2015 beckons to be another exciting year for triathlon with new races, new gear, new bikes, etc. And it’s usually the start of the season for most triathletes with all our races planned for the year, or even a new rig fitted and dialed in. Therefore, I hoped that everyone had a good start to the new year. I had one, because I’ve got a new toy. A VERY nice toy… Presenting the all new DIMOND for 2015!
SO WHAT ABOUT IT?
First thing that comes to mind would be, especially for some seasoned cyclists: “Hold on a sec. I don’t mean to piss on your bonfire but what’s so new about this bike?”. They’re not wrong though. The DIMOND is basically what we call a ‘Beam bike’, a bike without the main vertical stress member i.e. the seat tube and the seat stays. This design was first pioneered by the Softride that appeared in the early 90s, during the golden era of many bike innovations that were carried over to this day. The idea was to provide some form of suspension for bikes which in turn will increase comfort and ride compliancy. But the main flaw of that design was that the beam ‘bobs’ and oscillates while high pedalling forces were applied, which caused some power transfer losses. However it was a huge hit back in the day and despite its shortcomings, the Softride still set a Kona bike split record under the legs of an ex-pro from Germany- Jurgen Zack.
Then came along a company called ZIPP (BIG company now) who created a new version of the beam bike called the ‘ZIPP 2001“. Back then, most bike companies were still exploring newer and lighter materials for frame production. With the ZIPP 2001, the frame comprises of aluminium and carbon and in order to increase strength, the tube shapes were made thicker and wider and at the same time, creating a huge foil aimed at improving aerodynamics. The frame was deemed a success because it performed well in wind tunnels tests and it actually remained as one of the fastest framesets to date. However, with the strict and draconian rules of the UCI, the frame was made illegal for their sanctioned races. And being only tri legal, where the sport was still in its infancy back then, the marketplace for the ZIPP 2001 shrunk and the company had to end its production in the late 90s. But cult followers of the frameset continued to use it for tri races and made some occasional appearances over the years.
But the bike had been brought back into prominence by a professional triathlete, TJ Tollakson, but as a modified and re-labelled ZIPP 2001, which he named it the ‘DIMOND’. There’s a reason behind the missing ‘A’ from the word ‘diamond’. For those who didn’t know why, I’ll leave it as a trivia. TJ was known to be an innovator in the triathlon world, for some of his quirky but effective inventions, unconventional riding posture and being the Founder and CEO of his own company called Ruster Sports that showcases the ‘Hen House’, a bike case designed by the man himself, which benefits frequent travelling triathletes/cyclists from high check-in baggage costs.
In 2012, after using the modified ZIPP for quite a number of races, he’s convinced that the beam bike should make its official comeback. So with the help of his friend David Morse, an ex ZIPP design engineer, who’s the full-time Design Director for DIMOND now, they conceived the 1st few prototypes of the DIMOND. And by November 2013, the 1st iteration was officially released to the public and the rest is history. The full story of the DIMOND and its full wind tunnel report is available here. And to further attest to the DIMOND’s aero prowess, here’s the link for TJ’s record-setting bike split achieved at Ironman Mont Tremblant 2014.
HOW I GOT HITCHED
So, a bit of a background story there. Now, more about MY DIMOND. It was late last year when the DIMOND was made available by T3 Bicycle Gears, a popular LBS whom I get good support from, managed to procure some examples of the DIMOND, and believed to be the 1st dealer in Asia to do so. I was hooked to the bike by an invisible fishing line cast by Nicholas, the boss of the establishment. Me, who suffers from a medical condition for bicycles, just couldn’t resist the temptation. Only bicycle lovers can understand the attraction of an interesting bike and I’m very keen to see what the DIMOND is capable of, given the impressive wind tunnel data and reviews. Hence, a deposit was paid, a gaping hole punched through my wallet and a rough estimate for the delivery was set.
The wait for the frameset was relatively short, which only took about 2 weeks. Even with some customisation done to the frame. I asked for bottle cage and storage bosses to be added to the down-tube and the top-tube respectively. But I decided not to go for a custom paint job this time because I’m quite happy with the full black paint job, and also partly due to a possibly longer waiting time. My last TREK SC9 Project One took more than 3 months for the frameset to be shipped over! Anyway, in the middle of January this year, my DIMOND arrived on the T3 shop floor. Kind of a late christmas present for myself!
