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.
Diamondback’s Release 5C rides very well overall. I remember being more than impressed by their first alloy version back in 2016. As the evolution continued, the shapes and materials evolved, I remain impressed by the Release, as does the rest of the test crew.
The bike does have its limitations however. Diamondback chose to go with 130mm of travel out back for a reason. We suspect a large portion of riders will be more than able to navigate their local terrain with the shorter rear end and 150mm fork. Some people feel having more is better, but for the refined rider who’s looking to blend precision, playfulness, efficiency and all-around performance, the Release 5C could be your dream.
Like humans, bikes have personalities and the Release is no different. This bike is lively. On the ground and in the air, moves are made effortless. Our favorite trait is the nimble demeanor of the Release 5C. Where some bikes love to stay low and plow, the Release prefers to skip, pop and swerve.
For most of our rides this was a beneficial trait and something that had us pulling the Release off the rack more frequently than our 160mm testers. On days when we were headed out to ride the gnarly terrain, the small bike would often get passed up for something a bit more appropriate. This doesn’t bother us because the Release wasn’t designed for those days. We suspect that 80% of the time most people’s riding routines leave their burly, mini-DH bikes feeling like a tranquilized race horse pulling a wagon at the local hayride. The Release, on the other hand, feels invigorating and alive.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Diamondback’s Release 5C continues to show the brand is committed to developing more capable bikes every year. The 5C improved on the original Release we rode back in 2016– an impressive bike in its own right. This bike was the inspiration for our budget bike review but as time went on we quickly found that it was actually on the higher end of the “budget performance bike” spectrum.
With bikes like the Trek Fuel EX 9.7 (review coming soon), the Release 4C and others offering ride quality in the same ballpark, we began wondering if ditching the carbon cranks and X01 drivetrain to ride a bike that costs even less would take away from our trail experience in a notable way. Ultimately your budget and how closely you can interpret feedback from the bike will justify your decision but we believe what makes the 5C impressive is the near top of the line build that’s still competitive with more budget-friendly specs.
The Release 5C is a sporty, fun and lively bike that pedals well. With the shock’s platform engaged it pedals even more efficiently but it’s far from necessary thanks to the nicely executed Level Link suspension system. The design remains more sensitive than other similar-looking designs found on some bikes and offers a nice amount of support and ending stroke progression.
Short chainstays, a stiff frame, a nice price tag and a playful demeanor are the quick takeaways from our time aboard this bike. The 130mm rear travel will cross it off some people’s list if they’re looking for a true big mountain machine. If you’re not looking for big hit performance and spend most of your time riding moderately chunky to flow-type trails, the Release 5C is a pretty damn sweet ride and there’s not a ton of better spec’d carbon frames that ride this well for the price.
Weight: 30.19 lbs
How does the Loam Wolf rate the Diamondback Release 5C
Ride Quality: ★★★★
Likely to Recommend: ★★★★.5
Frame: Carbon; 130mm
Fork: Fox Performance Elite 36; 150mm
Shock: Fox Performance Elite Float DPX2
Brakes: SRAM Guide RS
Handlebar: Race Fact AEffect R; 780mm
Headset: FSA No. 57
Saddle: WTB Volt Race
Seatpost: KS Lev Integra; 150mm
Shifter: SRAM X01 Eagle; 12s
Stem: Race Face AEffectR35; 40mm
Rims: Race Face Arc30
Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF 27.5 x 2.5, DHR 2.4
Bottom Bracket: SRAM GXP
Cassette: SRAM XG1295 Eagle; 10-50t
Cranks: Truvativ Descendant Carbon; 34t
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle
Composure in Very Fast, Rocky Trails
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