Review: Diamondback Mission 4 AM Mountain Bike
Back in the day, Diamondback bikes were one of those mountain bikes that you lusted over while starring at the covers of MBA issues as they graced your mailbox. I have found memories of walking through local bike shops seeing the latest and greatest on names like Diamondback, Specialized, Schwinn and others, so the push by Diamondback to have a serious offering for the all mountain crowd spec’ed out with some of the best components the industry has to offer brings a huge smile to my face. With the introduction of the Knuckle Box suspension setup and the latest lineup of bikes centered around this design, Diamondback is making a run at your high-end wants and needs in the mountain biking world.
Diamondback has invested a lot of time, money and technology into this new design, so let’s take a look at how it performed on the new Mission 4 all mountain rig.
Diamondback Mission 4 Highlights
Diamondback Mission 4 Build Kit
- Weapons Grade Aluminum Mission 6? All-Mountain Frame with Knuckle Box Suspension Platform
- Fox 36 Talas RC2 Fit 160/130/100MM Fork / Fox Float RP23 XV Rear Shock
- Truvativ Hammerschmidt AM 2-SPD Transmission
- Mavic Crossmax ST Wheels
- X.0 Drivetrain
- Avid Elixir CR Hydraulic Disc Brakes
- Easton Easton EA90 31.8mm Stem, EC-70 Carbon HiRise 31.8mm Bars and EC90 Double bolt clamp 30.9mm Post
- 150mm Rear Travel
- Weight: 33.56 lbs
- MSRP: $5,660
Note: The 2011 frame pictured will come stock with a SRAM X.0 10 speed drivetrain and the new X.0 hydraulic disc brakes.
Diamondback Mission 4 Geometry Notes
- Size Tested: 19″ Large
- Top Tube: 24″
- Head Angle: 68* w/150mm fork; 67* w/160mm fork
- Seat Angle: 72*
- Wheelbase: 1140mm (44.88″)
- Bottom Bracket Height: 348mm (13.7″)
What Is The Knuckle Box Suspension?
The Knuckle Box suspension design from Diamondback is a variation on the 4 bar linkages we are used to seeing on other rides. This low slung suspension has a rear triangle pivot located above the axle and the rocker (the Knuckle Box in this case) rotates off a forward axis pushing into the shock upward through the stroke.
- One of the advantages of a four bar linkage is that you have great control over the wheel rate. By manipulating the shape and position of the linkage you can achieve unlimited variations of the wheel rate. The Knuckle Box is shaped in such a way that the wheel rate starts off linear and finishes slightly progressive. This results in great small bump compliance, more perceived travel and a great bottom out protection.
- The four bar layout of the Knuckle Box design achieves an optimized and neutral axle path. By manipulating the pivot locations of the Knuckle Box design we have come up with a design that has very low chain growth values, resulting in imperceptible to non-existent pedal feedback.
- When using a four bar layout you can locate the linkage anywhere you want. The position and shape of the Knuckle Box are designed with a low center of gravity in mind. Concentrating most of the mass low in the frame results in a lighter feeling, more balanced bike with increased maneuverability.
On The Trail: Diamondback Mission 4
The Diamondback Mission 4 is designed to tackle all aspects of the mountain with 6″ of rear wheel travel and a component spec that features parts like the Hammerschmidt and the WTB Prowler 2.5 front tire. With high-end, durable parts like this bolted to a sturdy all aluminum frame, we were ready to hit the biggest trail obstacles and features that this bike would allow.
First Impressions And Observations
Out of the box, the Diamondback Mission 4 is a sturdy bike. At a little bit over 33 pounds, the Mission 4 is on the heavier end of the spectrum for 6″ travel mountain bikes these days, but you could drop a pound or two by swapping out several components (most notably the Hammerschmidt). However, bikes in this category are not meant to race to the top of the hill, so being in the 30-34 pound range is acceptable and we would always rather have stiffness and durability over weight-loss on a 6 inch travel bike.
The green ano design of the frame with the subtle graphics package looks great on the trail and should appeal to a wide variety of riders. The Knuckle Box suspension design keeps that clean look on the frame and doesn’t appear to be an overly complicated system that will break down or flex while riding. Everything is nicely laid out with function in mind.
With everything built up and an impressive component set, we were ready to hit the trail.
Climbing And Pedaling Sections On The Diamondback Mission 4
Obviously, the Diamondback Mission 4 is not a weightweenie race bike so we were not expecting this bike to rocket up the hill. With bikes in the 6″ to 7″ travel range, we would expect it to be a great technical climber that allows the rider to get to the top of the hill with enough energy to bomb down the other side.
