Wideopen’s Team Manager Big Dave K has spent most of the year aboard the Diamondback Range 2.0 eMTB.
After a full season’s hammering and a trip to the MegAvalanche, it’s time to find out how he got on… and have a bit of a chat about eBikes in general.
Review by Dave Konstanz / photos by Callum Philpott
Introducing… The Diamondback Ranger
E-Bikes, love them or hate them, they’re not going anywhere. We ran a poll a few years back and you guys wanted to see more of them in Wideopen so, here it is, a full blown eBike review.
So far, I’ve ridden the hell out of the Diamondback Ranger. I got it in late Spring and my riding transformed overnight. I was a bit stale with my fitness and was struggling to get motivated to ride my mountain bike on big days out, particularly with people who were fitter and faster than I am.
I work long hours and my free time is taken up running the race team – I don’t have time to hit the gym to try and get fitter. An eBike was the answer.
When the Ranger turned up it put a rocket up my arse big time. Since I’ve had it I’ve ridden loads of bike park laps, loads of local trails, some big rides in South Wales blasting up and down proper big hills. The ultimate test was the MegAvalanche, with a week of big Alpine riding.
- 27+ Wheels
- BOOST Spacing
- 140mm VPP Suspension
- Shimano XT Drive train
- Shimano STEPS E8000 Motor
- Shimano STEPS 500Wh Battery
“Out of the box, the Diamondback Ranger ticks plenty of boxes.
It isn’t perfect, but it does a really decent job.”
Out of the box
Out of the box, the Diamondback Ranger ticks plenty of boxes. It isn’t perfect, but it does a really decent job.
For £3900 you get a tough alloy frame with internal cable routing that has taking a heap of abuse over our test period.
The bike has 140mm rear travel through a RS Monarch RT3 Debonair and comes with a 140mm RockShox Yari RC fork. Suspension is built around the proven VPP platform and works well.
The wheels are a combo of WTB rims and Diamondback hubs with plus sized WTB Ranger 2.8″ rubber. Gearing is a combo of Shimano bits and it was nice to see some XT kit in the mix.
The most noticeable thing crying out for an upgrade is the cockpit and the bike comes supplied with a narrow 720mm handlebar and lengthy stem. I switched to a 50mm stem and 800mm bar and the bike instantly felt a bit more aggressive.
There’s room for an upgrade but all in all, it’s not bad.
The heart of the Diamondback Ranger is the Shimano Steps system which has been faultless.
Shimano Steps has three modes, each offering a different level of assistance to your pedalling. The modes are ‘Eco’, ‘Trail’ and ‘Boost’ and can be controlled from the bike’s handlebars with a neat and tidy remove lever and Di2 screen.
Eco mode is the lightest of the bunch and is perfect when you’re riding with non-ebikers and are happy to spin up the hills at their speed. Trail mode is great when you need an extra push and is something I use on looser, steeper climbs full of roots and rocks. Boost mode is crazy and really blew my mind when I first used it. It’s for the big, steep, nasty climbs and puts a huge grin on anyone’s face who tries.
Of the eBike motors we’ve tested here at Wideopen, Steps is by far the most natural to use and offers the neatest and most refined package. It follows your pedaling very subtly without any sharp bursts of wheel-spinning torque and regardless of the mode you’re in it makes controlling your speed and power on climbs a doddle.
There’s also no big ugly hardware, the shifter is as neat as you’re likely to get on an eBike and the Di2 screen is small, subtle and works with your posh gears if you have them.
One of the limiting factors on the early ebikes was their battery life. As time has progressed and technology improved, the battery life in turn has got better.
There is still a bit of battery management involved if you are going to take the Ranger on a big ride, but that is part of the challenge and also allows you to put more effort in on the flat or on slight uphills. If you’re going for a lap round your local trail centre then you can put it in boost mode and tear the trails a new one.
It’s a bit of a learning curve, but the maximum I did on one charge of the battery was 10 big laps of Triscombe which was 32km with 1600m of climbing. My energy ran out at about the same time as the battery!
How does it perform on the climbs?
Out of the box, the Ranger is more than happy slaying your local trail centre trails. Round Pedalabikeaway, Cwm Carn or Afan it’ll power you up the hills and send you down the downhills without any hassle.
The excellent Steps motor transforms tough climbs and makes it easier to squeeze in “just one more lap” of your favourite loop.
