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Teton Tested: Diamondback’s Fun, Jibby Release Trail Bike

Diamondback's first new full-suspension bike in a number of years, the Release (there's also a Catch plus-tired bike we'll be talking about later), sought to combine (thanks to team rider Eric Porter's prodding) the descending prowess of the brand's Mission all-mountain bike with the cross-country and trail abilities of the shorter-travel Sortie, with the result being a jibby trail bike with a short, snappy rear end with shorter, 130 mm travel and a longer and plusher front end, with a long top tube and a 150 mm fork.

The Release starts with Diamondback's new Level Link suspension platform, which is focused on matching an active, supple rear end for descending with an efficient climbing platform that doesn't soak up pedaling energy, and mates it with a really awesome components lineup that needs little to no upgrading.

The Release is a capable trail bike with a wide range of talents, but a focus on jibby, downhill fun. Ryan Dunfee photo.

The end result, as we'll discuss later, is a bike with a huge range of abilities that, while slightly heavy, is one of the most playful, jibby bikes we've ever tested, and one that'll satisfy the hell out of anyone who approaches a trail ride like a session at the skatepark. 

The Release's Level Link Design

Diamondback took advantage of Santa Cruz's expiring VPP patent, made some tweaks, and came out with the Level Link. Ryan Dunfee photo.

Diamondback's Release sports the brand's new Level Link suspension, which - spoiler alert! - is a lot like Santa Cruz's successful VPP design. Designed by suspension wizard Luther Beal, whose other latest creations have included Yeti's Switch Infinity suspension platform, the Level Link takes advantage of Santa Cruz's expired patent and focuses on keeping the lower link (white in the picture above, sitting behind the chainring) even with the chain when sitting at the recommended 30% sag, and roughly level as the bikes moves through its travel. 

As I wrote in my First Impressions piece back in March, the Level Link "aligns the lower link to be perpendicular to the upper link at the point of normal sag (about 30% of travel), meaning that bumps have a greater effect on the suspension than pedaling." 

So, ya know, bumps in the trail do more to activate the suspension than pedaling, so you get a rear end that's sensitive to trail junk while being pretty indifferent to how hard you're mashing on the pedals. This resulted in a nearly complete absence of pedal bob while climbing. 

While the rear end is focused on being supple and still efficient, the bike still has short, 425 mm chainstays and a long, 635 mm (for our size large frame) top tube mated with a longer, 150 mm-travel fork set at a slack 66 degree head angle. This, in theory, makes the bike snappy, nimble, and poppy while still retaining enough plowability and stability in the front of the bike for rowdy descending. 

The Release 3's Specs

If you want to just spend your money and go, you'll get years and years out of the Release 3's money components kit. Ryan Dunfee photo.

In all honesty, at its price point, I think the Release had the best components kit of any of the bikes at the test. Were I recommending this bike to someone else with a $4,000 budget, or taking it home myself, there'd be literally nothing I'd change throughout the bike. 

You've got top-spec suspension with your 150 mm Rock Shox Pike RCT3 fork and Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair 130 mm piggyback shock, a SRAM X1 drivetrain with Race Face cranks, SRAM Guide RS brakes, and a KS Lev 125 mm dropper seatpost. 

By and large, these are parts you're seeing on bikes that cost at least $1,000-2,000 more. Some of those bikes might have carbon frames, but many will be competing with the Release on an aluminum-to-aluminum basis, and Diamondback's bringing the value in that contest. 

If you'd rather spend your money up front instead of constantly mulling what the next component is you want to upgrade, the Release is spec'ed for years of awesome riding right out of the box.

Diamondback built their own Blanchard wheelset for the Release, and while the mismatched red rear rim might draw some irks, it's a solid, burly wheelset. Ryan Dunfee photo.

The Release also gets Diamondback's new house-built Blanchard wheelset, which have a solidly wide 28 mm internal width and a deep profile to handle trail abuse. They're not the lightest out there, but they survived our multiple months of Jackson Hole mauling well and with barely any wobble in the rims. 

Schwalbe's Hans Dampf 2.35" Snake Skin tires are a great spec for a bike that maxes fun on the downhills, and provided pretty faultless grip in corners when combined with the support of the Blanchards.

Diamondback's house handlebar and stem are on point for the downhill fun the Release likes to get into.

Also, being someone who manages to be perennially dissatisfied with most bikes' handlebar and stem combos, I give Diamondback all the credit they can take for their house 40 mm-length stem mounted to a 780 mm wide, 35 mm diameter bar. Wide bar, short stem. Cut it down if not satisfied. I'm happy.

