Crankworx Rotorua is one of the places that a good bit of new tech comes out for the season. Teams are always refining and testing products but with not a lot of races throughout the winter, it seems that there's a bit more going on at the first big coming out here at the start of spring. One of our photographers spotted these bikes in the Specialized pits today. One is clearly Loic Bruni's, given his name on the hub and we'd imagine the other belongs to Finn Iles.
We weren't allowed to get close and it seems that the bikes are still in the prototype stages, as they're mostly aluminum and not all that refined but we can always speculate as to what's going on.
There's obviously a 27.5" rear wheel and a 29" front wheel on the bike. UCI rules changed this past year to allow different sized wheels in competition and we've seen others, including Neko Mulally, testing this idea out. I'd bet that there are a few different versions of this bike floating around for testing both wheel sizes and the mix-matched version as well.
There is some sort of a rubber or plastic wrap on the stays and there's also something pretty interesting going on with the linkage of the bike.
Other details we noticed that may or may not matter? There's a Specialized Butcher on the back and what looks like a Maxxis Minion without a hot patch up front.
So, about that suspension? We can only speculate because there aren't enough details visible to confirm. The swingarm appears to drive a rocker link that pivots on a separate axis between the chainstays that drives the Ohlins shock. A second link which swings from the seat stay/upper rocker pivot would most probably be employed to moderate the shock's leverage rate. Why the complication? Well, the ability to separate the shock's kinematics and obtain a smooth rising rate, while maintaining proper anti-squat curves would be a good place to start.
I reached out to Specialized and the only details I received were, "Specialized relies on feedback from professional athletes in developing and testing advanced pre-production products in real-world applications. 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."
Whether or not we'll see Finn Iles and Loic Bruni racing the bikes this weekend in Rotorua is yet to be seen but I wouldn't be surprised to see them on the clock sometime soon as far along as these bikes look to be.