Diamondback Ranger 2.0 Shimano E8000 Steps
The Ranger has been designed for the UK trails, and it shows. It is a very nimble handling machine, very well suited to tight switchback climbs technical singletrack.
The Shimano STEPS system integrates seamlessly. The Shimano system uses a “normal” front chainring and conventional style cranks, making this e-bike far less obvious. Assistance level and speed (and many other parameters) are displayed on the beautiful LCD display first used on XTR Di2 systems, which is snugly mounted under the right hand bar near to the stem. Control of the assistance level is via a thumb shifter on the left bar The button action is similar to that of a front derailleur shifter. While playing with the bike initially in the car park, this felt a little agricultural to control an electronic system – but out on the trail it made perfect sense. The thumb levers are ergonomically positioned and easy to locate while riding rough terrain while wearing full finger gloves. The firm press and strong click gives you confidence that you have made a successful change, without the need to look across to the LCD display.
The 11 speed XT shifter and derailleur needs no introduction – it works as it should, leaving you very little to think about.
I was most impressed with the suspension pairing. The Yari RC and Monarch RT3, both from RockShox provide a balanced ride. Surprisingly only 140mm of travel, it really hit the rough like a much longer travel bike. This would also be thanks to the plus tyres. The shorter travel kept the bike very nimble, and it really excelled on sharp switchback climbs and steep technical descents. Diamondback’s VPP rear suspension arrangement provided a very plush ride with a good pedalling platform. There was good sensitivity to large and small bumps. My only minor complaint was that under heavy rear braking on very rough or rooty descents, it felt as if there was a small amount of brake jack and the rear end did seem to stiffen up. On the topic of brakes – this bike really should have an offering from Shimano XT to complete the XT groupset. The M315 does not give you quite the raw power of an XT brake, but more importantly, the M315 has a long lever blade which seems to crowd the bar. The M315 cheapens the build somewhat, especially when considering the STEPS system is using parts borrowed from XTR Di2!
This was my first time riding a plus tyre bike and overall I was impressed. It makes sense on a ebike. Giving you the traction to climb even the steepest loose gravel tracks with confidence and no wheel spin. Small bumps are ironed out easily keeping the bike comfortable to ride, saving the suspension for more dramatic impacts. The suspension and tyre size combination worked very well. On the trails we rode and my riding style, I felt the WTB Ranger 2.8 tyres lacked an edge to bite into loose off camber corners – which made riding a little tentative at times.
In summary, the Ranger provides a supple and nimble ride. The excellent integration of the STEPS system provides an almost unnoticeable transition from “conventional” bikes to the ebike. I would love to spend more time with the Ranger and test it on a wider variety of trails.
Compact and maneoverable geometry. Excellent front/rear suspension pairing
Would benefit from a brakeset higher in the Shimano range, particularly with a short lever blade
The WTB tyres lack confidence on the front
You want subtle power delivery and natural feel to assistance
You ride technical trails!