Downhill Bikes

Custom Specialized S-Works Demo

Jones’s race bike for Masters UCI World Champs, Val Di Sole

After ten years away from racing downhill Jones builds a bike to take on Val Di Sole this weekend at the DHI Masters Worlds. Here’s the detail:-

Words and Images: S Jones

Height: 184cm

Weight: 88kg

Specialized S Works Demo Frame: The choice of frame was possibly one of the easiest decisions to make. That’s not to say that that it was a straightforward choice, simply that through an intense schedule of testing downhill bikes through the season it becomes clear which bikes have the edge in performance, and to a degree which bikes fit best. That the Demo has been a reliable bike also factored into the decision making.

The assets that stand out on the Demo are its suspension characteristic, which includes the Ohlins damper, the low slung, low centre of gravity frame, build quality and silence. The bike makes no noise – although there is a reassuring thud from its bones. It’s well known that the pro riders are using a more progressive link in the bike, which I can imagine might well be necessary for the speeds and hits that those boys encounter. For a fifty year old man, in the middle compression setting, on a steep track, it’s pretty much bang on.

Well, not quite. In stock XL trim the bike offers 460mm in reach, which although is reasonably good in XL terms, is still 20mm off the excellent Canyon Sender. A Works Components 7mm offset, fork dropped to minimum makes the Demo longer in reach, and lower too with a 338mm bottom bracket. It is of course longer. Importantly the fit feels in tune.

The Ohlins TTX damper is a stock unit, it’s also a luxury nearly all pro riders don’t have in their arsenal. For such a mighty unit not to be on pro level bikes is laughable although it’s true that when you ride an Ohlins on a Demo it often feels like there’s not much going on out back. The Demo/Ohlins combo’ is a tough act to follow.

Fox 40 fork – Mojo tuned and prepped. Another simple choice, although only when it’s been looked at by the Mojo boys does it open up considerable space between it and the competition. I consider the standard 40 to be the best downhill fork, but it’s not by a huge margin, but overall the chassis and damping make it so much more in tune than other forks, especially now the wheel sizes have grown. Chris makes the difference with the 40.

In fact had prepared two sets of 40’s for me, one rolling as a spare for travelling partner Sam. Chris told me the very slick seals and bushings won’t survive for hours without drawing in dirt, hence the prepping. He did one with a higher flow piston and one with stock, letting me decide which one I prefer so I can swap the cartridge to ride which ever I prefer so we can keep at least one fork chassis completely fresh for qualifying and race runs.

Renthal Fatbar Carbon 35mm bar. This one was tricky, and still is not final, knowing the shape and form of the Val Di Sole track. I raced National Champs on a 10mm rise but feel that it will more likely be up to 20mm rise heading south, even with the front end sitting a shade higher with the Works Components offset. The bar features five degree upsweep and seven degree backsweep, weighing in at 225g and 800mm wide.

Renthal Integra stem is at 45mm, paring the bar. Bar height from end of grip to floor is 42″ dead.

Works Components headset. Fitted to gain the extra reach measurement this is a great piece of custom hardware, well engineered and reliable.

Sram Guide RE brakes are the new E MTB specific brakes from Sram. In reality they are pretty close to the Guide lever/Code caliper that comes as standard on a stock Demo but these are a good solid downhill brake for pulling up heavier riders. The pads are standard spec, rotors 200mm front and rear.

It was still a tough decision this one and the Magura MT5 and MT 7 brakes will also be travelling to Italy to get some runs in, I’ll also be making some comparisons with the custom Specialized Guide RS DH lever/Code caliper whilst out there and so too the Guide Ultimate.

Specialized Sip grips, half waffle XL thickness. Also in the box will be the new ODI grips which are pretty identical and the new Ergon DH for comparison. This SIP grip has been around for years, works well with gloves, is more comfortable for my hand size than the smaller size Sip and most other grips on the market. One of the most underrated parts on a downhill bicycle.

Chris King hubs. Build, finish, engagement, silence, speed – these hubs have been a benchmark time and time again. The King’s are a refined product, one’s that we have never been let down by. It took a while to source the 135mm rear hub but it was simply a matter of swapping out an axle in the standard unit and slotting on a XD driver body. One of the most iconic sounds in mountainbiking.

DT Swiss Ex 471 rims. Having seen so many pro racers taking these rims unscathed through so much beaten up terrain these were pretty much top of the list. I like the feel of the aluminium rim and left it to “Dave the Wheel” (Tel: 07786 589992) down at Pedalabikeaway to get them built up correctly to the King hubs. Dave always takes care to get the tensions correct with so many wheels going baggy once the pressure of tubeless tyres have been fitted.

Hope Hoops are in the van as the spare wheels featuring the new DH rim. Interestingly I like the wider spoke spacing that the Hope wheel offers with non XD driver body. Remember the cheaper splined driver body compatible Sram GX PG-720 cassette can be used with X01 DH system, is super cheap and as mentioned enables that wide spacing Hope hub to be used.

Race Face Six C cranks 165mm. Light and tough, in fact rated as one of the lightest production DH rated cranksets on the market. I like them for the compatibility with how my foot sits on the pedal, the smooth edges and the right amount of flex/stiffness. Features a 30mm alloy spindle designed, tested and manufactured in Canada. They weigh in just over half a kilo without bottom bracket.

E Thirteen LG 1. Truth be know the MRP was snaffled onto Sam’s bike before I had a chance to get it fitted. However, having used the LG1 on many test bikes over the past few months I like the quick release mechanism (even though I hope never to use it) and the silence from the well damped materials. I’ve been told (and seen) the QR mechanism to work loose so will be keeping a close eye on that and possibly applying some tape.

Sram X01 DH gearing. So reliable and hassle free, SRAM X0 DH comes as standard on so many production bikes and we simply never get any issues. Chain PC 1130, Cassette 7 Speed 10-24T (although we will be using the cheaper PG-720 on spare wheel), Derailleur medium cage 7 speed, Shifter 7 – speed, Chainring Race Face 36T.


Thomson Elite seatpost. Specialized Phenom Expert seat. Hollow titanium rails 143mm. low key, low weight and as standard on the Demo.

Specialized Butcher DH 2.5/Hillbilly and also some Storms which we tracked down. Great compounds and price.

Nukeproof Sam Hill Horizon flats. The man. The pedal.

Val Di Sole will miss you next week Sam Hill………

Massive thanks to all who helped and most of all my broken mate Ieuan Williams for putting it together. Go steady.


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