Hardtail mountain bikes have made a comeback the past few years. Plus bikes are a completely new trend. I’ve been caught up in both trends with a purchase of the 2016 Diamondback Mason 27.5+ mountain bike. Following a decade of riding full suspension bikes exclusively, I decided it was time to add a hardtail to the quiver. After much research I settled on the 2016 DB Mason thanks to a combination of progressive geometry, new plus wheels with Boost hub spacing, and an easy-to-swallow price point. So… am I happy with my purchase after two months of riding in the Wasatch? I’ll get to that, but first, the details.
The 2016 Diamondback Mason 27.5+ features:
6061-T6 aluminum frame with 148×12 Boost dropouts
Rockshox Reba 120mm 27.5+ fork w/rebound and lockout control
SRAM X5 Front Derailleur
SRAM X7 Type 2.1 Rear Derailleur
Raceface Ride double crankset and 11-36 10-speed rear cassette
Avid DB1 hydraulic disc brakes
DB OffPiste32 wheels plus WTB Trail Blazer 27.5 x 2.8 tires
Along with the above setup, I added a RockShox Reverb dropper post.
My first ride on the Diamondback Mason 27.5+ bike, I was fairly nervous. Would I be able to handle technical terrain on a hardtail? Will my ass take a pounding without a shock in the back? Will I immediately get buyers remorse? The answer to all three questions is a resounding no! Well, except maybe the ass-pounding to an extent. Much to my happiness, this bike absolutely rocks. I’ll tell you what, hardtails these days are a long ways from the steep-angled rattle-filled bikes that I used to ride in the late ’90s/early 2000s.
My full suspension bike is a Yeti SB66 (read review here) and I still love it. While the 160mm of travel make it suck on long slogs, it’s a blast on descents. So I worried that the DB Mason would leave me uninspired when going downhill. But truthfully, I don’t really miss the full suspension much. When descending, I’m standing on my pedals anyway, and I’m definitely not jumping off stuff, so a need for tons of rear suspension feels moot. Sure, there have been times when riding over ledges or steep roots where I felt jittery without that extra cushion, but those times are few and far between.
From easy cruising on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, to steep climbing on the WOW Trail, and epic loops off the Wasatch Crest, I discovered that the Mason can handle everything put in front of it. The reason lies in both the frame geometry and the plus wheels. The frame is slack and low, with a 67-degree head tube angle. The bike isn’t the most efficient climber as a result, but the hardtail means it’s still far faster than a full suspension. Pedaling hard over punchy climbs is much easier as the rear end takes off like a rocket.
The plus wheels add a bunch of traction, which is great on loose trails and when grinding up rocky sections where rear-tire spinouts are common on smooth rocks. Going tubeless helps so the tires can be pumped with low PSI for even more cushion and traction. I’ve been running mine at around 15 PSI up front and 17 PSI in the rear, and love how it gives this hardtail a little more cushion.
On the down, the Mason 27.5+ is definitely not as good as a full suspension, but that is to be expected. Still, I am pretty much blown away at how capable this bike is on the down. The slack geometry and head tube angle, coupled with the large tires, really gives me confidence when descending at speed. The 120mm in the front fork seems like not much, but I haven’t bottomed it out in two months of riding. The only place where I find fault is super steep, technical terrain, where rear cushion is so nice to have. If I were to shuttle the Whole Enchilada in Moab, or ride Captain Ahab I would probably choose my Yeti. But for any riding in Park City (or the Wasatch in general) the Mason is all you really need. In fact it’s pretty much perfect.
Why? Because on smoother singletrack that is found in Park City, this bike feels extremely planted, which allows for excellent cornering, and a total confident, stable feel on the bike. With the slack geometry and big wheels/tires working together, the bike is like a monster truck, gobbling up everything in its path.
There are three versions of the Mason 27.5+… the Mason Pro, Mason Comp, and Mason. The Pro and Comp have more expensive components, so I chose the basic Mason. It comes with Avid DB1 hydraulic brakes, SRAM X5 front derailleur, SRAM X7 Type 2.1 rear derailleur, RockShox Reba fork, and Diamondback OffPiste32 wheels with WTB Trail Blazer 2.8 tires. While this build is clunky and cheaper, I so far have found no fault with it for casual weekend riding.
The Good: Slack geometry, big wheels, and Boost technology make this the most capable hardtail I can imagine.
The Bad: Components could be better for the base model. Super technical terrain is not fun (but better riders than me should have no issues).
Final Word: If you’re looking for a hardtail to add to your quiver, or need a single bike that can (almost) do it all, look no further than the Diamondback Mason 27.5+.