Field Test: Diamondback Sync’r
A plus-size, 27.5-inch-wheeled hardtail that's made more for those who want to be outside than those in a hurry
- Travel: 140mm fork
- 27.5″ wheels
- 66° headtube angle
- 74° seat tube angle
- Reach: 440mm (size medium)
- Great brakes, comes with a dropper post
- Plus-sized tires make sense on this kind of bike
- Fun on tame trails
- The frame is underwhelming, not worth upgrading parts
- Geometry probably won’t let you progress
- Tires and wheels aren’t actually tubeless ready
32.75 lb / 14.85 kg
We don’t often test Diamondback bikes—we last reviewed one in 2018—but the $1,500 Sync’r fits into our Value Bike Field Test fleet perfectly. Available either directly online or from a brick-and-mortar, Diamondback says that the Sync’r, ”holds its own with no-nonsense hardtail precision and all-mountain capabilities, making it a great choice for any mountain biker.”
While there is a fancy carbon fiber version if you have more fun tokens to spend, the hardtail reviewed here sells for less than half of that and is Diamondback’s highest-end aluminum hardtail.
The frame is … a frame. Okay, it’s pretty barebones, to be honest, but it does offer a whole bunch of standover clearance, ISCG tabs, a 12 x 148mm thru-axle, and even a place to put a seatpost. What else do you need to have fun? Not much, but I still have to point out a few things. The cables are routed externally, which is just fine, but you’ll want to be careful of the ones on the underside of the downtube as they could be damaged if you hang your Sync’r over a tailgate. And speaking of cables, they’re held onto the frame with silly plastic clips that rattled off before I even got the end of the driveway; you’ll need to replace them with zip-ties stat. There’s also no chainstay protection, so definitely wrap it with an old tube or something to keep the clatter to a minimum, and while there’s certainly room for a second water bottle on the seat tube, Diamondback didn’t add any bosses to that part of the frame.
While I kinda feel like I’m being a bit picky when it comes to the Sync’r at this pricepoint, Commencal’s Meta HT Origin hardtail that we also have at the Value Bike Field Test costs the exact same but sports a frame that’s much nicer than what Diamondback is using. In fact, while the Meta frame could easily be home to some high-end components when you upgrade down the road, I don’t get the same feeling from the Sync’r.
As for the geometry, our medium-sized test bike sports 440mm reach (the large, which out of stock, is 453mm), 606mm toptube length, and all sizes have a 66-degree headtube angle, 74-degree seat-tube angle, and 435mm chainstays.
The build includes a 140mm-travel Recon RL fork, and the drivetrain is SRAM’s entry-level 12-speed SX group, while a set of Shimano’s MT-500 hydraulic brakes slow the bike down. It also comes with a 125mm-travel dropper post, which is great to see at this pricepoint and not found on the Meta that I was praising above.
What sort of climbing expectations should we have of a $1,500 hardtail that weighs nearly 33 pounds and rolls on 27.5″ plus-sized rubber? In that light, all the Sync’r really needs to do is feel comfortable enough to pedal up most of the things for a few hours and offer a wide enough gear range to get me to the top. And it does exactly that quite well; the geometry will work just fine for you, and the wide-range SX drivetrain, combined with the low-pressure 2.8″ wide tires, means that while it’s probably not ever going to feel that quick, it has loads of grip and a smooth ride. For hardtail, anyway.
Those wide tires suited Tuscon’s rocky, loose trails, adding both comfort and traction on climbs where exactly that can help your cause, but the Sync’r is never going to be a bike that encourages you to pedal harder or do your best to not dab. There were times when the bike felt a bit slow and tippy, especially on awkward sections of trail where a little more uphill momentum might have seen me breeze through rather than be on the side of the trail, upside down and with a leg through the front triangle. Again.
As a casual climber, which is no doubt Diamondback’s intention with the Sync’r, the bike gets a passing grade and best suits those who are more interested in being outside than being in a hurry.
With a 140mm-travel fork and plus-sized tires, it’s clear that the Sync’r is meant to be more of an all-arounder than the descent-focused Commencal Meta, and that’s exactly how the Diamondback performs on the trail.
On mountain bike trails™ of the fun and flowy variety—picture UK trail centers and fully sanctioned singletrack—the Sync’r will hold its own, especially if the name of your game is just to have fun rather than keep up with faster riders on more capable full-suspension bikes. If the trail isn’t too rough or steep, the Sync’r can truck along just fine, even feeling playful compared to the more cross-country-focused Marin and longer Salsa Timberjack, and especially so if the terrain is full of things to pump and jump.
And while this isn’t a bike to constantly test your limits aboard, the forgiving plus-sized tires and dropper post mean that you’ll have no problems rallying it on the kind of trails it was intended to see and not get rattled to death. With the fork over-inflated as per usual, the seat dropped, and the right tire pressure (invest in a gauge for your tires), the Sync’r can be moved along decently well. A big part of that is the aforementioned components, including the surprisingly powerful brakes, but the bike’s shortcomings are more apparent when things get steeper and faster.
It’s those moments when the Salsa and Commencal both delivered much more composure and willingness to go along for the ride, whereas the Diamondback loses traction earlier and could feel twitchy and on-edge. The Sync’r will still go down all the things if you’re game, but the Meta’s longer fork and more progressive geometry make it much easier to live with if you’re riding a little over your head like I sometimes do.
It’s gotta be difficult to spec a bike at this pricepoint, especially as most of us count food, water, shelter, and a dropper post on every mountain bike as our basic needs. And while it might only have 125mm of travel, it was still nice to see Diamondback get one onto the Sync’r, something that Commencal couldn’t manage with their equally priced Meta hardtail. Another nice touch: The Shimano two-piston MT500 brakes offer tons of power and a (surprisingly) consistent bite point that made them a highlight of this test. As for the front end, RockShox’s Recon RL did fork things without showing any bushing play from new, not something we could say about every fork we used in Tucson.
Two less impressive components were the SRAM SX drivetrain that shifted okay but felt slow and has ergonomics that don’t really seem to suit hands, and also Diamondback’s so-called “tubeless-ready” wheels that only made me ready to jump off a cliff. To be fair, the Vee Rubber tires fit so loose that I needed 3/4 of a roll of Gorilla Tape on each rim to make an air-tight fit (they didn’t come taped, either), only to find that both were somehow still losing pressure at their pinned joints. A tubeless set-up is near-mandatory in my mind, especially in the desert and regardless of how much the bike costs, so this was a bit of a bummer.
Photos by Tom Richards