The Release is Diamondback’s newest and shiniest addition to the family, and the company’s first in the ever-growing “short and slack” category of mountain bikes.
With the stock 150mm Pike RCT3 the head tube angle sits at 66º and its 425mm chain stay length puts it in the realm of Kona’s Process 134 and Transition’s Scout, though the bike doesn’t aspire to the extra-long reach figures of the other two. That said, the overall wheelbase is similar due to the slacker relative head tube angle. In the rear, the Release’s 130mm of travel is controlled by a Rock Shox Monarch Plus Debonair, with it’s mega air chamber, which is a perfect match for the familiar looking four-bar linkage systems; though Diamondback considers the Level Link an improvement on the VPP design.
I talked to the man responsible for Diamondback’s new project, Luke Beale, owner and engineer at Level One Engineering, to get an idea of what they had in mind when designing this new system.
“The development goal was to make the best bike we possibly could, and really make the bike that we all wanted to ride. The suspension system, geometry, and frame design all work together in that and were designed together. We all really wanted a bike that was fun to ride on the downhill, but light and easy to climb on. It also needed to have the geometry we wanted - pretty slack and long with much shorter chain stays than Diamondback had been able to use before. And it’s about a pound lighter than the lightest full suspension frame Diamondback previously made.”
The Release sports 130mm of travel in the tail, designed to sit with about 30% sag. When weighted, the two pivot links sit perpendicular to each other, creating some anti-squat alchemy that climbed so well it made me nervous on my first ride. I worried that there might be an unnatural notchy feel in the suspension as it moved through its sag point then on through its travel. I kept looking down to see if I had flicked on the climb switch. I had not. The suspension, however, hunted traction like I stalk an after-work beer as I danced up rooty singletrack. The bike seemed willing to accept input better from below, but not above. Alchemy indeed.
My doubts about the bike’s ability to move through its travel well were immediately put to rest. I rode the bike with such aplomb that my friends stopped following my lines. I ferreted out bad lines deliberately. I was on a straight-up rampage like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. As expected, I hard bottomed around 50 times in two weeks, 30 of which happened in a day on infamous stair-stepping and rocky trails of Mt. Seymour on Vancouver’s North Shore. The suspension, while designed to ramp up and be quite progressive, moved to the noisy end of its travel without much effort. I attributed this to the overall short travel length of the Release.
Hoping for Jackie Chan, the bike rode a little more like Mike Tyson. Despite the compact 425mm chain stays to counteract it, the slack front end felt listless, and the bike didn’t pop out of turns like I had hoped. I typically love vertical (or near vertical) axle paths for cornering acuity, though it rode like a short travel monster truck which was confidence inspiring on straights. I found myself absolutely pinned on some of my local loamers, and the bike never lost shape at speed or in the steeps.
Time to add volume reducers. I ended up adding one on the Pike, but wanted a sharper ramp-up than on a longer travel bike in the back, so tossed on 3. Adding the reducers to the Monarch Debonair made a world of difference; the shock sat higher in its stroke didn’t pack out as easily in rough terrain. This adjustment came at a cost of a narrower window of supple travel, and while the bike felt sportier, it lost the “plow through everything” feeling I loved about it before.
This is always different for everyone, so it’s important to spend some time getting a personal balance of volume reducers, sag percentages and rebound tuning dialed in.
Curious about the bikes weight, I decided to get an official ruling. This bike felt nothing like “light,” but climbed like a dream. I guessed 30 pounds on the nose, then turned on the scale: 31 lbs, 3 ounces. For the price and spec, this isn’t too far out of line for similar aluminum bikes, but with only 130mm of travel, I hoped for something a little more svelt. That said, the bike is in-step with other bikes within the category.
