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Pro Bike – Joe Smith’s Red Bull Hardline 2022 custom Vitus Dominer

Vitus Dominer DH bike
(Image credit: Rich Owen)

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.

Vitus Dominer DH bike

Joe's bike was custom painted to look like the Land Rover Defender he's had for the past decade. (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Defender Dominer

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.

Joe Smiths Vitus Hardline bike

The rusted ‘used to be blue’  details can be seen around the dropouts (Image credit: Rich Owen)

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.

Joe Smith DH

The Vitus Dominer still runs 27.5in wheels both ends but that doesn't seem to slow Joe down. (Image credit: Red Bull Content Pool)

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.

Joe Smiths Vitus Hardline bike

Joe has a Super Alloy Racing spring and spacer (Image credit: Rich Owen)

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.

Red Bull Hardline podium

Joe was presumably extra delighted to get a trophy with a Land Rover on as he's a mega fan of the iconic UK 4x4 (Image credit: Red Bull Media Pool)

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg