Let’s get this out of the way right now. It is true that Diamondback Bicycles is not a brand I would have fingered for having a decent CX bike. The brand, long ago popular for its BMX bikes (and my first decent whip as a kid in the ’80s!), went through a few ownership changes, including some dark days as a “department store” bike brand.
But the company is battling back these days to return to respect. Last month, I threw a leg over a new Diamondback to race in a pre-season CX event in Park City, Utah, called the Raleigh Midsummer Nights Race.
At the start line I straddled the company’s Steilacoom RCX Pro Disc model, a $3,500 bike that serves as Diamondback’s top-of-the-line. The frame is standard fare for CX, including a wide, flattened top-tube for easy shouldering and a lightweight alloy build. But don’t miss the formed top tube and seat stays, the latter which is flattened to allow some compliance (flex) to the otherwise stiff frame.
Most people immediately noticed the bike’s robust Easton EC90 XD carbon fork. It appears over-built, but it’s light and stiff, exactly what you want up front on a CX racer. With its 1.5-inch tapered steerer tube, the fork is the stiffest carbon front end I’ve experienced on a CX rig.
Brakes are from Avid. This was my first race on a disc brake equipped CX bike. First impression: I’m a fan. Any extra weight was not noticeable and the power and consistent performance, whether wet or dry, was awesome.
This bike wears Avid’s proven BB7 calipers with a 160mm front rotor and 140mm rear. Several times I found myself accidentally locking up the rear wheel on the pavement sections because I was unaccustomed to that much power at the lever. Another bonus with discs: no annoying front wheel chatter under heavy braking.
Components are sensibly racey. Sram Force 10 spd, shifting, cassette, cranks. A full carbon cockpit and seatpost help dampen the bumps. When you’re tired, every bike feels heavy, but the RCX shoulders nicely during a race at 19.2 lbs (56cm size) for run-ups and barrier hopping.
Perhaps the best way I can sum up the build is this: Unless you’re moving into the Cat 2 races, I wouldn’t be in a big hurry to swap any of the parts out before racing this bike. It’s set up pretty well.
While the Steilacoom RCX is not necessarily breaking molds or showcasing any brand new innovations, it is a convincing entry and a worthy race bike. The collection of components and frame geometry results in a stable, confidence-inspiring race bike.
In Utah, I flung it into hairpins, launched it off uneven road transitions, and I leaned it into high-speed gravel corners without even thinking twice. Is the Diamondback name brand redeemed? I believe so. With bikes like this you can release any misgivings you might have about the logo and the brand. This bike is legit and worthy of consideration for serious riders looking to dabble in CX and dedicated racers alike.
—T.C. Worley is a contributing editor.