Take a look at this bike. After you finish absorbing your first impression, the question arises: Who is the intended customer for the Diamondback IO, its new aero road bike?
This occurred to me pretty quickly because, as a former bike maker myself, you’ll pardon me if commerce demands consideration alongside function and aesthetics. Just as quickly this thought came to me: How cool is it to see a product based on function, without consideration for issues like race legality? (I’ll talk more about legality in a moment.)
The IO is the road race analog to Diamondback’s Andean, it’s no-limits tri bike. What I like about the IO, among other things, is the storage just in front of the crankset on the frame, and on the top tube. I built up an Andean frameset from scratch and found the BB storage to be handier than you would think, not just for storage but for cable and wire routing, not to mention that the lower you can place weight on the bike the better that bike will handle (though to be clear we’re not talking a lot of weight here).
I haven’t seen the IO in person yet. I believe the grand coming out for this bike will be at the Slowtwitch Kona Party, the Wednesday prior to Ironman. That means I also haven’t ridden it. But I rode my first DB road bike, its Podium, about 4 years ago at a press event for the Rally Cycling team (then the Optum Health team) and was very impressed. Diamondback been a sponsor of that Continental pro cycling team for several years now and the team doesn’t ride anything rebadged. Function-, feature- and value-wise Diamondback, throughout the line, is for sure one of the top dozen full service bike makers now if you consider what they offer in road, tri and MTB.
Because they’re consumer direct – hide the women and children! – they do offer some very compelling values. When you “build” these bikes in their online configurators it’s pretty surprising the prices you see as you’re “spec’ing” the bikes.
Let’s get into what makes this bike different and special. I’m going to throw at you some terms of art they threw at me, interpreting them through the prism of how I also view bikes.
The Diamondback folks consider the bike as discrete problems – or opportunities – and fashion solutions accordingly. The front of the bike, more or less above the top tube and extending above and in front of the head tube, is the Cockpit. Below the top tube is what DB calls the Speed Core. See those orange circles in the frame? These are Vortex Generators which are at the heart of what DB calls its Wake Control System. The Vortex Generators, “significantly reduce the wake that leaves the bike.”
Diamondback contends these improvements in the Speed Core make this bike aerodynamically much closer to its Serios triathlon and TT frame than its Podium road frame.
This frame also features seat stays intersecting with the seat tube much below the top tube’s intersection. Tri and TT bike makers have know about this for a long time. It’s surprising to me that it’s taken so long for road bike makers to deploy this. Seat tubes are not “hot”, that is, they don’t do much besides provide some column strength and a little stiffness in the lateral plane. Reshaping these in road bikes is low hanging fruit.
Aesthetically, this bike is going to get some criticism for its round seat post. But can I tell you, I just won’t buy a road bike without a round seat post. I’ll live with aero posts in my tri bike but I have enough trouble in my life. It’s a round post in my road bike.
The cockpit is treated like a tri superbike: internal routing, aero stem and the area around the steerer. There is one stem, along with inserts just behind the handlebar that lengthen the stem. This means the stem is effectively 80mm to 120mm in length. I’m not quite sure how the height is effected, nor am I quite sure yet what the effective stack is for each bike size, because I don’t yet know what parts above the frame proper are mandatory to the frame. Typically stack and reach are measured to the top of the head tube. If, however, there are parts above the head tube that can’t be removed period, then the measurement point would be to the top of these.
I wish the handlebar chosen was different. I like aero road bars, but I like the extra distance along the x axis to protrude in front of the centerline of the bar, rather than behind, like the bar Cervelo has on its S5. I think more riders like the ergonomics of seated riding and climbing with hands on the tops when the leading edge of the tops is in front of the handlebar centerline. When the bar extends back from that spot there’s more chance of banging one’s knee on the bar when climbing something steep out of the saddle. Fortunately, this bar can be swapped out – the bike takes any bar with a 31.8mm round center section.
Storage. First may I say that I don’t know why its taking road bike makers, and riders, to accept top tube storage. Why do riders insist on carrying their food in their jersey pockets? We stopped carrying our spare tubies in our pockets in the 80s. I think it’s time to reconsider the most appropriate place for our food. Road bike makers not putting bosses in the top tubes of their bikes are simply making inferior bikes. May as well not put seat tube bosses on either for the second bottle. If a rider doesn’t want to use those top tube bosses, fine, you’ve got a little plug covering the bosses up so that your friends won’t see that your bike has a nerd feature.
Diamondback learned from its Andean how to do top tube storage, and how to fair the storage with the cockpit. This is a leading feature and I hope DB continues to place top tube bosses on its more traditional road bikes like its Podium.
My three outstanding questions about this bike are: 1) How the handlebars do actually adjust, heightwise (I don’t yet know); 2) What a down and perhaps seat tube bottle will mean to the aerodynamics of the Speed Core; 3) What width of tires will the IO accommodate? When I know, you’ll know.
Which leads us to the storage in front of the BB. This just makes sense. But will it make the bike UCI illegal? Yes, if the UCI plays it by the book (but it should carefully consider the function here and if needed rewrite the book). Will the IO be ITU legal, for draft-legal triathlon? I hope so. We’ll see.
I’ll end where I started: Who is the customer for this bike? Strava warriors; granfondo kings; club riders; triathletes who do a lot of riding on road bikes; those who want a fast bike but aren’t concerned with governing body legality. This bike will present a conundrum for the ITU’s Athletes Committee.
The bike reminds me of a bike just intro’d 30 years ago – the Kestrel 4000. This was a revolutionary bike: the first real monocoque carbon frameset in cycling, which drove the roadies crazy but the triathletes ate it up. I and everyone in my tri posse got one and when we road the roadie training rides like Como Street we were the only riders who had them… except Wayne Stetina from Shimano (and former national road champion) who always liked the new and functional; who was never encumbered by convention; and who no road cyclist would dare criticize.
You can join a conversation now ongoing about this bike on our reader forum, where Diamondback's engineer for this bike is participating.