Which DH bike should I get? (again)

Dear Lee,

Recently I’ve been looking at the Yeti 303 RDH in a medium. I’m also looking at the demo 8 2010 in a small b/c of the shorter wheelbase than the medium demo.
Some of my reasons to get the yeti would be the adjustable geometry, shorter wheelbase, and longer tt? maybe (not sure if this is true). Some of the reasons why I would get a demo 8 would be that i have an 08 now so i’m familiar with it and the lower price ($400). I ride on the east coast so primarily the dh courses are through the trees and it’s a bit tighter. I’m just curious as to what you think I should do. I’ve been able to ride both bikes and like them both. Tough decision though. Any input that you have on either bike that would make you lean either way in which one you think I should get would be great.

Thank you, Billy

Hey Billy,

This sure is a popular topic. But heck — if you’re gonna spend $4,000 on a bike, you should choose wisely.

Here’s one way to look at this:

Functionally, the Demo 8 and 303 RDH are very similar. These diagrams boil down what I think are the most important measurements for a DH bike: wheelbase, chainstay length, bottom bracket height, head tube angle and front end height. They determine where your feet and hands go, and where you fit between the wheels.

Chicks don’t particularly dig mountain bikers, but they love infographics.

You can see these bikes are very similar.

The most noticeable difference is the 303’s longer rear end. This positions you closer to the center of the bike. It’s been said that DH bikes with longer stays corner better. It’s also been said that DH bikes with shorter stays make it easier to manual/plane through garbage.

You might also notice the Demo’s lower bottom bracket. This usually translates to quicker side-to-side transitions and a more “railing” feel in the corners. It can also mean more pedal strikes — especially in East Coast-style rocks. Tip: Pump those sections.

Both setups are good. It’s a matter of style.

I dunno there. 64 and 65 degrees are both pretty slack. I suppose the 65 would handle a bit more quickly in the tight stuff, but that won’t make as much difference as solid cornering technique.

And: Do you know how to make the most of adjustable geometry. Most of us don’t.

Don’t base your decision on adjustability.

Axle path
The 303 and Demo have very different suspension philosophies.

The Demo’s FSR link makes the wheel travel almost straight upward. This makes the bike as neutral as possible to pedaling and braking forces, which means you can hammer or brake as hard as you want, and the bike keeps working. The bike might hang up a bit in square-edged bumps, but I don’t hear Sam Hill complaining.

The 303 is designed with a rearward axle path. This makes the bike more compliant over square-edge bumps and helps it carry speed through rough sections. It does result in some pedal and brake feedback, but I don’t hear Jared Graves complaining.

Both options are good. It comes down to style and preference.

Which bike comes with the best parts? When you buy a complete bike, you get a great deal on all the bits and pieces. Now is the time to get what you want.

Overall ride
This is most important. Which bike feels better to you?

This “measurement” incorporates everything: geometry, suspension design, spec, weight, feel, color and even your confidence in the machine.

Both Specialized and Yeti run demo programs. Hit one up.

Quality and reliability
Which bike do you trust? Which bike is more proven, not only on the World Cup but with real riders? DH is gnarly. Do you want to be on the company’s R&D team? I think not!

If your bike has a problem, which company is better positioned to help you in a timely manner?

Small builders have hardcore credibility. Big builders have warehouses full of frames.

Which bike aligns you with the best shop? If you’re racing DH, stuff happens. Which bike will be easier to get serviced?

Brand affiliation
The bike you ride says everything about you as a person. The company’s brand attributes become yours.

So, are you more of a Yeti or Specialized guy?

– Yeti – Colorado. Small company. Racing heritage. Mountain men who rip trails from the office. Jared Graves!

– Specialized – NorCal. Big company. Industry leading innovation. Type A rippers who pin it year round. Sam Hill!

I’ve ridden with both crews. Both are qualified to make your next bike. Whose t-shirt would you rather wear?

What can you afford? If two bikes ride equally well, and one costs a lot less, you know which I recommend.

Spend your savings on suspension tuning and/or skills development. These will make more difference than your bike choice.


Bottom line
The more bikes I ride, and the more bikes I break, and the more limited and valuable my riding time becomes, the more I realize the importance of this:

Which bike will be ready to ride when you are?

In other words, which bike do you like, that you can afford, that you can rely on?

The 303 and Demo are both class-leading machines. You have a tough decision. But a fun one.

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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