Riding with Sam Hill and Brendan Fairclough, downhill racers

Team Monster Energy and Specialized on the new Demo 8

Rumour and speculation has flown around for long enough, so it was no surprise when team Monster Energy and Specialized announced their partnership and the signing of Sam Hill and Brendan Fairclough


BikeRadar contributor Callum Jelley joined the pair in San Diego for a look at their new Demo 8 downhill racing bikes and tried to keep up with them on a cross country ride on the famous San Juan trail.

First impressions of the Demo

On the first night of the trip we sat in a great little sushi place in San Diego eating rolls, chatting about bikes, Californian trails and motocross. The Monster Energy team manager Shaun officially announced the team partnership with Specialized bikes for 2009, and we all started talking about the Demo and Sam and Brendan’s first impression. 

Sam, never one to waste words, just says it felt great at the one national round he did in Australia

Brendan, on the other-hand is far more animated saying how stoked he was to ride the Demo and reminiscing of the days he raced an old 24” rear wheel Big Hit back in the day. 


Brendan Fairclough shows off the new team kit

Both riders, however, are focused on the Day of Dirt motocross race at the weekend in which they are both competing.  So with Moto on the brain we all drive back to our hotel in south LA ready for a ride the next day.

Chasing the best in the game

We’re up bright and early with an ever cheerful Nic Sims, one of Specialized’s longest serving employees, and we take a fleet of Stumpjumpers to ride the famous San Juan trail but cheated a little by driving to the top. We were going to find out what the bikes were really capable of chasing Sam and Brendan down the same trail. 

Both Sam and Brendan were on their new carbon Stumpjumpers which they took to straight away with Brendan doing 180 degree fakies and manuals all over the place. 

Once we got into the first descent it was so easy to see why these are two of the fastest guys out there. Following them – or trying to – blew me away. Their style, flow, and choice of line all seemed effortless. 

I was on the edge, blowing turns and sprinting on the straights just to keep up but once I was close enough and could follow Brendan’s line it was easier to stay closer. 

We stopped in a clearing as the hiss of air from behind Brendan indicated our first puncture of the day. 

The rest of the trail flew by with tight turns narrow singletrack and epic flow.  We all regrouped at the bottom, super-stoked on how rad it was and how well the bikes performed.

The new Demo 8


The only difference between their bikes and the stock model, apart from componentry, is that Specialized put a Demo 7 head tube on it to keep the front end low

The next day we drove over the hill to where Brendan and Sam were shuttling a local track on their freshly built up Demo 8 downhill bikes.

The only difference between their bikes and the stock model, apart from componentry, is that Specialized put a Demo 7 head tube on it to keep the front end low – meaning more responsive handling and a direct crossover from the Iron Horse (the bike they previously rode before joining Monster Energy/Specialized).

The steep sandy track they rode was a two minute blast of fun where we spent the day taking shots of Sam and Brendan on flat out berms, tight steeps and lofty kickers. 


It really makes your jaw drop watching the speed and flow of both riders as they laugh and charge through a succession of switchbacks. 

“This bike is sick”

I asked Brendan how he felt about the bike after a day of hard thrashing.  With a beaming smile he said: “Slack, low bottom bracket, long wheel base, this bike is sick.”


You could tell he meant every word as he threw down a sick moto whip off the last triple. 


We’re looking forward to next season with both Trek and Specialized coming back into the game as well as all the talent coming up from the junior ranks, such as Josh Bryceland. It promises to be one of the best years of racing yet.