Red Bull Hardline is an annual downhill competition that walks a tightrope between World Cup Downhill and world-class freeride. Each year, a group of elite mountain bikers are invited to the Dyfi Valley in Wales to compete in this livestreamed event that ranks among the most viewed in the Red Bull Media empire. This year, Vitus had two riders in attendance, one of them sporting the number 1 plate at the front of his bike. Joe Smith and Kyle Strait came prepared to test the VT-01 prototype downhill bike on one of the most punishing courses imaginable and collect real-life data to further refine our development of the ultimate gravity bike.
After a couple days at our headquarters in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the Vitus team, along with Kyle Strait, loaded up and headed south to Wales. We would meet up with Vitus rider, Joe Smith, a consistent top contender at Hardline. Joe took second place last year, was 3rd in 2019 and 2nd in 2015, rarely finishing outside the top five in other years. A quiet man, Joe lets his riding do the talking.
Kyle Strait is best known for his big mountain riding and multiple wins at Red Bull Rampage. However, as many riders once did, Kyle started his career racing and was at the pointy end of the World Cup Downhill circuit before shifting his focus to freeriding. On paper, Hardline seemed to be the perfect event for someone with Kyle’s background.
Everyone knew that weather may be a factor in navigating the Hardline course, but it was not until all the features were ticked off and racers were feeling good that Mother Nature decided to show off just how wild those conditions could get. Even by Welsh standards, the rain was unrelenting and punctuated by the real threat – wind. At the end of the day, a decision was made that in the interest of rider safety, Red Bull Hardline would be canceled for the first time ever. There was simply no way to navigate the race in a way that was equitable and safe for the riders.
But, when the weather gets tough, the tough go... fishing! With the surprise downtime, the Vitus team made the best use of our time by spinning some reel and trying to land the big one. We may be a bike brand, but we're also a group of friends who try to make the best of things.
Despite the lack of any racing, Hardline proved incredibly fruitful in garnering feedback on the VT-01's suspension performance in harsh conditions and general setup for the steep and demanding terrain of the weekend. Our engineers were on hand and making notes of all the input from Joe and Kyle. Although Hardline was cancelled, the Vitus team considered our weekend of testing in Dyfi Valley a major success in the development of the Vitus Gravity Project.
If you missed episode one, make sure to catch the back story on what it is we’re here to do. Otherwise, hold fast for the next episode as we head to the World Championship Downhill race in Fort William, Scotland with junior Callum Morris.