Many racers would have been quite happy with 20th and 6th place finishes at the first two World Cups of the 2013 season, but Aaron Gwin isn't just any racer, and he is likely not exactly over the moon about the 8.9 and 4.1 second gaps to first at Fort William and Val di Sole. His much publicized move from Trek World Racing to Specialized during the off-season left many fans wondering how he would take to the Demo and its drastically different geometry from the Session that he dominated on. And whether the bike is the reason or not, his results this season have paled in comparison to the consistent battering of the field during the previous two years. Have his main competitors stepped it up? Is it the bike? Dominance can't last forever, just ask McGrath, Rossi, Schumacher, or any athlete that once ruled the roost, but the common theme among these phenoms is that they are constantly searching for an advantage that will keep them at the top. Gwin is no different, and Specialized is happy to oblige.
Val di Sole saw Gwin compete aboard a large-sized Demo instead of his usual medium, with him saying that he was looking for a longer, roomier bike, and his race run was much closer to the winning time than the margin at Fort William. This weekend's World Cup on the fresh track in Andorra sees him go back to a medium frame, but with a prototype rear end that adds 19mm of length over the bike's stock 421mm figure. That means that his custom Demo runs a 440mm chain stay length, pretty damn close to the 439/441mm adjustable length of his previous race bike. The fact of the matter is that the very large majority of the downhill bikes being raced on the World Cup circuit perform at a level that even an insanely fast local pro
wouldn't be able to push to the limits, but the key for many of the top racers is to simply be on a machine that they feel 100% comfortable aboard, that often means personal tweaks that the average fan wouldn't be able to take advantage of. ''Like other athletes in the past, he's been testing various lengths, and 440mm is what he likes at the moment, for that track,
'' Jason Chamberlain, Senior Design Engineer at Specialized, told us. ''When it comes to DH, we are happy to provide whatever setup an athlete needs to win.
'' This leads to speculation that we may still see Gwin switch back to the shorter length for other courses. Interestingly, both Troy Brosnan and Mitch Ropelato still prefer the stock 421mm length.
The added length is found in the chain and shock stays, while the link and yoke remain the same. Travel now sits at 215mm.
The extra length at the back of Gwin's bike comes courtesy of both longer chain and shock stays, with his Demo still using the same magnesium link and shock yoke as his previous rig. The longer stays also mean that his bike's travel is bumped up to 215mm, with Chamberlain explaining that ''the spring rate and damping are tweaked to adjust for the tiny increase in leverage ratio.
'' While the additional 19mm obviously means that the bike sports a longer wheelbase, all other geometry remains the same.
Will the new, longer rear end propel Gwin to the podium? We wouldn't be surprised, to be honest, given that he has likely spent the gap between the Fort William and Andorra races testing the new parts extensively, and him choosing racing the revised bike surely means that he feels happy with the changes. And a happy racer is a fast racer, isn't it?www.specialized.com