Specialized Epic Comp £1999.99

Short-travel marathon/trail weapon

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

The Epic has come a long way since its first incarnation as a rather undazzling race bike. Specialized’s engineers have worked their socks off to refine the FSR suspension system and we think the current iteration, developed alongside Fox and labelled the FlowControl Mini Brain, is the best yet.

With no fewer than five models in the Epic range, the Comp is the baby of the quintet: it’s missed out on the carbon frame but offers a good value entry point for those on a tighter budget.

The ubiquitous Brain Fade inertia valve is present at the rear, as is the equally unmissable knocking of the mechanism within the valve – dial the Brain’s effect right back and add a little more air and you’ll probably find it recedes to barely noticeable levels but it is there and some people won’t like it, despite the obvious benefits the system provides when heading out hard and fast.

Despite this, with a range of adjustment which spans fully open 100mm rear end to virtually locked out hardtail and everything in between, we all managed to find our sweet spot. Even the most curmudgeonly members of the test crew had to acknowledge the improvement over previous versions as the Brain shock dished up everything from a rock-steady pedal mashing platform to a magic carpet ride with a little bit of rear end fiddle.

The 70-degree head angle is very cross-country and the Epic's potential to shine under the big-ring rigours of flatter courses means it's still the racer's choice. It demonstrated a suitably unhealthy amount of speed lust despite carrying a weight penalty over its more costly carbon siblings, and was tight as you like uphill and surprisingly good going down.

It also faced up to tougher challenges without complaint, turning in such a stellar performance over one of our local cobble runs that we had to go back and do it again as we couldn’t quite believe a 100mm-travel bike could outsmooth plenty of bigger machines so effectively.

It’s still low and long, though the 660mm riser bar gives you enough space to carve turns and the much-loved Specialized Captain treads give plenty of ground-grabbing volume. As an entry-level bike there’s room to upgrade parts as you go; the only item we balked at was the 160/145mm disc rotor pairing, and that only because the Epic encouraged us to misbehave far more than it should.

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