At the UCI World Cup Series – downhill mountain bike racing's most elite level – speed is the name of the game. New equipment is tested regularly, in hopes that mechanical advantage will gain time on the racetrack. The terrain of the seven race championship is diverse – from the season-opening lung-buster sprint through the South African jungle forest to the most recent round held on the treacherously steep Austrian Alps of Leogang. Next up, the series heads to Canada for the legendary Mont Sainte Anne racecourse.
This weekend at MSA, two-time UCI World Cup Series champion Aaron Gwin will compete on an all-new, 200 millimetre-travel bike: The 2015 Specialized S-Works Demo.
“I've been on the bike for about a month now," says Gwin, about the completely redesigned World Cup bike he and team-mate Troy Brosnan will be debuting at Mont Sainte Anne this weekend. "We got on it right after the National Champs because we wanted to get on it right away for comparison to the old bike on the same track."
Gwin and Brosnan first got a chance to throw a leg over the new 27.5"-wheeled bike immediately following the 2014 USA Cycling Gravity MTB National Championships in Angel Fire, New Mexico, and found it to be a familiar, but faster Demo.
It's a really playful bike, but it's a race bike through and through
"The thing I noticed right away was just how fast it was," says Aaron Gwin, "It’s a really playful bike, but it’s a race bike through and through." Gwin believes this bike "reacts quicker than any bike he's ridden before."
Utilising a radically-new asymmetrical design – producing the visually-absent seat tube on the non-drive-side – the radically-new approach to carbon frame construction is intended to lower the centre of gravity and keep the frame as stiff as it has always been. You can plant it and change directions really quick because of how your feet sit on the bike. "It accelerates fast because of the [lack of] weight and the stiffness." Gwin says, "You can plant it and change directions really quick because of how your feet sit on the bike... there are not a lot of pivots so when you put force into the bike it reacts straight away."
One of the interesting points Gwin makes about the new Demo is how the single-sided seat tube allows for easy in-and-out access to the rear shock. "The switch was really easy and setting up suspension was easy," says Gwin, "It's something non-racers might not have to deal with very often. But anyone who races seriously knows how often you need to service, set up and remove your shocks. The access on the Demo makes it so easy, plus I just think it looks rad."
A floating seatstay keeps the pedalling and braking forces separate, while the standard size 12 x 135 millimetre axle has been engineered to stiffen the rear end with a square-design. However, Gwin says any stiffness gained in the rear end has not added weight. "It's really light in the rear end, which allows the bike to stay agile," he says, "I really like a stiff bike so it's great to not have to sacrifice any rigidity for the added agility."