I’m old enough to remember the 90’s, when mountain bike brands would occasionally build a bike for a trade show, it would be boggling at sub 24 pounds in weight, it would be made of unobtanium, paper-mache and hope, and it had a rider weight limit of not very much. It was still amazing, but didn’t really work in the real world. How times have changed. For the last few weeks, I’ve been riding the Diamant F1-LTD, sub 20 pounds in weight and apparently a fully functioning fatbike, designed to be the fastest race bike this side of somewhere far away. If you haven’t read the Initial Review, scroll the website now, to get up to speed.
Out of the box the Diamant presents well. The frame and fork are carbon confections with highly shaped seat stays, internal cable routing with a spare port for future upgrades, three bottle mounts and space for 5” tyres should you wish to go down that route. In fact, the fork has 5.7” of clearance, did anyone say Snowshoe 2XL? In addition the brake mounts are a work of subtle art, and the bottom bracket junction is bigger than Ben Hur. Lots to like here, and the parts pick is a wish list of lightweight delight.
*American Racing through axle hubs with 80mm single wall carbon rims.
*Kenda Juggernaut Pro 4” tyres.
*Formula R1 brakes, 160mm rotors.
*Sram XX1 11spd drivetrain, 10-42 cassette.
*Raceface Next SL carbon cranks, 28t chain ring.
*Answer SL carbon bars.
*San Marco carbon railed saddle with Woodman carbon post.
*Price – AU$7195
In all, just over 9kg (with pedals) of carbon, rubber and… carbon. It’s impressive in the extreme. So the question is, it talks the talk, but will it walk the walk? There’s more to a bike than just light weight.
As I headed off the first surprise was that the bike felt like a bike. I guess subconsciously I had expected either for the whole thing to fold up and collapse because it’s not made of anything, or for it to do something funky, like sprout space thrusters. In actuality it rode like a bike. Body position is forward leaning without being slammed, (a fine thing if you, say, ruined your spine skiing and rafting when all your friends were getting real jobs), and weight is nicely centered over the wheels. The seat, also a surprise, is not a couch, but could be far worse given it is nothing but a streak of carbon with a thin layer of “padding”.
The real surprise came as I peeled off the road, onto my favorite trails and started to climb. And didn’t change down. Stamp on the pedals on any hill in any gear and this thing accelerates. It’s bizarre. With the forward(ish) body position keeping the front tracking true, the lack of weight fully comes into play and the bike climbs like a demon. Technical sections? Same story. I was cleaning stuff I normally struggle with, the lack of heft allowed me to essentially chuck the bike about with scant regard for terrain or gravity. I even went looking for nasty climbs to climb, just because I could. The 28t chainring gave plenty of low-end gearing, and ample clearance to clear obstacles, and I’d confidently say if you can’t climb something on this bike, you wouldn’t on any other.
I did notice the foam grips moving about on the more “active” sections, but speaking to Diamant they informed me I was riding a pre-production bike that snuck out of the factory without them being properly secured, and other bikes will in no way suffer this small issue. The also told me the grips that had been chosen were the ones with the best insulation from the bars for sub zero racing, after testing a range of silicone, rubber and foam options. Excellent attention to detail on what is a very focused steed.
Downhill and the story of joy continues. The bike never felt twitchy, but the handling was sharp, and I did not get the feeling of forgiveness. This is not a laid back sledgehammer to hit the trails with, it is a precision tool that has so little inertia in any one direction it can turn like a caffeinated housefly. Light weight can also help if you choose to take to the air… In fact airtime was almost scary to begin with, as it felt like there wasn’t a bike underneath you. Once you get the feel of the bike, however, it’s exhilarating, and my concerns over flexibility? Gone, this bike is stiff, almost to the point of beating you up. No loss in power transfer here.
So the bike was exhilarating until I discovered that in my perfect world the front brake would have more power to say, stop you, than it did. There were a few instances where I thought I would be using my trousers as a toilet, because there was no trouble gaining speed, but losing it was fraught. Discussion with Diamant over this issue revealed that they had tested a range of rotor sizes, patterns and thicknesses, and what they had fitted was what worked best for winter racing in Norway, in terms of heat build up and dissipation relating to brake performance in below freezing temperatures. Apparently autumn in Eastern Australia’s hinterland was not part of the equation when designing a snow-racing bike. Again, attention to detail. Still, when buying the bike you may like to tailor it to local conditions.
So this is, as I mentioned in my Initial Impressions, an amazingly focused bike, with every piece chosen for a reason. The handling is world class, and in terms of components there’s really nothing to criticize. Different riders may prefer different parts, but it will be just that – preference, because nothing on this is less than top shelf. And the price for all this non-ferrous excitement? 72 hundred of our Australian fun tickets.
At this point some readers will have seven kittens at the thought of spending six months’ mortgage payments on a bicycle, and yes, it’s a chunk of cash, but I don’t think it’s expensive. When you think of what people spend money on – things with engines, things that float, things that float with engines, even a set of golf bats and membership to the golf gang, those things are pricey. A top end road or mountain bike is often five figures, and this is 30% less than that. Given it will last a few years, suddenly you are paying a grand or three a year for the best the world has to offer. Try doing that with a rally car, aeroplane or even consumer electronics. A few grand a year for a passion that keeps you fit and active is a fine way to justify it to a spouse. I think it was Keith Bontrager, or one of the Marin County gurus who said, “Light, cheap, strong. Pick any two”. Diamant made their choice, but you might just get two and a half.
Diamant set out to build the fastest lightest race bike on the planet, giving you just what you need and no more. It is, in fact, lighter than some of the time trial bikes the roadies are currently racing in the Giro. There are roadies complaining about the speed of this thing on the roadie gospel that is Strava. This is not a versatile cruiser, and it makes no apology for that. It’s about speed and handling and weight, and in this respect they have moved the proverbial bar, and created the colloquial next level. The weight reduction is key, I keep referring to it, but it dominates the ride and shapes what this bike is. This should not take away from the handling; this is still a weapon to ride, with the heft factor the icing on the cake.
So will this bike win you races? Sadly no, only legs and lungs and heart win races, but if you don’t win on this bike you probably won’t win at all, because it is quite possibly the fastest fatbike on the market at the moment. Not just a fast fatbike, but also a fast bike full stop. If you think this is you, visit- http://www.fatbike.com.au/product/diamant-f1-ltd/