Diamondback Release Carbon 5C review

Fun, efficient, and highly capable with very competitive price

27.5 All Mountain Trail
Diamondback Release 5C

Full carbon construction makes the bike a real looker. Photo by Scott Markewitz

Lowdown: Diamondback Release Carbon 5C

As a legendary brand that seemed to have lost its way for a while, Diamondback has made a comeback with the launch of a string of new bikes, including the Release Carbon trail bike. Sporting 27.5 wheels and an efficient and capable Level Link suspension design, the Release Carbon has 150mm front travel and 130mm in the rear that pedals uphill well and descends like a bike with more travel than advertised.

Learn more about the Diamondback Release Carbon 5C in Mtbr’s First Look.


If this combination sounds similar to how someone might describe a Santa Cruz Bronson or Hightower, it’s because the Level Link suspension design is actually a variation of Virtual Pivot Point. Since the recent VPP patent’s expiration, Level Link is the first VPP-variant design to use counter-rotating twin links. The main difference is that Level Link has a lower link sitting perpendicular to the upper link when weighted, which is claimed to improve pedaling efficiency. Add in Fox suspension and the result is quite impressive — a capable and nimble trail bike that is just as eager to climb as it is to rip downhill. Perhaps the most attractive part, though, is a base price of just under $3000 for the Release Carbon 4C, which is just one model below the bike that is tested here.

Stat Box
Frame: Full carbon Cranks: Truvativ Descendant Carbon, 34T
Fork: Fox 36 Performance Elite Float Bottom Bracket: SRAM GXP
Shock: Fox Performance Elite Float DPX2 Chainguard: MRP
Adjustability: Three-position damper Bars: Race Face Aeffect R 780mm
Travel: 150mm/130mm Stem: Race Face Aeffect R 40mm
Rims: Race Face Arc30 Grips: Ergon GE1
Hubs: Novatec Boost Seat: WTB Volt Race
Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR Seatpost: KS LEV Integra 150mm
Brakes: SRAM Guide RS Headtube angle: 66 degrees
Shifter: SRAM XO1 Eagle Seat tube angle: 73 degrees
Rear derailleur: SRAM XO1 Eagle Reach: 451mm (Large)
Cassette: SRAM XO1 Eagle 10-50T Price: $4399
Chain: SRAM XO1 Eagle Rating: 5 Flamin' Chili Peppers 5 Chilis-out-of-5

Pluses
Minuses
  • Excellent pedaling efficiency
  • No cage mount inside main triangle
  • Quick and nimble handling
  • No plus-size tire capability
  • Descends like a longer travel bike
  • Not as stable at speed as 29er trail bike
  • Great value
  • Cockpit forward climbing necessary
  • Versatile across wide use range
  • Beautiful design
  • Sold consumer direct 95% assembled
  • Comes with MRP chainguard

Review: Diamondback Release Carbon 5C

When it comes to mountain bike heritage, few brands go back further than Diamondback. The Ridge Runner was introduced in 1982, making it one of the world’s first production mountain bikes. In the early 1990s, Diamondback evolved into a high-performance brand with legendary riders such as Cadel Evans, Susan DeMattei and Martyn Ashton aboard their bikes. Diamondback bikes also graced the podium of numerous national cross-country and downhill titles, as well as World titles and even a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But in the early 2000s, Diamondback seemed to disappear from the spotlight.

Climb

The Release Carbon 5C is an eager climber, especially in rocky, technical terrain. Photo by Scott Markewitz

With the introduction of the Diamondback Release Carbon and its Level Link suspension design in 2016, this legendary mountain bike brand is finding its way back to the top of the game. Not only does the new Release Carbon offer good looks and exceptional performance both uphill and downhill, but it does so at a more reasonable price than many competitors and can be purchased direct from Diamondback’s website 95 percent assembled.

Frame and Suspension

The centerpiece that gives the Release Carbon such excellent performance is Level Link, the rear suspension design that is a variation of VPP. The Diamondback design team, along with professional rider and brand ambassador, Eric Porter, spent extended time honing Level Link in anticipation of VPP’s patent expiration. And since the Release aluminum launch last year, the Release Carbon takes stiffness and performance up a notch while dropping weight.

Diamondback Release 5C

Level Link is a variation of VPP suspension design and works exceptionally well. Photo by Scott Markewitz

“This is the bike I’ve been dreaming about for years,” said Porter. “It’s by far the most capable, versatile and fun bike I’ve ever ridden. The Release Carbon does everything well, from bikepacking and backcountry adventures to riding local trails and ripping in the park.”

Porter

Feedback from Diamondback athlete Eric Porter was crucial in the development of the Release Carbon. Photo by Scott Markewitz

After a month of big rides in the Lost Sierra region above Downieville, California, riding technical climbs and rocky descents riddled with drops and big stair steps, my experience on the Release Carbon 5C isn’t far off from what Porter says. While not the most capable trail bike I’ve ever ridden, the Release Carbon 5C is absolutely one of the most versatile and efficient uphill peddlers I’ve ridden.

