You may have seen a few photos of Crestline and Cascade Components’ RS 205 VHP bike floating around this summer, and we were lucky enough to rally some laps on this bike even before it made its first public appearance. Before you roll out the “looks like a Santa Cruz” comments, this bike uses a virtual mid-high pivot point with an idler and can accommodate either a 29 or 27.5” rear wheel.
A speedy production method meant that Crestilne and Cascade brought the project to fruition in less than one year. Final prices and shock options are still to be confirmed, but the RS 205 VHP will sell through the Crestline website for a retail price between $3699 - $4199 with or without a damper (international customers are asked to contact email@example.com for shipping details).
The whole project is a conglomerate of ideas like Crestline’s desire to build a downhill bike, but then also their affiliation with Jimmy Davis of Cascade Components, a specialist in virtual pivot tuning.
American downhill racer, Neko Mullaly, was also pulled into the picture when he contacted Cascade to manufacture the links for his Frameworks project. Even though Neko was too deep in the design process to partner with this duo, he shared a breadth of knowledge gathered from his successful downhill racing career.
RS 205 VHP Details
• Frame: Carbon
• Wheel Size: mixed (29" compatible)
• 205mm rear travel
• Aluminum CNC parts by Cascade Components
• 480mm reach
• 445mm chainstay
• Straight 56mm diameter head tube
• 148 Boost rear wheel spacing
• Raw carbon finish
• Frame only pricing: $3699 (no shock)
• Fox DHX2 or Ohlins TTX22M shock options
Branching off from their VPP eMTB, Crestline happened upon the opportunity to produce a downhill bike relatively quickly thanks to the guidance from carbon frame manufacturer giant, VIP. The RS 205 VHP will be limited to fifty units initially because the frame will be produced using a “prototype mold”. What that means is the turnaround time from CAD drawings to pulling a carbon triangle out of the sarcophagus is cut down compared to higher volume production runs, however, the number of frames that this mold can handle is reduced before its integrity is compromised.Frame Details
VPP is Cascade Components' suspension design of choice for its tuning capabilities. Minute pivot placement changes can alter the kinematic traits like progression and axle path. The RS 205 VHP was built with a mid-high pivot location so the rider’s balance wasn’t upset by a continually lengthening rear center. There is some rearward movement at the start to alleviate small bump chatter, but on larger impacts, a linear-progressive leverage curve kicks in to reduce bottom outs.
Even though the RS 205 VHP is labelled as a DH-race bike and there are no dropper post cable guides in the frame, a steep seat tube can accommodate a wireless Reverb AXS post. Adding to the adaptability of this 205mm travel chassis, the interchangeable dropouts can fit either popular wheel size. The whole package isn’t too far off of Norco’s Range, although, Crestline and Cascade offer the custom parts to everyone. Did you spot the water bottle and tool bosses inside the front triangle? If this rig is going to double as a park slayer, why not have those resources on board?
Chain growth is only a factor up until the sag point, but a two-position idler is placed on the mainframe and can change the amount of anti-squat the rider is looking for. Part of the reason for the multiple positions is to allow for the use of a wide-range cassette.
In total, Cascade manufactures the raw aluminum, counter-rotating links, pivot hardware, idler wheel, and dropout, highlighting the exclusivity of this frame. Other finishing touches include a shock eyelet bearing guarded by a fender, and chain protection on the stays and under the curve of the downtube. Geometry
The head tube, which sits at 63º, uses a straight 56mm diameter opening so that 480mm reach can be adjusted in either direction by up to 10mm. Of course, there’s the option to play with the head tube angle there too and mount either a single or dual-crown fork safely.
The 445mm chainstays mesh well in terms of front to rear center balance for the majority of rider’s preferences, but as always, custom CNC’d dropouts could take those numbers further. Ride Impressions
Considering that we only had time to ride the S 205 VHP in the downhill configuration, Whistler Bike Park’s jump trails and rougher tracks were the obvious choices for the testing grounds.
Troydon from Crestline Bikes was incredibly helpful in delivering the bike with not one, but three shocks; a Fox DHX2 and two Ohlins TTXM22s, all with different spring rates that allowed for quick changes and experimentation. After playing with all of those options and receiving some advice from Jimmy, I settled on the Ohlins damper and the 480lb spring rate.
Jimmy and Troydon kept the geometry and kinematics from me, which is certainly the most honest way for each participant to test a bike, but getting up to speed on the RS 205 VHP didn’t take more than a lap or two. I’d put that down to the stout feeling of a tall stack height and progressive kinematic that was well supported through heavy compressions.
I’ve ridden a large library of bikes now, but there were two highlights that I wouldn’t have guessed correctly: the 63º head angle and the mid-high pivot location.
Much like the Intense Tracer 279, that was recently featured in a Field Test and also uses a VPP design, the RS 205 VHP seemed to ride a degree steeper. Under braking though, the RS was much more collected. Changing out the spring for a softer 457 lb option, I though the bike might settle further into the travel and ride a touch slacker, but that wasn't the case. On the trail, it felt almost identical to the 480 spring, but used the first half the travel much sooner. Despite what the number said on paper, I still wished that the front axle was further in front and leading the charge into the bike park bomb holes.
What I did get along with was that the RS 205 VHP didn’t have a forward weight shift as it moved through the travel, like some high pivot bikes do. Still, the bike retained excellent small bump compliance. Under braking, the RS stayed steady and didn’t rise out of the travel which made it predictable to pull hard on the brakes and slam into a tight corner quickly.
As for the finish and overall package of the RS 205 VHP, Crestline and Cascade have put together a solid bike that begs to be ridden lap after lap. All of the hardware stayed firmly in place and no chains were lost from the idler, however, more noise cancellation could be added to the rear triangle. That’s something that Troydon spoke to and added the option to purchase VHS tape and STFU chain dampers along with the frame.
Otherwise, the clean lines and fine CNC-work round out a bike that’s ready to take on tons of bike park action. We’d love to get our hands on an RS 205 VHP for a longer term review when there is time to play around with the full gamut of wheel and suspension configurations. It’s certainly a bike that could be modified to be raced on Sunday and still play in the bike park.