Jared Graves is from Toowoomba, Australia, and has been racing (and mainly winning) on bikes for more than 16 years. In 2009 he won the 4X World Champs and the World Cup overall, which he won again in 2010.
He was also an Olympic BMX finalist at the 2008 games. Indeed, the Australian national team wanted him to compete again at London 2012 but he refused after they demanded that he focus solely on 20in wheels.
Instead, he moved back to his roots of World Cup downhill racing and is currently the lead rider with long-time sponsors Yeti Cycles. His ride of choice is the rare-as-hen’s-teeth 303 WC Carbon…
Even the wolverine-fanged midges of Fort William can’t peel our eyes away from the sleek black steed in front of us. There’s something magical about race bikes – they’re glistening two-wheeled perfection, honed and fettled to eke every last millisecond from the world’s race tracks.
They’re designed to exist only in two states – being savaged on the track or fettled by the world’s best mechanics. The new Yeti 303 WC Carbon is one of the most alluring of this special breed we’ve seen.
Aussie Jared Graves has returned to the DH scene after successes in 4X and BMX
Long time coming
The new-look 303 platform was first piloted by Aaron Gwin in the alloy 25th anniversary guise two seasons ago. As according to Yeti tradition, it’s served its two-year stint underneath the factory race team and is now almost ready for general release.
The cogs never stop turning, though, and the boffins at Golden, Colorado, already have this carbon fibre front triangled model in the offing. “We have been testing the frames in the lab for some time, but have only been ride testing since the first World Cup in South Africa,” Yeti’s design engineer, Pete ‘Stretch’ Zawistowski, tells us as our photographer’s flashes pop and whir. “So far the feedback has been very positive, with our riders immediately noticing the difference in weight and stiffness.”
Developing a carbon fibre front triangle isn’t as straightforward as simply copying the alloy number, though: “The design process of a carbon frame is completely different than that of an alloy frame,” Stretch says. “The 3D modelling is significantly more complex in order to optimise the surfaces/form of the frame so that it is ideal for carbon. Also, the alloy-carbon interfaces need to be carefully considered. After all this is completed and a mould is opened, it takes many lay-up revisions before the frame is fully optimised.”
The 303 WC Carbon runs a standard Shimano 83mm threaded bottom bracket rather than the press-fit carbon fibre norm and also has a tapered head tube as opposed to a straight 1.5in, which could accommodate an Angleset. With the lack of any other form of adjustability on show, it’s clear that Yeti have crunched the numbers on this one and believe in their geometry – no fiddling required.
That bottom bracket makes it easier to swap out quickly at races and eliminates the prospect of damaging the frame with awkward press-fit bearings. Unlike the alloy version, it also features tidy internal cable routing through the down tube and the same integrated fork stops.
The frame isn’t the only special thing going on with Graves’ bike. He’s currently part of Fox Racing Shox’ RAD (Racing Application Development) program, which ensures his suspension is ultra-trick. He’s one of the few top pro riders currently running the new Fox 40 fork (rumoured to be air-sprung) and he has a custom-tuned DHX RC4 rear shock specifically valved and tailored to suit his riding style and the 303 WC Carbon’s linear rail suspension platform.
The shock features a titanium spring rated to 500lb/in and a Kashima-coated shaft to smooth out the world’s gnarliest rock gardens. The lower pivot is mounted to a sliding ‘truck’, which moves on a vertical path along a rail attached to the lower part of the seat tube. It sounds complicated but allows Yeti to take advantage of an improved wheel-path and leverage ratio.
Because of Graves’ colossal pedaling power, he only runs a seven-speed rear block courtesy of some spacers. He simply wasn’t using the easier sprockets.
The bike is equipped with the all-new Shimano Saint groupset complete with meaty four-piston callipers, IceTec rotors and pads and, of course, the clutch-equipped derailleur to keep it silent. With the front triangle and suspension being in such crucial development stages, custom tweaks are limited to a couple of ‘JG’ logos dotted about alongside a team only WTB Devo saddle bearing the famous Yeti logo.
Yeti have a long history of crafting some of the world’s most desirable race machines as far back as the days of John Tomac and Missy Giove. Now, with the new 303 WC Carbon, they’ve produced yet another awe-inspiring race sled.
1 Gears: Graves only runs a seven-speed rear block courtesy of some spacers. He is incredibly professional and makes sure he has the right gearing combination on for each track.
2 Wheels: Graves was running DT Swiss EX500 wheels at Fort William but for the Pietermaritzburg World Cup he swapped to skimpy EXC400 carbon fibre-rimmed wheels for yet more power-to-weight.
3 Service cap: On the non-drive side of the rear swingarm there’s a removable cap to facilitate servicing and to help keep the linear rail running smoothly. It’s ideal for muddy European hillsides.
4 Groupset: Team sponsors, Shimano, provide the latest 2013 Saint groupset including a clutch mechanism rear mech, IceTec rotors, pads and XTR-style levers.
5 Fork: Jared is part of Fox Racing Shox’s RAD program and, as a result, runs their new prototype 40 fork and a top secret rear shock complete with a Kashima-coated shaft and a meaty 500lb titanium rear spring.