Diamondback Release 5C
Words and Photos by Drew Rohde
Back in 2016 I attended a Diamondback Release media camp in Santa Barbara, CA. A large group of MTB journalists were gathered to see a prepped and ready Diamondback ready to return to their roots of making high performance bicycles. I left the camp impressed and saw great promise in their new Level Link suspension platform and competitive price points. Fast-forward two years and I’m equally impressed with how they’ve refined the Release and now offer a completely carbon fireball with a high-end spec for $4,399.
As we mentioned here in our Bitchin Budget Bike intro, the DB Release 5C is the bike that kicked off our quest for affordable high performance bikes. After several of our testers returned the 5C with notepads full of praise that a sub 5k bike could deliver 7k performance, we decided to search the web for more bikes that could compete at the top level for a fraction of the cost.
Yes, there are bikes that cost half as much, but the spec on those bikes quickly limits high-level performance and long-term reliability. Two things the Release 5C knows a thing or two about! Collectively we’ve been beating on this 130/150mm bike for over six months with nary a squeal. In fact, it’s almost like the stiff, short rear end begs us to kick it out sideways as much as we can.
Diamondback built the completely carbon monocoque frame to be a nimble yet burly trail bike. With a very efficient pedaling platform and 130mm of travel, it’s ready to do some big rides and is great while pedaling. Don’t think it’s just a good pedaler, the stiff frame, short chainstays and 150mm fork let you know it’s ready to get down when you want to.
Level Link Suspension – If you removed the branding from the side of the frame chances are a fair portion of riders would mistake the Release for some much more expensive bikes employing similar looking suspension designs. The truth is, while the four-bar, counter rotating link design may “look like a…” it actually rides a bit different, and in some cases much better than those look-alikes.
The design works by keeping the lower link parallel to the chainline while the perpendicular upper link moves inward with the shock. DB claims this helps isolate drivetrain forces from impacts. After plenty of testing we can say the bike does a good job of living up to its claims with an efficient pedaling platform, good sensitivity and a supportive mid-stroke.
The Build – For the price point, Diamondback did an excellent job specifying top notch parts on the Release 5C. Aside from the usual consistency issues with the SRAM Guide RS brakes we didn’t have any issues during our test period.
A highly tunable Fox Performance DPX2 with 3-position lever worked great out back and the Fox Performance Elite 36 fork did a great job of handling the terrain we plowed into. We did add one volume reducer to the fork however as it dives a bit under hard braking on steep terrain.
Truvativ Descendant cranks spin the twelve speed X01 Eagle drivetrain. Eagle has been the standard drivetrain on most of our test bikes for the last couple of years and for good reason. It offers the best range of any factory drivetrain and shifts crisply with ergonomically friendly shifters.
Race Face Arc30 wheels and Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR tires make up the rolling stock. It’s hard to complain about a bike when it comes spec’d with those tires so, thanks DB for making our job easier there. The wheels have developed a slight wobble but as we said, the short frame is really to blame as it just makes us want to slam the back of this bike into anything we can. For aggressive or heavier riders the wheels may seem a bit soft, but in all honesty we believe it’s a compliment to the stiffness of the frame.