Round Up: 10 Prototype DH Bikes That Never Made it to Production

Feb 22, 2021
by Ed Spratt  

We see plenty of prototype DH bikes being tested out by some of the world's best riders, with most eventually becoming available to the public. But what about the bikes that never make it to production? With this in mind, let's take a look back through the years at nine bikes that didn't go past the prototype stage.



Cannondale's 2020 2-Shock Bike


Ridden on the World Cup circuit for only one season before the team was scrapped at the end of 2019, the latest attempt at a two shock DH bike from Cannondale was pretty wild.

The prototype bike used a high main pivot combined with an idler pulley alongside its unique setup of two shocks with one hidden in the downtube. While there was a lot of speculation around the future of this bike it sadly was only raced on the World Cup circuit for one season before it disappeared. Although we have spotted a similar-looking long travel bike being ridden by Cannondale riders.


bigquotesSo we'll be running a damper with a specific leverage ratio down below where you were running a single shock yesterday. And then we have several positions up top for spring progression for you to try, with that same damper position down below. The idea of this is that we don't have to tune the damper to handle crazy leverage curves and really aggressive leverage progression. We can tune the damper to be pretty linear, so it behaves like a linear damper, and we can toy with the spring independently without having to mess with your damper.'' Josh Hursh, Cannondale Frame Design Engineer (Explained to a team rider in a video)



Honda G-Cross RN-01 DH bike

Honda G-Cross DH bike

The Honda RN01 is one of the rarest bikes to have ever raced at World Cups, with supposedly just two left in existence. The bike featured a secret gearbox system that led to all sorts of speculation, fueled by the fact that during World Cup races the team engineers would apparently remove the gearboxes from the bikes and take them back to the hotel rooms to avoid anyone getting access to the system without permission.

The bike saw some great success on the circuit with six Elite wins.



Pole Machine DH Bike

Pole Proto

Isak Leivsson turned up to the 2018 Fort William World Cup on what may be the longest dedicated downhill bike in existence. The Pole Machine 200 used the same manufacturing technique as its smaller travel siblings, with two machined pieces of 7075 aluminum bolted and bonded together.

The bike was running 29" wheels with 200mm of travel delivered by Pole's Evolink suspension design. The full length of the wheelbase measured a gigantic 1360mm with chainstays of 460mm. Isak was also running some pretty large bars to match the size of the frame with handlebar extensions fitted to his cockpit to expand it to 830mm.



Devinci's Experimental High Pivot Wilson

Dakotah Norton s prototype high pivot Devinci.

Devinci called this prototype bike the Wilson HP and they made it pretty clear that it was simply a test mule for the brand. While there was never a plan for this to make it to production, the goal of the project was to test out some ideas during race conditions.

According to Devinci the concept for this bike began 20 years ago when they made a bike called the Big Bang, a high pivot DH bike from the early 2000s. For last year's World Cups, Devinci produced just two frames, both made by hand in Devinci's factory. With the Devinci factory DH team disbanded for 2021, it looks like we won't be seeing any more of this bike on the World Cup circuit.

Big result from the ever stylish Dakotah Norton. Eighth in a very wet qualie.



Yeti DH Prototype with Switch Infinity

Yeti Prototype DH bike

Spotted back in 2014 Yeti appeared to be testing out a new downhill platform with their Switch Infinity system. The Switch Infinity system is a collaboration with Fox using two Kashima coated rails found just above the bottom bracket to control the rear wheel path.

At the time the bike was running 27.5" wheels and looked to be in the early stages of development. Although with no new information on the bike it's probably safe to assume that we won't be seeing a version of this bike coming into production.



Foes FFR with Two-Stage Damper

Foes Racing FFR Prototype 2014

Another prototype we saw back in 2014 was the Foes FFR using a new two-stage damper system. In addition to a Cane Creek DBair shock, the FFR used a system that added three inches of negative travel to the suspension.