Diamondback Release 5C

The Fox DPX2 shock is a perfect match for the Level Link suspension. Photo by Scott Markewitz

The Fox suspension outfitted on the Release Carbon is an excellent match for the Level Link design, particularly the DPX2 rear shock with its three-position damping adjustment. The Level Link design is so good at eliminating unwanted pedal bob that I rarely switched the into firm mode. Even on smoother Jeep road climbs, I could barely notice the difference in pedaling between full open and firm modes, a testament to the efficiency of Level Link. The main distinction was that open mode provided far more rear wheel traction when getting into loose terrain.

The 73-degree seat tube angle and 66-degree head tube angle on the Release Carbon net a happy medium between uphill and downhill performance. On steeper, tighter uphill switchbacks, riding at the very front of the cockpit is a must in order to keep the front end planted. It’s a necessary evil in order to deliver the desired descending performance that makes the Release Carbon such a hoot to ride when gravity is working with you.

Descend

Quick and nimble, the Release Carbon 5C descends with the confidence of a longer-travel bike. Photo by Scott Markewitz

Pointed downhill, the first observation is that the Release Carbon offers performance that belies its suspension travel numbers. It descends with the confidence and plushness of a bigger bike. Normally I would hesitate to hit five foot drops on a 130mm travel trail bike, but the Release Carbon handled it easily, with excellent progressive ramp up at the bottom of the suspension stroke. Even descending notoriously rowdy trails like Jamison Creek and Mount Elwell in the Lakes Basin region near Graeagle, California, bottoming out wasn’t an issue.

Thanks to its 425mm long chainstays and 27.5-inch wheel size, the Release Carbon is whippersnapper of a trail bike, cornering on a dime and manualing with ease. Riders who come from a BMX or downhill background will love the quick handling that the smaller wheels deliver. Personally, I’ve grown quite fond of 29er wheels, especially in gnar mega terrain where high-speed downhill stability and low-speed uphill momentum over rocks rule. But in the hands of a capable pilot, the Release Carbon can hang tough with wagon wheels, albeit a little more on the ragged edge of control.

Spec Check

Mtbr tested the Release Carbon 5C with a $4399 price. Highlight spec includes Fox suspension, SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain and Guide RS brakes, Ergon GE1 grips, and Truvativ Descendant carbon fiber cranks with an MRP chainguard. Race Face ARC30 rims with Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II tires makes the Release Carbon 5C a brawler right out of the box. Despite numerous hard rock strikes on nearly 300 miles of rugged trail riding, I’ve been flat free thus far.

Diamondback Release 5C

The Release Carbon 5C is well equipped with a SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain and Race Face Descendant carbon cranks. Photo by Scott Markewitz

With a 32-pound claimed weight, the Release Carbon 5C isn’t as light as some competitors, but honestly who cares. The bike pedals so well uphill I would have guessed it to be a couple pounds lighter than it actually is.

Thanks to Diamondback’s ReadyRide program, the Release Carbon 5C can be delivered to your door 95 percent assembled and includes tools and online how-to videos. Buyers can also have their bike shipped to a local bike shop or built and delivered by Beeline Bikes at no extra charge. For those who want a more custom whip, Custom Studio lets buyers virtually build their Release Carbon with a host of high end optional equipment including carbon wheels and more.

Diamondback Release 5C

All the angles on the Release Carbon 5C look and ride just right. Photo by Scott Markewitz

My biggest gripe with this bike is that there’s no bottle cage mount inside the front triangle. Some may not care about this, but in a marketplace so competitive, little details can make the difference. For someone who tries to avoid hydration packs as much as possible, not having a bottle cage mount is a serious consideration for me.

And as much as I loved riding the 27.5 Release Carbon, I couldn’t help but think how good the Level Link design could be on a 29er. Perhaps the success of the Release Carbon will give birth to a bigger wheeled brother, upping the all-mountain capability of this already incredibly capable platform.

For more information visit www.diamondback.com.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)


About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • jared S says:

    29er is great, as long as they make it plus compatible. 29 plus, 27plus, whatever, just make it so that it can handle up to 3.0 tires! Please. The suspension travel also needs to stay the same. 150mm up front ! and 130-140mm in the rear.

  • onesojourner says:

    I can attest to the ease of putting these bikes together. It took me 30 minutes and the includes setting sag.

    The bottle cage is also my biggest gripe. IS anyone aware of any other way to attach a bottle to this bike? I think the frame could handle a short bottle in the frame with some sort of strap on bottle cage.

    • Jason VH says:

      Bottle cage is also a deal breaker for me as well. I am scratching my head on this one, even a small bottle like the YT would be better than nothing.

      It’s too bad, I really like what they have going with this bike, I’d totally consider it otherwise.

  • eastcoastpally says:

    “Not as stable at speed as 29er trail bike”-Seems odd to list this as a minus…it’s a review not a wheel size debate.

  • Jeremy Moen says:

    If a person wanted this platform with 29″ wheels, just get the catch 2 (a 27.5+ bike), stroke the fork up to 150mm like many of us do (about $30 in parts) to slacken the head angle, add a set of 29″ wheels and there you go. Some guys have tried it and went back to 27.5+ due to traction / comfort, so to me the Catch is the sweet spot if you want the taller tires for rollover. DB even includes the valves and all to go tubeless for no cost other than sealant, and you can mix some yourself easy enough for cheap. That saves some substantial weight on the 27.5+ platform.

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