When Specialized began testing the
carbon version of their Demo 8
in 2011, downhill racers world-wide became like the paparazzi, trying to be
the first to spot the blacked-out prototypes
in Whistler’s lift line. When the bike made
its first appearance on the World Cup circuit in 2012, riders had to live vicariously
through the athletes who were pushing this
bike to its limits. The world of gravity
racing was abuzz when top gravity rider
Aaron Gwin decided to pilot the Demo
carbon for his 2013 season. The wrecking
crew has been waiting a long time for a
Demo 8 carbon to grace our fleet, but the
wait is finally over.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
It’s made for riders who want to go fast.
While it’s not the lowest or slackest race
sled we’ve ever tested, it’s certainly among
the most versatile and maneuverable. The
adjustable geometry makes this bike work
for a wide variety of courses. It retains the
forgiveness of a long-travel chassis without
the straight-line “hang on and pray” feel
we’ve experienced with other downhill race
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The front triangle is built with
Specialized’s FACT 10m carbon, which
features an aluminum bottom bracket and
head tube inserts and an integrated downtube protector. The frame also features
aluminum chain- and seatstays with
150-millimeter rear-wheel spacing and a rear derailleur protector. The bottom
bracket is a PressFit 30, and the head tube
is an internal 1.5 to 1.125 tapered design
for strength and stiffness.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The carbon frame is the standout here. It is the same top-of-the-line model
Gwinny uses. The suspension components
are also top performers that won’t force
you to upgrade right off the bat. The Fox
DHX RC4 shock has enough adjustability
right out of the box to satisfy riders and
racers at any level. In a world where people are demanding air-sprung suspension
on gravity bikes, the RockShox Boxxer RC fork proves that coil-sprung forks still
have their place. This thing is simple, easy to adjust, stiff, precise and ultra plush. While the rest of
the components are fully capable of tackling the gnarliest
terrain, most of them are ripe for an upgrade.
Specialized also offers the Demo 8 in an aluminum version
at the same price with upgraded parts, so if you’re a parts rat,
the carbon version might not be for you.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: Out of the box, this bike feels like it was designed with two distinct riders in mind. On the one hand,
the race-proven geometry can be set up to suit just about any course you can throw at it, and the light and stiff frame
feels as fast as it looks. On the other hand, the component
package is designed to save money without cutting corners in
key places like suspension, wheels and tires. While this bike
could be a serious race contender, it’s going to need some
upgrades eventually. Still, it’s ready for riders of all levels
Suspension feel: The Demo Carbon’s suspension feels
just like a dialed FSR-link bike should. It’s plush and lively at
the top end of the stroke and has a nice and natural progressive feel for larger hits and drops. While the suspension feels
slightly more active than that of a multi-link bike, which has
some natural anti-squat tendencies, the compression damper
on the shock can easily be tuned to achieve this feel.
Straight confidence: The Demo 8 will make the average rider as calm and collected as a cow in a Hindu village.
This bike instills confidence by striking a perfect balance
between straight-line descending stability and flickable
maneuverability. Yes, we’ve tested downhill bikes that plow
rock gardens better, but the Demo 8 isn’t designed as a plow-through-everything kind of bike. The geometry keeps it feeling maneuverable, even in the steepest of chutes. As long as
there’s a clean exit, the maneuverability of the Demo will
help you hit it.
Pedaling: This clearly isn’t the primary purpose of any
downhill bike, but all gravity riders know there are flat sections and/or short climbs on just about every racetrack or
bike-park trail. With the Demo 8, riders have the option to increase low-speed compression damping on both the shock
and fork. Doing this results in a much more efficient pedaling platform, but seems to decrease some of the small-bump
compliance we really prize with the FSR design. The Demo
allows the rider to choose how the suspension feels.
Cornering: The shorter-than-average chainstays make this
bike a breeze to maneuver through corners, including tight
switchbacks. In the lowest and slackest setting, the bike felt
confidence-inspiring in high-speed corners. We found ourselves choosing this option for most of the testing. While the
higher settings, which raise the bottom bracket slightly, make
for a more playful bike, it is at the expense of some of the stability and confidence we love.
Boosting it: The short chainstays come to the rescue here
because the Demo comes off the ground easily, making this a very playful bike. It’s no wonder that Demos are the most
popular choice among Whistler riders (according to a 2012
MBA survey). It’s just as fun to rip a racecourse to shreds on
this bike as it is to hit a jump line like A-Line at Whistler or
Pipeline at Mammoth Mountain.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The X7 rear shifter certainly gets the job done, but it lacks
the smooth and snappy feel of the X9 or X0, which both use
ball-bearing action instead of a bushing. A quick upgrade
here will make the X9 Type 2 rear derailleur’s action feel
Our stock bike came properly sprung for a Clydesdale
rider, but we found it too stiff for our liking, especially given
the softer spring in the fork. We made a sizable jump down
from the 450-pound stocker to a 350-pound titanium spring,
which gave us our ideal 35 percent sag.
This is a race bike that dishes out tons of fun and maneuverability on the course. That said, though, if you are after a
purebred race bike that can double as a bike-park workhorse,
we’d be hard-pressed to suggest a better choice than the
Demo 8 carbon.