Unleash the Monster
The Demo 8 II is Specialized's
top downhill race platform. It’s been refined over the years by the fastest bike racers and some of the best bicycle engineers on the planet. The Demo 8 is on every serious downhill racer’s shortlist of gravity race whips.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
This is a single-purpose bike. It is a pure-bred platform designed for the rider who is serious about downhill racing. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, Specialized’s Status may be more in your wheelhouse. The Demo is all about one thing: being first across a downhill finish line.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Demo 8 II uses an M5 aluminum alloy front triangle and rear end and a one-piece magnesium rocker. The FSR suspension rides on cartridge bearings to deliver 8 inches of travel front and rear. The frame uses a tapered head tube, 12x150-millimeter rear axle and a press-fit bottom bracket. The frame also sports a unique aluminum derailleur protector to keep your shifting from going awry after cutting a right-hand, rocky corner too close.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Demo 8 II is Specialized’s top-tier gravity bike, and the components reflect that. This bike is ready for the start gate right out of the box with no upgrades necessary. Specialized even throws in a little moto flair with the Renthal bar, which is one of our favorites for gravity riding.
The suspension is infinitely tunable with the Demo 8. The Cane Creek Double Barrel shock received a five-star rating from the wrecking crew for racing applications and is right at home on this bike. Don’t sell the Boxxer World Cup fork short either, as it’s no slouch when it comes to plush performance with tons of adjustability and weight savings. The rest of the components are a smattering of SRAM’s finest, including a complete X0 drivetrain and brakes.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The Demo 8 is a low-slung sled with a profile that gives the rider plenty of standover in the cockpit area. The top tube felt on the short side at 22.8 inches. The Renthal bar is left uncut at 30.7 inches and feels perfect right out of the box.
This is not a simple bike to set up. Instead, it’s designed to cater to the racer who wants to tinker. We started with roughly 35 percent sag front and rear and all compression and rebound adjustments near the middle of their ranges. The Cane Creek Double Barrel shock delivers a large range of adjustment that can be a handful at first. Fortunately, Cane Creek provides an excellent setup guide that gives the rider a perfect starting point to work from. We ran far less pressure in the Boxxer fork than recommended to achieve the appropriate sag.
The Demo is remarkably predictable and confidence-inspiring when plowing through rocks and roots. The suspension has a very active feel at the beginning of the stroke for small-bump compliance—a welcome feature, because this bike feels controlled even at breakneck speeds, begging the rider to push it harder. On larger impacts, the suspension has a natural ramp-up feel that resists bottom out. The suspension components can be tuned to increase or decrease this effect. We chose to decrease the high-speed compression damping slightly, both front and rear, compared to the recommended setting. This gave the bike a slightly more bottomless feel. We also chose to increase the low-speed compression damping to keep the fork riding high in its travel and to avoid brake dive.
Specialized makes no excuses about the Demo’s intended purpose as a race bike. The bike corners like it’s on rails, even if those rails lie over a boulder field. The slack, 64-degree head tube angle allows the rider to cut turns when the course profile resembles an elevator shaft. It also provides tons of stability when the course throws a mach 5, high-speed turn into the mix. The aggressive nature of the Demo will satisfy the gravity habit of the most experienced riders, but it will be a handful for anyone not accustomed to riding a true downhill race bike.
Need for speed:
Like most bikes built for downhill racers, the Demo 8’s slack geometry is tough to manage when the tempo decreases. This bike is happiest speeding along on steep terrain.
The Demo’s FSR suspension is very active at the top of the stroke, which prevents it from having a best-in-class pedal platform when sprinting on a flat course. The low-speed compression adjustment on the Cane Creek shock is more than capable of dialing in a pedal platform, but too much can cause the rear end to lose its prized small-bump compliance. Plan on splitting the difference between efficiency and supple ride quality, but know you can adjust it for any course.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
We experienced a few pedal strikes pedaling through rock gardens due to the low bottom bracket. The aggressive geometry is the reason the bike handles so well, but we wouldn’t want it any lower. Setting the fork crowns to 2–3 millimeters below the top of the stanchions will raise the front end and bottom bracket slightly and reduce the number of pedal strikes.
Bottom line, the Demo 8 works best for the experienced gravity rider who plans to ride gnarly terrain. The bike prefers to be raced, but could also be a perfect match for an aggressive bike park rider who has the experience to dial in the suspension and the skills to harness this bike’s need for speed.
Check out this bike and the rest of the Specialized line here.
This test originally appeared in our July 2012 issue. Subscribe to MBA here.