Apart for the 1.5in head tube, reduced travel and slightly different geometry, the Demo 7 and 8 are very similar, and both frames share several component parts.
Two shock shuttles supplied with the Demo 7 allow you to choose between a low or high bottom bracket setting, with associated 65/66deg head angles. Specialized has bucked the trend for 150mm spacing rear hubs, and stuck with a 135mm rear end to save weight and keep the back end narrow for better clearance. To improve wheel strength, the entire swingarm is offset towards the drive side, then the rear wheel is re-dished to bring it in line with the front triangle. This helps to balance spoke tension on both sides of the wheel. It also causes the sub-stay to protrude quite a lot and as a result you rub your heel on it until you get used to it — hence the Neoprene cover.
To improve the Demo 7’s ability to absorb square-edge hits, Specialized has tweaked the configuration of the suspension to give a slightly more rearward axle path. This, combined with the reduced braking influence of the 4-bar suspension design, allows the Demo 7 to steamroll the harshest of braking bumps. A downspecced DHX 4 rear shock lacks the volume adjuster so you lose the ability to change the end stroke ramp up. To compensate, we tried various Boost Valve pressures, finally settling on 200psi. The high pressure makes the Demo 7 feel more lively, and the extra compression damping stopped the shock from bottoming as easily improving chassis stability.
Marzocchi’s fork production may have moved to Taiwan but the 66RCV retains Marzocchi’s ultra-smooth action. The fork is coil-sprung with air assist (which can be topped up with a regular shock pump) and has external rebound and compression adjustment. The latter is pretty rudimentary, and when you up the compression damping the fork chokes.
The 2.3in Chunder tyres fitted as standard to the Demo 7 have good grip, offer predictable cornering and don’t puncture easily. Unfortunately they are one of the slowest rolling tyres we have ever ridden. No big deal if you session the park all day with luxury of a chair lift — they even allow you to ride off the brakes more as the tyres are acting like a constant drag brake. Hit a flat section of trail, or worse still, a climb and you really notice how much energy the tyres are sapping. DT 540 rims have a little bit more alloy than the 5.1s but seem just as soft. They are still pretty light so don’t expect them to cope with bad line choices. Overall build quality of the wheels is good but the Specialized hubs aren’t very well sealed, so it’s best to avoid hitting them with the pressure washer.
The combination of the Marzocchi fork and the Demo 7’s plush rear end go a long way to isolating the rider amazingly well from the worst impacts. Start to push the Demo 7 to the limits though, and it’s possible to uncover some of the Marzocchi 66 RCV’s weaknesses. Damping isn’t as consistent as Marzocchi’s higher spec RC2X internals and there is also a faint top-out when the fork extends as you fly off a jump. Niggles aside, the 66’s are still smoother and more reliable than the equivalent Rockshox units specced on the other bikes.
The ultra-long front centre on the medium Demo 7 feels super-stable at speed and inspires confidence on gnarly, rock-strewn chutes. The short chainstays make it easy to pop the front, even on the steepest terrain, and give the bike an obvious rear-wheel weight bias. But it’s not all plain sailing. If you steer this juggernaut away from the motorway trails of the bike bark it starts to come unstuck, as it’s nigh on impossible to manoeuvre it on tight woodwork.
With a faster rolling set of tyres, the Demo 7 could be the perfect park bike as its ultra-plush suspension allows you to milk the most from your lift pass without your body getting hammered on rough, high traffic trails. Just don’t go for the obvious size choice, as Specialized’s medium is a lot longer than most manufacturers’ large frame sizes. Basically, if you are of average height we recommend a small Demo 7 as it’s more manoeuvrable at lower speeds.
MBR rating: 9/10