As always, I prefer to BIY(Build It Yourself) my bike so I can appreciate the details and how all the parts and components hold up together. A tip that I like to give to my fellow triathletes out there who travel for races. It’s also good to brush up our mechanical skills so that we can do some minor repairs on our own instead of panicking. T3 also kindly lent me some tools that I don’t have for certain modifications to be done on some components for the build. So, with my fit data my tools ready. It’s time to start cracking. Before I continue, here’s the breakdown of my DIMOND’s specs:
Frameset: DIMOND Size M
BB: TriPeak PF30 ceramic
Headset: Cane Creek 110 Integrated
Stem: Tri-Rig Sigma XF 90mm -17deg
Aerobars: PRO Missile Evo TT
Brakeset: Tri-Rig Omega Front/Rear
Saddle: Specialized Sitero Expert
Crankset*: QUARQ Elsa RS 165mm with Dura-ace 9000 55/42 chainrings
Front Dee: SHIMANO Dura-ace 9070 Di2
Rear Dee: SHIMANO Dura-ace 9070 Di2
Shifters: SHIMANO Dura-ace 9070 Di2 TT single button
Brake Levers: SHIMANO Dura-ace 9071 Di2 TT levers
Cassette: SHIMANO Dura-ace 9000 11-28
Chain: KMC X11 SL Gold
Pedals: SHIMANO Dura-ace 9000 SPD-SL Carbon
Wheelset: ZIPP 808 FC Front and Super 9 disc Rear Carbon Clinchers
Tyres: Continental GP4000SII 700c x 23
Others: K-Edge Chain Catcher, Shimano cables/housings, Specialized Rig Cage Carbon cages, DARK Speedworks top-tube storage, Salt-stick 6 capsule dispenser.
Modifications: Drill holes on top cover of Sigma stem for Di2 5-port Junction A. Shortening of extensions, removal of headset dust cap.
The initial build took only half the time compared to my previous SC9. I spent about 10 hours on that due to some manufacturing imperfections. Big bike manufacturers just churn out the parts according to the moulds but fail to do a proper QC to check whether do all the parts line up properly together, especially for highly integrated designs like the SC9. Anyway, this bike is easy to build due to its simple and yet aerodynamically superior design. The only glitch was the fork, which doesn’t really flow nicely along with the curves of the huge down tube.
I chose the Missile EVO aerobars for its ability to route the Di2 cables cleanly and it was mated to the Sigma stem, which was also able to hide the cables and housings under its stem cover. And it allows direct routing of the front brake cables to its sibling, the Omega brakes to give the front end a very clean profile.
The decision to place the Di2 junction A on the stem cover was an easy one because I intend to run a BTA bottle set-up placed in front of it, which the brilliant Sigma stem allows me to and that blocks off the junction A protruding out of the frontal profile. The mounting points were placed on top and off the front of the stem for a bottle cage to be fitted. As I was running my pads and extensions at quite a narrow width, I had to add 10mm spacers and use longer bolts to raise the bottle cage due to the limited space.
The DIMOND is only offered in 3 sizes, S, M and L with geometries to cater for a wide range of fit. Hence the head-tube and top tube is longer for more stack and reach as compared to geometries from other bike brands, if you compare them size for size. I’m usually an in-betweener for sizes S and M due to my weird build (short torso, long inseams), but for the DIMOND, I was able to go for size M because the seatpost allows big fore aft adjustments- up to 77deg aft-82deg forward for the seat-tube angle. Therefore, reach wasn’t an issue. A much-needed adjustability for me because my position is rotated a lot forward and I use short(165mm) cranks to keep my hip angle wide, as you can see in my set-up. However, the stack for size M was a tad higher than what I require but a solution was at hand. For bike porn addicts, this may look familiar to you:
The removal of the headset dust cap effectively removes about 8mm of stack and it hits my position spot on. Though I may run the risk of having more dirt, salt and grime in my headset but as long the bike is regularly cleaned and serviced religiously, there’s nothing to worry about. By the way it looks cool!