The prototype FFR used a single pivot swingarm that drove the shock through the seat tube tunnel. A one-inch travel damper was then built in-line with the pushrod that drove the shock. Brent Foes said at the time that the second damper device does not affect the suspension during compression but when the shock extends its top-out bumper the one-inch travel damper will allow the rear wheel to drop down an additional three inches. The idea for this system was to make it easier for the rear tire to stay in contact with the ground for better braking and cornering.

Foes Racing FFR Prototype 2014



Stevie Smith's Custom 2013 Worlds Bike

n a Photo by Paris Gore

The 2013 World Championships in Pietermaritzburg saw plenty of riders running custom setups beyond the normal fancy paint jobs and for Stevie Smith, this meant a one-off prototype 650b race bike.

The bike was flown straight from the Devinci factory and was designed for the event by Dave Weagle as a 165mm mini-downhill bike. For the front suspension, a lowered Boxxer was used with 175mm of travel, but apparently Smith was preparing to race using a Pike fork with this frame.

Dave Weagle said at the time: "One track, one weekend, and a couple of closely matched riders to design for, that's a really fun challenge, one that I really love being in a position to tackle. If I can help these guys take even a tenth of a second off of their time, then I'm ecstatic. In this case, I'm hopeful for seconds."

This bike would later become a blueprint when Devinci updated the Spartan enduro bike.



Yeti 303-7


Going all the way back to 2008 and Yeti were trying out another prototype DH bike. The 303-7 was created while Yeti were working out the 303 RDH frames and it was intended to be a race-specific bike for less rowdy courses. The frame itself was apparently around 2.5lbs lighter than the 303 frames that Yeti were making at the time. The design used a rail to control the rear wheel path and a link in the downtube to control the leverage ratio.



Nico Vouilloz's VProcess

VProcess NV00
VProcess NV01

Between 2000 and 2002 Nico Vouilloz was racing World Cups onboard his own creation with the help of Oliver Bossard (owner of BOS). For three seasons they developed a new bike that had the focus on performing best at that year's World Championships track. For 2000 the bike featured a high single pivot and idler, although this was changed in the following years with the NV01 and NV02 going for a completely redesigned frame that fared better on the World Cup circuit as they both succeeded in their goal of winning the World Championships.



Superco Silencer


In 2009 SuperCo Silencer combined a high pivot design with two chains. The first chain linked the crankset and an idler, this drove an axle to transfer power to the driveside of the frame where the second chain went from another idler to the cassette and derailleur. The frame also featured a floating brake arm, which SuperCo said was to neutralized the anti-rise effects of its high pivot.





