Downhill Bikes

Specialized S Works Demo

2016 Production DH Bikes – 6 month status

2016 Production DH Bikes – 6 month status

Specialized S Works Demo

The S Works Demo was our ‘Downhill Bike of the Year’ in 2015 but we kind of forgot to mention it because….well I went off on holiday at the end of the year and then YT re-launched the Tues with improved dampers, and then we heard Canyon had something up their sleave. But even though it was remiss of us…me… whoever…. in many ways that’s how it is. Many mags/sites bring out the trumpets and parade their various bikes of the year when in reality by July or January, depending on your brand, something new is never too far away. Think of this as a rolling test, for this is where we are at with production downhill bikes as we head half way through the year. With that in mind we’ll kind of conduct this like a normal test but chuck in some reference points

Read our downhill bikes buyer’s guide here

Shape and purpose.

The Demo was deemed the ‘2015 Downhill Bike of the Year’ (and yes Specialized I guess you can use that one if you need to) by a panel of riders and run over many different tracks. It won on performance on tracks which we believed to be true gravity tests and not those which would involve lung reconstruction work. Loic Bruni power pedalling over the line to win his first World Cup in Cairns simply made us think of the French rider’s athleticism rather than the Demo’s prowess on tarmac.

To put the bike into size perspective the XL is pretty good, although the Canyon Sender, Nukeproof Pulse in XL and Giant Glory size L are bigger. At 430mm it has one of the shortest chainstays but the Scott Gambler goes to 425mm. On bottom bracket terms only the Glory goes lower – 342 plays 340mm – the kind of numbers that put most 160mm enduro bikes to shame.


When you consider the amount of research and development that went into this bike it’s no surprise it delivers on so many levels. It’s no secret that the Specialized team tested every top production bike even before the Demo project began, to identify what kind of predator they’d be creating. What they wanted was a hard charging bike but more than anything a unique bike. They sought to create the kind of bike that’ll sneak up on you silently from behind as you crash through gutted-out breakers.

On first sight I found the bike a bit odd visually, maybe its one sided chassis, super low design. Up front a Rockshox Boxxer, pretty good but not quite a modern day Fox 40. On the rear we kind of knew the bike would offer something special with the Ohlins damper fitted, but what we didn’t know was on what level. Now, having ridden the bike for a considerable amount of time, we’ve found that the bike delivers on reliability on a king size scale. Not a squeak, not a loose part. Maybe this is a sentence for later but its just that there’s more exciting things to talk about.

Full internal cable routing – but not the kind that rattles inside, 135mm rear axle, lipped and sealed cartridge bearing pivots, asymmetrical design for ease of access, but let’s not kid ourselves, we ain’t touched this thing in heading on two years.

“They sought to create the kind of bike that’ll sneak up on you silently from behind as you crash through gutted-out breakers”


The unique Guide/Code brake combination. The seven speed Sram X0DH gearing, a system which Specialized pioneered. The slick Slaughter rear rubber, the chunky Sip grips, the custom Specialized bar, the custom Dt Swiss, Star ratchet, 54T quick engagement, XX1 driver body, 12mm thru-axle, 32H rear wheel. This is a special bike.


Poise. A rear suspension system that goes about its business ingenuously, almost reticent to let the rider know what darker arts it’s involved with. Maybe the chassis plays a part in this sensation of placidness at pace, one that could almost be construed as slightly dull compared to some of the more animated bikes or the muscle bikes that dish out a ton of progression but leave the legs slightly beaten. There is absolutely no doubt that this bike is the king of downhill, a bike that we’ve nicknamed ‘the princess.’

The essence of the Demo lies in dog eat dog rock and root, the steeper the better, arcing looping corners, slash and burn turns. Its low bottom bracket, tight chainstay and brilliantly performing damping working always in unison. Yet it only becomes really clear when compared to other excellently performing bikes, its not massively better, but the silence, damping, poise is palpably working with you, not against.


Not much. It could go even longer, the Fox 40 is a better damper and there are tougher cranks than the SRAM X0 DH units.


By now you might have watched the video and know where we stand with this bike. On gravity performance it wins, not by much, but enough. We’re talking points difference here rather than an overwhelming majority. The Canyon Sender, Trek Session, Giant Glory and YT Tues all join the Californian on the podium. In fact if you were to judge this test solely on value/performance then both the German bikes rise above quite, quite easily. And were you to break that down again then the Canyon scores in sizing but I’m sure that YT have something to say (and possibly deliver) in that respect.

Does it need the much talked about Gwin-link to increase progressivity? With the Ohlins fitted we believe that it doesn’t, not for the majority of riders at least. Up front a Fox 40 makes it a more complete bike, but even with the review is based on the Boxxer, on points it’s still ahead.

So, if you ride flatter tracks that laughably call themselves DH then the Demo might not be your thing. It’s about tearing-down, levelling terrain. There is a discernible difference between the Demo and some other so-called downhill bikes that only comes from the complete build, the mix of flex and stiffness, the rear damping, the custom parts and brawler geometry, the bassy thud and menace that this bike exudes and leaving you hungry for more.

Specialized set the bar with this one, I’m sure many will now try to follow.

PRICE: £7000

New to downhill? Check out our DH bike buyer’s guide HERE.


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