It’s not everyday that you get to bring out a DH bike for a proper workout on one of the regions’s sickest trails for its first ride. And when was the last time someone reviewed the same frame with three different set-ups? Simultaneously? So we set off for Cikole in Bandung, Indonesia to put the bikes through the tests. We couldn’t help but rub our hands with glee, in anticipation of how the bikes would perform on the fast, fun and flowy track that is Cikole.
Introducing the cast –
A Troy Lee Designs Limited Edition S-WORKS and two stealth black S-WORKS frame. According to our calculator, that’s 3 S-WORKS frames 😀
When we first got our hands on the frames, we were blown away by the insane attention to detail Specialized has put in to produce these works of art. The stealth model is just that, stealth. Think Snake Eyes from G.I.Joe. Satin and gloss paintwork with a really subdued Specialized branding. It is only when you have the frame upclose that you can appreciate the insane attention to detail. FACT fine printing on the top tube and the inside of the shock mounting tunnel. The beautifully sculptured sleek and sexy carbon frame which looks like an extension of Kate Beckinsale’s outfit in Underworld.
If you know your stuff, you know that anything with a Troy Lee Designs label will be oozing with style, and you get just that with the TLD edition frame. Where the stealth frame is as subdued as one can get, the TLD edition does the exact opposite. While not as eye-popping as the 2012 orange and blue TLD edition, you can tell right away that the 2013 frame is a TLD edition. Checquered flags, go fast yellow paint streaks and that trademark TLD pinstripe logo on the top-tube. Surely you can’t miss the Troy Lee Designs signature on the downtube. And unlike many other limited edition frames out there, this one is truly limited edition. Serialised and like 1 out of only 200 in production worldwide limited edition. Pictures do not do them justice. These frames need to be seen in person.
On to the three bikes…
His set-up puts the WORKS in S-WORKS. XO DH cranks, Point One Racing pedals, Deity D30 bar, ENVE rims with DT Swiss bladed spokes mated to DT Swiss 240 hubs and the jewel in the crown – Black Gold stanchions on the Boxxer World Cup fork straight out of the BlackBox program. If Specialized were to offer full-bike build options for their S-WORKS frame straight from the factory, this set-up will fall under the ‘Cost-Is-No-Object’ option.
This wouldn’t be the first time he will be riding a Demo as he rode one previously. He has always been impressed by the Demo’s low BB height which allowed it to shred corners like a Steve Vai solo. The parts which he is running on the Demo included a Marzocchi 888 Evo Ti up front, Easton Havoc 35 bars, Saint rear dee & shifter, Saint brakes, XO DH cranks, Straitline Silent Guide, Schwalbe Muddy Mary tires rolling on e-13 rims with Chris King hubs.
The ‘base model’ S-WORKS in the review, so to speak. 2013 Marzocchi 888 Evo-Ti up front, Onza Ibex DH tyres rolling on Mavic 721 rims, M810 Saint shifters, brakes and hubs. The only bike running a stock steel spring on the CCDB. And why would this be so important? Well, let’s just say compatibility issues with a titanium spring on the shock during the test would reveal the CCDB’s stubborn unwillingness to accomodate just about any titanium spring. So it was the ‘base model’ bike that got put through its paces the hardest. One of the first things he did was to fiddle with the recommended factory settings on the CCDB. He felt that the recommended factory suspension settings was like a zombie which could easily complete the shuttle run in sub 10 seconds i.e; something just wasn’t right. With the aid of our gracious host, the legendary Om Chandra himself, Mark set about tweaking the CCDB shock after each run down the dry and dusty Cikole track. Multiple runs and multiple fiddling with the shock later, he got the ride he desired. When asked how the Demo rides after the suspension has been retuned, he cocked his side to one side like Jean Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport and with his stick of Gudang Garam hanging from his lips, he uttered “The Demo is devilishly fast. I kid you not. The super low BB and the long wheelbase allows me to hit them corners like an inmate from Alcatraz. The 888 upfront, it just swallows everything in its path. As for the CCDB, I couldn’t be happier with its performance. After I tweaked the settings, it was so plush that I was riding in disbelief at how amazingly plush it was. And that bottomless feeling when I landed those big drops, it’s as though Scotty was beaming me up each time I landed. That’s how smooth it was.”
Now, back to that thing with the Cane Creek Double Barrel. We’ve heard horror stories about how titanium springs rub on the black sleeves on the shock body. Abang Hakim was running a Kronos Ti Spring on his bike. No issues. Mark was running a stock steel spring on his. Zero problems as well. Wan was running a Nukeproof Ti spring. Serious rubbing issues here. Under compression, the spring would rub on the black plastic sleeves, resulting in an annoying sound, which can be heard even when you’re wearing a full-face helmet. Apparently the CCDB shocks only accept springs with an inner diameter of 1.43″. Any smaller and you’ll have serious rubbing issues. Of the three bikes on test, only Wan left his rear shock at the recommended factory settings. Both Abang Hakim and Mark tweaked theirs. Both agreed that the factory suspension settings somehow felt off and were much happier with their own settings. The CCDB is an amazing shock and this issue with the rubbing titanium spring just gives us another reason to return to Cikole once we get our hands on a replacement spring to remedy the issue.
So after we clocked in our runs down the dry and dusty track, we sat ourselves down over a cup of Kopi Kapal Api and goreng pisang by the trackside warung as we discussed our findings. What do we like about the Demo? Well, for one, the super low 338mm bottom bracket means that the bike will take corners with aplomb. The 1191mm wheelbase on the Medium and 1171mm wheelbase on the Small frame provides awesome stability at speed while the short 421mm chainstay across all sizes ensures you lose none of its agility. The bike eats small bumps for breakfast and swallows big hits for second breakfast. It’s not the lightest carbon DH frame out there but neither is it the heaviest. What it is is the reason why you’ll be smiling from ear to ear once you’ve ridden it. If you’re a slow rider, the bike will make you go faster. And if you’re already a fast rider, you’ll be shaving seconds on this bike like a vibrating triple-bladed razor. It’s hard to single out what’s not to like about the frame when all it does is stick to the ground, rail corners, remain unbelievably stable at speed while staying nimble the entire time.
If you’re one of those riders who is particularly anal about cable rub, you might want to give your bike a close inspection once it’s fully set-up to make sure the cable contact points are protected. Mark only spotted his potential cable rub points the night before we hit the trails. A quick visit to the local minimart, a roll of duct tape later and we’ve got a redneck fix-it on his head tube to prevent cable rub. Rock strikes to the carbon downtube? Not to worry. Specialized has got that covered with a downtube protector which protects the prone underbelly of the beast. Though those who fancy hanging your bikes off your pick-up’s tailgate ala Matt Hunter might do well to protect the entire length of the downtube with some kind of bulletproof protection like Shelter Protection Tape.
The Demo is one of the most popular bikes you’ll see in Cikole, and for good reason. It’s got race proven geometry. It rides extremely well. And it’s backed by a lifetime warranty. Plus, they come in more wallet-friendly options in the form of their alloy frames. Riders who are in the market for a DH bike should seriously consider taking a close look at the Specialized Demo. You cannot go wrong with this one.
About the Author:
Article and photos by SingaporeMTB.com’s International Correspondent, Cikgu Wan.
Wan has been shredding mountain bikes since dinosaurs roamed the earth and some of his bikes has won international accords.