The rest of the build process was a breeze. The cables were easy to route and the cool guys from DIMOND also uploaded a video on YouTube to show us how to set up the Di2 cables and battery into the removable top tube as well. And having an electronic drivetrain makes everything else even easier. All bolts torqued, tyres pumped, chain greased and the beast awaits…
Having not ridden a beam bike before, my mind was mentally prepared for some pedal bob even though some earlier reviews of the DIMOND suggests otherwise. After throwing my leg over the bike and giving it the clappers right from the start, NO PEDAL BOB. The bike just builds up speed effortlessly. Sounds exaggerating? Because that’s really how it felt like. And with the BB30 bottom end, power transfer was still somewhat stiff. Why I said that was because the comfort of the beam and the lack of the vertical stress member somehow evened out all the snappy and punchy feel. But yet I could feel that no power was wasted on every stroke of the pedal. The feel was almost like those road bikes that were designed for comfort and long days on the saddle. That’s what we long course triathletes actually need, and the DIMOND offers even more. And if you’ve seen the specs of the DIMOND, each size has it’s own weight limit. I’m on the size M and I’m way under its safe working load, hence a good balance was struck between ride damping and stiffness.
Present day traditionally designed high-end TT/Tri bikes use stronger but lighter carbon with thicker material to compensate for the lack of strength in aerodynamic tube shapes. Hence it’s common in reviews that you read about some top spec-ed models from other brands having harsh and less compliant rides. My previous SC9 is one of the only few that’s able to give a slightly more comfy ride but compared to the DIMOND, it’s another class on its own.
In the handling department, fast and long sweeping bends weren’t an issue because the DIMOND was designed to be stable at speed with its long trail, which also resulted the bike having a longer wheelbase. One downside was that tighter bends would have to be negotiated carefully because for straight line stability, sharp handling will always be sacrificed and another factor that further contributes to this flaw was the absence of the seat tube and seat stays. Hence there’s no support for gravitational forces and lateral loads while changing directions at speed.
But let’s face it, the primary purpose of the DIMOND is for long distance triathlon, because for most races, the bike courses were mostly straight with only a few sections of undulating or rolling terrain. One part that I left out in my initial test ride was climbing performance, especially while seated. Though road vibrations and pedal bob were evened out on flat roads, how this bike climbs still remained a question mark, which I could only find out at Challenge Melbourne, a half-iron distance race that I signed up for held a month ago on 1st February. A full on test was in the cards.
PACKING UP THE BIKE
With its easy assembly and the removable top tube. You can be sure that the DIMOND will excel in this department. Not only that, my BikeBox Alan had tonnes of space to spare for other stuff that I can pack into the bike case.There’s really not much else to mention here given the simplicity and ease of the whole process. And with everything all packed up, time to travel to Melbourne for my race.
After settling down in my accommodation in Melbourne, basic re-assembly of the bike was done in a jiffy but I spent quite some time fiddling with the set-up, fit points and ironing out any fine adjustments required. A couple of hiccups I had was- The rear brake caliper adjustment on the drive side took a bit more time because I was on a 55 teeth chainring, which causes the access to the adjustment bolt a bit of a squeeze. But I foresee no problems with guys using chainrings with 53 teeth or less.
I went for a 1 hour bike course reece the day after and the bike performed as expected. As the route had some long and gradual inclines, it’s time to see how this baby move up the slopes. I kept the front on the big ring and dropped a few cogs down the back just to have a feel when mashing bigger gears, and my reservations I had for this bike reared its head. I felt that the chassis was a wee bit unresponsive but it wasn’t bad to the point like I’m climbing on a full suspension mountain bike without a rear lockout. It didn’t bob but you can feel a slight lack in power transfer as compared to a normal road/tri bike. This was done while seated. A couple of ways to avoid this is to dance on the pedals if you want go big or, use whatever gears you have at your disposal. Which was an advice often given by many anyway if we want to keep our legs fresh after 90 or 180km on the bike. Anyway, all that can be made up when the terrain gets flat.