The Knuckle Box suspension design does a great job of keeping grip during the climbs without too much power robbing pedal induced motion (pedal bob). Rocks, roots and other obstacles are taken easily and traction is kept while sitting and spinning in granny and while gearing down a couple to stand and hammer (although the suspension does move noticeably while standing…but that is to be expected out of a bike in this travel range). The only time I really felt like the ProPedal on the RP23 was needed was during forest service road hammers to the next section of single track.
Even with the large 160mm Talas, the Mission 4 front end stayed straight and tracked very well on steeper climbs and longer ascents. The steeper 67 degree head angle really played a part in keeping that large travel front end stable and there wasn’t as much energy lost trying to keep it straight over long periods of climbing. Over the entire testing period, I never felt the need to lower the fork to keep the bike on track.
While blasting through more groomed sections of trail that required a lot of pedaling, the Mission 4 did start to show its AM upbringings as the larger tires and heavier overall weight started to play against forward motion. That is to be expected, but there are some other bikes in this category on the lighter side that take flatter pedaling sections with more ease. Given the Diamondback Mission’s weight and component spec, I would place this mountain bike on the rougher, more AM/FR side of the all mountain bike market. You are not going to be the first to the top of the hill with the weight and tires, but it will get you there ready to blast down the other side.
Descending On The Diamondback Mission 4
While ripping through technical, steep trail on the Mission 4, the first thing you really notice is the stiffness of this frame. The compact Knuckle Box suspension design and hydro-formed aluminum and butted/formed frame stays on track through rough trail and there was no noticeable flex from the rear end. Diamondback did an incredible job of making sure you will not get thrown offline due to the frame flexing as the bike is a rock on the trail.
Square edge hits and multiple hits in succession are sucked up beautifully with the Knuckle Box suspension design. Diamondback did a great job engineering this suspension to act just like you would want it to on the trail…basically not feeling it at all. Without any noticeable hard bottom outs on medium sized drops and smooth runs over root and rock gardens, the suspension just performed as I continued to try to find its limits and it stayed plush throughout the entire travel range. Through fast cornering sections, berms and off camber turns, the rear end kept me pointed in the correct direction as I was able to really push out of the corner and drop the hammer for the next section of trail. The low slung suspension design really help to keep this bike railing through the turns by keeping the feeling that you are in the bike instead of riding on top of it. My riding style really plays well to low slung bikes like the Mission, so it was a lot of fun really pushing down into the suspension and riding low through the tech and turns.
However, it wasn’t all ripping through the woods on the Mission 4. There is one area of this bike that would drastically improve its handling on steep, technical downhill runs and that is the head tube angle. At 67 degrees, the Mission 4 is on the steeper end of the range for 6″ travel mountain bikes. When you get into steeper sections (especially technical ones) the bike wants to get a little bit twitchy and your weight bias is a little bit too far forward on the fork. With a head tube angle closer to 66.5 or 66 degrees, the bike would absolutely rip up steeper sections of technical trail and allow the rider to really weight the rear end and let the very capable Fox 36 eat up the trail. If there was one thing I could change about this bike…it would be that geometry measurement to give it more downhill stability.
Overall: Diamondback Mission 4 AM Mountain Bike
The Mission 4 from Diamondback is a step in the right direction for the brand. With a solid suspension design, stiff main frame and mind blowing component spec, the Mission 4 should be able to bring the Diamondback name into the realm of high end mountain bikes. The four bar Knuckle Box suspension is a great performer on the trail and the low center of gravity design makes it an excellent carver through tight, twisty, technical trail. Given the weight and component spec, this bike is great for riders looking for an all mountain rig that will pedal to the top of the hill and can handle technical riding over rough terrain heading back down.
Positive: Diamondback Mission 4
- Unbelievable component spec
- Multiple models available for different budgets
- Super stiff frame tracks through technical trail
- Low slung suspension rails turns
- Quality suspension travel
Negative: Diamondback Mission 4
- Head tube angle too steep at 67 or 68 degrees depending on fork spec
- Pricey: Over $5k given this component spec
- Weight: On the heavier side of 6″ travel mountain bikes
The Diamondback Mission 4 with the Knuckle Box suspension design is a huge step forward for Diamondback’s full suspension offerings. With a little tweak to the geometry, this bike will be an AM monster but even with that…it was an impressive ride and great to see out of a brand that has been around since the beginning. Check out Diamondback.com for more info and other models.
Check out prices on other Diamondback Mission models by clicking here.
Diamondback Mission 4
Diamondback Mission 4
Knuckle Box Suspenion Design
Knuckle Box Suspenion Design
Diamondback Mission Head Tube
Easton Mountain Bike Components
Fox 36 Talas RC2 Suspension Fork
Knuckle Box Linkage
Knuckle Box Suspension
What do you think?