The wait is over! RAAW’s brand-new downhill bike, the 2023 Yalla, is finally available for purchase! As the very first DH rig to roll out of RAAW’s factory, the Yalla, epitomises the unique philosophy of the German brand, which places durability and ease of maintenance high on their priority list. Moreover, the frame platform allows you to alter both the geometry and rear suspension progression in countless settings. We had the exclusive chance to test the bike for nearly a year.
Buying a downhill bike isn’t the most rational thing to do these days, let alone developing one from scratch! Let’s be honest: if you think about how much use a DH bike realistically gets compared to a trail or enduro bike, you’ll quickly realise that it isn’t worth the trouble or money – unless you live right next to a bike park. For manufacturers, on the other hand, downhill bikes make up only a small portion of their sales revenues, and yet imagining the MTB sector without them is impossible. But why? In a few words: technology, racing, prestige and, first and foremost, the insane amount of fun these things deliver on the toughest trails and gnarliest jump lines! We can’t help ourselves but stare at the bike every time we walk through our bike room, butterflies in the stomach, before we’re able to resume what we’re actually doing. It’s just like a rad sports car standing out from the crowd in the car park.
For Ruben Torenbeek, founder and engineer of RAAW, developing a downhill bike was always the ultimate dream, yet it took a fair amount of time before we were able to see the Yalla in the flesh and, finally, in RAAW’s online shop. However, this also had its advantages. For starters, RAAW has gained tons of experience from developing other bikes, and secondly, they had almost a year to test and further develop the Yalla, which the German manufacturer did openly in the public eye. Moreover, the bike was put through the grinder by several racers during the past Downhill World Cup season and tested by a handful of selected riders, which all contributed to creating the final production bike. Yes, we were part of this exclusive club, and had the chance to put the Yalla through its paces for the entire past season – for a whole 10 months to be exact!
With its unmistakable silhouette, the Yalla is distinctly recognizable as a RAAW, following the same concept as its smaller siblings, the Madonna and Jibb. As usual, the German manufacturer relies on an understated look and puts the focus on ease of maintenance, performance and durability. As a result, the basics look unsurprisingly familiar: 6066 alloy frame, classic Horst Link rear suspension, external cable routing and big bearings. As a special feature, however, the Yalla offers countless adjustability options, allowing you to fine-tune the geometry to suit your preferences and riding style. Alongside the chainstay length, you can adjust the progression of the rear suspension, the bottom bracket height, the head angle and the reach. For the time being, the Yalla is only available as a frame kit, which comes as no surprise and makes it evident what kind of rider it’s aimed at: those who know exactly what they want and know how to build their ultimate dream machine.
The frame of the RAAW Yalla 2023 in detail.
RAAW are amongst the few bike manufacturers still relying on external cable routing, which clearly proves that performance and practicality, for example when servicing the bike, are high on their priority list, and far more important than looks and design. That’s not to say they don’t care about aesthetics – quite the opposite! All cables are securely and neatly clamped to the frame, running discretely along the top side of the down tube, where they’re easy to reach. The bump stops for the fork are attached directly to the frame and double as cable clamps, preventing them from tangling up – awesome!
