After more than a year of teasing, Specialized is finally pulling back the curtain on Finn Iles prototype Demo DH rig.
The long reveal
Iles was the first on Specialized Gravity Racing to bring the yet-to-be-released bike to a World Cup start line. Partway through the 2022 season, the lugged-carbon rig started appearing, veiled in a cloth shroud to hide the suspension layout.
The prototype, apparently code-named “project black” based on Specialized’s post, quickly added to Iles’ success. In addition to podiums and a strong overall finish, Iles earned his first elite World Cup win in a wildly dramatic Mont-Sainte-Anne race.
In 2023, Loïc Bruni joined Iles on the prototype program while new teammate Jordan Williams stuck with the existing Demo bike. Williams struck first, claiming his first elite World Cup win in his first race on the “old” bike. From there, Iles and Bruni took over, going 1-4 in the overall and crowding the elite men’s podium all year.
Now, Specialized is finally showing off details on the bike.
Finn Iles’ Specialized Prototype
While Specialized shows off photos of Iles’ bike, the brand isn’t exactly sharing details. Or explaining anything that can’t be seen. Some features, like the lugged carbon tubing and beefy chainstays, are pretty clear. The upper linkage also still looks similar to what is on the current Demo.
So, what’s new that couldn’t be seen before?
Well, more of the lower linkage is visible. A distinctive wishbone link runs under the bottom bracket, connecting the chainstays to that gold Ohlins coil shock. The shock runs through a tunnel in the frame’s seat tube. There’s still a good bit of the lower front triangle covered by a box. But that appears to be, at least in part, a guard to protect the lower linkage.
On Bruni’s bike, though, that lower area appears to house some sort of electronic system to control the shock. At multiple times during the season, a control on the left side of Bruni’s bike could be seen glowing green or red. On a downhill bike that won’t be a full lockout but it could change other characteristics of the shock to suit smoother and rougher sections of track.
When will this Specialized “Project Black” prototype make it to market? Well, it could be a while. The lugged carbon frame is great for quick prototyping. It is similar to what Pivot and the Atherton bikes use to prototype, though only the latter uses the design for consumer bikes. If Specialized…