Tuesday, July 17, 2007

2007 Diamondback Transporter Review.

MSRP: $449
Price paid: $399

Diamondback advertises their Transporter as "rugged and reliable urban utility and transportation" It is a solidly built, versatile steel bike that does the job well.

First, the bike geometry is like that of a mountain bike. You still ride upright, but you have to take a slight forward stance as you ride. Contrast this to other commuter bikes that you take more of an upright stance with the handlebars closer to the rider (examples: Novarra transfer and the Fuji kyoto series.) At the other end of the spectrum are the road bikes (or "ten-speeds") which you mainly ride by slumping over the handlebars to reach the brakes and gear shifters.

In addition, the sizes of this Transporter may run a little big. I usually get fitted with a medium-sized bike or a 19 inch bike. However, I ended up purchasing a Small in the Transporter. The top tube is longer than usual. I rode the Medium Transporter and found myself stretching to reach the handlebars. Bottom line: test ride the bike out to see if it fits good for you.

Second, the 26 inch wheels in the Transporter are smaller than commuter bike wheels, which tend to be around 700mm. In my opinion, for urban street riders, the smaller wheel allows one to quickly evade obstructions in road like potholes, small steel grates or grooves, which can interfere with your ride or even drop you off your bike. I’ve ridden road bikes and commuters and find the large wheels make it slightly harder to turn or evade a small road obstruction at a moments notice. These wheels are also wider (1.6 inches) so they handle curb jumping and other urban type maneuvers better than thin 700mm tires.

Frame: There has been plenty of debate between steel vs. aluminum framed bikes. It seems like the consensus is that both steel and aluminum are equally comfortable. I don’t agree. I am firmly in the camp that steel is more comfortable for most types of riding. This bike has a cro-moly (steel) frame that takes the urban road well. I can feel it "give" as you go through the undulations of the road. I am not a heavy rider either (5’7" 170lbs). I guess a lot of bikes are now being made of aluminum because steel tends to rust. While aluminum may be slightly more expensive than steel, warranty replacement costs will be lower with aluminum (longer life).

If there is something that I disliked on this bike, it is the choice of tire. Diamondback outfitted this bike with WTB tyrannosaurus tires (see right). These are MTB (mountain bike) type tires that are slightly knobby and are good for light dirt type trails. This is fine if you ride a mix of urban and dirt trails, but I suspect most people will buy this bike for urban/asphalt riding. The knobby tires slow you down as you ride and give the bike a "heavy" feeling because of the greater contact they make with concrete/asphalt surfaces. I plan to swap out these tires and install more city slick (smooth) tires. These offer better rolling resistance and should make this bike go faster.

Another good aspect of this bike is the components, esp. the shift levers (Shimano Alivio Rapid-Fire 8-spd Shifters ). I bought this bike at Sports Authority so I was wary of the assembling of this bike. Sports Authority is not a professional bike shop so one should assume that the bikes are put together by regular employees. However, they did a good job. I had no problems shifting gears and the brakes were tight and spot on.

Two other positives: This Diamondback Transporter includes fenders and flared mudflaps. This is great for riding in the rain or when the street is moist after a good downpour. Also a plus: Mounting screws for front and rear racks and mounting screws for water bottle cages (fits 2 cages).

The color of the bike, which is a plain jane dark grey, is perfect for this bike. I plan to use this as a commuter as well as for taking trips to the grocery store or mall. I will lock up the bike with a thin plastic coated lightweight bike cable. The color is a big deterrent to thefts as many bike thieves like to take the flashiest red or yellow bright-colored bikes.

This bike does not have front suspension, which seems very common on most bikes nowadays. This is a positive for this bike in that front suspension can slow you down when you "take off" from a standing position. Urban bikers know that oftentimes they must quickly accelerate at a stop light as cars are behind you. Front suspension forks tend to be heavier and that adds weight to the bike. On the other side of the coin, urban riding includes potholes, undulations and other assorted asphalt characteristics. Front suspension can absorb some of these shocks giving the rider a more comfortable ride.

Minor quibbles. The following are some factors that, while did not sway away from buying this bike, could be important to you:

Saddle: Diamondback includes a narrow gel type saddle. I am a big fan of Cite Y saddle so I immediately swapped out the stock saddle for my Cite Y. Since the stock saddle is kind of narrow, this could be problem since you tend to take an upright stance when riding the Transporter. If you use padded shorts, this saddle would not be a problem. However, most commuters I know wear jeans or slacks when going to work. You WILL feel the bumps when you wear regular pants or shorts in this saddle. You need a wider, padded or sprung seat for more comfort.

Chain cover: This bike has no chain guard or at least a circular disk that covers the front cog wheel. Even some cheap walmart MTBs have these disks. Again, if you commute to work, you tend to wear loose khakis or dress pants. Often these will get caught in the front large crank wheel and they will be ripped and/or stained and perhaps ruined. I swapped one of these disks from an old MTB that I had lying around to fix this. (See pix above).

Specs (from manufacturer)
Sizes: SM (16"), MD (18"), LG (20")
Color: Dark Grey
Frame: DB Double Butted Cromoly Commuter w/fender/rack mounts, H20 Bottle Mounts
Headset: Ahead 1 1/8"
Bottom Bracket: Sealed Cartridge
F. Derailleur: Shimano C051
R. Derailleur: Shimano Alivio
Shift Lever: Alivio Rapidfire 8spd Pods
Cog Set: SRAM PG-830 8spd Cassette (11-32t)
Chain: KMC-Z51
Hubset: (F) 32h Alloy Sealed Bearing R 32h Alloy Sealed Bearing Cassette
Spokes: Black 14g Stainless Steel
Rims: 32h Weinmann XTB-26 Double Wall
Tires: WTB All Terrainasaurus 26x1.6
Brakes: Tektro alloy linear
Brake Levers: Tektro 3-Finger
Pedals: Alloy Cage
Handlebar: Steel riser
Grips: New Avenir ERGO 3-D Comfort
Stem: Alloy 4-bolt Ahead, Alloy
Seatpost: Alloy Micro adjust 27.2mm
Saddle: DB Gel Road, Double Density Base w/Comfort Gel Boost
Extras: Bell, clear coat, owner’s manual, H20 Bottle mounts


Noah said...

Nice review! Bike companies usually cater to the lowest common denominator when it comes to components on a bike, and cost is often another determining factor.

When I converted a "rigid" suspensionless mountain bike (also a Diamondback) into my commuter, I had put Forte SlickCity tires on it. Check out Performance Bicycle's selection of city tires for a few examples of better-rolling 26" commuter tires.

Chain guards are hard to find for bikes with triple-ring cranks. I've always found the best bet for keeping your khakis clean is to be a dorky-looking commuter with your pant leg tucked into your right sock.

Keep up the blogging!

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