But we have to look back at the purpose of the DIMOND’s design- TO GO FAST. True that traditional double triangle TT frames will climb better but they’re still no goat, because with our hydration, nutrition and spares we carry would compromise climb performance anyway. But with the supplies consumed and when the road gets flat, thats when the DIMOND truly shines. I was really excited to see how well I’ll do for the 90km bike leg, so much so that I didn’t really care about the whole race!
Sad to say, the mood was dampened, literally on race day due to a storm. The conditions were treacherous and the bike course was hit by the direct cross-winds, which would unsettle any bike. And since the course was 3-looped, we had crosswinds from both sides throughout the bike leg. Nevertheless, I had so much faith in the DIMOND that I had to do it justice. It was going to be battle against the elements of nature! So much for conviction as I trudged gingerly to starting line in the rain, facing huge swells and waves. By the way most RDs would’ve cancelled the race but hey, it’s Australia.
The swim itself was another story altogether. I’ll just say it wasn’t enjoyable but still I swam the whole course and made it to the land in 1 piece. “Whole course? Big deal!”, you may say but not after you hear the life-saving dinghy almost capsized and around 70 participants had to be pulled out of the water. Could be more. Anyway, moving on to the bike leg…
I bolted off the mount line and tried to go as quickly as possible simply because the best way to beat a crosswind is to go fast. As you can see in my set-up, me along with some other participants with disc wheels shod rigs should be employing the same strategy. Needless to say, the bike picked up speed admirably even in those conditions and all I needed to do was to pace myself well and go harder at the end with whatever’s left in the tank, and prayed for any hopes of the weather improving. I wasn’t looking forward to a good overall result anyway due to the sh*tty swim.
However, of all days in Melbourne(this city is known for its unpredictable weather), the storm prevailed throughout the race. In the chilly winds and blustery conditions, though going as fast as I could, I was hanging on for dear life. By the end of the 90km, my legs were almost shattered and I still had another 21km on foot to contend with. My almost numb free bum due to the bike’s superior damping was the only consolation I had. My nutrition plan was also compromised and I started the run leg with cramps, but luckily all was well after 5km and I settled into a good pace.
Eventually I finished the race in a respectable 4:41. Not what I’d expected but given the conditions, I can be content and again, it was my bike split that saved a huge chunk of time. A 2:25 over 90km that day in more than 30km/h crosswinds on the DIMOND was a dignified performance. The bike and I had a rough day but ‘we’ met our objective.
The resurgence of the DIMOND was a well received one, and it also proved its worth under the legs of some pros and top age-groupers in their respective races they took part in. Admittedly, with some big manufacturers throwing away the UCI rulebooks and coming out with tri ‘legal’ designs, it paved the way for other manufacturers, and DIMOND themselves, to produce triathlon framesets that can out perform each other in the wind tunnel and in real world conditions. And for those who follow advancements in tri bike tech, there’s more upcoming radical and proven designs awaiting to be unveiled in the near future. The triathlon super bike war had just only started and you can be ahead of the game. On a DIMOND of course(grin).
To any who’s got a DIMOND in their wish list or already had one on order, you won’t be disappointed by it’s free speed and comfort it provides. And with most bikes made in the Orient nowadays, the bike holds it’s label ‘MADE IN USA’ with pride on the drive-side chainstay. Below is a list of pros and cons of the DIMOND that I’d gathered.
With that, I end my review of the DIMOND. Thanks for reading our blog and a huge shout out to my sponsors Emjay Enterprises Pte Ltd, providing me some cool apparel from Blueseventy and Compressport. And a big thanks to Nick, his family and his minions from T3 Bicycle Gears Pte Ltd, for their unwavering support and supply of kit, tools and components. Lastly, I hereby wish everyone a fruitful and fulfilling 2015!
– Tried, tested and proven aerodynamics
– Easy assembly and packing
– Fast and stable
– Very comfortable
– Full paint customisation available
– Wide range of fit
– Proudly MADE IN USA
– Big ringed seated climbs took a little bit more effort.
– Slower handling during quick directional changes
– Improvement recommended for fork design (New fork design awaiting to be revealed by the boffins over at DIMOND)
– Bottle cage and storage bosses should come as standard
In one sentence: “It’s comeback was a long time coming, but worth the wait!”