Joe Smith started riding for Vitus bikes in 2020 using their standard Dominer DH frame. The base bike is designed specifically as an affordable, alloy framed but World Cup proven option for privateer racers. The vastly gravity-experienced Vitus design team has made sure it’s not lacking in performance though, with a triple butted tube set and 200mm of four bar V- Link suspension travel. This Vitus signature system appears on their enduro and trail bikes too and uses a floating shock mount to tune leverage through the stroke. The only sign of age with the design is that it still uses 27.5in wheels front and rear rather than a twin 29er or mullet set up but that didn’t seem to slow Mr Smith down.
While complete Dominer bikes sell for a super affordable $3,999 / £2,999 with a two-tone paint job, Joe got a fresh custom-painted chassis for this year's Hardline. The Elite Refinish raw rusty metal and tatty paint fade was painstakingly applied by the Belfast body shop to match the well-worn, slightly rusted ‘used to be blue’ patina of Joe’s beloved Land Rover Defender. The lowers of the RockShox Boxxer Ultimate triple crown forks, headset spacer, and top cop are painted to match too and there’s a plaque just behind the head tube commemorating the birth of Joe’s daughter just under a year ago.
Welsh Rare Bits
The spec on Joe’s bike still includes the stock Nukeproof Horizon direct mount stem, headset, and V2 wheels. That’s pretty impressive proof of the strength of a budget wheelset, especially considering how publicly Bernard Kerr’s carbon fiber Reynolds wheels detonated on what looked a smoother landing than Joe’s. Caersws, Wales based Joe has stayed relatively local with his contact point choice though running trimmed down alloy bars, Braap grips, seat post, and saddle from Llanelli-based MX specialists TAG Metals. Unite Co provides the Instinct pedals and is another company local to Joe, working out of Newport Powys.
Hardline hop ups
The SRAM transmission has been upgraded from GX DH to XO DH complete with grip tape-protected carbon cranks and red flashed, short cage rear mech. The chain is kept in place with an MRP Mini chain guide that arguably won him the second spot by just 0.04 seconds after Taylor Vernon dropped his chain just before the final finish field jumps. A 34T chainring helped Joe hit the high speeds essential to clear the jumps while the brakes are SRAM Code RSC, not Guide RE. That gives Joe a more subtle feel and lever/bite point positioning adjustment as well as increased power-assisted leverage on the rotors.
The RockShox Super Deluxe coil shock has been upgraded with a lightweight Super Alloy Racing spring and spacer. Despite the 90-foot sends savage landings and monster road gap drop you need to ride flat out to compete let alone be competitive at Red Bull Hardline Joe only runs a 475lb shock with ‘+1’ low-speed compression for support through the multiple high G berms. To keep the bike stuck into those corners the same as on the notoriously treacherous wet slate and roots of the Machynlleth mountain course Joe swaps the Maxxis rubber of the stock Dominer for Michelin DH22 tires. The final bit of rubber is the custom multi-layer chain slap protector on the top and underside of the chain stays leaving the bike as quiet and well-mannered as Joe is.