- A versatile urban or light-trail ready electric bike with removable battery, quick release wheels (front and rear) and a higher top speed of 28 mph in pedal assist level 4
- Powerful 500 watt motor and 48 volt battery combine to offer decent climbing ability, gearless design is very quiet and smooth
- The battery pack has to be turned on before the bike can be activated (which can be confusing and isn't as convenient), limited rear rack mounts, throttle mode cuts out ~6 mph if you aren't pedaling vs. 20 mph on most other ebikes
The Diamondback Trace EXC is designed for more active, aggressive riding. While it’s probably best suited to urban environments given the speedy hub motor design and light suspension fork with lockout, it’s definitely capable of packed trail riding and comes stock with hybrid knobby tires. Compared to its cousin, the IZIP E3 Dash (which uses the same drive system) the Trace is a bit more rugged, slightly less expensive but also one gear short at 9 speeds vs. 10. In my experience riding the Trace it felt comfortable, smooth and fast thanks to the advanced pedal assist (which measures pedal cadence and torque). The real highlight on this electric bike is the higher top speed of ~28 mph when riding in assist level 4. My biggest complaints are the lack of better rack mounting hardware (in case you want to use this as a commuter) and the throttle cutout of ~6 mph. The throttle is capable of pushing the bike up to 20 mph but you’ll need to pedal along for this to work.
The motor driving this ebike is a high quality 500 watt gearless direct drive hub located in the rear. It’s heavier than some geared equivalents but runs smoother, quieter and will last longer. This is actually one of my favorite electric bike motors because it rides so smooth. One downside to gearless designs however is cogging (drag from the larger electromagnets inside repelling when the motor is off) but it wasn’t much of an issue during my ride tests. One of the really neat features of how this motor mounts to the frame is that the electrical cable providing power and activation signals has a built-in quick connect and the rear wheel features a quick release for easier maintenance. This makes transporting and servicing the bike much easier and until recently, was kind of rare in the hub-motor ebike world. The motor itself is from the Currie Electro-Drive line which is also used on some Raleigh and IZIP electric bicycles like the Dash mentioned earlier. In my opinion, hub motors aren’t quite as good for off-road riding (compared with mid-drives) because they add unsprung weight, make the frame rear heavy and make wheel service more difficult. With the Diamondback Trace EXC however, most of these issues are addressed because they’ve included quick release, it’s a hardtail so unsprung weight doesn’t matter and the battery pack is positioned forward on the downtube which improves balance. It’s still not as good as something like the Raleigh Tekoa-iE but it’s less expensive, quieter and zippier around town.
Powering the bike is an impressive 48 volt 8.8 amp hour battery pack with high quality Lithium Manganese cells. The 48 volt configuration is above average in terms of strength and really lets you take advantage of the 500 watt motor for climbing. What might otherwise feel mushy (when using the throttle) feels zippy even though the motor isn’t geared. The pack is removable for convenient charging or reducing the overall weight of the bike when transporting it. Since it’s mounted mid-frame your legs and the tubing surrounding the pack hep to protect it from damage in the event of a crash. Overall, it looks great and the keyed lock on the side of the pack is easy to use but the keys don’t have to be left in when riding (which might otherwise make them vulnerable to getting kicked). In addition to powering the bike, the primary battery can also be used to power after-market lights if your dealer is willing to install them. When the pack is off of the bike it has a built in LED power level indicator that helps you determine whether it needs to be charged. This is handy but one complaint I have is that the same power button that activates the charge status also has to be pressed in order to activate the bike. So turning the Diamondback Trace on is a two step process that just isn’t as convenient as some other bikes.
