Diamondback has recently seen a resurgence in popularity. Their level link suspension system made them again a legitimate player in the trail bike category with their 27.5 Release bikes. Diamondback however has been noticeably missing a 29er equivalent. The Release 29 is their answer, but how does it perform?
The Release 29 is actually based around the same frameset as the 27.5+ Diamondback catch. I believe Eric Porter was riding one of those frames with 29er wheels before the Release 29 was announced. Diamondback wouldn’t give me a straight answer on if the frameset was exactly the same front and back or if anything was re-engineered. The exact same 200×57 size shock is used on both bikes, so the linkage I can assume is pretty close to identical. The geo chart suggests that the bikes are VERY similar.
Geometry and Frame Design
This is unfortunately, in my estimation not a great thing. Looking at the bike on paper the geometry looks pretty dated. The reach on the medium I tested is only 427mm. Seat tube angle leans back at 73 degrees trying to compensate for that short reach.
The problems with the seat tube don’t end with the angles. The design of the level-link suspension means that there is a kink in the middle of the seat tube. As I tested the size medium bike the problems with this kink were immediately apparent.
The first bike I got on, the dropper post wouldn’t even function because the actuation cable was jammed against that kink. The second bike I swapped to I found that even with the dropper inserted as far as I could without damaging the post I was still left with several inches of post above the collar. This resulted in me not being able to get the dropper inserted far enough for my 5’10” frame to fit on the size medium bike.
I am not afflicted with dwarf legs and have never encountered this issue on other size medium bikes. The lack of flexibility of this frame was disappointing. I ended up riding the bike for the day constantly babying the dropper into a comfortable position.
Diamondback bills themselves as a value based brand, but speccing a bike with a dropper that won’t fit an average rider is a big miss. Most people purchasing this bike will not want to have to go out and replace their dropper out of the box just to fit on the bike.
The build of the bike has some other odd decisions. The Shimano SLX 11 speed drivetrain was decidedly mediocre and shouldn’t be found on a $2,800 bike. The fox suspension setup was a great choice but, the wheels, frame and other components mean that the entire package feels heavy and sluggish on the trail.
Some bike feel so amazing on the way down that the weight going up is worth it. Unfortunately, the Release 29 didn’t fit this bill. Undergunned in the suspension and geometry departments for true big mountain enduro riding and way to heavy to be considered a good budget trail machine the Release 29 felt like it was decidedly mediocre everywhere. There are a plethera of purpose build 29ers on the market at competitive prices
The level link suspension was fine but didn’t have any special magic. I think in this case the suspension platform was held back by so many other compromises in this bike.
The short reach could have made a different bike feel snappy and maneuverable. Unfortunately, in this case it mainly felt short.
I really wanted to like the Release 29. I came into riding the bike with high hopes that this would be a great trail 29er. At every turn through, I was left disappointing. I would recommend waiting on the Release 29 till Diamondback reconfigures the frameset with a purpose build 29er design.
- Good suspension spec
- Competative Price
- Seat tube does not allow full insertion of dropper
- Poorly specced drivetrain
- Unsorted geometry with slack seat tube