You can stick the bike in Boost mode and outpace even your fastest of mates… but I try not to ride the bike like that. I tend to run it in Trail mode which helps me to keep up with my riding group whilst still earning tired legs and feeling like I’ve had a good ride.
The bike doesn’t take away the physical aspect of mountain biking, you’re just able to go further, for faster and for longer or ride with people that would normally leave you for dead.
More time on your bike can only be a good thing.
And on the downhills?
Once you get away from the surfaced trails the Ranger starts to fall down a little in its out-of-the-box form.
The bike, like all eBikes, is a heavy piece of kit. Weighing close to 20kg it picks up speed quickly and the basic Shimano brakes struggle to keep up.
You’ll also want to swap the DB 125mm dropper post for something longer. You’re likely to spend a lot of time climbing on the Ranger and something a bit longer will offer less faff on big rides.
I also had a bit of trouble with the WTB Vigilante tyres. They’re fine for trail centre riding and mellow trails but really struggle when things get rocky and technical. Trails like Rim Dinger at Bike Park Wales are way beyond what they can cope with and I struggled with punctures, eventually remedied with some Maxxis Double Down High Rollers in plus size.
You need big tyres for an eBike and, unfortunately, much of the plus size options just aren’t tough enough for aggressive riding.
Despite the apparent short comings, there’s a serious amount of fun to be had on this bike. The strength of the Shimano Steps system and the great suspension platform definitely made up for the niggles about spec.
Overnight I was able to go out and smash big rides, keep up with people way fitter than me and compete in the Megavalanche. I work 50+ hours a week and I also run a race team alongside which makes it tough to find time to invest in my fitness. A bike like the Ranger takes that problem away.
So sadly the Mega didn’t end for me how I wanted with getting over the line. The pointy rocks decided my fate was two punctures and a destroyed tyre. Had a wicked week though with a mega crew, bring on next year for some redemption! – – – #mountains #megavalanche #mtb #justgonnasendit #letsavew #ebike #puncture #rocks #ruinedit #teamwideopenmag @diamondbackuk @wideopenmag
The Megavalanche is probably the most brutal endurance downhill event in the World. With a specific category for eBikes it would be the ultimate test for the Diamondback Ranger.
I fitted a longer dropper post, four pot brakes, burlier tyres and a combo of offset bushings and an angle adjust headset from Works Components to rake the head angle out to a much slacker 65 degrees.
I was a little apprehensive that there wouldn’t be enough travel; however, I was more than surprised when I got out there and the bike lapped everything up. The plus sized tyres mean that you can sacrifice a little of the suspension travel and there were only a few instances when I wished for more.
The qualification race at the Mega turned out to be a bit of a beast. The organisers decided that we would have to pedal up the qualifying track, rather than race down it.
Even with an eBike this wasn’t an easy task. The race ended up chucking me up 2000m of climbing over a 12km track. I was a wreck but the bike got me up the mountain – something I could never have done on a conventional mountain bike.
The main event.
Sadly the main race of the Megavalanche was over all to quickly for me.
The snow on track had melted quite considerably and left behind sharp tyre-slashing rocks. One of these cut a huge hole in my tyre after only a couple of minutes of riding and my race was done.
Despite all of this, the Ranger was great out in the Alpine terrain.
Sure, the adjustments that I made to the head angle made a big difference, but overall, it was one of the most fun bikes that I have used out in the alps. The extra weight of eBikes really do make them great descenders and the bike felt solid, planted and confidence inspiring. For those days where we did more pedalling than riding the lifts, the motor kept me going alongside fitter, faster riders and pushing for ‘one more run’.
Would I buy one? The answer sadly is no.
But that’s because I’d shell out an extra £300 and get the next model up (Diamondback Ranger 3.0) with Di2.
Sure, the bike isn’t a finished article and the spec could be a bit better but are there many bikes out there that you wouldn’t swap the handlebars for your preferred brand/fit or the tyres that you are used to?
The bike’s main short coming is the geometry which limits what it can do without modifications. It’s clearly aimed at entry level riders or people that are happy with mellow riding, trail centres and relatively undemanding terrain. I’d love to see Diamondback bring out a more aggressive version of the bike with a slacker head angle out of the box and a bigger bar and shorter stem.
There’s a lot of fun to be had with this bike, it gets you out and about exploring to spots that you might have been put off by before because of the big climbs/length of ride, but this bike will get you there.
More time on your bike can only be a good thing…