Within mountain biking the trail-bike segment is the most hotly contested due to its do-it-all nature. So building on its alloy Release from 2016, Diamondback’s first foray into carbon full-suspension is the Release 5c.
With two carbon models starting at an eye-opening $3,000, Diamondback is looking to re-establish the brand as a serious contender for your hard-earned MTB dollars. The higher-end build kit reviewed here retails at a refreshing $4,400.
Diamondback Release 5c specs
- 27.5in wheels
- Fox 36 Float Performance Elite, 150mm
- Fox DPX2 Float Performance Elite, LV Evol, 130mm
- SRAM X01 Eagle 12-speed, Descendant carbon cranks 34t
- SRAM Guide RS discs, 180mm front/rear rotors
- Novatec hubs, Race Face Arc30 rims
- Maxxis Minion DHF / DHR, 27.5 x 2.5 / 2.4inWT
- Race Face Aeffect R 35mm stem, 780mm bar
- Claimed weight 14.5kg (32lbs) medium
Carbon monocoque frame
The all-new frame is the first full suspension carbon bike for the brand and it’s an impressive debut. The finish was top rate, the lines flowed smoothly, and the details were well-thought out.
First and foremost, the internal cables are tube-in-tube design, meaning simple housing swaps are all but guaranteed.
Second, the front and rear triangles are both carbon and share a purposeful aesthetic that match tip to tail.
Third, the requisite rock bash protection is found on the lower down tube, but the bike also ships with an upper down tube pad for a bit of protection when thrown over the back of pick-up truck tailgates.
Other trail bike necessities are also on board: ISCG-05 chainguide mounts, Boost axle spacing and a standard threaded bottom bracket. A direct mount for a rear disc caliper is present for a 160mm rotor, although a 180mm rotor fitment would be welcome, especially with the brawny build.
Finally, the rear suspension hardware is clean looking, stayed tight and remained creak-free throughout some seriously sloppy riding.
Level Link rear suspension
Remember those blind taste tests for Coke vs. Pepsi? I’d love to be able to replicate one of those with rear suspension. Why? Because I think a lot of riders would be hard pressed to tell the difference between certain short, counter-rotating link setups and the Level Link.
DB’s Level Link is impressive. The rear end felt a bit softer off the top with better initial traction than a Santa Cruz VPP system. That said, it didn’t display the urgency that the lauded VPP possesses. That’s not to say it wallowed or was inefficient. Rather, it was more about traction from the beginning of the stroke.
That initial suppleness was certainly helped by the low compression tune of the Fox DPX2 rear shock.
Regarding the Level Link's impressive traction, Diamondback's marketing guy Bryce Wenker said: "Bump forces are free to rotate the system and compress the shock even when pedaling. The system can compress or extend on technical climbs ensuring that traction is always maximized."
An enduro build
Speaking of the Fox DPX2, it was an excellent fit for the bike — easily tunable like a standard air-sprung Float, yet much more composed when riding heavy handed down chunky, blown-out terrain, thanks to the added oil volume.
Additionally, the compression switch was handy to reach, if you’re into that sort of thing.
On the other end a Fox 36 Elite with a Fit4 damper handled front-end business. It’s not the blinged-out, in-your-face Kashima version, but like the rear suspension being softer off the top, only the most sensitive of riders would be able to tell the difference to its gold-plastered sibling.
SRAM X01 Eagle handles the shifting with an interesting choice of Descendent carbon cranks providing the go. Those extra-burly cranks show the product manager at DB was paying attention, as they match nicely with the rest of the stout, yet pedalable, kit.
On rolling duty were Race Face Arc 30 rims with a quality feeling and sounding Novatec hubset. The Arc rims are a popular OEM spec, thanks to a wide range of width options and relatively low weight.
I do find them a bit soft riding when pushed hard. However that ever so slight softness can be a good thing, depending on your weight and riding style.
Wide-tread 2.5in Maxxis Minion tires were on board front and rear and worked wonderfully with loads of traction.
A few downsides are that I would have liked to see a water bottle cage inside the main frame, and if I'm airing grievances, the stock Ergon grips wouldn't make it past the initial build up. I'd also add a top-mounted chainguide.
More playful than plowing
The Release 5c had an interesting ride, its geometry, stiffness and build kit screamed enduro but the 150/130mm front and rear travel fall in the realms of trail bike.
The geometry was spot-on with current hot bikes such as Trek’s Remedy, Santa Cruz’s Bronson and Norco’s Sight, but its 130mm rear end is a bit shorter travel and the chainstays are seriously stubby at 425mm across all sizes.
That tight back-end results in a wheelbase that's 3mm shorter than the Bronson and Sight, and 14mm shy of the Remedy.
In contrast to most modern enduro bikes, where plowing through the rough stuff is the name of the game, the Release carbon felt sporty and lively, and when really working could be ridden quite ridiculously.
What I mean by that is I often found myself boosting and tossing the bike around much more, and in sections of trail where I normally didn’t. That super tight rear end made sliding sideways and bouncing all over the place a common occurrence. It certainly wasn’t faster, but it’s arguably more fun, especially on local singletrack that's been ridden hundreds of times.
On the flip side, that tight geometry did feel like a handful when tired or when having a bad day. It’s exacerbated by the ready-to-smash wheels, slack front end and plush suspension that encouraged staying off the brakes and letting the bike run.
The Release 5c has the chops to ride hard like an enduro bike, but like any bike with 130mm out back requires a strong, able pilot to keep it on point.
Diamondback Release 5c pricing
The Release 5c retails at $4,400 through Diamondback's site. When ordering a bike, Diamondback includes its Ready Ride packaging, which consists of the bike arriving 95 percent assembled along with a shock pump, tubeless valves, a torque wrench with four bits, an extra derailleur hanger, and even CNC'd, sealed bearing flat pedals.
Diamondback Release 5c bottom line
Kudos to Diamondback for showing some restraint and getting the Release 5c dialed instead of throwing out another me-too carbon product. The finish, spec and most importantly the ride is on par with the big boys, yet the price isn't a giant pile of mortgage payments.
Can riders get over the name on the down tube? I certainly hope so as the Release 5c is like a beacon of common sense in a world of overpriced superbikes.