This article originally published on BikeRadar
Diamondback Bicycles may not currently land on everyone's short list for high-performance road and mountain bikes but the company is currently in the midst of a major push to turn that around with a wide range of well thought-out machines. From lightweight carbon road bikes to disc 'cross bikes to long-travel 29ers, Diamondback is now putting out some genuinely appealing product that's certainly worth a closer look.
Get yourself on the Podium
While Diamondback is best known for its mountain bikes currently, a few consumers might remember the company's history on the road. In fact, Diamondback was one of the first major companies to move away from traditional lugs to lighter-weight TIG-welded, short-butted steel frames in the early '90s with the Master TG.
After a long stint of admittedly mediocre product, Diamondback's impressively resurrected road range is now topped by the Podium 7 carbon fiber platform with a claimed weight under 900g for a 56cm size and a matching tapered all-carbon fork weight of 360g – and thankfully not a hint of marbled paint to be found.
Despite the company's status as a relative newcomer to the high-end carbon road bike scene, the Podium SL chassis ticks most of the requisite boxes for technical features, including Toray MR60 and HR40 carbon fibers (with pre-preg sheets produced in-house), a modern manufacturing process with additional internal molds at the bottom bracket and head tube areas for more precise shaping and tube wall consistency, a tapered 1 1/8-to-1 1/2" head tube with molded-in seats for the integrated headset bearings, a PressFit 30 bottom bracket shell with a bonded-in carbon fiber sleeve, carbon fiber dropouts, a replaceable carbon fiber front derailleur mount, and internal cable routing.
Likewise, the all-carbon fork features continuous fibers from top to bottom, a molded-in seat for the lower headset bearing, and carbon fiber dropouts.
Save for a switch to slightly lesser fibers that add about 100g to the bare frame, the standard Podium frame – used on the Podium 6 and 5 models – is otherwise wholly identical throughout.
Diamondback hasn't bothered with any aerodynamic tube design, preferring to stick with the classic performance metrics of weight, stiffness, and ride quality. To this end, most of the tube diameters are notably large and the tube walls are audibly thin but the seat stays are broad and flat to provide rear-end comfort without overly sacrificing drivetrain efficiency. While not exactly an original approach, it's one that's been well proven by other brands so there's little reason to expect it won't work here, too.
Geometry is decidedly middle-of-the-road in terms of handling speed with traditional head tube angles that vary between 72 and 73 degrees and 72.5-67.5mm bottom bracket drops depending on size.
While Diamondback road product manager Michael Brown tells BikeRadar that the Podium range isn't intended to compete based solely on price, the numbers are still undeniably enticing.
For example, a Shimano Ultegra Di2-equipped Podium 6 is just US$4,500 with Easton alloy wheels and an Easton carbon bar while a Podium 7 with new SRAM Red and Easton EC90 SL carbon clinchers is a comparatively inexpensive US$7,200. More impressively, Diamondback is also offering a couple of Campagnolo-equipped models, including the Podium 6 with Chorus – and Campagnolo Shamal 2-Way Fit tubeless-compatible alloy clinchers for US$5,500 and a Podium 7 with Super Record and Easton EC90 SL carbon clinchers for the relative bargain of US$8,500.
Moreover, the complete packages are also quite light: actual weight on a 56cm Podium 6 Campy is just 6.94kg (15.3lb, without pedals) and a 58cm Podium 7 with new SRAM Red is just under 6.5kg (14.33lb, without pedals).
Granted, we did find a few concessions Diamondback made to help reduce costs: tubing size doesn't vary by size so different frames will likely have somewhat disparate ride qualities and while there are six sizes from 50-60cm on tap, all of them use the same fork rake.
Updated 'cross bikes – and disc brakes, too
Diamondback's alloy SteilaCoom 'cross range gets a revamp as well with key changes including a tapered head tube, stiffer chain stays, and a bigger down tube – all of which should make the new versions snappier and more responsive than their predecessors.
The top-end SteilaCoom RXC Pro V also moves away from traditional cantilevers to TRP's fantastic CX8.4 linear-pull brakes but the real standout is the SteilaCoom RXC Pro Disc, which will come with Easton's brand-new – and ultra-burly – EC90 XD disc-specific carbon 'cross fork, Easton XA90 XD alloy clinchers, and Avid BB7 mechanical disc calipers upgraded with XX 160/140mm front/rear rotors.
Diamondback will include a high-end disc brake 'cross bike for 2013 called the SteilaCoom RCX Pro Disc
More 29ers for 2013, including long-travel and hardcore hardtails
Meanwhile out on the trail, Diamondback says the popularity of the Sortie 29 trail bike prompted an expansion of the range, which now includes the 140mm-travel Mason FS and the Mason HT hardcore hardtail with a 140mm-travel Fox TALAS fork.
The Mason FS again utilizes Diamondback's long-running Knucklebox linkage-activated single-pivot rear suspension design but now with a few tweaks to bring up to date. Pushing the seat tube forward and switching to a direct-mount front derailleur has allowed for shorter chain stays, the Knucklebox linkage's main pivot is now directly mounted to the sides of the down tube for improved stiffness, and the upper linkage pivot is more heavily reinforced as well.
Component highlights for the top-end model include Easton Haven alloy wheels, a Race Face SixC carbon two-ring crank with a bashguard, and a RockShox Reverb dropper post. Interestingly, Diamondback's product managers have also squeezed in what has long been a favorite tire setup compound among industry insiders: a very aggressive and voluminous front tire matched with a much smaller and faster rear – in this case a 2.2"-wide Kenda Nevegal paired with a 2.0"-wide Kenda Slant Six.
The Mason HT does without rear suspension at entirely in favor of a burly alloy frame with a very short rear end for more maneuverability. The long fork yields an unusually slack (at least for a hardtail) 66-degree head tube angle and Diamondback also equips the bike with a 1x10 drivetrain and a lightweight MRP 1.X guide. Key component standouts include WTB i23 rims, Race Face alloy crankarms, a Fox 34 TALAS 29 CTD Evolution fork, and a remote KS dropper post.
The Mason HT features tight rear-end geometry
Diamondback's new carbon bikes are slated for delivery next spring (although the carbon Podiums were actually introduced as a 2012 model so current models might still be available). New alloy road, 'cross, and mountain bikes should be available in the fall.
Stay tuned for a First Ride report on Diamondback's top-end Podium 7 in the coming days, too.