Specialized S-Works Demo 8 first ride review£7,000.00

One of the fastest just got even faster

The latest incarnation of the Specialized Demo has already proven itself on the DH World Cup scene, winning the overall title in 2015 under Aaron Gwin and enjoying further success this year thanks to Loïc Bruni, Loris Vergier and Finn Iles. What’s so special about it then? We hit the trails to find out.

Specialized S-Works Demo 8 spec overview

  • Frame: ‘FACT 11m’ carbon fibre, 200mm (7.9mm) travel

  • Fork: RockShox Boxxer Team, 200mm (7.9mm) travel
  • Shock: Öhlins TTX custom
  • 
Drivetrain: SRAM X01 DH with SRAM X0 DH cranks and Gamut bashguard (1x7)
  • Wheelset: Roval rims on Specialized Hi Lo front and custom DT Swiss rear hubs, Specialized Butcher DH 27.5x2.5in (f) and Slaughter DH 27.5x2.3in (r) tyres
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide RS DH
  • Bar/stem: Specialized S-Works DH Carbon, 780mm/Specialized P.Series direct mount
  • Seatpost/saddle: Thomson (rigid) / Specialized Phenom Expert
  • Weight: 16.6kg (36.6lb), medium size, without pedals

Specialized S-Works Demo 8 frame and equipment

The single sided, asymmetrical Demo frame is a thing of beauty. This unusual design not only sheds some weight, it also makes accessing the shock much easier.

With nothing more than the click of the freewheel to let you know it’s coming, the Demo works through the terrain in stealth-like silence and at a blistering pace

In a bid to lower the all-important centre of gravity, Specialized has moved the Demo’s main pivot down so it’s concentric with the bottom bracket. While this new suspension layout may look radically different to the previous iteration, it’s still a four-bar FSR set-up, designed to behave similarly but with a touch more progression.

Controlling the 200mm of rear wheel travel is a custom Öhlins TTX shock. The latest Demo also sports a narrow-by-DH-standards 12x135mm rear axle and full internal cable routing. It’s available in four lengths, with two different seat tube lengths (one for the short and medium, one for the long and extra-long).

There’s almost nothing to pick holes in here, except for the fork choice. While the coil-sprung RockShox Boxxer Team is pretty good, there are better performers out there for a bike of this price and calibre. The SRAM Guide RS DH brakes are worth a mention though, using a Guide lever and Code calliper to deliver precise, controllable stopping power.

A custom Öhlins TTX shock takes care of rear damping duties
A custom Öhlins TTX shock takes care of rear damping duties

Specialized S-Works Demo 8 ride impression

With nothing more than the click of the freewheel to let you know it’s coming, the Demo works through the terrain in stealth-like silence and at a blistering pace.

The momentum it carries is breathtaking. Thanks to the balance and poise of the suspension, coupled with the low 342mm bottom bracket, it’s easy to feel confident aboard the Demo and really attack through the turns. There’s more than enough support through the rear to let you properly load the bike and work the terrain, and it seems to turn the drive from every downslope or undulation into forward momentum. This gives the bike a nimble feel, letting you carve that bit harder and push for the trickier lines.

The asymmetric frame isn’t obvious from the driveside but it’s still a striking bike
The asymmetric frame isn’t obvious from the driveside but it’s still a striking bike

In steeper, more demanding terrain, things are dealt with with effortless efficiency, though when it’s wet the semi-slick Specialized Slaughter DH rear tyre would be best swapped for something with a little more bite under braking.

The Demo handles the rough stuff without hesitation too, though we can’t help think about just how good it could be with an even better fork bolted in out front. That’s not to say the Charger Damper-equipped Boxxer isn’t good, but we think there’s even more potential to be tapped into here.

Specialized S-Works Demo 8 early verdict

A silent, agile, terrain-eating machine that covers ground with a serious amount of pace

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Rob Weaver

Technical Editor-in-Chief, UK
Rob started riding mountain bikes seriously in 1993 racing cross-country, though he quickly moved to downhill where he competed all over the world. He now spends most of his time riding trail bikes up and down hills. Occasionally he'll jump into an enduro race.
  • Age: 34
  • Height: 172cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Natural trails where the loam fills my shoes on each and every turn
  • Beer of Choice: Guinness

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