Bike Test: Yeti 303 RDH
The Yeti 303 RDH is an impressive piece of MACHINERY—a slimmer, leaner, single-rail version of its twin-rail big brother, the 303 DH. The bike is the direct result of input from Yeti’s sizeable squad of racers. The bigger bike was overkill for smoother racecourses with more high-speed berms and fast, smooth jumps, so racers asked for a lighter, more nimble version—one that is easier to finesse through corners and scrub speed when needed. The result is a clean-looking frame made up of angular, hydroformed tubes that costs a full $1,300 less than the 303 DH.
While the 303 DH uses two rails to control axle path and shock rate, respectively, this bike’s single rail controls only shock rate (the “R” in RDH). But what it lacks in World Cup DH boulder-swallowing ability, (aka the 303’s upward-and-rearward axle path), the RDH gains in gility and maneuverability.
The rail creates a supremely linear shock rate, so there’s no big ramp-up toward the end, nor are there three different stages to the travel like some other linkage systems. It’s just solid, predictable performance.
Another advantage to the rail-and-link design is the ability to adjust geometry by using eccentric shock mounts without affecting suspension characteristics. This gives riders the option of three different geometry settings, ranging from a 65-degree headtube angle with a 14.1-inch-high bottom bracket to a 64-degree headtube angle with a 13.84-inch bottom bracket.
While most privateers will opt for the frame-and-shock kit, Yeti puts together a respectable deal on this 40-pound (without pedals) complete bike that comes with full-complement Fox suspension—including the new DHX RC4 rear shock—a Truvativ Hussefelt finishing kit, Avid Elixir R brakes and Mavic Deetrax wheels. The rear member of my Deetrax wheelset blew up after the third hard corner I put it through, which Mavic says is the result of a faulty batch of spokes. Riders with an “A” stamped on the spoke head of their Deetrax wheels best take them to the local dealer, but my replacement set have taken a real beating with no complaints.
Testing the bike in my adopted hometown of Whistler, B.C., meant I was able to put more than 400,000 vertical feet on the RDH, and aside from some early wheel issues, the remainder of my time was a dream. Ricocheting through the wet, rocky, rooty carnage of the upper mountain, the linear suspension worked perfectly and kept the bike composed and controlled even in the wildest situations. On 15-minute-long DH runs, wet or dry, the self-lubricating system in the rail kept up and I never heard so much as a chirp from it. I did grease the system once a week to prevent undue wear and keep it running smoothly and silently.
The bike showed what it is truly capable of during the weekly Whistler races. Every time I pushed it, half expecting to slide out or rag-doll after overshooting a jump, the bike proved me wrong. It drifted predictably and swallowed cased landings.
Yeti has distilled its race sled without losing the essence of a great bike, and offers it at a price that won’t cause you to re-mortgage your house.
This content was originally published in Bike’s December 2009 issue.