Test – Specialized Carbon Demo 8
This bike and it’s more spec’d out big brother are both carbon, both light and both new. The question is how do they ride. Well we had the chance of trying the carbon demo 1 before anyone else in Italy and on first impressions we were impressed. Our test was not exhaustive, and was done on a freeride/enduro trail quite a number of times. However it was possible to get a good clear indication of the bike and how it performed.
The idea behind what we were trying to find out was how this bike felt for an average rider. With this in mind we went out on the track at Val di Sole and gave the bike a blast to see how it felt.
Hammering down the trail and chucking the bike about it was possible to get an insight into the way the Specialized development team work. After a short part of the first descent the bike immediately began to feel like your own personal bike. It was comfortable and all of the contact points were well thought out. When you spend 6000 euros on a bike it is really important in our opinion that when it comes out of the box it is right first time, with no need to set it up. The Demo 8 carbon is really setup well and is in our opinion an instantly good feeling bike with absolutely no need to change anything. Even the pedals supplied by Specialized were really good and grippy. It is our pet hate that when a customer buys a bike that things need to be changed to get the right comfort factor. So top marks from Specialized for this, you can go ride and keep it as it is.
So how did it handle? Well this bike is quiet, very quiet, you cant hear anything on it. It glides across the track takes corners, drops, rocks everything with no fuss, no noise and precise control. The low weight is a key factor in being able to pick the back of the bike up and redirect it with no effort mid corner, mid jump, anything. It is really impressive. The suspension, front and rear works well together and in the standard tune is perfectly well balanced in acceleration, braking and cornering. It is possible to really drive hard in the corners and the bike grips and responds smoothly and efficiently. The ride is very floaty and you cant hear or feel the rear suspension working, the linkage setup is optimal for normal riders although it is possible to make some adjustments to the geometry if desired. The bottom bracket clearance is more than enough, over even rocky lines and is positioned really well for great cornering ability. However it is possible to drop it lower or raise it higher according to rider preference, there are three settings giving a range of 15mm adjustment.
So actually riding the bike is fairly easy, it gives you great confidence to launch over rocks, hit corners hard and slide where you want in the way you want. This bike is really manoeuvrable and feels at times as quick as a enduro bike. However when you see what you just rode over it is obvious that this is a DH bike. The rear suspension system just works and with the high quality Fox shock, at no point in the ride were we even aware of the system working it was so smooth. In the setup presented, the travel range seemed perfect for 85 kilos on a medium size frame with soft springs. If you go hard/pro pace, harder springs might be needed but generally we are talking for everyday DH riding this is a close to good general setup as one could expect.
The main fear often about these bikes is the risk of breaking the carbon. This bike frame has been stress tested in every way and is particularly strong. It is made of 300 separate pieces of carbon bonded together in such a way as to maximise the weave and strength characteristics of the material with minimum weight. Specialized have provided a polycarbonate frame guard for those who worry, but according to Jason Chamberlain, the project designer, this frame will not break from normal DH impacts and all the normal trail conditions one will find. They didnt manage to break one in testing and with two of the fastest riders in the world on them so I think we can be sure they mean what they say, however incase the customer is still worried, they offer a lifetime guarantee.
The wheel package is a fairly solid build from DT swiss, with a X10 on the back with a close ratio that means you don’t have to shift to much which is snappy thanks to the X7 shifter. We spent a lot of time talking to the really knowledgable and enthusiastic Specialized tyre development guru Chris Wyatt. Chris spent a considerable amount of time explaining the tyre choices and construction. Based on the needs and ideas of Sam Hill they put together a range of tyres that are suitable for all conditions. Interestingly on the mud tyre they decided to help riders that want to modify tyres by cutting them, and put cut marks on the knobbles on the tyre to ensure it is easy to cut them down 2-3mm if needed. This is a good move from a manufacturer by helping riders have the right tools for the conditions even if you need to modify what you have. So the Demo 1 Carbon comes with Butcher tyres, which have been designed with the help of Sam Hill, and across the roots and rocky conditions they felt great, biting where needed and absorbing the impacts from the trails as well, overall a good rim and wheel package that helps all straight out of the box. It would be interesting to compare them directly to Maxxis Minions, hopefully that is something we can do in the future.
Our test was by no means super technical or exhaustive, but it was a good indication of what a good or average or beginner rider can find if they buy this bike, which is a quiet, balanced, light, incredibly well constructed frame with solid components that work really well together straight out of the box. It would be a really picky person to find fault with what you can buy in this package. Yes if you are a top pro and want to tune, then tune away, however it is not necessary in our opinion for the majority of riders. The frame set is really nice, the feeling is light stiff and chuck-able, with good trail feedback, at no time do you feel unsure of what the bike is doing. Riding is a pleasure and the bike will feel like it is yours within a few minutes and you will be ripping quietly over the ground and hucking DH trails or freeride without any worries.
Our test was unexpected and brief but we managed to make a quick video of a few things (shakely) and we put it together to see what we did. The trail we rode was quite steep, which you cant see in the video. Mainly though it was a good record of our initial thoughts. (In Italian)
This is a quick look at it’s bigger brother, the S-Works, we didnt have time to test that bike but, i’m sure if the non S-works one is that good, the S-Works is probably amazing…