The first thing that comes to mind with the Diamondback Atroz model of bikes is that it is a long proven design. Single pivot swing arms have been around for over 20 years now. Diamondback has updated the frame and suspension design to work well for their version of this long standing design.
To break immediately into a recommendation, if you can afford the Atroz 3 model, it is the one to own. And that is based solely on one feature which is through axle front and rear wheel mounting. If you want the performance, and longevity that is possible on this design, spend the money and get through axle.
In every single suspension design on the market, the chief worry is making sure both sides of the suspension moves equally and in sync with each other. Otherwise, you get twisting of the frame which wears out the pivots, or can even break the frame or fork. Through axle helps this twisting enormously, significantly more so than a quick release can.
The Affordable Atroz 1
If it is your first foray into suspension bikes, or you are on a severe budget, look to the Diamondback Atroz 1 to get you started. The nice thing with this more basic bike is that it uses an identical frame and rear end as the top of the line Atroz 3. The only difference is the parts.
Many consumers get caught up in that a bike has to stay as it was equipped. Those of us that have been at this a while know that there are many upgrades that can make or break a bike. Spending a few bucks on a better rear derailleur can make the difference on making it up a steep hill for instance.
It is a given that mountain bikes take abuse on the trails. The Atroz 1 makes a lot of sense, as you break parts, upgrade them. You were going to break things anyways, why not start at a lower budget price, and build something great? Good shifting and wheels make a bike easy to ride.
The Atroz 1 features a 3 x 8 drivetrain by Suntour. Suntour has been around for decades but has struggled with competition from Shimano and Sram in segments like these. The nice thing is compatibility is so close, it is easy to deal with the bike in the long term.
This model has more basic mechanical disc brakes front and rear. They will work fine, and have reasonable adjustability on the pads to help with pad angle and alignment. The two finger levers are also adjustable and give good feel and movement.
Atroz 2 a Good Upgrade
One of the key aspects between the Atroz 1 and the 2 is a suspension upgrade. We will get into the suspension aspects more in a bit, but the addition of an air/oil rear shock makes this bike come alive. The key for this rear suspension is to be able to adjust for the rider weight.
The Atroz 2 model also changes the drivetrain up quite a bit. Gone is the 3 x 8 type drivetrain and a 1 x 9 configuration is in its place. The simplification is a nice touch, and the crank upgrade is as well.
This 1 x 9 works pretty well and has a reasonable gear range for most riding. Some riders prefer a slightly easier top end gear, but that can be changed later. The 9 speed Shimano shifting works well, with few issues with the budget minded rear derailleur. As this derailleur wears out, upgrade into a Deore or similar level to get sure shifting on hills.
The front Suntour suspension fork remains the same as the entry level. It does ok, and has a partial lockout for smooth trails and pavement. There isnt much adjustability to this fork, but the rear suspension will help with that since it can be set softer or with less rebound to compensate.
On all the bikes we see good quality rise handlebars and threadless stems that work well. You will see the bar width is ample and over 700mm to give that out of the saddle climbing leverage.
The last upgrade on this bike is the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. Hydraulics are the way to go! Once they are in adjustment, you dont have to worry about them other than monitoring pad wear. These brakes do quite well for most riders. If you were going to do heavy downhill runs, you would want to upgrade significantly.
The Best Choice – Atroz 3
Like was mentioned previously, there is a lot going right with the Atroz 3. The cost on this upgrade versus the features is hard to beat, so lets go through these bonuses.
The first is the Rock Shox Recon air oil fork. This is a great budget minded performance front fork. Get yourself a good quality shock pump for this bike and you can customize the ride with the perfect air levels for your weight and riding style.
The wheels are mounted with what is called through axle quick releases. This differs from the other bikes in that the axles are 12 mm thick supporting the bike, which is a big plus. But Through Axle does something extra, just like on a motorcycle, it positively ties the two dropouts together firmly. This helps the suspension out enormously so that it can maintain alignment.
The drivetrain on the 3 is also improved. Instead of a 1 x 9 it moves up to a SRAM 1 x 11 with a wider range. The Atroz 2 has a 36t easy gear, while the 3 moves up to a 42t climbing gear. So not only do you get a super low gear, but the jumps between each gear are better measured.
Lastly, the bars, stem, and crankset are all upgrades from Race Face. So the ergonomics are great, and the weight drops down a bit.
This type of single pivot swing arm design of suspension has been around for decades on bicycles, and longer on motorcycles. It is quite simple, place a pivot point on the downtube, extend it back to the axle, and then put a shock in place as resistance and control.
Some of the first full suspension bikes that were winning races regularly were of this design. There are easily 100 different rear shocks that could be made to fit the configuration in some way.
Here is the big issue – the pivot. Low-end versions of this suspension type won’t even have a bearing to pivot on, just a bushing, if that. In theory, you can stick a bolt through and allow it to rotate, but eventually the bolt will bend, and the suspension will bind up.
High quality swingarms run on a good bearing, and it is usually replaceable with standard bearing sizes. One of the tricks is to adjust the pivot tightness enough to where it doesnt clunk when dropped, then loosen it slightly so that it moves freely. If you overtighten the bearing, it will wear prematurely.
The best type of rear shock for this swingarm type is a hybrid of a coil over air oil shock. You set up basic sag by changing the spring weight at first, and then dialing the initial pre-load. Then you fine tune with valving both in compression and rebound and small amounts of air.
Air oil shocks do well with this design, but many times you have to run almost at the maximum air pressure for bigger riders. This will prematurely blow the seals on the shock necessitating a rebuild. A plain coil over shock with no dampening is not good as the bike acts like a pogo stick, losing efficiency.
A combination of the Rock Shox Recon air oil front shock and the Rock Shox Monarch R is great on this design. They truly do compliment each other. They both can dial the rebound down enough to allow the bike to float over bumps much easier. Sag can be set in a better way as well, and be maintained.
One of the first things to consider is brakes. While the Shimano brakes on the top two bikes do well, if you are going to ride hard, and have some good downhill sessions, choose a better brake. Something with cooling fins, and maybe 2 or 4 piston design.
Rear derailleurs are advancing lately. With clutch mechanisms and alternate mounting, upgrading the derailleur is a must. So on suspension bikes, the chain is constantly bouncing, which might allow for it to come off the front ring. The Atroz 2 has a chain guide to combat this. If you move up to a Shadow style rear derailleur, it will shift better, and run a clutch mechanism which significantly reduces chain bounce.
Dropper posts are popular right now. These posts operate hydraulically, so that you can run a higher seat height for climbing and fast trail use. Then when it gets steep downhill, you drop the saddle out of the way for increased control and cockpit room.
Pedals are important. There are hundreds of choices, and rarely is the OEM pedal a good one. Look to find something suitable for your riding.
The Diamondback Atroz model of suspension bikes is a very solid trio of bikes. From entry level full suspension up to medium duty trail use, all 3 models work quite well with proven suspension design.
If you can afford it, go with the Atroz 3. It is by far the best buy, and the features at this price point are an absolute bargain. It truly is a bike you can rip on right out of the box.
While the Atroz 1 can work, try to move up to the 2 instead. Between the drivetrain and brake improvements, you gain quite a bit, but more importantly, the rear shock is upgraded to something can be adjusted to work well on this suspension design.
As you can see the Atroz is truly a Diamond – back in the rough for good quality suspension bikes.