You can also save a little bit of money and go with the Release 2, whose components largely match the performance of the ones on the Release 3, with the exemption of the brakes. 

The Release on the Climbs

The Release is not the lightest, but it is supremely efficient on the climbs. Paris Gore photo.

At 31 pounds for a steed meant to be your everything-but-dual-crown-downhill-tracks trail bike, the Release's weight will be holding you back from winning too many KOM's on your local climbs, even if the Release's frame is a full pound lighter than the previous endurobro Diamondback, the Mission.

However, for what it lacks in weight-reducing carbon, the Release is at least efficient. The Level Link suspension truly gives up almost no pedal bob, and when combined with shorter-travel rear end, means that you won't be wallowing in the depths of your travel trying to punch up long climbs. The short rear end and long front means tight switchbacks take a little bit of encouragement to clear, but the bike tracks well over technical sections and Level Link keeps the rear wheel stuck to the ground nicely.

You can stand up and mash and still stay feeling peppy, but the Release is more of a sit-and-spin bike, and rewards more a patient, steady climbing style.

The Release On The Downs

The Level Link makes it feel like you are rocking a lot more than 130 mm of travel in the rear when it gets nasty. Paris Gore photo.

While Diamondback's Mission was known more as a straight-line bulldozer, with 160 mm of travel and a long rear end, the Release has less travel and shorter, 425 mm chainstays, and as a result was one of the snappiest, jibbiest, and overall most playful bikes in the test. It'll handle the chunky stuff well; while not completely muting the trail like the Cadillac-style suspension feel of the Trek Fuel EX or the Fuji Auric (review forthcoming), it skips through rock gardens and seems happiest doing so at speed. But what it really excels at is treating the trail like a terrain park.

Jon Grinney plays and pumps Big Sky's new Snakecharmer flow trail on the Release. Ryan Dunfee photo.

The Release bobs, manuals, bunny hops, slashes, and nose wheelies like few other bikes we tested (only the BMC Speedfox Trailcrew was close), and  maximizes pure trail fun like few other bikes out there. Even at lower speeds, the Release wants to jump and jib all over the trail, meaning that more intermediate and novice riders can even begin to have a good time on the downhills in addition to more advanced riders. 

While some bikes in our test required the rider to have the comfort level to punch it at high speed to get them to come into their element, the Release is as fun at ten miles an hour as it is as thirty. 

Fun in the air and on the ground, the Release is just... well... fun - no thesaurus needed. Austin Hopkins photo.

While the shorter-travel rear end somewhat limits its ability to chase dual-crown downhill bikes around the bike park, it eats up flow trails and jump lines with aplomb, and makes the most fun out of more newschool-style trails littered with berms and kickers. It's a blast of a bike to chuck into the air, with great pop, snap, and is easy to throw around. 

Behind trail jibs, the Release is also supremely planted in corners. Ryan Dunfee photo.

A final, notable characteristic of the Release is how, even though it can be tossed around like a Miata rental car with the added insurance, it handles very neutrally if you're not trying to get all SSX Tricky on the trail. This is especially noticeable in corners, where the Release shows off even, consistent, and confidence-building grip whether you have your weight over the handlebars, centered in the middle of the bike, or hanging off the back. 

Given the big sweet spot, it's a real fun ride to get buck wild and take irresponsible speeds and angles into corners with.

The Bottom Line

As much of a blast for newer riders as for experienced ones, the Release is a total blast. Jon Grinney photo.

Since my first impressions of the Release in February, and since we've been playing around with it in Jackson Hole since May, I've grown a pretty big soft spot for the Diamondback. While its great spec and aluminum frame may have some potential buyers wondering if they should opt for a different, carbon frame with a lower-tier spec instead, the Release's emphasis on pure trail fun has won me over.

It's just a damn fun bike to ride, and will feel so if you're the type of riding whose eyes are always scanning the next hundred feet of trail for the next wallride to slam into, g-out to pump, gap to clear, or drop to manual off of. You couldn't have asked for a better-matched bike on Big Sky's Mountain to Meadows trail, which is one of the best downhill pump tracks/flow trails you're likely to find anywhere. 

If you're a newer, eager rider willing to spend some decent money on a bike you'll be able to grow into for years - especially on the downhills - then the Release is perfect for you. There's really no components you need to swap out, and while the heavier build might not win you any cross-country races, if what you've liked in your mountain biking is that feeling of skateboarding down a mountain, then you're going to be all smiles on Diamondback's new bike.

From The Column: TGR Tested

About The Author

stash member Ryan Dunfee

Former Managing Editor at Teton Gravity Research, current Senior Contributor, current professional hippy at the Sierra Club, and avid weekend recreationalist.