn’t go wrong with Diamondback or any of these competitors.
vs. Trek DS, FX and 7.2
The DS stands for “dual sport, ” and with it, the largest seller in the United States lays down a challenge for all-comers.
It’s a well-built machine with some custom frame lines that you won’t find on other machines.
The FX is their street version. Similar to the Diamondback
vs. Giant Roam
I realize that you may have never heard of the Giant brand, but these guys are legit. I’ve sold a lot of the Roams. They were one of the first companies to build bikes in this category.
The Roam is an excellently placed competitor to the Diamondback Trace. And, you likely have the advantage of being able to test drive one in your town.
Plus, it has been assembled in the back of a shop by pros, and you have them handy should you need any warranty help.
You can’t go wrong with the Roam.
Overall, their warranty mirrors other bicycle companies. The frame is guaranteed against manufacturer’s defects for life. Most of the moving parts have a 1-year warranty.
Keep in mind these are manufacturer’s defects warranties. So it only covers defects from the factory. If you rip the derailleur off on a tree during your first ride, then it isn’t going to be covered, sorry.
Also, some of the individual parts have warranties covered by other manufacturer’s, not Diamondback. You can read more on their warranties, here.
Typically these bikes do not come with a kickstand. Kickstands are easy to install, and if you think you’d like that feature, then check out this one.
Keep in mind that kickstands and rough riding do not go together well. The last thing you need is a kickstand flying out as you come off a big jump. Talk about the recipe for a broken collarbone!
But I understand that they make all the difference in city riding.
I recommend doing some chain cleaning and lubing every 100 miles or so.
The key here is that the chain does not need to be goopy with lube. In fact, if you lube it too much, you can wear the chain out faster, since it is more likely to pick up gravel from the road and hold it to the chain.
Also, plan on airing up the tires once a week. These tires hold little air, and you’ll notice any small decrease in air pressure much more than you would in your car.
Beyond that, a tune-up at your local shop can make all of the difference in it’s shifting and braking abilities. There are also some great videos on youtube to teach you the basics of a tuneup.
Who Is This Bike Good For?
This bike is an excellent choice for the consumer who isn’t sure whether they want a mountain or a road bike, but plan to do 90% of their riding on the streets.
It gives you that option.
Now, I wouldn’t want to take this bike off roading on a mountain course. The punctures and the likelihood of doing damage to yourself are just too high.
But if you ended up on a gravel trail or riding a maintenance road through your national forest, you’ll be just fine.
The killer advantage with this bike is that you have the taller 700c wheels. These taller wheels mean that you can travel further for each pedal stroke.
If you went with a mountain bike, you’d pretty much give that up, or have to go with wider tires — both things that slow you down.
This one creates the balance between road and mountain bike riding with the balance tipped for road and gravel riding.
The overbuilt features on it just lend added durability.
The only trade off is a little bit of weight. When you start adding in the weight of the shocks, this bike is a little heavier than the flat handlebar road bike.
Aside from losing seconds on your road bicycle buddies, there is little downside to this setup. And you gain all of the durability for everyday riding. Unless you are planning on riding with your road bike friend once a week, this isn’t too big of a concern.
For the commuter who wants a fast speed that can handle the curbs and bumps of urban life, they would be hard-pressed to find a more versatile ride.
Would you drive the Trace? Do you think it lives up to the hype? Comment below!