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by Anne-Marije Rook
August 25, 2016
Photography by Anne-Marije Rook
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
The US-based Diamondback Bicycles is an interesting brand. It was founded as a BMX brand in 1970s, but is mostly known for being a more ubiquitous bike brand with large entry-level kids and mountain bike product lines.
Diamondback, nowadays owned by Accell North America, adopted the consumer direct sales model early on and has been selling their bikes around the world through websites like Amazon, Nashbar and Performance Bike for a while now. Bikes can also be found at chain stores like Big W in Australia, and REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods in the US.
And while entry-level bikes may be their bread-and-butter, Diamondback has long been a sponsor for elite athletes. Through the 1990s, Diamond Back Racing (a.k.a DBR) was a highly successful mountain bike team that kick-started the careers of athletes like Cadel Evans.
In recent years, Diamondback has quietly been fleshing out its higher-end road and triathlon products as well, forming partnerships with companies like HED and using feedback from its sponsored athletes like the Rally (formerly Optum) professional men’s and women’s cycling teams.
Diamondback’s newest products fall in the adventure and endurance bike categories, including the completely overhauled Airén, a carbon women’s endurance bike.
At first glance, the redesigned Airen is an eye-catcher.
Available for retail in North America starting later this month, the 2017 Airén women’s endurance bike has gotten a full make-over complete with geometry changes, cushy women’s specific touch points, hydraulic disc brakes and a gorgeous paint job.
The goal: to create a women’s specific bike that’s comfortable for long days in the saddle, without sacrificing performance.
Women’s specific means narrow, 38mm bars and small-hand friendly Shimano ST-RS685 levers.
The 2017 Airén frame was redesigned from the ground up, sporting a new women’s specific geometry while borrowing highlights from Diamondback’s Podium and Serios race bikes. This is evident in the switch to hand-built, monocoque carbon fiber instead of aluminum, the tube shapes and the oversized bottom bracket.
But this is not a racing bike. This bike is first and foremost made to be comfortable.
As such, the frame sports a slightly longer wheel base, taller head tube and a new sculpted seat and chain stays for a smooth ride.
But smooth doesn’t have to mean sluggish. Performance-minded details are found in the lighter carbon frame, a stiff head tube and bottom bracket, and the 12mm thru-axles paired with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes.
Differences in men’s versus women’s geometry:
Century Carbon 5 (men’s)
Airén Carbon 5 (women’s)
To complete the package, the top-end Airén 5 Carbon is spec’d with Shimano’s Ultegra 2×11 groupset (50/34 in the front, 11-28 in the rear); HED Flanders C2+ Disc wheels; HED stem, seatpost and handlebars; Prologo Kappa women’s saddle; and Shimano Flat Mount hydraulic disc brakes.
The “Tiffany Matte” color scheme and curved rear triangle make for an aesthetically pleasing bike.
The build and specs aside, this bike is an eye-catcher. The curved rear triangle and the celeste blue paint job –which Diamondback calls Tiffany Matte –makes for a good looking bike. It’s feminine without being girly, and, in my experience demoing this bike, as popular with men as it is with women.
People asked about the bike wherever I went, which is also in part due to the ghost decals which makes the branding understated…perhaps even a little too understated.
The Airen excelled at long rides over mixed terrain.
I tested the Airén on several rides of varying distance and terrain, and the more I rode it, the more I liked it.
Weighing in at 19.5 pounds (8.8 kg), the bike felt a bit heavy given it was carbon. And while the bike is far from slow or sluggish, it lacked the snappiness of my light and stiff race bikes. But then again, that’s not the aim for this bike.
With the wide-rimmed HED wheelset and 28mm tyres, confidence-inspiring disc brakes and a more forgiving geometry, this bike excelled at long rides over mixed pavement. Chipseal, hard-packed dirt and gravel were no problem, the Airén cruised along smoothly. Even 60-miles in, the Airén was a joy to ride.
The stiff fork, tru-axle and reliable stopping power of the Shimano disc brakes make the bike sturdy and grounded, instilling trust and confidence for even the roughest descents.
And with the frame’s integrated eyelets for racks and fenders, this bike is begging for adventure.
Aside from the geometry, the women’s specific touch points are well done: the narrow 38mm handlebars to match women’s typically narrower shoulder width, the cushy Eva gel handlebar tape, and the Prologo Kappa women’s saddle all added to an overall comfortable and a smooth ride.
The Pros & Cons:
– Smooth and comfortable ride
– Reliable, confidence-inspiring braking
– Good women’s specific touch points
– Integrated eyelets for racks and fenders
– Frame features Di2-compatible closed circuit cable routing
– Quality bike for a wallet-friendly price: USD $3,200
– A bit heavy
– The stock handlebars have a rather deep drop and relaxed curve, forcing the rider into a more aggressive position than one would want to be in for an endurance ride
– There is a tad bit of toe-overlap
Conclusion: This is not the kind of bike one would expect to be able to purchase online and pre-assembled. It’s an all-around quality product at a wallet-friendly price. The Airén 5 will bring a lot of joy to weekend warriors, adventurer seekers and gran fondo competitors alike.
The Airen comes with 12mm thru axles for stiffness and Shimano’s BR-RS805 Flat Mount Hydraulic Disc, w/ 160mm Front / 140mm Rear Rotors.
Diamondback has partnered with HED for wheels, stems, handlebars and seatposts.
Touch points matter. The Airen 5 comes with Prologo’s women’s specific Kappa saddle.
Integrated eyelets for racks and fenders.
Ghost decals are perhaps a tad bit too understated.
The wide rimmed HED Flanders C2+ Disc wheels make the 28mm tyres feel and appear like 32’s.
The Airen excelled at long rides over mixed pavement.