Last weekend’s Fort William Round of the British National Downhill Series was a star-studded affair; Greg Minnaar, Matt Walker, Laurie Greenland, Camille Balanche, Loris Vergier, Amaury Pierron, Nina Hoffmann, and your current reigning World Champion himself, Loic Bruni, were all looking to get their eye in on the track that will host the 2023 World Championships this coming August. For the second time this year, the latter was seen aboard a Specialized Prototype DH Bike.
This is an all-new frame construction from Specialized, with carbon tubing and what-could-well-be 3D printed lugs, suggesting the brand is getting into Additive Manufacturing. Indeed, its construction seems not dissimilar to that of Atherton Bikes. It’s not often we get to see the full picture with any of Bruni’s bikes; they are usually covered around key areas of the suspension. Alas, last weekend was no different.
Realistically, there isn’t a heap we can glean from the few photos we managed to snap of Loic’s bike as he crossed the line into the finish arena. However, it is immediately clear that this bikes represents a grand departure from the current Demo DH Bike that was underneath Loic’s team mate, Jordan Williams.
At the front on the bike, the carbon fiber top tube and down tube appear to insert into what could be a 3D printed headtube lug. A similar fitment is seen at the junction between the top tube and the seat tube; the top tube inserts into a lug that appears to be wrapped around the seat tube. A top link connects the seat stay to the front triangle via another of these joints.
While the braced seat stay appears to be made of carbon, the machining on the drive side chainstay would suggest that this piece, as well as the top link, are both made of aluminum.
As for the largely out-of-sight linkage… hard to say. However, the presence of the short top link and the Horst pivot (note: the rear axle is separated from a direct connection to the front triangle via a pivot on the chainstay) would suggest that Specialized has not abandoned its four-bar FSR suspension platform entirely.
But, given that the chainstay is very tall as it terminates near the BB, it is not unreasonable to suggest that multiple frame members could be connected to it. That’s where our speculation comes to an end; the multi-panel stealth cover shields the shock from view, and thus we can’t see how exactly it is being driven by the linkage.
It’s hard to know whether Specialized intend to go to market with this new frame construction, or whether they are simply using it for prototyping purposes. We have reached out to Specialized for comment.
All The Telemetry
Now, let’s turn our attention to the bike’s central processing unit. There are no fewer than seven wires entering and exiting the downtube-mounted box of mysteries. A number of these sneak off underneath the frame cover, presumably leading the rear shock where they are likely to be collecting information on its behavior – data that Bruni’s mechanic can then use to make educated decisions about the damping setup, for example.
Though it can’t be seen clearly in any of the images here, the Ohlins fork was also sporting some kind of telemetry device mounted to the non-drive side. Such telemetry is very common in downhill racing. Indeed, we saw a number of Mondraker and Canyon frames draped in wires during seeding runs on Saturday. However, none of them looked to be quite as rigged up as Loic Bruni’s prototype. Judging by the sensor on the rear brake mount, it looks as though the team is also interested in Loic’s braking performance, and/or the suspension’s response to braking.
Another Electronic Remote
If you look closely at the World Champion’s left hand, just inboard of the Magura brake mount is a remote with two buttons; one red and the other blue. A wire can be seen briefly as it exits the remote, before it is wrapped up with the brake hose. We reckon this to be some form of electronic lock-out that Loic can call upon at key points on a race run; for example, the motorway section at Fort William.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen Loic’s bike with such a remote; indeed, we saw something very similar on his Specialized Demo at Snowshoe in 2021.
How did Bruni get on?
Saturday’s seeding runs put Loic Bruni into 5th position with a time of 4:35.124 – just over three seconds back on Jordan Williams’ fastest time of 4:32.014. Unfortunately, a flat tire put Loic back in 40th place on race day. It was Laurie Greenland who took P1 on Sunday, with a time of 4:25.609, over four seconds clear of Matt Walker who placed second.
Charlie Hatton took 3rd, with Amaury Pierron in 4th and Troy Brosnan in 5th.
You can see the full results here.