Every two or three years you can expect prototype bikes in development to roll around races and fairs, but that timeline seems to have slowed down when we summarize which bikes we expected to get an update now. That could be for a number of reasons, but the ones that stand out the most in my mind are the speed of change in geometry and of course, covid supply constraints.
Look at our most recent Bellingham field test, which was filled with the latest and greatest enduro bikes. I wouldn’t say the geometry was the same because there were one or two outliers, but the numbers on the test bikes were very, very close.
Second, the global pandemic slowed down the production of components, mainly drivetrain parts, leaving bicycle brands in a stalemate. They were eagerly waiting for the parts to catch up to launch a new bike.
Santa Cruz V10
Planned or not, Santa Cruz stormed into 2022 by uncorking a bottleneck of new bike releases: The Heckler, Megatower, Nomad, Hightower, 5010 and most recently the Tallboy, all got updates. One bike not on that list is the V10. The 29-inch version was officially launched in December 2018 and the mixed wheel version in July 2020.
Other than a few tweaks to the kinematics and geometry via machined alloy components, the carbon frame parts have not seen any changes since. It’s not like either bike slowed down their riders, though, with Jackson Goldstone taking multiple first-place finishes. But don’t be surprised if Santa Cruz releases a new V10 soon.
Commencal Meta P003.1 and Flame(?)
This one looks like a dead giveaway. Commencal appears to be remodeling its entire suspension to mimic what they learned from the success of their latest downhill bike. They’ve already grabbed us by the bait over a new Meta, but we’ve also seen Commencal affiliate, Cecile Ravanel, rock a shorter-travel whip, coaching Pauline Ferrand-Prevot through racing lines on World Cup Cross-Country courses.
Since Commencal just released the mixed-wheel Meta SX, it’s unclear how that line will evolve as no stats on the prototype have been shared. The Andorran brand only builds their frames with aluminum tubing, meaning their turnaround time from paper to production can be much shorter than carbon competitors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both layouts are in the pipeline for 2023.
Specialized Demo, Enduro and Kenevo
Another juggernaut in the gravity world of mountain bikes is Specialized, who have not yet fully unveiled their prototype downhill bike. Finn Iles took his first World Cup win aboard a prototype at the Mont St. Anne World Cup in 2022, while his teammate, Loic Bruni, took his fifth World Championship win using the current demo. The new platform looks very different from the current 4-bar, FSR design that hit the scene in 2020.
Likewise, their Enduro model may also qualify for an update. We don’t expect too many changes there, though, as it uses a finely tuned suspension layout and already has a SWAT box, but it could take on more geometry tweaks like its engine-powered sibling, the Kenevo SL.
Speaking of eMTBs, the full-powered Kenevo has also been around since 2019. A carbon version of this monster e-bike with an updated motor and battery system would definitely shed some weight.
Devinci launched the Spartan HP last year and we saw an aluminum mule at Crankworx under freerider, Cam Zink, which likely has over 160mm of travel. They also weren’t afraid to show off a prototype of the Wilson with a running wheel until late 2019.
Currently, the Canadian brand makes the Wilson’s aluminum frame components at their Quebec factory, but that 29er bike hasn’t seen a product overhaul since its 2019 launch.
Norco Aurum and Sight
Another Canadian brand that still invests in downhill bikes and isn’t afraid to build aluminum prototypes. We have seen two-time Canadian National Champ and Norco engineer, Kirk McDowall, pilot exactly one of those project bikes to three top-40 World Cup finishes this season. It’s likely this is a new Aurum, Norco’s dedicated downhill bike, that’s different from the reconfigured Range their team has been rocking at World Cups for the past two seasons.
Norco’s popular 150mm travel Sight could also go under the knife to see some changes. The mid-travel enduro bike’s capabilities are hard to fault, but once it’s received and updated, it’s not hard to imagine it going through a high-pivot transformation like the Range did.
Scott Gambler and Ransom
Loved it when Scott owned the infamous “looks like a Session” comment, alluding to the similarities between their Gambler and Trek’s downhill bike, then turned it into a bike giveaway contest. That was impressive, but so is the 35lb weight.
Where do you go from there? The Gambler already has two sets of flip chips that allow you to use the rear wheel size and change the suspension progress. We’ve seen Scott play around with pulleys and high pivots at the start of that trend, but it’s doubtful there’s much more weight to lose.
Another model that has remained the same since 2020 is their 170mm of travel. One way this sleek-looking long-travel enduro bike could change would be more integration. Scott pulled that move with their cross-country bike, the Spark, by hiding the rear shock in the seat tube-to-bottom bracket connection — fellow Pinkbike tech editor and PBR mechanic, Henry Quinney, couldn’t ask for anything more.
Now we know the Grim Donut V2 has to be the fastest, most capable bike in the world, but could it actually be the new Pivot Phoenix in disguise? Certainly not. Would a new Phoenix get a vertically mounted shock and stretch the geometry a little further? Most likely.
As it stands, Pivot’s downhill rig is the last in their family to get a new suspension layout. The sizing also tops out at a 485mm range on the oversized, which now matches most manufacturers’ large frames.
August 2018 is a long time ago, but Yeti was on the pulse and the SB150 is still on the podium at Enduro World Series events. It took about four years to discover a new version of the iconic turquoise enduro bike, but this version was floating around in the Crans-Montana EWS pits. Sure, it will be slacker, and longer, but how much more expensive can it get?
I expected the second version of the SB150 to use the 160E eMTB’s impressive 6-bar suspension, but I was mistaken before. Whatever the nickname on this new Yeti, it still uses the Switch Infinity system.
The largest bicycle producer in the world seems to be moving gently towards a new Glory downhill bike. We’ve spotted a lot of prototype models at World Cups over the years, but they haven’t produced an updated version since 2018. That was a time when 27.5” front wheels were still in use at World Cups.
However, with standout, seasoned veterans like Rémi Thirion, Giant doesn’t sit still – they just take their time. Downhill is just a drop in the ocean compared to the number of units sold in other segments, so I wouldn’t expect the investment in a carbon frame. Obviously the prototypes that Thirion races have been updated since that 2018 model and 2023 could bring a new kind of glory.