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You knew eventually it would happen: you'd crash your starter mountain bike and it might not get back up. When you first bought it, you weren't sure you'd be into the whole trail thing, but after your rear derailleur met its grizzly end on the rough side of a boulder while you were railing around a corner, eyes on a berm up ahead, you had to admit you were wrong. Now that you've found yourself with a vacancy for the founding member of your soon-to-be mountain bike quiver, let us recommend Diamondback's Release 1 Complete Mountain Bike. Making a grand entrance atop Diamondback's brand new full suspension platform, Level Link, the Release 1 embodies the versatility that so many modern bikes claim to have. Plus, it won't cost you a year's worth of rent to buy.
Though its cost is admirably low, we're not suggesting that the Release 1 is a "budget" bike. It's built with full suspension, a hardworking, dependable drivetrain, and an aluminum frame that will withstand repeated kicks from firmly planted trail furniture. What the Release 1 does best is occupy a price range that is growing lonelier by the season as manufacturers continuously introduce new trail-devouring monsters that cost more than the cars most millennials received from their parents.
Rather than tailoring the Release 1 to one specific discipline, Diamondback took a modern approach, blending geometries across categories to create a bike that overachieves on both climbs and descents. Up front, Diamondback shaped the hydroformed aluminum tubing into a relaxed 66-degree head tube angle and anchored it with a hungry, RockShox Yari fork. The long top tube that meets the seat tube at a 73-degree angle to position you effectively over the bottom bracket and keep you on top of the pedals. In the back, it's a different story. By adopting Boost spacing, Diamondback delivers beefier hubs and stiffer wheels while fitting in short, lively, 16.73in chainstays that will allow you to skip through steppy lines and change directions fast in the tight and twisties.
Diamondback set out to build the Release 1 around the all-new Level Link suspension instead of trying to adapt their frame to a different manufacturer's platform. Diamondback focused on creating a system that would react independently to pedaling and terrain forces, essentially allowing the suspension to be firm while you pedal uphill, but still able to absorb crawling root lattices and sharp edges without too much power-sucking squish. Your rear wheel will stay glued to the trail as you climb, and on descents, the RockShox Monarch shock extends to feel deeper than its 130mm would suggest — especially when working with the long-and-low front end. Diamondback integrated anti-squat and chain management into Level Link's design as well, so you won't experience jarring brake dive when you're dumping speed before a nasty switchback or tempering aggression on a hand-numbing descent.
As usual, Diamondback includes a hardworking build kit on the Release 1, and though it won't be as light as the 11-speed X1 builds on its pricier siblings, the mix of SRAM X7 and GX componentry, complete with a 10-speed, double crankset, will keep you spinning hard through rollers, flats, and climbs alike. Hydraulic disc brakes are a welcome addition, offering clean, dependable stopping power, while knobby Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires wrapped around Diamondback's wide Blanchard rims promise to grab onto the dirt and not let go.
- Item #DMB003X