149 Comments

  • 243 7
 That Pole would have been a cracking bike!
  • 21 2
 Creasing myself here
  • 6 0
 Isak's a good follow on IG. Always has some cool weird projects on the go. Not sure if he's an engineer, but he welds frames and has done loads of high pivot experimentation, and lots of frame breaking.
  • 11 1
 Im still waiting for the @yeticycles switch dh bike it should just happen 100 of them in yellow and blue they know they'll sell.
  • 3 2
 Popcorn
  • 14 4
 Try to not get bent out if shape. Pole is still trying to take a crack at putting a dent in the market
  • 5 0
 Superco would have been too much of an advantage, you would have a 2 second handicap at least.
  • 2 0
 @shredddr: Would love to see a review or a head to head with that home welded thing of his.
  • 3 4
 What's with peoples upsession with referencing how a pole frame snapped in a test?
Every brand has failures
  • 3 0
 I actually really liked the Pole, this one seemed to rise to the occasion.
  • 9 0
 @felimocl: Every brand has its failures, but only one brand has Leo as its ceo
  • 2 0
 @felimocl: as opposed to a down session?
  • 170 0
 You guys should do a follow-up on bikes that got produced but never should have.
  • 14 0
 cough cough Redalp
  • 1 0
 I'm with him..
  • 2 0
 2 stage, we're quite common at one point..
  • 1 0
 I wanna see it.
  • 41 1
 Saw Minaar running that Honda when I was a course marshal at the US Open back in the day. Asked if I could pick it up, he wouldn't let me.
  • 3 0
 Saw them testing at Vail once. Super cool to see those bikes up close.
  • 1 0
 Couldn’t really call the Honda a ‘prototype’
It seemed to be pretty final after the 2nd or 3rd revision
  • 3 0
 i have been lucky enough to pick up back in day at local race , around 16kg mark
  • 1 0
 Got to scope it out in person, too.
  • 32 0
 Definitely need a new yeti DH bike. Maybe not that version...
  • 6 2
 Agreed. I don't think that version would have been bad if release a few years ago (more finished of course) but it would be cool to see Yeti back on the dh scene. Still doesn't seem right with them not making a dh bike.
  • 14 0
 I don't think that will happen until William steps down as CFO. He's a properly educated CFO that wouldn't allow a product to be added to the lineup if it wasn't going to be a financial win for the company.
  • 8 0
 I got drunk texted a bunch of pictures of a Yeti prototype DH bike about a year ago. They're obviously thinking about it.
  • 4 2
 @fullendurbro: I lived right near Yeti for several years until my recent move 6 months ago. Lots of local Yeti guys on the trails, races, etc. around town/state for a bit. I think you have a point...they are an 'executive' bike brand now truly sad considering their racing roots. If enduro wasn't 'hot' right now, I don't even think they would have a team or bikes to match that either. Not really sure how that SB 165 slipped through the cracks with that insulting price for a Taiwan frame. Thankfully I still have my last gen Yeti DJ frame.

Maybe I am wrong and @rucker10 has some inside line we don't
  • 1 0
 The 303RDH was the first DH bike I lusted after. Now Yeti just has one bike with a different number tacked on the end. Pitty.
  • 1 0
 @psyguy: same here. I started riding DH around the time the RDH came out. I saw the yeti pits at the US open and those RDHs were just a thing of beauty. I finally did get one a few years later.
  • 32 1
 High Rollers should still come with dice as part of the logo.
  • 2 0
 I upvoted you, but it didn't feel like enough... You're sooooo right on this.
  • 22 0
 The Stevie Smith bike was essentially the Spartan 27.5 that came out in 2014. Rode it for 2 years, one of the best bike ever made! #longlivechainsaw
  • 2 0
 Same the spartan 27.5 was so good in rear travel. Devinci in 2014 had some of the best bikes, the Wilson has the best rear suspension feel
  • 1 0
 @pablopicasso1: what's the best that Wilson does make it to production soon
  • 1 0
 Yeah, that shouldn't have been in here. It literally did make it to production lol.
  • 17 0
 Shame that Superco project never reached production. The geometry is still pretty up to date, good axle path for smashing and can be fixed by the local garage welder and machine shop if needed!
  • 2 0
 If it had I'd be on it not my darkcycle..
  • 3 0
 From the same guy that built the BMW racelink!
  • 13 0
 Are sure we are not seeing the production version of that Yeti 27.5 wheeled "DH" rig? Because I'd say that's called SB165 today
  • 2 0
 Wondering the same,
  • 1 0
 Looks to be a little bit different where the upper linkage mounts to the rear triangle and shock on the prototype bike. The dh bike also had 150/157 rear hub spacing.
  • 1 0
 @grldm3: does it really matter on a test mule?
  • 10 0
 I dream of seeing that Honda bike in person someday! It’s a life goal to. I will some day make it down to South Africa to ride and also check it out in Greg Minnaar’s shop. Last time I rode with him, I asked him all about it and had an awesome conversation. He said when the team was done and Honda called it, all the bikes were taken back and crushed at the factory so they would no longer exist. He was able to persuade and was allowed the blessing of keeping one. There’s only two in existence: one is in the Honda headquarters I believe and the other is with Greg. Man, those bikes are the raddest!
  • 2 0
 Great story. I got to see him win in Deer Valley, Utah many years ago on that thing...will never forget it...such a cool bike
  • 3 0
 Isn't there a story of one that was robbed? So someone has it, but will never see the light of day
  • 1 0
 Who was the dude who rocked up at Whistler with one?
  • 12 1
 Didn't wanna look like a Session
  • 12 0
 that honda tho
  • 2 4
 Stuff an E in it!!
  • 6 0
 Needs more vtec
  • 4 0
 @Icehawk: iVTEC !!!
  • 1 0
 @jrocksdh: .....How do we know it wasn't already?
  • 3 0
 @hamncheez: and a red R on it
  • 8 0
 I think for most of these, save the Pole and Stevie Smiths, we can thank the mfg’s for not putting them into production. Haha Brundle Fly bikes
  • 13 0
 But that Honda gearbox!
  • 10 0
 Still surprised that Cannondale never got pushed out...
  • 8 1
 I'll bet they realized the benefits just weren't great enough to justify the complexity, maintenance, weight and cost of essentially 2 shocks. Also, who's going to build those two super proprietary shocks for you? And then you can never buy anything aftermarket.

