Diamond Back Avail - A Bike Ahead of Its Time
I recently had a fellow from Brazil, Fabricio by name, leave a comment quizzing me about the DB Avail. He had seen a comment I left on someone's blog about mine, and that was about all the info he could find on the net concerning the bike. Since he is looking at buying an Avail, he wanted more info.
So, here is what I know:
In 1992 (I think, might have been 1991), Diamond Back (it was still two words, then, they went to the one-word version in 1994, as I recall) introduced two bikes to the market which they referred to as "Supercross" bikes, to differentiate them from the standard "Cross" (hybrid) models in their lineup. The top-line version was the Overdrive, and the less expensive model was the Avail. As far as I know, the frames and forks were identical double butted chromo;y steel, and only the paint color and components differentiated them. The Overdrive that we had in the shop was equipped with Shimano XT, and the Avail was equipped with Shimano LX components.
The only catalog I can find on the internet is from Great Britain. In that market, the bikes were called the Overdrive Comp and the Overdrive. The Comp is listed as having Suntour XC Pro components, while the less-expensive model has Shimano DX.
I don't know which spec the bikes available in Brazil would have come with, if either.
Anyway, these bikes were equipped from the factory with 700c x 45 Panaracer Smoke tires. They were designed to be used as mountain bikes, not for bike path riding as most "cross" bikes were marketed. In this way, they are the direct ancestors of the modern 29er mountain bike. The only difference is that a true 29er has clearance for 2.2" tires, rather than the 1.75" tires with which the DBs were equipped.
In our shop, we sold our Overdrive to a fellow who used it as a backcountry mountain bike, He rode it all over the Front Range, and took it Moab numerous times. I lost track of him, long ago, but I know that he was still was riding that bike the last time I saw him, which was 5 years after he bought it.
Our Avail never sold, and we eventually stripped the LX parts off of it to build up a stndard 26" wheel mtb. Scott (the store owner) gave me the wheels, frame, fork and headset to build my first cyclocross bike. Cyclogross bikes were pretty rare, at the time, in the American market, and this was a good affordable way to build one up.
I rode that bike as a commuter/mountain bike/century bike/all-rounder for years. I backed over it with my Dodge truck and folded the frame, then straightened it and rode it another couple of years. I got hit by a car on it, and had to replace the fork. (DiamondBack still had some forks in the warranty department, so I got one with the factory paint, and everything. They actually gave it to me, free, after hearing my story.)
Eventually, I passed the Avail along to one of the mechanics at the bike shop, and he took it to the mountains when he decided to become a ski resort employee/ski bum. A couple of years later, I ran into him and he told me that the drive-side dropout had broken and that, rather than repair it, he had hung the frame on the wall as a decoration. Then, someone stole it. By that time, the frame was close to 10 years old, and probably had 30,000 miles on it.
I hope that the thief repaired it and rode it another 10 years.
In short, Fabricio, if you have a chance to buy one of those old Avails, do it. The frame and fork are well made, and the geometry is great for everyday use.
I wish I had mine back...