Ah, Whistler, the mecca that seems to always deliver. I'm not just talking about that trails, however, as the bike park that every downhiller in the world wants to live at the bottom of is also the chosen location for plenty of testing. Case in point: We've seen Specialized's racers and development riders on unreleased machines
at the Whistler Bike Park more than once in the past, and it's actually where the current generation Demo was first spotted a few years ago.
It was déjà vu at the WBP yesterday, with a photo of what sure looks like an unbadged prototype downhill bike (pictured above) under a Specialized rider being sent to us by an enterprising Pinkbike member. Is this the current Demo's replacement? And it sure looks like a 29er, doesn't it? Yes, Specialized's World Cup racers have been on current Demos that the team has modified to work with bigger wheels, including one that Loic Bruni's tested (but didn't race) back in 2017
, but this might be their first dedicated 29'' wheeled downhill rig.
Loic Bruni was on a heavily modified, 29'' wheeled Demo at last year's Fort William World Cup. It employed a custom rocker link for his needs, as well as a lengthened rear-end to provide more room for the larger diameter wheels.
The all-black, unbadged bike is sporting Magura brakes, DT Swiss rims, and Öhlins suspension that the average park rat isn't able to get his dirty paws on; all bits that you'll find on the team's race bikes. Also, the pants are a bit of a dead giveaway, eh?
I reached out to Vernon Felton, Specialized's Global Mountain Bike Marketing Manager, who had this to say: “We’re constantly working on new bikes—making them faster—and our athletes are a key part of that process. Their input drives what we do. So, yes, that bike is something we’re working on. You can expect to hear more about it in the future—but for now, that’s all we’re going to say about it. Stay tuned.
Fair enough. Replacement or not, you don't need to be a bike surgeon to know that The Big S is obviously working on a new downhill sled. ''Specialized relies on feedback from professional athletes in developing and testing advanced pre-production products in real-world applications,
'' Sean Estes, Global PR Manager at Specialized, explained when I went sniffing for details. ''Thanks to this top-level feedback some of these products, or elements of their designs, eventually show up in future retail product offerings. We call this Project Black.
'' Okay, no details but we do have a secretive sounding name, which is kinda cool.
Current production Demo on the left, new prototype on the right. The standard Demo's shock is driven by a large rocker, and the main pivot rotates around the bottom bracket shell. The new prototype appears to eschew both of these things, with the shock sitting much lower and no concentric main pivot.
But this is a whole new bike from front to back, and it looks
like it's a 29er from the get-go. No surprise, really, as many teams now have a big-wheeled downhill bike in their stable, if not for sale, at least for their racers to use. Besides the wheels, what else is different? Nearly everything, it seems, but it still employs a Horst Link suspension layout. However, the main pivot no longer rotates around the bottom bracket; instead, it appears to be well forward of it, and the shock is sitting much lower than it does on the production Demo. Also, it looks like the shock is driven directly off the swingarm rather than by the rocker, although it's hard to see those details in this photo, so there might be a small linkage system as well.
If you think that all we have right now is speculation, you'd be 100-percent right. But the last time we saw a prototype Specialized downhill bike rolling around Whistler, it turned out to be the new Demo. Just say'n.