Top Ten 29″er Products of 2011: Diamondback Sortie Black 29: by Guitar Ted

Editors Note: Yeah, yeah…..another year end review! Tis the season! So, here are my favorite things that have passed through the Twenty Nine Inches review process during the past year. I want to point out a few parameters that I used for what I chose here.

1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2010 through to the end of November 2011. Reviews that are currently in process I did not include and will be eligible for my 2012 Top Ten list.

2. They had to be products or bicycles that I personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twenty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for my list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but me, Guitar Ted.

3. The reviewed products were provided to Twenty Nine Inches at no charge for review.(Except where indicated) I was not paid or bribed for this review. I will give/gave my honest opinion or thoughts through out.

That said, let’s get on with this……

DB Sortie 29 Sept 010

Number Two: Diamondback Sortie Black 29: Diamondback had been quietly doing a line of aluminum 29″er hard tails for a few years, but for 2012 they unleashed the Sortie Black 29, which became available late in the year. I was able to get on board this swoopy looking full suspension rig for a short term test. See my posts on the bike here, here, and here.

DB Sortie 29 Sept 007
Why It Made The List:
Diamondback brought out a new take on 29″er suspension from their 26″er work on the Sortie series. The design is new to 29″ers and Diamondback showed that it had done some homework on it before its release. In our opinion, this category of trail bike will be hotly contested in 29″er wheels in the future and making a good performing product out of the gate is important. Diamondback did this with the Sortie Black 29. In fact, the Diamondback earned its high marks based on the rear suspension performance, primarily.

My Two Cents: That’s right, Diamondback, folks. Who would have thought it possible only a few years ago? Certainly, part of the fun about testing this bike was the way it exceeded my expectations going in. The rear suspension had an uncanny ability to track the trails I rode it on while not blowing through its travel on medium to bigger hits. To be fair, some of the credit has to go to Fox’s Kashima coated damper with the Adaptive Logic Pro Pedal feature. This allowed me to find that “Goldilocks” setting which was neither too firm off the top of the stroke, nor too soft at the middle and end of the stroke.

The Sortie had me buffaloed for a while, making me think it wouldn’t be a very good out of the saddle climber/sprinter, but much to my surprise, it did not wallow into its travel and it squirted forward with about as much authority as one might ever expect from any full suspension design. Quite nice, actually, and definitely unexpected by me. I don’t usually get too wound up about anyone’s rear suspension feel or design, but the Diamondback was very impressive for me. Interestingly, turning the adaptive Logic to wide open made a huge difference, and for me, not a really good one. The bike was at that point too plush for anything but descending, but then again, that’s why they put those levers on rear shocks. 😉 Had I been in a rougher area with long descents, this fact would have been appreciated greatly as well.

Sortie Sept 11 007
As far as components, well….the Sortie Black is well equipped! XTR, Easton, and WTB, all top end stuff here and it showed. The brakes- Shimano’s newest “Ice Tech” equipped models, were simply the best brakes I’ve yet tried. Of course, Shimano XTR shifts great every time, and the Easton wheels shod with WTB Wolverine tires performed very well for me. The front suspension did benefit from the Kashima coated stanchions, but beyond making the fork more supple off the top of the stroke, I really didn’t see anything all that different from previous Fox forks.That said, the suspension balance felt excellent.

October Sortie 11 002

The Sortie handled well, with a nice, not too floppy trail bike feel. The bike did feel a bit long in the rear end, but steered acceptably for that. Tire clearances were “okay” for a trail bike, and for this category of bike it isn’t a draw back, but I’d like to see a bit of an improvement there. Finally, a touch of wind up torsionally was felt in the rear end at times, but again, it wasn’t distracting or a negative for performance. It was just “there”.

If Diamondback comes back with an upgraded Sortie full suspension rig for 2013 that addresses these minor concerns, there will not be many bikes that could compete with the balanced suspension and the way the rear end reacts to pedal inputs, seated or standing. As it is, this is a very impressive first outing, and definitely ranks as the best feeling rear suspension on a trail bike I’ve yet tried. For that Diamondback reaches Number Two on my Top Ten 29″er Products of 2011.

Stay tuned for Number One coming soon…………..