Vitus has been making serious waves with its current crop of hardtails and full-suspension trail bikes, which offer impressive performance at decent prices, so we were keen to find out if the same would be true of the latest, 650b wheeled version of its downhill bike, the Dominer.
- So Good: Smooth, well-controlled fork; Shimano’s Zee transmission is dependable and robust; centred/neutral riding position
- No Good: Can feel tall in the turns; Zee brakes take a lot of bedding in
Frame and equipment
The Dominer’s silhouette is one of the more traditional-looking. At the rear, Vitus’s uncomplicated Four-Bar V-Link suspension platform pumps out 200mm (7.9in) of travel, controlled via a RockShox Kage RC shock.
The heavily hydroformed down tube stretches up and joins the top tube with a reassuringly long weld before they both meet at the head tube. This ensures there’s plenty of strength where it’s needed and leaves you with the peace of mind that the Dominer should be able to take more than its fair share of heavy landings.
The Dominer's geometry is bang up to date
Vitus hasn’t been conservative with the numbers either. The Dominer’s geometry is bang up to date with a nicely kicked-out 63.2-degree head angle, a decent amount of reach (424mm on the medium frame), a wheelbase of 1,224mm and a fairly average bottom bracket height (345mm). It even gets the must-have 650b wheel treatment.
There’s little we can fault when it comes to the component choices on the Dominer. The fork can often be a sticking point at this sort of price, but all of our testers were impressed with the smooth, well controlled feel of the Marzocchi 380 CR up front. Slapping Super Tacky compound Maxxis High Roller II tyres on to WTB’s broad i25 (25mm internal width) rims is another nice touch, resulting in a great tyre profile that gives plenty of dependable, predictable grip regardless of the terrain.
Shimano’s Zee transmission is a solid, reliable choice and didn’t once skip a beat throughout testing. The one niggle is the Zee brakes, which took longer than any other stoppers on test to bed in, and when they did, the power on offer was really quite underwhelming. The Vitus own-brand finishing kit (bar, grips, saddle) is more than good enough for the job at hand.
Ride and handling
The fork was well sprung for our testers but we did need to switch to a lighter spring at the rear – a procedure that wasn’t quite as straightforward on the Vitus as on the other bikes here because the Dominer’s lower shock mount shares its hardware with the main pivot. Once you get the knack of removing the rear shock it doesn’t take too long to do though.
We also had issues when it came to dialling in the rebound damping. While we were able to achieve our desired return speed, this left the adjuster just one click away from being fully backed off. Vitus is currently looking into a solution to this.
650b wheels and a long wheelbase mean the Dominer likes to go fast
On the trail, things feel familiar and relatively well balanced almost straight away, which is great if this is your first venture into the world of big, burly downhill bikes. The Dominer doesn’t feel quite as aggressive as some bikes though, especially when you really start motoring. As you sling the Vitus from turn to turn it becomes obvious that it doesn’t have the same low-slung centre of mass as some DH bikes – it feels taller and requires more effort to corner at similar speeds. This isn’t a big problem, and with time you can adapt, but pace in the turns definitely doesn’t come as easily on the Dominer as it does on some of its competitors.
Hammer into some choppy terrain and that neutral riding position and decent wheelbase really pay off. The Marzocchi fork eats up the obstacles laid before it in a supple yet supportive manner, and the back end works away without fuss, providing just enough feedback through the bike so you know what’s going on beneath the tyres, while carrying decent speed through the rough. The centred riding position makes it easy to shift your weight around, helping you to attack the trail as hard as you can.
The Vitus’s relatively low weight means it can be manhandled, popped and dropped without fuss too, but we’d suggest putting some serious time in on the Zee brakes to make sure they’re bedded in sufficiently before going too crazy. If they just had a bit more oomph, the Dominer would feel even more confident at speed.