Words by: Liam Woods
You may have not heard of Crestline Bikes before, but that's probably because this is their first production model available to the public. The Crestline RS205 VHP is a race focused downhill bike with 205mm of rear travel that uses a Virtual High-Mid Pivot. This bike is the brainchild of both Crestline Bikes and Cascade Components. Cascade Components are experts in suspension kinematics and tuning production bikes to work better for aggressive riders. We knew that the RS205 from Crestline would come with some crazy tricks and use its 205mm of travel the best way possible. What makes the RS205 different from most other high-pivot or mid-pivot bikes is the way the instant center moves throughout the bike’s travel. Crestline and Cascade claim this dramatically helps cornering compared to other high pivot bikes on the market.
If you haven't heard of Cascade Components before, I'd suggest you check out their site. Born from the personal desire to make a Santa Cruz Nomad work better with a coil shock and finely tune and tweak the stock kinematics related to that bike, Cascade quickly learned that many bikes on the market are maybe not as good for aggressive riders as they could be. Now Cascade makes dozens of links for all types of bikes on the market like Santa Cruz, Yeti, Specialized, Evil, Forbidden, Ibis, and many more.
Crestline Bikes was founded by Troydon Murison and Mark Clemens, who are extremely fast and knowledgeable downhill riders who were not quite so stoked with any exact bike on the market. They wanted to see if they could make something that fits their liking, which at first was an e-bike that doesn't sacrifice anything when it comes to going downhill. That project is still ongoing and their first e-bike is set to be available in 2023, so keep an eye out for that. This first bike, the Crestline RS205 VHP, is more of a fun project for the brand, working closely with Cascade Components and also getting advice and numbers from Neko Mullaly. Crestline was inspired by what Neko is doing with his own racing program where he set out to make a bike that fit his needs as a World Cup Downhill racer. With some of Neko’s guidance and the mastermind of James Davis at Cascade Components, the RS205 VHP was born. Crestline wanted to make the downhill bike they wanted to ride, so for now it's limited to 50 frames total.
Along with creating a unique suspension design for the RS205, there are also a few other details that make this bike stand out among other DH bikes on the market. First is the amount of adjustability this frame offers. The RS205 has a straight 56mm headtube that allows you to run reach adjust or angleset headsets from brands like Works Components. Being able to run reach adjust or anglesets for a straight steerer dual crown fork (DH forks) or a tapered single crown fork (enduro fork) really allows you to tune the bike to how you want it. There are also two different dropouts for the frame, coming with 27.5” dropouts or 29” dropouts so you can run this bike as a mullet or full 29”.
Another cool feature is Cascade plans to make different rear links as well to adjust the kinematics further or to run a shorter amount of travel. Having a shorter amount of travel and the ability to run a tapered fork? Yes, please. A “Trail Kit” will be available from Cascade Components directly with a 29” dropout and short travel link (will be available soon). The RS205 could be set up in a more enduro friendly setting with a single crown fork, the shorter rear link, and the ability to use a RockShox Reverb AXS post. This kind of setup would make for an amazing park bike or local shuttle rig. Because it can be set up with a shorter rear end and a single crown fork, Crestline also added some water bottle bosses on the top of the downtube and more under the top tube so you can run a water bottle and tool storage while in the bike park, ripping shuttle laps or pedaling if you choose to do so. The idler pulley is also adjustable so if you want to make this a pedal bike you can tweak that for better performance and clearance for a larger gear range.
The Geometry of the RS205 was very heavily influenced by Neko Mullaly and is very similar to the bikes he is designing. Neko was very much on board with Troydon using much of his geometry. You’ll see that there is only one frame size and that rocks a 480mm reach if using a stock headset without a reach adjust. With a 63-degree headtube angle, a 445mm chainstay, and a 1299mm wheelbase, this bike is ready to go fast and stay stable.
I was lucky enough to get a bike to ride for a few weeks before launch. As the bike will come as a frame only, the build kit was something Crestline had put together for us. The bike has a Fox Factory 40 up front, a Fox DHX2 rear shock, SRAM drivetrain, Shimano brakes, Crank Brothers wheels and Maxxis tires. So a pretty standard build that I didn't have to fuss with at all when testing. Per Crestline's recommendation, I started with a 400lbs spring for a rider of about 155lbs.
As we started to test the RS205, we quickly noticed how well the rear end worked. With very few adjustments made to the bike in general, I was able to get up to speed pretty quickly. As I started to ride the bike faster I added a bit of compression to help get a little support in the mid-travel range but that was about it. Getting some days in at Snow Summit allowed me to get a lot of laps on the bike and make iterative changes until I was satisfied with the performance.
I chose to set the bike up in the reduced reach position as I typically like around a 470 - 475mm reach. The bike was also sent to us in a mullet configuration. The size of the bike felt great, with the reduced reach I felt right at home so there was not much need to get used to the bike. Snow Summit has a good range of trails from your bike park flow trails to some proper DH tracks. Riding the RS205 on everything out there you can tell the bike is very well rounded. It felt at home riding the steep chunk as well as ripping some jump laps. It did take a bit of getting used to the longer chainstays but that is because I was coming from an enduro bike where the chainstays are typically shorter than the average DH bike.
Getting the bike in and out of corners felt great. On some other high-pivot bikes I found that pushing into supported corners and having your wheelbase grow isn't the best trait and often stands you up in corners. I never got that feeling on this bike. I was able to push into corners and pump through them without getting stood up. Actually, in general I was able to pump this bike really well and the rear end supported me fantastically. As a whole, I really enjoyed my time on the bike. It was easy to get up to speed fast and it felt really good in pretty much any terrain I rode it in. The adjustability of the bike is a huge benefit as well, even though I only rode it in one position. Having the ability to adjust the reach, rear wheel size, and even linkages down the road is a great option and makes this bike extremely versatile.
When Crestline approached us with their new bikes, specifically the Crestline RS205 VHP downhill bike, we got really excited. With the collaboration between Crestline Bikes and Cascade Components, we knew it was going to be an amazing bike and very well thought out. What we did not expect was to have a bike so well refined right from the start that also has a ton of adjustability. Being able to adjust the headset, rear wheel size and linkages gives this bike a lot of options on how you want it set up. Getting the bike out for a test didn't let us down at all, and being extremely well rounded, the bike performed in every type of trail we put it through. Chunky, steep, flow, jumps, and corners, the RS205 left us wanting more and looking forward to getting some riders on new frames.
This article was written / authored by Liam Woods. Liam has been in the bicycle industry for over 10 years as a racer, professional mechanic, service manager and as of late, media and content creator. Liam has ridden thousands of different bikes, ridden countless components, tested endless MTB apparel of all kinds and written reviews on it all. He's a key piece to the Worldwide Cyclery "All Things MTB" content creation puzzle. He also makes consistent appearances on the Worldwide Cyclery YouTube channel and Instagram.