Pitting a high-end Yeti against, well anything, seems unfair. Stacking one against a mid-level offering from a big-box/online brand is downright cruel. Or so I thought. Turns out, Diamondback's new carbon Release and Yeti's souped-up SB5 have quite a bit in common: They're both reverse-mullet, 27.5-inch-wheeled, mid-travel carbon bikes with similar geometry—both frames have a 66-degree headtube angle and 73-degree seat-tube angle, although the Diamondback has a slightly longer reach, slightly shorter chainstays and a slightly shorter wheelbase than the Yeti. The Release also costs less than half of its swankier counterpart, so naturally we were curious to see how that price difference would translate on the trail. After all, there are a lot of us out there with Yeti-sized tastes and Diamondback-sized wallets.
Diamondback Release 4C Carbon
Reviewing the new carbon Diamondback Release reminds me of that commercial in which a group of unsuspecting diners in a high-end pizzeria is told their expensive-tasting pie actually came from Domino's. Gasps of disbelief ensue. In a blind riding test, the Diamondback would surely cause the same kind of awe; this is a bike that rides well above what the name printed on the downtube might lead you to believe.
The model pictured here is the 4C, but testers rode both the 4C and 5C versions of the Release, the latter of which goes for $4,400 and matches up more closely to the Yeti in terms of components. And if you like, you can build your own Release on Diamondback's Custom Studio, and trust us, the sky's the limit. This Release is a carbon follow-up to last year's aluminum frame, and the slimmed-down version felt quicker and livelier on the trail than its predecessor.
Level Link, Diamondback's version of VPP, controls the business in the back: 130 millimeters of rear travel administered, on the higher-end 5C, through the excellent Fox DPX2 shock, which is matched with the party up front, a 150-millimeter-travel Fox 36 Elite. Level Link is an exceptional interpretation of VPP, and the Release pedals efficiently with very little bob when the shock is open, a setting it can be run in almost exclusively. It almost feels as good as Yeti's Switch Infinity system, one of the most efficient suspension platforms to date. Almost. The SB5 has an edge on technical climbing—it consistently required much less effort to power up and over the same obstacles that the Release got hung up on. The Release is a very able climber, but it truly hits its stride descending. The front and rear feel perfectly matched, and the geometry strikes a balance between maneuverability and capability. It moves through corners and berms swiftly, and when pushed through the rough stuff, responds immediately with plush and active suspension. Whereas Yeti's stiff, race-bred chassis demands precise line choices when the trail turns rowdy, the Release has a more carefree attitude.
The 4C and 5C builds both offer almost-believable spec packages for the money and our complaints are limited: The choice to put a 125-millimeter-travel dropper post on a Medium is curious when it appears there is ample insertion for a 150. Plus, the 5C was oddly given a 34-tooth front chainring. Even with the ultra-wide range of the X01 Eagle drivetrain, a 32-tooth might be better suited to more riders, and is more appropriate for long days in the saddle. The $3,000 4C runs the Fox Float DPS EVOL Performance shock and the Fox 34 Performance Float fork. That difference alone isn't enough to spring for the 5C—the new EVOL air sleeve makes the DPS feel just as responsive on the trail as its big brother, though you might miss the extra tunability in Open mode offered on the DPX2. And the front end is definitely worthy of a 36, but unless you're truly pushing the Release to its limits in steep, nasty terrain, the 34 is adequate.
The biggest sacrifice is not in suspension, but in wheel weight, as the 5C upgrades from Diamondback's house Blanchard rims to the RaceFace Arc 30s. That, combined with the suspension upgrade, justifies the $1,400 upcharge. Regardless of the build you choose, there's a pivotal item missing from the Release that could be a deal-breaker for many: The only water bottle mount is underneath the downtube. And it turns out, that’s yet another thing it has in common with the Yeti SB5 LR.
Yeti SB5 LR
If you score a job at Yeti Cycles, you have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is the company policy mandating a mid-day ride. For the rest of us cubicle-bound worker bees, there's the Yeti SB5 LR, or Lunch Ride, a model Yeti based off the modifications that its employees regularly make to the SB5, namely stouter suspension to give the 127-millimeter-travel trail bike an all-mountain disposition.
The addition of the top-end, 160-millimeter Fox Factory 36 and Factory DPX2 piggyback shock, a beefy 2.5-inch Maxxis Minion DHF tire up front and 2.3 Maxxis Aggressor in the back and Yeti's wide 800-millimeter carbon bar, give the SB5 LR an aggressive slant that is certainly noticeable when compared to the regular SB5 build. Sure, it adds some heft—the Lunch Ride registers at 29.5 pounds with pedals—but the extra mass more than carries its weight on the descents. And the SB5 doesn't lose anything in climbing efficiency—one of the bike's strongest points in the 2017 Bible of Bike Tests—thanks to the ultra-responsive Switch Infinity system. This bike feels fast from the first pedal stroke, up and down, and it thrives on technical climbs, charging up steep, rocky gut punches that make other bikes cower, which is also where it stands apart most from the Release.
It is, of course, no slouch descending either, although it requires a bit more finesse than other bikes in its category. Testers agreed that the agility of the SB5 is a highlight, identifying it as one of the easiest bikes of the entire test to get off the ground. The Lunch Ride only comes in the top-end Turq frame, in one build option and only in sizes Medium through XL so it's aimed at a limited customer base, while the Release fits more people and more budgets. If you've got the cash and seek the cachet, the Lunch Ride is the obvious choice, for the rest of us, the Release won't leave you wanting much.