A generously sized chainstay protector stretches all the way over the front section of the swingarm, effectively preventing chain slap, while a thick, 5 mm TPU plate shields the down tube from stray rocks and nasty impacts. When designing the frame, RAAW avoided creating nooks and crannies, as they can collect mud on a wet day out on the trails. Small amounts of dirt tend to accumulate at the intersection between the seat and down tube and on the oversized bearings, but this can be easily removed using a toothbrush. Just make sure that you don’t use the same toothbrush before going to bed after a “couple” of post-ride pints ;)
The spec of our Custom RAAW Yalla 2023
As already mentioned, the RAAW Yalla is only available as a frame kit, so we built a custom bike that suits our own preferences and requirements, using components from a number of different manufacturers. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s a recommendation from our editorial team ;)
The basis of this build is the new Yalla frame, which tips the scales at 4,400 grams in size XL. That’s only 200 grams heavier than the Madonna frame in the same size. Moreover, thanks to the lack of sophisticated enduro components like a dropper post and huge cassette, it’s possible to keep the weight down to a very reasonable 16.2 kg. That’s despite the fact that we’re running CushCore Pro tire inserts front and rear, which give us peace of mind when the trail gets rowdy. The tire inserts are combined with Reserve’s Fillmore valves, which use a long, skinny pin instead of a universal presta core, ensuring better airflow. For the tires, we picked two Michelin DH 22s in the soft Magi-X DH rubber compound and a super-tough casing, allowing us to run low air pressures while providing additional damping with minimal rebound. While this setup ensures plenty of grip, it requires more physical effort to jump and pull off ledges. At 98 kg, our tester ran 22 PSI at the front and 24 PSI at the rear (1.5 and 1.6 bar respectively), which proved ideal on most trails. When riding on hardpack trails, we occasionally switched to a Michelin DH 34 at the rear. The tires are paired with a DT Swiss wheelset, which was built for us specifically by the Swiss wheel specialist using EX 511 alloy rims and 240 hubs.
The suspension consists of a 200 mm RockShox Boxxer fork and matching RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH air shock without hydraulic bottom-out control, which controls 198 mm of travel at the rear. Based on the info supplied about the rear suspension’s built-in progression, the bike’s intended use and our tester’s riding style, RockShox went for an LN L1 0L2 shock tune. Simply put, the acronym stands for linear rebound – i.e. more damping with increasing rebound speed – and a high-speed compression setting that matches the Yalla’s leverage ratio. The shock’s linear air chamber has 0 tokens in the negative chamber and 2 tokens in the positive chamber. We mainly rode the rear suspension with 25% progression.
SRAM Code Ultimate four-piston brakes with 220 mm rotors front and rear do stopping duties. The levers are identical to the RSC model, except for the lighter titanium hardware. The cockpit consists of a TRUVATIV DESCENDANT DirectMount stem without any spacers under the top crown, and matching TRUVATIV DESCENDANT DH alloy handlebars with 25 mm rise, which we cut down to 790 mm. We also picked DESCENDANT grips, which are rather chunky and therefore particularly suitable for big hands. Shifting is taken care of by a 7-speed SRAM drivetrain consisting of an X01 DH rear derailleur with matching shifter and a XG 795 Mini Block cassette. To protect the chainring from nasty impacts, we run an MRP G5 chain guide with bash guard.
RAAW Yalla 2023
Fork RockShox BOXXER Ultimate 200 mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH 198 mm
Brakes SRAM CODE Ultimate 220/220 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01 DH 1x7
Stem Truvativ Descendant Direct Mount 50 mm
Handlebar Truvativ Descendant DH 790 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss Custom 29"
Tires MICHELIN DH 22 Racing Line / MICHELIN DH 22 Racing Line 2.4"/2.4"
Size M, L, XL
The variable geometry of the RAAW Yalla 2023
The new Yalla is available in three sizes, M to XL, offering a suitable option for riders between 167 cm and 199 cm tall. All sizes roll on 29″ wheels and the chainstays grow with the frame size to ensure consistent handling across the board. A flip chip in the thru-axle allows you to adjust chainstay length by +/- 5 mm. In addition, you can choose between two types of rear thru-axle: a standard one, which was designed to enable an intermediate chainstay setting and a second one that allows you to switch between a long and a short setting. The latter is available from RAAW’s online shop for an additional € 97.95. The price also includes a matching brake mount, which is required when changing between settings. RAAW also sells different headset cups and shock mounts retailing at € 56.95 and € 44.95, respectively. Whichever configuration you choose, the frame kit comes standard with the medium setting thru-axle. Using the different headset cups, you can alter the reach by +/- 5 mm and the head angle by +/- 1°. With the Yalla, you can also choose between nine different shock mounts, which let you change the BB drop by +/- 3 mm and the rear suspension’s progression between 22%, 25% and 28%, thus allowing you to adapt the Yalla to your needs and different riding situations. The only drawback is that you’ll have to buy all the parts separately – or perhaps RAAW are working on a kit with all available parts?