The wheels are Diamondback’s Blanchard 28R (28mm inside width) Boost 148 x 12 Maxle. Two toned. This coloring decision tripped everyone who saw the bike up. Someone mentioned it looked like I had already destroyed the front wheel and replaced it with another, while others talked about the likeness to big box store bikes. This seems like great subject matter for any bike company to avoid. Coloring aside, I tried to kick the hell out of the wheels for weeks with no complaints, wobble or loose spokes.
Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35 Snakeskin tires provide the grip. I typically run a larger, knobbier tire in the front of my trail bikes, but left the Hans Dampf on to check my preconceived notions at the door. While the pair isn’t something that I’d typically run on my own bike, I found it to be a great combo overall and never swapped it out for the duration of the test.
The front end is comprised of 15mm rise x 780mm bars and a 35mm clamp. Getting a bike with a short stem and wide bars is fantastic, and exactly how I prefer my setup. This no doubt played a big role in the “jump on and shred” feel.
All said and done the Release was ferocious on straight-line descents despite its short travel. The back wheel tracked through uneven terrain with the best; though at the expense of a lively feel in corners and poppy feel off of jumps as it common with this category of suspension layout. With 130mm of travel, I felt like the bike sacrificed too much usable travel finding the “happy place” for the shock’s sag and before the last-minute progressive ramp-up toward at end of the stroke. This is deliberate after all as Diamondback’s intentions were made clear: “The shock rate on the Level Link minimizes the overall change in shock rate/ leverage ratio from full extension to full compression. This makes it easy to custom-tune the shocks to best complement the system.”
I found this to absolutely be the case. In essence, being able to finely hone the feel of the shock with volume reducers is integral to the success of the bike’s design. Simply running more air might not be enough and can throw the balance of the bike off. A rider can adjust the Release to the type of trail they are accustomed to, but getting getting it dialed in takes some fiddling. If you like bracket-testing as I do, you’ll enjoy the process of tuning it. The Release was natural to just jump on and ride, and left little to be desired until the terrain got rowdy. That said, the bike would be a good match for folks looking for a bike that will be fun on every trail, but err toward more “standard-issue” rocks and roots. Confidence on descents, climbing prowess and a solid build spec make the Release a real contender for your next bike and a great addition to Diamondback’s mountain bike lineup. Prices range from the tested Release 3 at $3,900 down to the much more affordable Release 1 at $2,500 for the base model.
See more of the Release at www.diamondback.com
Bike size: Large
Fork: Rock Shox Pike RCT3, 150mm Travel, Rebound, Adjustable Compression Damping, 35mm stanchions, Tapered Steerer, 15mm Thru Axle
Rear Shock: Rock Shox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir, 200x57
Headset: FSA No-57E Taper 1.5 /1-1/8" Standard Cups, Sealed Cartridge
Cranks: Raceface Turbine, 30T Narrow Wide Single Ring, Boost Compatible
Bottom Bracket: Raceface Outboard Bearing
Rear Derailleur: SRAM X1 Type 2.1, 11 Speed
Shifter: SRAM X1 11spd (right only)
Cogset: SRAM XG 1150 (10-42)
Chain: KMC X11L
Brakes: SRAM Guide RS, w/ 180mm Front/ 180mm Rear Centerline Rotors
Brake Levers: SRAM Guide RS Hydraulic Levers
Front Hub: 32h Sealed Alloy Disc w/15mm Thru Axle
Rear Hub: 32h, 148x12, Sealed Cartridge Bearing, XD Cassette Body w/ CNC Disc mount
Spokes: 14g Stainless Steel
Rims: Diamondback Blanchard 28R, Tubeless Compatible
Tires: Schwalbe Hans Dampf 27.5x2.35", Snake Skin, TSC
Handlebar: DB35, 780mm width, 15mm rise, 35mm bar bore
Grips: DB4L "Lock on" 135mm Kraton
Stem: DB35, 40mm length, 35mm barbore
Seatpost: KS LEV Integra Dropper w/SouthPaw Remote 31.6mm
Seat: WTB Volt Pro