Yeti's Jared Graves will race the opening round of the 2012 World Cup downhill series in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on a new bike, called 303 WC Carbon. As the name suggests the new bike has a carbon main frame, which presumably bolsters stiffness, betters damping and shaves weight when compared to the standard alloy version.
“We’ve been working on it for 15 months, and have gone through eight iterations to get it into its current form,” Chris Conroy, co-owner of Yeti Cycles told BikeRadar via email. “[The iterations have been] different lay-ups to optimize for stiffness, strength and ride characteristics.”
“We'll ride test it for most of the season, and make final tweaks by the end of the season,” said Conroy. “If all tests out, it will be in our product line for 2013.”
Differences in strength, stiffness, and weight aside, Yeti have carried over the current bike's proven geometry but have swapped the current bike's rail functionality. While the current 303 RDH uses a rail to control the shock rate but a conventional single pivot for the axle path, the new 303 WC Carbon uses the rail to control wheel path and a more conventional top tube-mounted swing link to drive the rear shock. Housing and hose routing is partially internal, too, and fork stops are built into the giant head tube section.
The rear end is aluminum as on the current 303 but the dropouts look to be better supported with the tubular chain- and seat stays extending further back than before, which we expect to reduce flex even further.
Yeti team staff and riders on site in Pietermaritzburg didn't have much to add in terms of the technical details surrounding the bike's development but Graves himself provided us with firsthand account of the ride characteristics. Despite only having built it up Thursday morning before the race, Graves says he instantly felt right at home.
"We got it built up a couple of days ago and the first ride was this morning for practice," he told BikeRadar at the team pit area in Pietermaritzburg. It definitely always is a really good way to start a relationship with a new bike when it just totally feels like your bike on the first run."
"The biggest thing I notice is that it feels really solid," he continued. "It tracks really well through all the rough stuff. It just rides really nice and that's the biggest advantage with the carbon - the stiffness and the way it can hold a line really well. Definitely when you hit some of the berms really hard, it just holds you up nice and you don't feel any flex or squirm so it's really good in that respect."