Anyone who’s ever ridden an off-road bicycle, particularly an electric one, is bound to have reflected on how it might be improved, maybe the gearing was wrong or the tyres were a bit skinny, the power delivery didn’t deliver or the suspension kept you in suspense. Well, I’m here to say that the Diamondback Ranger comes in as one of the closest to covering the off-road riding requirements of the serious amateur as I have yet experienced in the electric bike world.
When I first received the bike it struck me as looking a bit toy-like with its unlikely colour combination of matt grey, shiny blue and lime green. Not to mention the rather gaudy green stickers, but let’s face it: in a way that’s what it is for some, and I felt a definite sense of excitement and anticipation as I prepared my new toy for use. As I looked it over I realised what a well thought-out quality item this is, with all the gear required for the job and nothing else. And as I was to discover, there’s nothing toy-like about the way it performs. The Ranger is a real hop-on and go cross-country weapon.
The weight is ok, good for an electric full suspension bike with a handy cross piece in the hydroformed forged aluminium frame just below the saddle which serves as a hand hold, for shifting the bike around. I don’t know if it’s deliberate but it’s certainly handy: why don’t more mountain bikes have this? The reach to the bars is fine, best described as sporty, not too much of a stretch, the handlebar is low(ish) but not overly so. For me, the most impressive part of the Ranger is the fact that it sports the new 250W E8000 Shimano motor, a beautifully compact and purposeful piece of state of the art Japanese technology. The 500WH battery is just above on the downtube as low as possible to keep the weight central with a little information screen on the right handlebar and a trigger switch on the left which gives an endearing little beep as you change the settings.
There are 3 power grades, – Eco, Trail and Boost – along with a remaining charge indicator. The modes light up a different colour, which is handy for slightly fuzzy eyes like mine, but the colour difference between Eco (cyan) and Trail (green) could be more obvious. Eco does what you’d expect – gives a gentle push but leaves you doing plenty of work – and is best used for cruising on the flat, Trail feels similar at first, till you press hard on the pedals for a gradient then the power then kicks in firmly as required, right up to the maximum the motor has to offer. Boost is a different animal: there’s no more outright power than Trail but it kicks in right from the first turn of the pedals. I have rarely experienced such powerful torque on a 250W motor, you can plot your line and turn on the rise of distinctly challenging gradients, presenting new and wonderful possibilities for the aspiring mountain biker, particularly one with slightly creaky knees, or even, dare I suggest, someone young and fit who wants to stretch their horizons.
Everything about this bike is bang on for the committed off-roader with nothing superfluous about it. On the open trail the Shimano motor is seamless and smooth, and the bike felt stable and confidence inspiring particularly with those voluminous 2.8’’ Scraper tyres which give you the feeling that no terrain is off limits. This, I discovered, was an illusion, as the tightly blocked tread can clog badly on soft ground; if you’re riding in claggy conditions (and in the UK many of us are) you might need to swap to something that sheds the mud a bit more readily. The 27.5+ wheel size is a perfect compromise between fire trail blasting and single track nadgery. The 180mm Hydraulic Shimano brakes are responsive and progressive and the wide (but not over-wide) bars gave an excellent sense of control. Temperance is the order of the day, of course: don’t go belting towards unfamiliar obstacles in the hope that the gods will take care of you. If you do, though, the suspension is supple and capable with fully adjustable 140mm air forks and rear shock both supplied by RockShox.
The only minor criticism I have is that the seat height on the XL bike I was supplied with, was just high enough for me at 6’ 2’’ (my height, not the height of the saddle!), anyone any taller might have a problem because the (very effective) dropper post sets an extension limit.
Out on the road the bike performs as it should, feeling well balanced and punchy although the gearing and the motor cut-off (25km/h) limit outright road speed. One advantage of the low gearing is the ability to pull away in top in both the boost and trail modes if you use some fairly firm pedal pressure, which keeps things nice and simple. From its behaviour on the road it’s clear where the bike wants to go; that’s not to say it couldn’t be used for commuting but the limiting factor of the gearing and a 15.5mph power assistance ceiling keeps speed down. Off road is obviously where the bike comes into its own.
All in all, my experience of the Diamondback Ranger was one of genuine enjoyment. For those who like off-road riding and who perhaps, like me, spent some of their youth monkeying around on petrol powered trail bikes in the woods this bike is perfect. You can concentrate entirely on making the most of the challenge of the ride with no fear of retributions regarding noise or pollution. This, of course, assumes a respect for walkers and woodland creatures!
Yes, it has a rather salty price tag but I wasn’t left with the feeling that it was over-priced, just a lot of money. If you’re clear about what you want, this bike will supply: it’s tough, pretty and wonderfully aggressive. As it says in the ad, the uphill struggle is dead. Damned right.
||Hydroformed 6061 Aluminium Alloy
||WTB Scraper 2.8
||Shimano XT E8000 250 watt
||ROCKSHOX YARI RC 140mm Air
||ROCKSHOX Monarch Debonair 190x57mm
||Shimano M315 Hydaulic 180mm Rotor
||Shimano XT 11 speed