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Yalla! "Proper Hammer" - RAAW of the Month November

Finally, a Yalla! - and what a bike it is! The RAAW of the Month for November brims with understatement and exudes a  real "workhorse" vibe. We're excited to introduce you to the bike that its owner likes to refer to as “a proper hammer” and the story behind it today.

Craig, the man behind the November RAAW of the Month, is no stranger to mountain biking, having been part of the sport's first wave in the late 1980s. However, he took a long break from biking for snowboarding and only returned a few years ago. Now, he's more involved than ever: "Any spare minute, I am out there. If I’ve got a full day or afternoon I will be in the park sessioning on the Yalla!. If I have only a few hours, I might take the kid out for some laps or do a lite enduro run from the lifts. If it's the evening or weather is bad I might do an ebike mission down to the city and back on the train. If the schedule is free or a holiday, try to hit up a new bike park or do a shuttle day. It's all consuming and mostly all I think about." he admits.

Craig's first encounter with RAAW happened during a film production, where he was behind the camera and saw a rider on the Madonna. "I was stunned by how silent and solid it was. How clean the lines were and how beautiful the welds and whole aesthetic was." he recalls. This sparked his interest in the brand, and he felt a strong alignment with RAAW's approach to making durable, sustainable bikes. "A small company built by passionate people making durable and sustainable, heavy hitting bikes that were actually what they wanted to ride. No gimmicks, and encouraging the customers to build up and work on the bikes themselves. I really felt an affinity to this" he notes. “When I first saw the Raaw DH bike, the silhouette had me hooked. I wanted to size up from my last bike so I decided If I could, I would invest in the larger Yalla!

For the build, he had a clear goal: "I wanted to create a solid, set and forget bike with affordable and dependable parts that I could rely on to do the job in all conditions and terrain with zero special configuration and only basic maintenance. Trust it to take hit after hit all year long. A proper hammer.”  Although Craig, at a height of 178cm, had always ridden medium-sized frames in the past, he chose a black Yalla! in size Large as the basis for this project. "The smaller size allowed me to learn how to throw the bike around a bit and develop a little style in my riding. I felt it was time to size up for a bit more stability. The reach and feel of the large is perfect for me and it is helping me move onto bigger features with confidence," he explains. To counterbalance the larger frame size, Craig rides with the short chainstay setting. For the other adjustment options, he relies on the standard setup: head angle, reach, bottom bracket height, progression, and the leverage ratio have remained untouched so far.

The most maintenance-friendly frame is of no use if the components turn out to be unreliable. That's why Craig focuses on parts in his build that he has had good experiences with in the past and that don't unnecessarily strain the wallet. In the rear suspension, there is a Marzocchi Bomber CR with a 550lb spring. The fork is a Fox 40, equipped with larger seals and a custom tune. Craig rides it with 6 tokens. Robust Crankbrothers Synthesis Carbon wheels, a Title cockpit, and the drivetrain and brakes from Shimano's Saint group complete the package.

Frame Yalla! In large with the shorter rear axle
Fork Fox 40
Rear Shock Marzocchi Bomber, 550lbs spring
Wheels Crankbrothers Synthesis Carbon with Industry Nine Hydra Hub
Tires Continental Kryptotal DH
Headset Acros
Stem Title DM1
Handlebar Title AH1
Grips Ergon GD1
Brakes Shimano Saint
Discs Galfer 223mm and 203mm
Derailleur Shimano Saint
Shifter Shimano Saint
Cranks Shimano Saint
Cassette Shimano
Chain Shimano
Chainguide STFU bike
Pedals Chromag Dagga
Seatpost Ride Alpha
Saddle Belcarra
Weight 16.3kg

The result? A huge success on many levels: "I wanted a consistent, predictable.and durable tool that gives me a safe margin of error to progress my riding from. I don't want to think about  settings or what it is doing. If I am pushing my limit on jumps or drops or technical fast stuff, I just want it there, doing its job." Craig shares. “At this stage it feels like an extension of myself. I LOVE riding it, it's the only bike I want to ride right now and if I give it a litte it will return with a lot.

But the Yalla! also was a breakthrough for Craig in another area: "Our local bikepark is a pretty committed place. Lots of weird and sketchy jumps and I found it overwhelming and difficult to progress. I suffered from a mental block for a long time. My investment in the Yalla! was a declaration of my intent to finally face my fears. Not just for me but also for my kid who is 8 now and starting to ride really well, but still finds some of our local features overwhelming. I want to help him get past his fears so that means stepping up and getting past mine. I have to show him that with planning and preparation you can do it. It's been working and we are having a lot of fun together. Yalla! was the tool that opened that door.

The greatest compliment for us is that Craig has truly found his "forever" bike in the Yalla!: "The Yalla! has completely killed that “next thing” urge that you get when surrounded by new products. Escaping this hamster wheel feels incredibly liberating! This is my bike and will be for the future. everything else is either less than this or just a distraction." he reports. That's exactly what we at RAAW aim to achieve with our bikes, and we give our all every day for this goal.

Accordingly, his answer is short when we ask him about planned upgrades and future plans with the bike: "If I had the money I would love to try Ohlins but don't really want to go through the trial and error of setting up new stuff and right now it's not at all in the budget. Instead of focusing on such things, I'm just trying to ride stylishly with speed and flow and taking on bigger challenges when I feel I am ready to. Helping my kid progress when he is ready to as well, that is important to me. Ultimately, in a couple years, I would love to be at the level of the Chill Trail in Bernex and Metabief that Vinny T designed. That level of riding is maybe my ultimate goal, If I can get to that point and ride them with my kids.. I can die happy.

Those who follow our RAAW of the Month series know that we particularly appreciate it when someone pursues a clear goal with their bike build and then implements it consistently. Craig clearly understands what it's about for him with his bike, in biking, and - it seems - in life in general. Stories like his inspire us to continue developing bikes that meet the standard of being the last bike a rider will ever want to ride. We just hope that the 100 € voucher for our online shop, which he receives for the RAAW of the Month award, doesn't lure him back into the upgrade rat race!

Text: Aaron Steinke Photos: Craig Douglas @the_ridgeline

Does your bike have what it takes to be "RAAW of the Month"?

Since we founded RAAW, one thing has given us a lot of pleasure: seeing where, how and by whom our bikes are ridden all over the world and how you use our frame kits to create different, individually optimized works of bike art. That's why from now on, every month we'll choose a particularly successful and exciting bike build from the community as "RAAW of the Month" and present the bike and its rider in detail on our website. In addition to glory and Insta-fame, a 100 € voucher for our online store awaits the lucky winner. Does your bike have what it takes to be "RAAW of the Month"? Check out this page to find out how to apply.

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