|Seat tube||400 mm||400 mm||400 mm|
|Head tube||110 mm||110 mm||110 mm|
|Chainstays||445 mm||450 mm||455 mm|
|BB Height||345 mm||345 mm||345 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,270.1 mm||1,300.1 mm||1,330.1 mm|
|Reach||455 mm||480 mm||505 mm|
|Stack||639.9 mm||639.9 mm||639.9 mm|
Our custom RAAW Yalla 2023 downhill bike on the trail
Given that the character of a bike is heavily influenced by its components and their mutual interaction, it’s hard for us to make a blanket statement about the Yalla’s trail performance. Nevertheless, after spending 10 months on our custom build, we were able to draw a few meaningful conclusions.
The rear suspension bursts with progression in corners and with jumps, providing enough mid-stroke support to pop off lips and generate airtime without swallowing up too much of the rider’s energy. At the same time, it responds sensitively and generates tons of traction, even in open corners and nasty off-camber sections, where the grippy rear tire also plays a crucial role. If you spend lots of time on jump lines, however, we recommend running higher tire pressures or using tires with more rebound. Of course, you can also change the suspension’s progression by using a different rocker link. Personally, we got along well with the 25% progression and medium BB drop setting. With 28% progression, the rear suspension provides quite a bit more feedback from the ground, but also makes you feel as if you had more reserves on tap. On fast, rough downhill trails with lots of gaps and nasty landings – like the downhill track in Schladming – this was our favourite setting. In addition, the very low bottom bracket inspires tons of confidence, integrating you deeper into the frame of the Yalla and preventing unpleasant OTB moments on very steep trail sections.
Unlike Schladming, the flatter downhill track in Brandnertal called for the plusher 25% progression setting paired with the medium BB drop. Given the nature of the course, we had to absorb the jumps more actively and struggled finding traction through the countless root carpets. On this type of terrain, plusher rear suspension sucks itself into the ground, ensuring more predictable handling, both when braking and committing to daring high lines.
With our setup, the Yalla felt pleasantly balanced, with the weight evenly distributed between the front and rear. As a result, we didn’t have to shift our weight back and forth when riding at the limit. Simply put, the Yalla integrates you nicely between its wheels, allowing you to focus on the trail ahead when chasing your mates down the side of the mountain. Here the chainstay length plays a crucial role, so we recommend experimenting with the different settings until you find one that suits your style and the terrain you’re riding on. Especially in narrow, Morgins-style corners, we had tons of fun with the chainstays in the shortest setting, which allows you to flick the snappy rear-end as if there were no tomorrow.
After 10 months of strenuous deployment on all sorts of terrain and in the most gruelling weather conditions, we haven’t yet noticed signs of wear on the bearings, bolts or on any of the bike’s hardware. During the past ten months, we’ve re-greased all bearings twice, which is pretty straightforward, because the bearings are easy to access. Moreover, nearly all of the frame bearings are interchangeable and come in standard sizes, meaning that they’re easy to source. On our bike, we added a bit of mastic tape underneath the huge main bearing to prevent the shifter cable housing from rubbing against the frame. That being said, that’s the only loose cable on our bike, while all the others are neatly and securely clamped to the frame, ensuring a quiet ride on the trail.
Our conclusions about the custom RAAW Yalla 2023 downhill bike
With its understated look and RAAW’s clear focus on durability and ease of maintenance, the Yalla 2023 makes the heart of every downhill fan beat a little faster. The countless geometry and progression settings allow you to fine-tune the performance and character of the bike to suit your preferences and riding style, with the only drawback being that the geometry-altering parts have to be purchased separately from RAAW’s online store. On the other hand, the flexible geometry concept lets you dial-in your ride to perfection, allowing you to make it down every trail safely and reliably while cranking up the rowdy factor to 11!
- All bearings and geometry-altering parts are easy to access
- Countless geometry and progression adjustments
- Integrated, confidence-inspiring riding position
- Suspension offers tons of progression and yet responds sensitively
- Flip Chips and rocker links have to be purchased separately
For more information about the new RAAW Yalla 2023, please visit RAAW’s website.
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Words: Peter Walker Photos: Mike Hunger, Ben Topf, Julian Schwede