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.
|So 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
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
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
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.
Yeti DH Prototype with Switch Infinity
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
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.
Stevie Smith's Custom 2013 Worlds Bike
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.
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
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.
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.
Every brand has failures
It seemed to be pretty final after the 2nd or 3rd revision
Maybe I am wrong and @rucker10 has some inside line we don't
Although... this is the company that still makes the Lefty, so...
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".
Tried it. Didn't work. Move on.
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.
Rulezman suspension do a Dorrado conversion that looks like a Showa fork, so want one!
Probably Best ever looking prototype
Vouilloz win that day though, with (if i remember) over 3 seconds on a 1minute 20sec course.
That was a funny nice one...
One mans continuing quest to bring down any bicycle not made of metal.