There’s a general air of aggression about the sturdy 180mm travel Vitus Dominer 2. Despite its relatively low price, it still manages to pack a punch, with a selection of durable if unﬂashy kit.
Frame and equipment: chunky frame and a fork that can be easily overwhelmed
The chunky aluminium frame features some smart details. The lower shock mount shares a ﬁxing point and axle with the main pivot, helping to trim some fat, while the downhill-spec 150mm spacing rear through-axle is clamped by a pinch bolt threaded into a separate trunnion – so clumsy threading won’t write off the frame.
The linkage driven single-pivot back-end meters out 180mm of travel via the RockShox Kage coil rear shock. It manages to be impressively stable when pedalling and, pointed downhill, it swallows up the rough stuff with the endearing enthusiasm of an excited Labrador scofﬁng down its dinner.
The RockShox Domain fork is stretched to its full 180mm of travel, but thanks to the 20mm through-axle and steel stanchions, it’s still respectably stiff – though at the expense of considerable weight. And where air shocks are easily tuned, coils need replacing if the stock rate isn’t right for you (it’s a simple task, but costs around £30 rear and £35 front for new springs).
There’s external compression damping adjustment, but throw the bike into a rock garden and the simple damping gets overwhelmed and unpredictable. Over wider spaced hits, however, it cushions landings from drops or jumps effectively.
The tough, dual-ply Maxxis tyres are extra soft compound on the front, and give plenty of conﬁdence and grip. Strong Avid brakes, a decent 750mm bar and stubby 45mm stem improve d descending control.
Ride and handling: works best when pointed downhill
Despite the easily confused fork, the relaxed head angle keeps things reasonably stable when you’re pointed downwards, which is the direction the Dominer works best in. Point it uphill and the sheer bulk of the bike works against you, as does the short-feeling cockpit.
The effective top tube may well be a spacious 622mm on the size large frame, but that’s partly due to the very laidback seat angle – cockpit space varies greatly depending on how far up the saddle is. Even when you’re stood up, the bike feels pretty short and perched thanks to a short front centre (the distance from front axle to crank axle). It’s a sensation that’s not helped by a tall head tube that's made even taller by a thick, non-removable headset cap.
The feeling of being too high is compounded by the interrupted seat tube, which forces you to trim the long seatpost so much – if you want it slammed right down – that it’s too short for climbing.
The Dominer 2’s bulk helps it plough on through when charging downhill and, given enough gradient, it’s actually quite fun and lively – but it’s too dulled on tamer stuff.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.