Review: Diamondback Heist 3.0+

by
January 10, 2017

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget

The Diamondback Heist is a 27.5 plus hardtail that comes with a dropper post, air-sprung suspension and a 1x11 drivetrain - for less than £1000.

Brand:
Diamondback
Product:
Heist 3.0+
From:
Diamondback, diamondback.co.uk
Price:
£950
Tested:
by Wil Barrett for 3 months

Rewind to the Humble Hardtail group test in Issue #109 of Singletrack Magazine, for Wil’s review of the Diamondback Heist 3.0 +


As a brand new model for 2017, the Heist 3.0+ sits at the top of Diamondback’s 120mm travel hardtail range. Designed around 27.5×2.8in tyres, it’s the first plus bike from Diamondback, and it’s positioned as a fun, all-round trail plugger.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
The Diamondback Heist 3.0+ is a new 27.5+ hardtail for 2017.

Built from shapely hydroformed and butted alloy tubing, the Heist 3.0+ frame is packed with up-to-date technologies, including a tapered head tube, press-fit bottom bracket, and Boost 148x12mm hub spacing.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
Boost 110x15mm hub spacing on the front…
diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
…and Boost 148x12mm spacing on the rear. Tidy post-mount disc brake too.

In a nod to British sensibility, the rear derailleur cable runs full length outer, and all cables are managed by bolt-on guides that run along the underside of the downtube. Diamondback has also ensured that there is sufficient mud clearance around those chubby 2.8in treads, which is not always standard fare with plus bikes.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
Loads of mud clearance with the stock 27.5×2.8in tyres, and room for 3.0in tyres if you want to go bigger.

Spec-wise, the Heist is by far and away the most value-packed of our hardtail threesome. There’s an air-adjustable RockShox Recon SL fork, 1×11 drivetrain, and Shimano hydraulic stoppers. Most impressive is the fact that the Heist features a stealth dropper seatpost. How Diamondback has managed to get all of that into a sub-grand package is positively puzzling.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
The Boost’d drivetrain includes a 1x narrow-wide chainring.
diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
While a Shimano XT rear mech covers the SunRace 11-42t cassette.
diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
A Stealth dropper post on a sub-£1000 hardtail? You bet!

For my 70kg riding weight, I set up the Recon fork’s air spring with 90 psi, and ran the tyres with 15 psi in the front, and 17 psi in the back (all bikes were tested with stock inner tubes). With the squishy tyres and the frame’s upright riding position, the Heist is very comfortable for a hardtail. The plus tyres help to add extra cushioning, and Diamondback speccing the bike with a 740mm wide riser bar means you’re afforded an upright and open riding position.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
The RockShox Recon fork comes with a remote lockout.
diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
And the Solo Air spring that allows for easy setup, regardless of rider weight.

The saddle proved to be a comfortable choice for all of our test riders, and the twin-bolt seatpost clamp means it’s easy to adjust the angle to your preference. Unfortunately though, the grips are the non-lock-on type and they constantly rotated throughout testing. They’re also quite thick for anyone who doesn’t ride with XL-sized gloves, so I’d recommend looking for some thinner lock-on grips to improve feel and control.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
No lock-on grips though. The stock Diamondback grips are too thick and they rotated on us through testing.

Being a brand new model, Diamondback has updated the Heist 3.0+ geometry over the existing Heist models. It features a head angle that is slackened out from 69° to 67°, with the goal of improving confidence on descents. The frame’s top tube length is a lot more conservative, however, measuring in at 58cm for our medium test bike. That makes it the shortest out of our three test bikes, and it’s a big contributor to the Heist’s upright and cruisey vibe.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
With a 740mm riserbar, the Heist 3.0+ delivers a comfortable and upright riding position.

The Ride

While the Heist isn’t a particularly heavy bike, it does carry a decent amount of mass in its wheelset. And as the only plus bike on test, the Heist was definitely the most casual when setting off from standstill. Once you get rolling though, the large contact patch of the plus rubber provides plenty of traction and momentum on hardpack and rocky trail surfaces, giving you a very connected feel to the trail. I found I had lots of confidence directing the Heist into loose rocky sections, where I could get away with choosing less than ideal lines. There’s masses of cornering grip, and the increased gyroscopic force also makes the Heist very stable when taking to the air.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
For hardpack trails, the 2.8in tyres dish out loads of cornering traction.

That said, the same broad contact patch also contributes to a slightly vague feeling to the Heist’s steering capabilities, so you do find yourself taking less than ideal lines more often. And the harder and faster you push the Heist, the more vague and spongy it feels. Also worth noting is that the shallow tread on the WTB Ranger tyres won’t cope with British mud. They’re fine for trail centre-type thrashing, but they’re positively scary when ploughing through gloopy muck.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
For beginner riders, the Heist is a superb vessel to hone your skills on.

All the other components otherwise performed without complaint. The RockShox Recon fork impressed with its smooth action, adding to the Heist’s overall comfort and control. I did run the rebound damping just a fraction on the slower side, however, as the fatter plus tyres create a springier ride quality compared to regular volume tyres.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
The Rangers are good tyres, but not for British mud. Consider a chunkier tread for wet-weather plugging.

Shifting was slick, and the importance of having just one shifter to worry about must not be underestimated for less experienced riders. It makes a massive difference. The downside is that the gearing is a little tall for ascending steep and/or long climbs though, so be prepared to grind. As for the budget no-name dropper post, it performed faultlessly throughout testing. The lever uses a large alloy paddle that’s easy to activate, and the post returns nice and quickly, with an audible ‘thunk’ announcing that its reached full height.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
Without a front shifter, all you have to think about is that dropper lever. And that is a big deal for new riders to the sport.

With your right thumb covering off gear changes, and your left thumb controlling the saddle height, the Heist allows more of your brainpower to focus on the trail ahead, and that’s something that all riders can appreciate.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
Diamondback has created a fun and competent mountain bike in the Heist.

Overall

On paper, the Heist 3.0+ is without doubt one of the best value hardtails we’ve come across. On the trail, it delivers on that promise by providing a comfortable and confidence-inspiring ride quality that will help you tackle more technical terrain, while giving you a little extra insurance when things don’t go according to plan. It may not have the same high-speed composure as the other two bikes, but it’s the ideal beginner bike for those starting out in the sport. The fact that it also comes equipped with everything a new rider could possibly want, including a dropper post, means it comes thoroughly recommended.

diamondback plus bike 27.5 hardtail budget
For less than a grand, this bike comes with everything you could need. Even the wheels are tubeless compatible.

Diamondback Heist 3.0 + Specifications:

  • Frame // 6061 Hydroformed Alloy
  • Fork // RockShox Recon RL SoloAir, 120mm, Tapered, 15mm Thru-Axle
  • Hubs // Diamondback Sealed Bearing Boost, 32h
  • Rims // WTB Scraper i40
  • Tyres // WTB Ranger 27.5×2.8in
  • Chainset // Diamondback 2-piece Alloy Boost w/32T Chainring
  • Rear Mech // Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus
  • Front Mech // N/A
  • Shifters // Shimano SLX, 1×11 Rapid Fire
  • Cassette // SunRace, 11-42t
  • Brakes // Shimano AM315, 180/160mm Rotors
  • Stem // Race Face RIDE, 80mm
  • Bars // Race Face RIDE, 740mm Wide, 25mm Rise
  • Grips // DB Trail Grip
  • Seatpost // Remote Dropper, 30.9mm
  • Saddle // Diamondback MTB
  • Size Tested // 18in
  • Sizes available // 16in, 18in, 20in
  • Weight // 28.2lb (12.8kg)

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