Operating the bike is very easy and intuitive. Once the battery has been charged up and is secured and locked to the frame, just press the power button on the control pad (located on the left bar) and the screen comes to life. The display is backlit with an auto-light sensor for easy use at night and it shows your speed, battery level and assist level (as well as a few other readouts). For the best range or climbing power I suggest using pedal assist but it’s also nice to have instant power from the throttle or sit back and relax with cruise control (this is one of the only trail capable ebikes I know of with cruise control). The system has a neat range estimator built in as demonstrated in the video review above so you can determine which level of power to use at any given time to avoid running out of juice on the way home. You can see the estimated range change dynamically as you switch from level through four in pedal assist mode. In terms of pedal power and cadence, you get a nine speed Shimano cassette in the rear and a trigger shifter interface on the right bar. It’s all pretty standard and my opinion ninet speeds is enough to get around town and make it up hills without adding the complexity and weight of a second front derailleur. I really like the front chain guide they’ve used here which doubles as a bash guard in case you hit a curb, it keeps the chain on track when you’re going over bumpy terrain and also protects your pants a little bit from getting greasy without adding the weight and vulnerability of a chain guard.
All things considered, the Diamondback Trace EXC is a solid electric bike that builds on the frame building expertise and distribution of Diamondback with the proven drive system and battery technology of Currie and TranzX. I’m not sure whether the production version will have hydraulic or mechanical brakes (the website says hydraulic but my demo unit had mechanical?) either way, disc brakes will stay cleaner and on dusty or muddy trails. The quick release wheels are great (for you or a shop) when tuning spokes, rims, tubes or tires and I like that all of the hardware matches the black frame. If you’re looking for a solid urban electric bike with larger wheels and suspension lockout that will be efficient and light weight but also want the ability to dip off road occasionally (again, hard packed or jogging trails) then the Trace would be an excellent choice. With a few minor improvements it would be nearly perfect but those are easy to overcome (get a beam rack vs. frame mounting and buy a Camelbak since there are no bottle cage mounts). I love that this thing will be available through any Diamondback outlet because that means more people will have access to a quality ebike and get decent service and support ongoing vs. trying to find something of lower quality online.
- Available in two frame sizes for improved fit, both are high-step which may be difficult for some riders to mount but adds strength for trail riding
- Relatively light weight at ~48.5 lbs considering the large powerful 500 watt motor and 48 volt 8.8 ah battery pack
- Decent suspension fork (with lockout for riding on flats), trail-ready tires and nine speed cassette make navigating light off-road sections comfortable and medium sized hills manageable
- Sturdy metal pedals and bash guard (that is also a chain guide) can handle more rugged terrain
- Very quiet motor considering the high power 500 watt design, also known for being durable and long lasting (built by Currie Electro Drive)
- Battery can be charged on or off the bike (store in neutral temperatures and top off after each ride for maximum life) connects easily to frame and locks securely, the built-in LED charge level indicator is useful when the pack is off the bike
- Quick release wheels including the rear with a special easy disconnect cable for the hub motor, makes tuneups easier for the shop and also easier for you if the tire goes flat on a trail and you need to perform a quick fix
- Solid warranty, available at lots of locations throughout the USA for easier test riding, fitting and future service
- Mechanical disc brakes stay clean in wet or dirty conditions (compared with V-brakes), offer good stopping power and the brake levers have a cutoff switch to the motor for safety
- Good price considering the higher end drive system and 28 mph top speed, cables are all tucked away in the frame for a clean aesthetic
- Rear-heavy design makes the bike less stable and less agile than something with a mid-mount pack (especially for trail riding) but the mid-mounted battery is great
- Display panel is not removable and only attaches to the handle bars with one support arm (some newer displays use two) could be a little more vulnerable when trail riding if you slide out on the bike
- The rear seat stay bars lack side bosses for mounting a rear rack in the most secure way, you could still make it work with the middle hole but this might take the place of a rear fender, also there are no bottle cage mounting points on the frame
- In order to operate this ebike the battery pack has to be turned on before the main display is activated, this takes extra time and can make you wonder if the battery is charged or if the bike has an issue (if you forget to activate the pack first)