It is no secret that RAAW Mountain Bikes are developing their first downhill mountain bike. It broke cover underneath the 555 Gravity team at the Downhill World Cup season opener in Lourdes. At Round 2 in Fort William, Scotland, we swung by the team’s pits to see KJ Sharp’s race rig in the flesh, and to find out more about it from the team’s Race Engineer, Dan Roberts. Here’s what we know about the RAAW DH bike so far.
KJ Sharp’s RAAW Downhill Bike
First up, it sure does look like a RAAW, rocking the same four-bar linkage seen on the Madonna enduro and Jibb trail bikes, with an absolutely massive main pivot. In fact, aside from an over-sized headtube and much slacker seat tube, there’s not a great deal that sets it apart from the Madonna V2.2, at a glance anyway. The bike is still under prototyping, but the bikes we saw at Fort William looked fairly production worthy.
Adjustability is becoming increasingly common on both enduro and downhill mountain bikes, with both Camille Balanche’s Commencal Supreme DH V5 and Aaron Gwin’s prototype Intense both permitting head angle and/or reach adjustments, bottom bracket height and linkage progression adjustments, as well as offering three different options for rear-center length. The same is true for KJ Sharp’s RAAW DH Bike.
At the lower shock mount, the mounting tab on KJ Sharp’s bike tells us she ran it in the middle bottom bracket height setting, with overall progression at 25%. Race Engineer, Dan Roberts, told us there are currently 9 different shock mount tabs available to the team, allowing them to play around with 9 combinations of bottom bracket height and overall progression; there are three different BB settings and three different progression settings; 23%, 25% and 28%.
Word is that a tenth set of lower shock mounting tabs are on their way, tailored to allow the team to switch out that 29″ rear wheel for a 27.5″, running the bike in a mullet configuration. The new shock tab will likely go some way to correcting for the much lower bottom bracket and, thus, slacker head angle that comes with the smaller rear wheel.
A flip-chip at the dropouts allows chainstay length adjustment over a 15mm range. Notable here is that, across the expected M-XL frame size range, chainstay length will be somewhat proportional to reach. Thus, while KJ Sharp’s medium frame pictured here has a chainstay length adjustable between 440mm and 455mm, the range available on the Large frame is 445mm to 460mm, and 450mm to 465mm on the XL.
On top of its clean-cut aesthetic, four-bar linkage layout and over-sized main pivot, the RAAW DH Bike carries over other design features from its shorter travel siblings. At the rear axle, for example, the thru-axle is essentially keyed-in to the dropouts, creating a rigid connection between the two, locking the left and right seatstays into place. This helps the rear-end resist rotation and bending, and it should also stop the axle from undoing while you’re riding, too.
In the cockpit, a 56mm diameter upper headset configuration permits further adjustments to both reach and head angle, the latter by +/- 1°.
No word yet on when the RAAW DH Bike will go to production. Updates will come your way when we have more information. If you’re super stoked on the bike and want to hear more about where it came from, check out the video below featuring Dan Roberts and RAAW Mountain Bikes Managing Owner, Ruben Torenbeek, discussing the story so far.