Although... this is the company that still makes the Lefty, so...
  • 11 0
 @islandforlife: megaprops to the cannondale massive for forever asking the questions nobody is thinking about
  • 3 0
 They even said it was for R&D, and I doubt they ever really expected it to be released. They probably came to the same conclusion- the benefits weren't worth the added complexity.

It also wouldn't surprise me if they were working on their new Jekyl and some engineer said, "Hey, can we borrow that design? We want to add 30mm of travel and put two shocks on it to test a bunch of crap. " The Project Manager replied, "This would be a great way to hype up our new enduro bike. Go for it".
  • 12 0
 Actually Cannondale was just holding off until the twin-stanchion Lefty was ready.
  • 1 0
 @johnny2shoes: some of those questions were already answered tho
  • 2 0
 @hamncheez: Got to ride a Cannondale DH bike with the Head Shock 120 back in the late 90's and those forks were incredibly smooth. Everything else at the time like Rock Shox, RST etc all felt rough.
  • 1 0
 @islandforlife: About half way through the season, they ended up running a singe shock in that frame for every race. After testing it they realised the 2 shock didn't give them greater benefits, and reverted to a single shock.

Tried it. Didn't work. Move on.
  • 2 0
 @hamncheez:I knew about the Moto (would like to get a hold of one) but I actually meant like a dual crown fork with both legs on the left.
  • 2 0
 @hamncheez: I can't believe someone beat Cannondale to it haha.
  • 7 1
 We will never truly know if the Devinci Wilson high pivot made it to production or not since, like all Devinci Wilson's, if it did it would be impossible to find available for purchase anywhere.
  • 5 0
 Seeing the KYB fork on the Honda - I hope more moto manufacturers get into MTB. Ohlins had some stumbles early on but if the latest DH fork shootout is to be believed, is now top of the heap after a relatively short time. I would think there's a lot the MTB industry could learn from the motorcycle industry which dwarfs it in size (and presumably R&D dollars).

Imagine what the MTB suspension space would look like if the heavy hitters of moto like KYB, WP, Showa, and Ohlins were duking it out for supremacy alongside the usual RS/Fox options.
  • 2 0
 I would be down for Kyb to start making mtb suspension so we can end the kashima only a fox thing in mtb.
  • 2 0
 Pretty sure the hondas had showa forks
  • 1 0
 @CantQuitCartel: Maybe they had a couple of suppliers, but the photo above says Kayaba right on the fork.
  • 1 0
 we can only dream! if those other players came in, RS would quickly fall to Suntour levels of adoption. Only for the lower end of the spectrum. I am currently on the new Ohlins 36 and the thing is so, so good. The shock is pretty good too, but I still think they are missing something. It's a PITA to swap volume bands on, and you definitely have to fiddle with them to dial the shock in. so that's not great. but once its dialed, it's every bit as good as a top spec Fox shock.
  • 1 0
 I have the latest rxf36 m2. And ttx shock. Absolutely blows my mind everyday how good they are. Always had fox or cockshox before, never again,the bar as been raised
  • 1 0
 @CaMKii: yeah I wonder where the article photo is from as the race team defo road Showa forks.

