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Skinflint Tech: Diamondback Sortie 1

Singletrack.com’s in-house New Englander miser, Steve Frothingham, is scouting out affordable gear at the Interbike trade show to supplement our usual coverage of the latest and greatest price-is-no-object gear. On the first day of Outdoor Demo Steve rode a Fuji full suspension 29er. Here’s Tuesday’s offering.

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On Monday I rode a $2,749 full-suspension 29er from Fuji, and Tuesday I perused the sub-$3,000 bikes from several manufacturers. While not chump change, $3,000 seems to equate to a bike that an athletic, experienced rider will enjoy riding on relatively difficult trails like those at Bootleg Canyon outside Boulder City, Nevada.

Making significant improvements on a $3,000 bike — to make it a more viable cross-country racing bike or a more gnarly gravity bike, for example — seems to quickly bounce the price up to $5,000 or more. In other words, in my survey at the show so far, $3,000 seems to define the point of diminishing returns for most of our readers. You are welcome, of course, to make the argument for a lower or higher price in the comments section.

Tuesday morning I took out the Diamondback Sortie 3, an aluminum-framed 26-inch bike, with 5 inches of travel. With an inch more travel and 180mm disc brake rotor up front, and WTB Wolverine 2.1 tires, it’s a bit less cross-country-oriented than the Fuji. While it’s far from a DH bike, I thought it would be better suited than the Fuji for the Skyline trail, a technical descent where folks like me, in Lycra shorts and a short-sleeved roadie jersey, share space with guys and girls in full-face helmets, body armor and 2.5-inch-plus tires.

Conveniently, the Sortie 1 has the exact suggested retail price as the Fuji Outland 1.0 29er: $2,750.

Before you get to the Skyline trail, you have to earn the descent by riding up a hot and loose dirt road. The Sortie felt surprisingly sprightly. With the Fox shock moved to its firm ProPedal setting, pedal feedback was minimal and I never felt that the extra travel (versus the Fuji) was a disadvantage.

Once headed down, the Sortie felt nimble and secure as I worked down some hair-raising drops over sharp-edged rocks. The extra travel over the Fuji was welcomed here, although at times I suspected 29-inch wheels would have rolled over the nasty rocks with more aplomb. The tires were barely adequate for this kind of riding — another half-inch in width would have made me feel better.

But Skyline is probably not the kind of trail most Sortie 3 buyers will spend their time on. If you were looking to ride this kind of trail more often, you might opt for something like the Diamondback Scapegoat, a 6-inch travel bike with 2.5-inch tires and Shimano Saint four-piston brakes. Retail on the Scapegoat is a cool $5,900, which probably excludes it from this column.

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