Great geometry and progressive sizing give the Demo 8 an edge
The Specialized Demo 8.1 Alloy looks just as good as its carbon counterpart, but costs 50 per cent less. So what’s the catch?
Need to know
- Entry-level DH race bike with 200mm travel
- Latest version of the aluminium 650b Demo mirrors the carbon design
- Single-sided seat mast means springs can be changed quickly with minimal fuss
- Narrow 135x12mm rear dropout spacing for improved clearance
When I first set eyes on the aluminium Demo 8 I had to squint to narrow my focus, just to be sure that it wasn’t actually made from carbon.
It could be that, at the ripe old age of 46, my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but a more likely explanation for the initial double-take is Specialized’s cutting-edge production techniques; smooth, double-pass welds and swathes of complex hydroformed aluminium give the latest Demo 8 a distinctly organic look — a process that’s complicated further by the single-sided seat mast, which makes removing the shock that much easier.
While the front end of the alloy Demo masks its structural complexity, the rear end of the bike has actually been simplified. It’s still a classic FSR four-bar design, delivering 200mm of travel, but Specialized has ditched the long-standing sub-stay assembly that used to drive the shock. The main advantage of the new layout is that unsprung mass is reduced, allowing the rear suspension to react more quickly than before.
In order to keep the weight of the shock as low as possible in the frame, Specialized has also switched to a BB-centric main pivot, which brings the entire rear assembly closer to the ground.
With all the revisions, the 27.5in aluminium Demo now mirrors the more expensive carbon design that predates it, but does it ride as well? The short answer is yes… and no.
Testing it on the same Whistler bike park trails that I had ridden one month earlier on a bike costing more than double the money, the Demo instantly proved its worth. The other bike was a Trek Session 9.9 and even with its more sophisticated Fox suspension, the Trek always felt hamstrung by its lack of length and its overly high BB.
There’s simply no questioning the pedigree of the aluminium Demo 8 frame and its rear suspension performance, but some of the components are certainly lacking, especially when compared with the likes of the Canyon Sender and YT.
And while I’d argue that the geometry on the Demo is still marginally better than the Canyon Sender, and it offers a way better size range than the YT Tues, the package that you get on the Sender for roughly the same amount of money will go a long way to shaving precious seconds off your race times.
With that in mind, the biggest shortcoming on the Demo 8 1 Alloy is the more basic RC damper in the RockShox fork. It should be a relatively easy fix though, as you can upgrade to the Charger damper for just over £200, instantly transforming the fork into a Boxxer Team.
Everything else about the Demo’s parts package is pretty much bombproof, making it a great choice for any privateer racer looking for one of the fastest, friendliest bikes on the circuit.