Rulezman suspension do a Dorrado conversion that looks like a Showa fork, so want one!
  • 1 0
 I have a KYB Prototype rear shock from that area mounted on a slayer hehehe
  • 3 0
 Cannondale used the dh bike to produce a new jekyl that will release soon, it has a shock in the downtube but does away with the dual shock setup, its is also high pivot, i dont have any release date info yet but it should be coming by the end of spring
  • 1 0
 Today expect something new from Cannondale
  • 2 0
 The two stage damper design could re-emerge and be an improvement, imo. Probably not like the Foes, but in more of a fully active design that allows the suspension to absorb direct vertical impacts as well as it bumps that push the wheel rearward. Just has to be designed in a way that makes it pedal efficiently, without a big weight penalty.
  • 2 0
 As you describe this I envision the dual shock Cannondale Gemini.
  • 5 0
 That SuperCo is basically 99% a Brooklyn Machine Works. Wouldn't be surprised if it was just rebranded honestly.
  • 8 0
 If I remember correclty, Doc, who started SuperCo, previously was a builder at BMW.
  • 7 0
 One of the founders of SuperCo, Chris "Doc" Boudreaux, was one of the founders of Brooklyn Machine Works.
  • 5 0
 @otterdirt: correct. he's the guy behind the BMW racelink; the superco was basically the evolution of that design (lighter, updated geometry, etc). i got to ride the superco @ whistler a few years ago; brilliant bike. a shame doc couldn't make a go of it.
  • 3 0
 @whattheheel: More interesting than the photo is your use of Thai Bing!
  • 3 0
 @R-M-R: First dece pic that wasn't from Vitalmtb... lol
  • 1 0
 @whattheheel: The ends justified the means!
  • 1 0
 So was it the SuperCo or BMW that had Ferrell from Daft Punk as an "investor"?
  • 3 1
 Another one for the list: Frank the Welder FTW VST (Variable Suspension Technology) prototype downhill bike. This frame has a variable wheel path allowing rearward movement when needed so you keep your speed over the rough stuff.
www.instagram.com/p/B8rB3mgn_jf
  • 2 0
 Frank is such a rad dude! He makes all kinds of crazy stuff.
  • 2 0
 That Honda G-Cross RN-01 is probably the coolest bike ever... Aside from the fact that it's so different anyway, the secrecy around it is the stuff of lore. In a world where everything is called the GOAT these days, this bike truly lives up to the title.
  • 4 0
 That Superco pictured is a Brooklyn Machine Works Racelink. Silencer looks different
  • 2 0
 good eye. didn't notice right away due to the shitty picture used.
  • 3 1
 I super surprised PB does not mentioned this: www.pinkbike.com/news/resistance-bikes-insolent-dh-fox-40-stanchion-as-a-shock.html

