Developing a DH race bike
Getting across just how many factors, facets and details go into a bike’s development is no easy task. It might be that only the people that do the development have some idea. It’s like a wild circus act trying to juggle them all. Compromise might make the marketing departments wince, but it’s in the careful balance of all the compromises, all those factors, where a bike truly comes to life.
Developing a DH bike, however, takes a slightly different approach to this circus act. Many mountain bikes, like our Jibb and Madonna, have to go up, down and all around the mountain. Meaning that the juggling is with a lot of balls.
A DH race bike, on the other hand, is a very focussed tool. Its intent is so beautifully clear that it might actually mean that you’re juggling with less balls, it’s just that with the speeds and ferocity that DH bikes can be ridden with, all the balls are on fire.
And for us at RAAW, that different style in development also came from our simple love for DH bikes, racing and culture. When passion meets profession you might never work a day in your life, and developing the RAAW DH bike transpired to be such a simple task from its clear focus and the fact we were enjoying so much what we were doing. But simple does not mean easy.
While a DH bike is a very focussed tool for a specific job, sometimes that job can change. Different riders and racers jump on board, the tracks vary from race to race and conditions can change at the flick of a switch. So, having a toolbox to delve into to meet all those demands was something that we felt would be useful to have when you’re up at the ragged edge and still pushing for fractions of a second.
Up front, the reach and head angle of the bike can be adjusted separately or in combination to alter the fit, feel and weight balance.
In the middle there are three different BB heights to fine tune with, in combination with three different levels of suspension progression. These affect more the segments of travel that a rider will spend more time in, giving usable and feelable adjustments.
Out back, we have our keyed in axle system that ties the dropouts of the bike together while having three different chainstay lengths. And as the frame sizes grow, from M to XL, the range of chainstay adjustment grows too, ensuring that the balance of the adjustments at the rear of the bike matches the length out front.
Our unhealthy obsession for DH bikes, racing and the culture that surrounds it has meant that the legend of Champéry, Switzerland needs little introduction to us. Famed race runs down the mightily steep track are forever etched into our minds. And every time we clip in to ride the wild roller coaster one more time we’re still a bit in awe of where we’re riding.
While many of the World Cup level race tracks can be pootled down to some degree, their true signature is when you turn up the speed, thinking you’re ten men, only to have the intensity turned up exponentially higher than you were expecting. Grabbing the bull by the horns and really going for it in Champéry results in one hell of a kick, and it’s damn addictive. Long after your body has waved the white flag and you’re running on fumes, the desire to keep lapping for more of that kick lingers on.
Having a bike fit to tackle this wild ride, run after run, was probably the highest box on our list to tick. The idea to develop a bike that would not only have your back, but egg you on to go faster, lean further and push harder was something we were keen to accomplish and something that, in conjunction with our toolbox of adjustments, would be usefully transferable to all the downhill tracks and riders out there.