More and more industry heavy weights are taking a close look at what is happening on the North Shore. On Saturday I met Hideki Ikemoto from Shimano Japan. Hideki was sent here to absorb the culture of the North Shore - for two and a half months. Spending days riding, working at John Henry bikes and meeting some of the most experienced riders hereabouts, his presence here is yet another sign that the corporate end of the bike world is paying attention to our little green corner of the Canadian west.
Brandon Sloan, the man behind recent Big Hit, Demo 9 and even the Epic models is no stranger to the loam and roots of Seymour, Cypress and Fromme. In fact he could lead you to several obscure, gnarly and little known trails ridden only by the most seasoned and knowledgable locals; a testament to his commitment to building bikes that work in the toughest conditions. He was here last week with his latest super bike - the Demo 8.
Early reviews on the Demo 9 platform have been very positive. I have been testing one for about a month and thus far I have been impressed with the bike in just about every situation. The combination of a very rigid rear end, a low centre of gravity and the Manitou 6-way shock has salted my riding with new confidence. After a couple of rides I knew exactly what the bike would do in most every situation. More on the Demo 9 soon, let's have a quick look at it's younger, more spritely sibling.
My only misgiving about the Demo 9 thus far is weight. Out of the box the DH model weighs close to 45lbs with a Marzocchi 888 fork and burly tires, tubes and rims. It seems that one of the goals of the Demo 8 (8 = 8" of rear wheel travel) was to make a more nimble and versatile Demo while sacrificing few of the unique elements of the frame. To the untrained eye the bike looks identical to the Demo 9. Closer inspection reveals some subtle changes that save weight, cost and machining time.
The 'Ribcage' assembly of the 8 is smaller and less involved than the 9 but it functions in exactly the same way. On the 9 the downtube mates to the intricately forged 'Ribcage' about four inches ahead of the bottom bracket shell (which is actually part of the forged unit) while the new assembly the downtube reaches all the way to a conventional bb shell. A gentle s-bend in the tube facilitates this saving weight, cost and production time. The 9 ships with a 150mm rear hub that runs a 12 or 15mm thru-axle. This gives plenty of clearance and makes for an incredibly stiff rear end - the best tracking bike I have been on. The configuration of the bike itself is so stiff that even with a 135mm quick release rear hub the Demo 8 rear end is apparently more rigid than many thru-axle bikes. Chain line is preserved using Specialized's asymetrical rear triangle.
There are other less obvious changes incorporated in the Demo 8 that involve refining and lightening elements like the Hollow Trapezoidal link (the lighter link will also find it's way onto the 9 next year) and a firmer suspension. The package will also be built up with weight-saving components contributing to a lighter, more flickable ride.
The 8 will have a slightly shorter stroke shock measuring 8.75" eye to eye compared to 9.5" for the 9 which explains the loss of 1" of rear wheel travel.
The bikes share generous standover, short chainstays, a low centre of gravity, provision for a front derailleur or an ISCG mounted guide - meaning either model can be set up to do almost anything.
The differences between the two models are subtle but significant. If you are a shuttler or you spend most of your time in the Whistler bike park the Demo 9 might be just the ticket. If you aspire to go huge or you are prone to breaking bikes and components or if you always want the biggest and burliest you too should be on the Demo 9 dance card.
Those of you who like to earn your downhill the old-fashioned way may be happier with the girth of the Demo 8, along with weight conscious downhill racers. Despite it's heft the Demo 9 can be pedalled uphill and it can be easily fitted with a front derailleur and granny gear. I have set up my tester with a combination of a bashguard, an Envy Double E 2 and a granny ring and it pedals up surprisingly well for a 45 pound machine. I have no front derailleur so the chain must be manually moved between the 32 and 22 tooth rings - more on this combo here.
The two bikes share finish quality reminiscent of a $5000 handmade frame. Despite being made in Taiwan, like most modern freeride and DH bikes, Specialized frames boast a level of finish and attention to detail that sets them apart from most other manufacturers. I don't know how they do it but I hope the others figure it out and start upping the ante.
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Thread: 2005 Specialized Demo 8!!!!
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