Probably Best ever looking prototype
  • 1 0
 yeah if you like taking it from behind
  • 3 0
 Yeah the Cannondale Fulcrum should definitely be on this list. That thing had some very relevant ideas and engineering behind it
  • 3 0
 the wheelbase on that pole is so long it makes the 29er wheels look "normal"
  • 3 0
 Time for some 32" wheels?
  • 1 0
 @islandforlife: mullet, with 29er rear
  • 1 0
 My Devinci Spartan 2015 looks very similar to Chainsaw's proto. The Spartan is also called the mini-dh, and even Oton preferred the 2015 with catalan colors over the updated version. I need more travel in the front now!
  • 1 0
 I saw Minaar ride the Honda at a race in Lyon, France. This bike is the coolest of all time in my opinion.
Vouilloz win that day though, with (if i remember) over 3 seconds on a 1minute 20sec course.
  • 1 0
 I sort of feel the Millway bikes should have been in this list, probably more ground breaking and forward thinking than anything else on the list. Ive always wondered why many of his ideas never made it into the mainstream.
  • 1 0
 What ever happened to floating brakes? Most bikes seemed to have them 10+ years ago (even 2014 on that Foes) but they rapidly disappeared
  • 1 0
 Is there a team riding the Wilson in 2021? It’s a bummer if not. What a legendary bike that has carried on the torch of the chainsaw massacre!
  • 1 0
 That Superco just demonstrates again how damn amazing straight tubed bikes look. Give me a diamond triangle any time over the hydroformed stuff.
  • 1 0
 I've ridden the Switch Infinity DH proto, and it rocked, but I've always drooled over that SuperCo, since Turman got to race it back in the gap.
  • 2 0
 Still want the superco, just single speed 27/29 mullet..
  • 2 0
 Check out the Starling Sturn.
  • 3 0
 Yeti SB 165 AF.
  • 1 0
 missing Niner 9 downhill concept 2013 DH ...29er and Trek DH prototype 2011 !
  • 1 0
 PLEASE BRING THE DEVINCI WILSON HP TO PRODUCTION Big Grin . PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! Big Grin
  • 1 0
 Almost a perfect article. Except for the plastic one and one stuck together with PVA!!
  • 1 0
 Coming Soon...
One mans continuing quest to bring down any bicycle not made of metal. tup
  • 1 0
 @Dropthedebt: Oh yes. All bikes should be made of metal. Not carbon cloth and glue or anything associated with glue...or carbon...or glue and carbon etc etc
  • 1 0
 @MattP76: I can't wait for graphene bikes... Eek
  • 2 0
 Plus Gregg Herbolds Miyatas from way back
  • 2 0
 I love this feature. Thanks PB.
  • 2 0
 Really cool article! Love DH week
  • 2 0
 Came here to see the Honda bike. Was not disappointed.
  • 1 0
 i'll be that guy. wheelbase on an XXL nicolai G16 is 1370mm, 10mm longer than the pole.
  • 2 0
 Yeti needs to bring back 4link Lawwill and the DH9 name
  • 1 0
 I wish that Devinci Wilson and Yeti DH bike both made it to production! They look awesome tup
  • 1 0
 Some of the ideas on the V-process are actually on the commencal bike. 20 years later. And it works.
  • 1 0
 Kids these days will just never understand how cool that Honda is and was at the time.
  • 1 0
 I am 15 and it took one look at a picture of that honda for me to go WOW that bike is insane.
  • 1 0
 No "ass hole" (literally) integrated suspension" DH bike? It's on production/sales?
That was a funny nice one...
  • 2 0
 I was doubly shocked that the Cannondale didn't make it into production.
  • 1 0
 Those V-Process rigs were sick
  • 2 0
 The extraterrestrial was sick. His bikes were also though.
  • 1 0
 Isn't a suron just a rebadged honda GX lol
  • 1 0
 Missed off the list: an Orange bike that wasn't a hinged girder
  • 1 0
 Do you mean the Strange 225, that was a girder with a hinge and a linkage in the middle, or the 'Big Blood' prototye Steve Wade used to turn up to events riding a couple of years before that? Because yes on both counts, they both should have seen production.
  • 1 0
 RN1 looking as if was made yesterday>>>
  • 1 0
 Stop it Honda, stay in your area
  • 1 0
 I was expecting to see the Honda, Cannondale and 8 Hyper bikes.
  • 1 0
 That Pole must be the most beautiful DH bike ever made! 3
  • 1 0
 the cannondales linkage kind of remindes me of the linkage on the yt tues
  • 1 0
 Surprised Allen Millyard's creations didn't make this list!
  • 1 0
 That Cannondale is shoc king!
  • 1 0
 The suerco’s bottom braket height is incredible lol
  • 1 0
 pole should have made that work, along with cannondale.
  • 1 0
 So moto!

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