While racers have loved Specialized’s Epic bikes, their technical ability has always been compromised by the auto lockout BRAIN suspension. With a new and improved shock for 2010, the system finally makes sense.
Ride & handling: Balanced and capable
With even the large size weighing less than 10.5kg (23lb), the Epic’s acceleration and climbing ability is astonishing. Its handling and position are well balanced, and it’s long and stable enough to haul ass on the climbs and hold a straight climbing or reliable railing line.
The tapered head tube and decent width riser bar mean plenty of accuracy and feedback for picking and holding the line through rock gardens. While the back end and wheels can get slightly out of shape under power, there’s enough muscle in the mainframe to heave it round inside its natural arc – valuable on techy trails.
It’s the reworked BRAIN that really makes the Epic an outstandingly high-speed bike though. By including – rather than isolating – the compression ﬂow of the oil from the inertia valve trigger, its reactions can be made far more sensitive and immediate than before, so no more tyre-splitting on the ﬁrst rock or wallowy delay after the last wallop.
While it’s still a tight rather than plush feel, the Fox damping is more controlled for proper ground connection. Set the trigger threshold to suit the course or rider preferences and it really is a hardtail on the hard and fast sections, and a grippy, rider responsive full-susser on the rough stuff. Reliability is likely to be massively improved too.
There are several light, tight and fast 100mm (3.9in) travel race/rapid trail bikes vying for attention right now, but the reworked BRAIN ﬁnally gives the Epic a genuine advantage in terms of automatic trail sensing suspension. And though the S-Works is uber-pricey, the Epic family now starts at £1,999, so it’s not just for racing nobility.
Frame: Very light full-carbon chassis
The full-carbon-ﬁbre frame is unchanged from last year, but it’s still one of the lightest race frames around. The oversized bottom bracket and 1.5-1.125in tapered head tube give impressive mainframe stiffness too.
There’s reasonable mud room, and the uninterrupted seat tube gives full seat drop potential. The miniature rear shock and its BRAIN inertia trigger unit are now designed and made by Fox, rather than Specialized, which makes a huge difference.
Equipment: Scale-scaringly light kit
Specialized still provide their own carbon topped E100 BRAIN fork. It’s impressively light and stiff, if not as easy to set up or controlled as a RockShox SID or Fox F100.
Specialized’s super-stiff oversized cranks get SRAM XX chainrings to match the XX gears and brakes, which made excellent ﬁrst impressions.
The seatpost creaks a bit and the wheels are twangy, but they’re seriously light, which helps towards the scale-scaring weight.