Mountain bikes seem to be getting more and more expensive with every passing year. I recently saw a post comparing a new dual-sport motorcycle and a full-suspension mountain bike, and the dual-sport was cheaper than the bike! The industry is crazy right now, and this puts more and more of a spotlight on brands who are offering quality bikes at more accessible prices. Enter Diamondback and the Release 4C. I was able to test the Release 4C throughout the fall and spring up here in the PNW, and it accompanied me on some epic rides in the Cascades, Spokane and Bend.
2023 Diamondback Release 4C Features:
- Monocoque carbon front and rear triangle with 130mm travel via Level Link suspension
- Threaded bottom bracket
- ISCG-05 tabs with Boost 148 rear
- Fox Float DPS rear shock
- Fox 36 Performance Float 150mm shock
- SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain
- SRAM Descendant 6K Eagle crankset
- SRAM G2 R brakes with 180mm rotors
- Diamondback Blanchard 28R tubeless-compatible wheels
- TIRES: Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR 27.5×2.3″ tires
- 780mm DB35 Aluminum Handlebars
- Ergon GE10 Evo grips
- WTB Volt chromoly saddle
- KS Rage-I dropper post
- Weight: ~30 lbs. complete
- MSRP: $4350 (prices may change)
Smile machine, from bank account to banked turns:
I have a soft spot for Diamondback. Like probably a lot of kids, one of their first hardtails marked my first ‘real’ mountain bike. This was probably around 2005, and I was stoked on the Suntour suspension and mechanical disk brakes. When some people hear Diamondback, that’s probably all they think of: budget bikes. The truth is, though, they’re still making some crushers that give more expensive brands a run for their money. The Release 4C, with its smile-inducing geometry and great components, is a perfect example of that.
The Release model that I’m testing is the 27.5″ 4C. There’s a higher-end 5c out there, as well as some aluminum frame options. My tester came it right around 30lbs with a tubeless setup, so it’s definitely not the lightest thing out there but it didn’t hurt my feelings on climbs, either. The weird thing is, the price has fluctuated like crazy over the last few years. At one point in the pandemic you could find this baby for just $2800. Now, not only are the bikes mostly sold out, they’re retailing for $4,350 on Diamondback’s website. This reflects the crazy price fluctuations (inflation?) that have gone on in the bike industry, but it is a bit of a bummer for those of us who still think first about our budget, then about our rides.
The Release 4C is meant to hit that sweet spot of capable climbing and confident descents. It does that with the help of 130mm of rear travel and a Level Link suspension design, and 150mm of Fox Float up front. Looking at the geometry, a few things stand out: relatively short chain stays (425mm across all sizes) give the bike a stiff rear and and a whippy feel, while a head angle of 66º finds that balance between slack and playful. My Medium frame has a relatively large top tube at 585mm, which coupled with the slack headtube give this bike confidence on the downhill.
The bike is built around a Level Link suspension design. The idea here is that, with rear travel, the bottom link between the chain stay and main triangle stays parallel with the chain, while the upper linkage moves toward the shock. The idea is to maintain pedaling efficiency while still giving responsive suspension.
Overall, it performs really well as a suspension design, and it’s complemented by the high-performing Fox Float DPS Evolve LV with a three-position damper. Like a lot of great suspension designs, I was able to keep the damper in the middle position (rather than using the climbing position) for 90% of my riding. It pretty much only flicked on for gravel road climbs. I also love that this design minimizes chain growth, and has essentially zero impact on shifting. Diamondback chose exposed pivots, which will require a little more care and may fail earlier although I’ve never personally had this issue.
Diamondback packed some high-foot components into the bike, notably the SRAM NX Eagle 11-50 cassette off a 30T chainring. I was really pleased with the performance of the NX Eagle and, while there’s no doubt there are more premium offerings out there, this setup was solid. It tolerates dirt, dust and muck and still kept up a consistent, smooth shift with reasonable lever throw and resistance. The large 50T cog always gave me more than enough torque to clear all but the toughest climbs.
Stopping power is courtesy of SRAM G2 4-piston hydraulic brakes. The form factor on these 4-piston brake calipers is a bit diminutive, but they provide excellent stopping power. They have a nicer lever feel and there’s enough range in the action that the brakes don’t feel grabby or off-and-on.
All of the other cockpit components do their job reliably well. I have been pleased with the KS Rage-I in particular, which has reliably dropped and risen for years with very little maintenance. The bars are DB-branded, but the WTB saddle and Factor Components stem are nice touches.
So, how about actually riding the bike? Honestly, it’s been a good one. Since its release (ha), the Release 4C has garnered really high praise for its overall ride quality, which punches well above its price point. The geometry’s combination of long top tube and slack head angle, set against a short rear chain stay, helps set up a ride that’s nimble and responsive yet stable. The Release really feels like you can whip it around, and you very much get to be in charge of where it goes.
With climbs, I’ve been able to tackle super steep, tight switchbacks and steep rocky hills without too much trouble balancing rear end traction and keeping the front down. It’s the type of bike that lets you get to the end of your technique before it starts to hold you back. The chunky Maxxis Minion paired tires help here, too. I haven’t mentioned the wheels, which are somewhat uninspired Diamondback-branded Blanchard rims. They’re a bit heavy, but for the 4C level this bike ships ready for tubeless so you can reduce some of your rotational weight.
On the downhill, I think the Release hits a sweet spot of being confidence-inspiring without deadening the trail features. It’s definitely still a bike that loves to swoop through switchbacks or huck it off table tops and down drops, but I appreciated that I still felt like I could feel the trail through the suspension and frame. A bigger bike would make some of my favorite rides boring, but the Release was always fun. I spent a lot of time riding this in Bend, OR and it didn’t blink at the blues and blacks off the Phil’s system. I also took a great trip up to Nelson, and the Release gobbled up those wet, rocky, rooty trails.
Fit: I’m 5’11” and 185 lbs, riding the size medium.
- Even with recent price increases, the Release 4C is a good value
- Level Link suspension continues to be a strong design
- The frame geometry provides a great mix of fun, finesse and confidence
- The components Diamondback chose work well and have put up with a ton of abuse
- Stock Maxxis Minion front and rear tires mean that you won’t need to upgrade these anytime soon
- Exposed pivots on rear triangle may require more regular cleaning and attention
- On the heavier end of carbon mountain bikes
- Price has really climbed in recent years, without change to design or build
- Where’s my bottle cage mount?!
The Bottom Line: Diamondback Release 4C
Right now, the Release 4C isn’t exactly easy to get your hands on. It’s sold out on Diamondback, with restocks promised. That said, if you do find these and can find a price that approximates the original value that this bike was designed to offer, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. You get a great suspension design, frame geometry and pretty dang good components at a reasonable price. It’s a great all-mountain bike, but not too sluggish that cross country riders won’t enjoy it too. In the dollars-per-smile department, it’s hard to beat the Diamondback Release 4C.
Buy now: Available from Moosejaw.com