2016 Diamond Back Catch and Release
Santa Barbara was the chosen location for Diamondback to amass a gaggle of media to show off their new creations. Two new bikes based around Diamondback’s new Level Link suspension platform were at our bidding and based on the fervour within the Diamondback ranks they are pretty stoked on these new bikes.
There with the media folks were Diamondback’s certified crew of rippers; local Vancouver girl and social media maven Micayla Gatto, the man with the most impressive forearms, Eric Porter and the ever-energetic Mike Hopkins. At our beck and call was a party bus for the weekend to get to the awesome trails that sit in the mountains above Santa Barbara.
Level Link is a twin link suspension system and will be the basis for DB’s bikes going forward. There is no getting around that fact that, yes, this is the first alternative take on the VPP style suspension design that has been so well executed by Santa Cruz (and Intense). Big shoes to fill then. The patent on that suspension layout expired allowing Diamondback to design the Release around the counter-rotating twin links. This is not a knock off of the Santa Cruz or Intense bikes, though. In fact, Diamondback has tweaked this system enough that they are now pursuing their own patent for the Level Link design.
The trick with Level Link is that the lower link is designed to be level (alas the name) and in line with the chain line when the bike is sagged. This means that the forces created by you laying some watts into the crank shouldn’t affect the rear suspension. As ever, the goal is in the search for a balance between big hit plushness and a snappy feeling under acceleration.
The Release is a significant step forward for Diamondback. The limitations of the old design made for certain frame features that are not favourable with today’s modern geometry tastes. Specifically the long chainstays the Mission had. Those are gone and 425mm chainstays are in their place. The new frames are obviously lighter (has a new bike come out that is heavier than its predecessor?) and reflect the longer and lower modern take on geometry. On appearances alone the bike has a good stance and looks game for some aggressive riding. The numbers back that up with a 66 degree head angle.
The devil is in the details and the new bikes feature Enduro bearings for the pivots, collet hardware and axles that thread in from the non-drive side. The rear hub is boosted and that aids with the frame being 1, 2 or 3-by compatible. The one “modern” feature that is notable in its omission is internally routed cables; everything is external with the exception of the dropper post which enters at the bottom of the seat tube on the Release Three.
Party at the front and business at the rear was the term used to describe the set up on the Release Three. The party being a 150mm travel Rock Shox Pike RCT3; business is in the form of 130mm of travel at the rear, damped by a Monarch Plus RC3 with the Debonair can. That is a pretty serious shock for this amount of travel so I’d argue that the business end of the Release Three likes to let its hair down on the weekends. I’ve written about this kind of set up recently, bikes where a longer travel fork is mated to a shorter travel frame are what a lot of us ride, even if we haven’t purchased that bike off the shelf. Some may look at that as unbalanced, but given that you have some pretty serious dampers in the form of your two legs that focus on controlling the rear of the bike, it makes a lot of sense.
Of course we were there to ride and thankfully the presentation of the bike was efficiently taken care of and we were quickly loaded onto the bus to get to the trail. I got the sense that the Diamondback crew was so stoked on the new bikes that they wanted to get us out riding them instead of talking about them. Given that they designed this bike to be something that they wanted to jump on and shred the local trails on this makes a lot of sense. Something like a bike for the masses that like to just go ride and aren’t focussed on anything other than the grin that those two wheels can put on their faces.
It was a good tactic and they picked trails that had everyone grinning, even giving us a sturdy climb to do to get to the top of the first trail head. I’m not going to review the bike here after a single day of riding and we have a Release on its way to us for more shredding on the local dirt. What I will say is that this bike is a huge step up for Diamondback.
The rear suspension is well damped, with a great feeling of support through the stroke without ever hanging up on square edged hits,which were plentiful in some of the rock gardens we rode. In fact it felt so deep that if you didn’t know the travel you’d suspect it was the same 150mm as the fork. DB could have thrown the full 160mm travel Pike on and I don’t think it would be a detriment, something that could be adjusted down the road maybe.
The angles when in motion feel pretty bang on for aggressively throwing the Release down the trail and while we didn’t hit anything particularly steep, the speeds were hella-fast in a lot of sections especially when I was trying to stay on the tail of the rapid Ms Gatto.
The stability and composure suggest that steep stuff won’t phase this bike. Fit wise things are of course longer in the reach than previous frames. I chose to ride a Large frame but I fall between that and an XL. Reach felt pretty bang on for me though with the 635mm (25″) top tube not too long to compromise the bike’sclimbing ability. Personal preference has me wanting to try the Release with the bar a touch higher, but that is a minor adjustment.
The Release Three that I rode retails for a very reasonable $3900 USD with a smart build based on SRAM X1 with Guide RS brakes, a KS LEV Integra dropper post, Schwalbe Hans Dampf snakeskin tires and good quality suspension front and rear. Diamondback branded components feature in the cockpit and wheels. The wheels are actually a new design by Diamondback with a wider profile, 28mm internal on the Release, an asymmetric design and spoke drillings. They look pretty smart too with the rear rim reflecting the rear triangle colour on the Release that we rode.
There are two other models in the Release line, the One and Two, priced at $3500 and $2500 USD respectively. Both feature 150mm forks and 130mm rear travel but with the shocks downgraded slightly at each step. Full specs and details can be found on Diamondback’s website.
So where are the 27.5+ tires you ask? Well this launch wasn’t devoid of fat rubber as the Release has a sibing, the Catch. Catch and Release. Geddit? The Catch actually has a slightly different frame, despite appearances, with the suspension tweaked to suit the ride and matched travel front and rear. The Catch 2 pictured will retail for $3,500 USD with a SRAM GX build and the Catch 3 at $2,500 USD.
Details on the Catch and Release are available to drool over on the inter webs now and the bikes will be with their dealers in a few weeks. If you are so keen they are available for pre-order now.
Based on my first impression I think that these are a solid deal for riders that don’t want to spend double on a carbon super-bike and to be honest I’d have a hard time justifying a more expensive bike based on how the Release Three rides. This was just a first taste though and I’m looking forward to throwing the Release down some familiar lines on my home turf, which incidentally is also Diamondback’s.
For all the nitty gritty details go to Diamondback’s website.
Is this the first of a flood of counter rotating link bikes now the VPP patent has expired? Time will tell.