Diamondback created quite a stir when it jumped headfirst into the high-end road market with its first-generation Podium Equipe – a carbon road racer designed to go head-to-head with the big boys. This second-generation bike is a big improvement in many ways with a more refined ride, better handling, and a modicum of aero shaping but the company’s relative newcomer status still shows through in a few key missteps.
Sharper and faster
The wholly redesigned frame unquestionably addresses my biggest criticisms with the previous version. Front triangle stiffness is drastically improved and high-speed handling greatly benefits as a result. Whereas mid-corner bumps could sometimes throw you off-course before, this new version more consistently cuts the desired line for faster, more confident, and safer descending.
The redesigned Podium Equipe frame is notably stiffer than before – and supposedly 100g lighter, too
In fact, chassis stiffness in general has gotten much better. Under power, the Podium Equipe now feels closer to its mainstream competitors and there’s a lot more ‘snap’ when you mash the pedals – seated or standing. Instead of having to gradually wind things up before, now you can simply pour on the power and get a far quicker return on your investment.
Speaking of speed, Diamondback has also infused the new Podium Equipe with some aero shaping. In particular, the down tube sports a new U-shaped cross-section, the base of the head tube flares outward to smooth airflow coming off of the front brake, and the entire head tube is deeper overall. It’s not enough to be noticeable from the saddle but it’s a welcome change nonetheless.
The down tube sports a U-shaped cross-section that Diamondback claims is more aerodynamic than the original version
Not so welcome, however, is the change in ride quality. One of the things I enjoyed about the previous iteration was its impressively smooth and comfortable feel over rougher paved roads. Diamondback may have thankfully boosted the torsional and drivetrain rigidity this time around but it’s no longer the magic carpet it used to be. The chassis still damps small-amplitude road buzz very well but medium-to-hard impacts now produce the same crash you’d typically expect from a race-oriented carbon frame.
Speaking of racing, Diamondback has thankfully carried over the previous version’s excellent handling, which is noticeably quicker than bikes aimed more at endurance riding but more than appropriate for the intended usage. Initial turn-in is immediate and responsive with but a flick of the wrist required to get the bike arcing through a tight apex – and mid-corner corrections are easy, too.
The stiffer front end lends much more confidence through fast corners than before
Heading matters further is the excellent wheel-and-tire package. The unusually generous 21mm of space in between the bead hooks on the HED Jet 4 clinchers plumps the Continental GP4000s IIs up to a healthy 25mm – 2mm more than usual – and flattens out the profile a bit for awesome cornering grip.
Meanwhile, the low bottom bracket (with a healthy 72.5mm of drop on my 52cm tester) keeps the center of gravity noticeably low for stable manners at warp speed. Even at 80km/h (50mph) in a full tuck, the Podium Equipe feels rock-solid – and when it comes down to reign things in, the Jet 4’s alloy braking surfaces offer up much more predictable and consistent stopping power than any carbon rim I’ve used, wet or dry.
A top-shelf build kit
Diamondback certainly hasn’t skimped when it comes to the Podium Equipe’s spec sheet, which is filled to the brim with premium name-brand componentry such as a complete Shimano Dura-Ace 11-speed mechanical groupset (simply one of the very best available today) and a firm but well-shaped and comfortable Prologo Zero-II Nack carbon-railed saddle. In addition to the gloriously speedy and stable Jet 4 clincher wheels mentioned earlier, the HED name is also stamped on the stout alloy cockpit.
It's hard to argue with a complete Shimano Dura-Ace groupset but the stock gearing certainly won't suit everyone
One especially excellent highlight is the bottom bracket. Although some potential buyers may be put off by the frame’s PF30 shell, Diamondback fills that space with a Praxis conversion bottom bracket, whose expanding collet design braces tightly against the inside of the shell. Previous experience with those has proven them to be rock-solid and creak-free (although one could easily argue that Diamondback should have just skipped a step and used a standard threaded shell instead).
