What does a rally racer do in his spare time other than drift around city streets in a 858hp, all-wheel drive monster of a car dubbed the Hoonicorn RTR? Ride mountain bikes, of course. The former part-time WRC competitor and co-founder of DC Shoes was recently given a custom painted Demo 8 from Specialized, but we're not just talking about a one-off colour or a racing stripe here, but rather an incredibly detailed galaxy motif done by gifted Tony Baumann. Specialized then threw a bunch of high-end parts at the frame, and the final product is the beast you see pictured here.
This isn't a pavement princess, though, as Block is an avid downhiller who isn't exactly shy about getting loose, which shouldn't be a surprise. In fact, the bike is on its way to the mountains of New Zealand as you read this, where Block is going to spend some time heli-biking and wearing out tires. We caught up with Specialized's Sean Estes to get the low-down on Ken's new machine and how it came to life.
Specialized is no stranger to getting athletes from other sports on their rigs, with one walk through the pits of a Supercross race making it clear that they see a value in getting some of the best action sports competitors on their mountain and road bikes. That includes the likes of Chad Reed and Ryan Villopoto, and even Marc Marquez from the MotoGP world, but it's not limited to two-wheeled motorsports. ''As far as the backstory, about a year ago we initiated a relationship with Ken. It was maybe a year before that when we noticed he’d posted to his Instagram feed a photo of himself shredding on a big bike at Park City, Utah,'' Estes explained about how Block came to Specialized's attention. ''I happened to know Ken’s agent, so I reached out to see if he could help connect us, which he gladly did.''
Things kicked off when Block took delivery of one of their Enduro EVO bikes so that he could keep ripping while Specialized began working on something a bit more exciting. ''The first project we worked on with Ken was an Enduro EVO. It was mostly stock with the exception of a 180mm new Fox 36 and some other small parts,'' said Estes of what is likely one of the better placeholders out there. ''This bike was mostly meant to get Ken out there and riding during the summer while we feverishly worked on his first custom S-Works Demo 8. Alain Lanusse painted the first Demo we did for Ken, which was based on some of his previous race car liveries. We surprised Ken with the bike, and he had no idea what to expect in terms of aesthetics, but luckily he loved it, as evidenced by the amount of posts he put up about it over the following weeks.'' That first Demo received about a zillion shares on social media, which only reinforced how worthwhile it was for Specialized to get Block on something even more exciting.
The next custom bike was always going to the new Demo 8, but the paint job had to be something special, and it was actually inspired by the livery of one of Block's 2015 race cars: ''Shortly after we delivered Ken’s first Demo 8, we launched the all-new Demo 8, so we quickly got to work on one for him. As soon as we saw his 2015 race car livery, we got super pumped because another one of our in-house guys, Tony Baumann, has actually painted a few bikes with the galaxy theme so we knew exactly what we needed to do. I reached out to Tony and he didn’t hesitate to jump in on the project.''
''Tony will be the first to tell you that it took A LOT of hours to do Ken’s paint job, but if we may say so ourselves, and if the amount of 'likes' on Ken’s Instagram is any indication, the bike came out absolutely unreal,'' Estes says of the finished product. And the frame isn't covered in a bunch of decals, either, but rather all painted by hand. ''The detail is nothing short of incredible, and it was all done by hand with an airbrush. Tony works on our SBCU team by day, and all of his art is done under the moniker 'Made Rad By Tony'. Check the hashtag #maderadbytony
out for some more examples of his work.''
The paint job is obviously the big talking point, but there's a host of fancy parts that they've built the bike up with is well. ''As far as the build, Scott Papola at Fox, Joe Lawwill at Shimano, and Brad Cameron at Renthal provided all the top-shelf bits. As sweet as the Renthal grips are, we had to go with a pair of our own Cip grips in cyan blue to match Ken’s livery and the custom Fox heritage fork graphics. The final hit of blue comes from the Roval Traverse SL Carbon Fattie wheels. All the little blue hits combine to really bring out the blue hues in the galaxy paint, making for a pretty stunning overall appearance.'' www.specialized.com