Frame and Features
The aluminum frame of the Release is chunky, and by extension, stiff. Of course, the Boost rear end is probably contributing to that a little, as well as the overbuilt-looking linkages.
The Release does accept a front derailleur, and features ISCG 05 tabs in case you decide to run a chainguide. A threaded 73 mm bottom bracket completes the package, for all members of the press-fit-hating internet mob.
The only water bottle mount on the Release is on the bottom of the downtube. I’ve opted not to run a water bottle there since (a) I ride a fair number of trails that are shared with horses, and I don’t like horse poop in the valve of my bottle, and (b) I like to ride with enough food that a pack is generally necessary anyway.
All cable routing on the Release is external, except for the port on the seat tube for a Stealth dropper post.
Comparisons (and why this bike might look really familiar)
Take a long look at the Release, and its lines might start to look familiar. And that Level Link suspension might start to look awfully similar to another popular design on the market.
For those picking up strong hints of the VPP design used by Santa Cruz and others, your suspicions are correct, Level Link owes much of its existence to the expiration of the VPP patent.
Like a VPP bike, the Release suspension is driven by two links that rotate in opposite directions. Unlike the VPP used by Santa Cruz (where the lower link runs from just above the bottom bracket to its center) the Level Link’s lower link is situated completely above the bottom bracket.
Of course, when it comes to suspension kinematics, a few millimeters difference in pivot placement can have a huge impact on performance, so the fact that the Release features something that looks very similar to VPP doesn’t at all mean that it will ride identically.
Still, the frame lines are similar enough that they bring up the obvious comparison to the Santa Cruz 5010. Both frames have 130 mm of travel in the rear, and both use very similar suspension designs, but their prices (and correspondingly their weights) are very different.
A quick skim of the geometry charts of both bikes reveals that, by the numbers, these two bikes are very similar. The two most obvious differences are that the Release has a 1° slacker head tube and a 6 mm-higher bottom bracket, both of which can be attributed to the fact that it’s running a 150 mm fork up front as opposed to the 5010’s 130 mm.
That crucial difference means that, by the numbers, the Release effectively sits between the Santa Cruz Bronson and the 5010. It’s got a very similar rear end, and the same suspension travel as the 5010, but the bottom bracket, head angle, and fork travel are much more reminiscent of the longer-legged Bronson. I’ll be getting on the Bronson and the 5010 in the coming weeks in order to compare all three.
Bottom Line (and Big Questions)
Diamondback’s new trail bike delivers a competitive build spec at a price that’s easy on the wallet, and it employs a slightly tweaked version of a tried-and-true suspension design. It also comes with a few big questions, including: How does the Release perform on the trail? Does the Release’s tweaked linkage maintain the smooth climbing and descending characteristics of the VPP design? How does it compare to the Santa Cruz 5010? How does that longer-travel fork affect the bike’s handling? Do color-matched wheels actually make you faster?
I’ll be putting in more trail miles over the coming weeks to find out.