One unfortunate lowlight, however, is the stock gearing. Diamondback pegs the Podium Equipe as a “world class road race machine” but few everyday riders have sufficient power to handle the stock 53/39-tooth chainrings and narrow-range 11-25t cassette. This is a fine choice for enthusiasts living in flatter regions but it’s simply too ambitious if there’s any appreciable climbing involved. Those bits can obviously be swapped out but only at a significant additional cost; Diamondback doesn’t offer any other gearing options from the factory.
Ignore the slightly heavier weight compared with full-carbon rims; these HED Jet 4 wheels are simply fantastic
At least there’s minimal weight to tow around as the complete bike tips the scales at 7kg on the nose (15.43lb, without pedals). That’s an impressive figure although heavier than the previous version I tested, which came in at a truly feathery 6.18kg (13.62lb). That bike’s standard HED Stinger 4 SCT carbon tubular wheels were certainly lighter but I’m personally happy to see the switch to more practical rolling stock this time around.
Very good but could be better
As capable as the Podium Equipe is, I still can’t help but feel that the bike has some growing-up to do. After all, Diamondback has admittedly come a long way in a relatively short period of time but its competition has had the benefit of years – or decades, in many cases – of experience and refinement.
How about a few more holes, eh?
For example, I applaud Diamondback for sticking to its decidedly bold – and very, very red – monochromatic paint job but the execution is haphazard. The headset spacers don’t match the stem, which in turn doesn’t match the saddle, which doesn’t match the seatpost, which doesn’t match the frameset. It’s a move designed to perhaps emulate the custom finishes produced by small custom builders but whereas those bikes are typically painted in one place in one batch, Diamondback sources all of those red components from multiple vendors – and the chances of them all matching perfectly are virtually nil.
Second, there’s a certain level of insecurity suggested by all the feature call-outs. Diamondback may have packed the Podium Equipe frame with a laundry list of modern requirements but do we really need separate badging for the Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS ports?
There's a lot of red going on here but unfortunately, they don't all match up perfectly
Speaking of which, Diamondback whiffed on the internally routed rear brake line, too. The full-length housing is convenient to service – especially given the relatively big access holes – but it rattles inside the top tube on even smaller bumps. That sort of noise is annoying for any bike, let alone one that’s trying to occupy a premium rung on the ladder.
A question of perception
The new Podium Equipe is very good but without the trump card of a substantially lower price or more appealing spec – and, still saddled by the stigma of not being well-known in the road market, only time will tell if ‘very good’ is good enough. The Trek Madone 9.5 is within striking range price-wise but offers a far superior frame design and substantial cockpit upgrades; likewise, the Specialized S-Works Tarmac Dura-Ace is substantially lighter with a more rigid backbone and far more cachet to boot.
Without a distinct price, spec, or performance advantage, it's unclear why someone would go with this over a more mainstream competitor
That said, both of those bikes are more likely to be sold at near their asking prices whereas the Diamondback can easily be bought at a substantial discount online. That’s a good thing because as good as this bike is, it’s hard to make the argument for the Diamondback on a level playing field.
Like the quintessential adolescent who’s all too eager to conquer the world with self-proclaimed talents and capabilities, the Podium Equipe may very well have the chops to get it done. But with age and experience comes quiet confidence, and this thing still has some growing-up to do.
For more information, visit www.diamondback.com.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Diamondback DBR AmmP+
- Fork: DBR AmmP+
- Headset: FSA No. 42, 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in tapered
- Stem: HED Grand Tour
- Handlebar tape: DBR Race Gel
- Front brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-9000
- Rear brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-9000
- Brake levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-9000
- Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-9000
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-9000
- Shift levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-9000
- Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-9000, 11-25T
- Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-9000
- Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace FC-9000, 53/39T
- Bottom bracket: Praxis Cycles Conversion
- Wheelset: HED Jet 4 Flamme Rouge SCT clincher
- Front tire: Continental GP4000s II, 700x23c
- Rear tire: Continental GP4000s II, 700x23c
- Saddle: Prologo Zero II Nack
- Seatpost: Diamondback ODC
- Pedals: n/a
- Weight: 7.00kg (15.43lb, 52cm size, without pedals)