Diamondback might not land on everyone's shortlist for high-performance road and mountain bikes, but the company are in the midst of a major push to turn that around, with a wide range of well thought-out machines.
From lightweight carbon road bikes to disc cyclo-cross machines and long-travel 29ers, Diamondback are now putting out some genuinely appealing products that are worth a closer look.
On the Podium
While Diamondback are best known for their mountain bikes, a few consumers might remember the company's history on the road. In fact, Diamondback were one of the first major brands to move away from traditional lugs to lighter TIG-welded, short-butted steel frames in the early 1990s, with the Master TG.
After a long stint of admittedly mediocre product, Diamondback's impressively resurrected road range is now topped by the Podium 7 carbon fiber platform. The bike has a claimed weight of under 900g for a 56cm size, and a matching tapered all-carbon fork weight of 360g – thankfully, there's not a hint of marbled paint to be found.
The flagship Podium 7 gets the all-red treatment for 2013
Despite Diamondback's status as a relative newcomer to the high-end carbon road bike scene, the Podium SL chassis ticks most of the requisite boxes for technical features. These include Toray MR60 and HR40 carbon fibers (with pre-preg sheets produced in-house) and a modern manufacturing process with additional internal molds at the bottom bracket and head tube areas, for more precise shaping and tube wall consistency.
Elsewhere, there's a tapered 1 1/8in to 1 1/2in head tube with molded-in seats for the integrated headset bearings, a press-fit 30 bottom bracket shell with a bonded-in carbon fiber sleeve, carbon fiber dropouts, a replaceable carbon fiber front derailleur mount and internal cable routing.
Likewise, the all-carbon fork features continuous fibers from top to bottom, a molded-in seat for the lower headset bearing, and carbon fiber dropouts.
Save for a switch to slightly lesser fibers that add about 100g to the bare frame, the standard Podium frame – used on the Podium 6 and 5 models – is otherwise wholly identical throughout.
Diamondback haven't bothered with any aerodynamic tube design, preferring to stick with the classic performance metrics of weight, stiffness and ride quality. To this end, most of the tube diameters are notably large, and the tube walls are audibly thin.
But the seat stays are broad and flat, to provide rear-end comfort without overly sacrificing drivetrain efficiency. While not exactly an original approach, it's one that's been well proven by other brands, so there's little reason to expect it won't work here.
Geometry is decidedly middle-of-the-road in terms of handling speed, with traditional head tube angles that vary between 72 and 73 degrees and 72.5-67.5mm bottom bracket drops depending on size.
While Diamondback road product manager Michael Brown told BikeRadarthat the Podium range isn't intended to compete based solely on price, the numbers are still undeniably enticing.
For example, a Shimano Ultegra Di2-equipped Podium 6 is just US$4,500 with Easton alloy wheels and an Easton carbon bar. A Podium 7 with new SRAM Red and Easton EC90 SL carbon clinchers is a comparatively inexpensive US$7,200.
S-bend seat stays on the Podium 6 are wide and thin, for a lively but smooth ride feel
More impressively, Diamondback are offering a couple of Campagnolo-equipped models, including the Podium 6 with Chorus – and Campagnolo Shamal 2-Way Fit tubeless-compatible alloy clinchers for US$5,500 and a Podium 7 with Super Record and Easton EC90 SL carbon clinchers for the relative bargain of US$8,500.
Moreover, the complete packages are also quite light. Actual weight on a 56cm Podium 6 Campy is just 6.94kg (15.3lb) without pedals and a 58cm Podium 7 with new SRAM Red is just under 6.5kg (14.33lb) without pedals.
We did find a few concessions made to help reduce costs – tubing size doesn't vary by size, so different frames will likely have somewhat disparate ride qualities. And while there are six sizes from 50-60cm on tap, all of them use the same fork rake.
Updated cyclo-cross bikes
Diamondback's alloy Steilacoom cyclo-cross range gets a revamp as well, with key changes including a tapered head tube, stiffer chain stays and a bigger down tube – all of which should make the new versions snappier and more responsive than their predecessors.
The Steilacoom RCX Pro Disc is a high-end cyclo-cross option for 2013
The top-end Steilacoom RCX Pro V also moves away from traditional cantilevers, to TRP's fantastic CX8.4 linear-pull brakes. But the real standout is the Steilacoom RCX Pro Disc, which will come with Easton's brand-new – and ultra-burly – EC90 XD disc-specific carbon cyclo-cross fork, Easton XA90 XD alloy clinchers and Avid BB7 mechanical disc calipers upgraded with XX 160/140mm front/rear rotors.
More 29ers for 2013
Out on the trail, Diamondback say the popularity of the Sortie 29 trail bike prompted an expansion of the range, which now includes the 140mm-travel Mason FS, and the Mason HT hardtail with a 140mm Fox TALAS fork.
The Mason FS uses Diamondback's long-running Knucklebox linkage-activated, single-pivot rear suspension design, but with a few tweaks to bring it up to date. Pushing the seat tube forward and switching to a direct-mount front derailleur has allowed for shorter chain stays. The Knucklebox linkage's main pivot is now directly mounted to the sides of the down tube, for improved stiffness, and the upper linkage pivot is more heavily reinforced.
The Mason FS comes with 140mm of travel
Component highlights for the top-end model include Easton Haven alloy wheels, a Race Face SIXC carbon two-ring crank with bashguard, and a RockShox Reverb dropper post.
Interestingly, Diamondback's product managers have also squeezed in what's long-been a favorite tire setup compound among industry insiders: a very aggressive and voluminous front tire matched with a much smaller and faster rear – in this case a 2.2in Kenda Nevegal paired with a 2in Kenda Slant Six.
The Mason HT does without rear suspension in favor of a burly alloy frame with a very short rear end, for more maneuverability. The long fork yields an unusually slack (at least for a hardtail), 66-degree head tube angle, and Diamondback also equip the bike with a 1x10 drivetrain and lightweight MRP 1.X guide. Key component standouts include WTB i23 rims, Race Face alloy crank arms, a Fox 34 TALAS 29 CTD Evolution fork and a remote KS dropper post.
The Mason HT features tight rear-end geometry
Diamondback's new carbon bikes are slated for delivery next spring (although the carbon Podiums were actually introduced as a 2012 model, so current bikes might still be available). New alloy road, cyclo-cross and mountain bikes should be available in the fall.
Stay tuned for a first ride report on Diamondback's top-end Podium 7 in the coming days, too.