Enduro racing might be the hot topic in mountain biking today, but Specialized is continuing to push the cross-country envelope for 2014. Included in the range is a new collection of Epics, a revamped Stumpjumper HT carbon 29er hardtail, and the more refined Crave aluminum 29er hardtail for when going fast is your top priority.
For a rundown of the full Epic, Stumpjumper HT and Crave range, see our photo gallery on the right.
Specialized 2014 coverage on BikeRadar
- Specialized 2014 road and triathlon bikes – full details
- Specialized 2014 Epic, Stumpjumper HT and Crave – first look
- Specialized 2014 trail and long travel bikes – first look
- Specialized 2014 wheels, tires, shoes and helmets
- Specialized CruX cyclocross bikes 2014 – first look
- Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup 2014 - first ride review
- Specialized Allez Race 2014 - first ride review
Three new Epics, including World Cup and S-Works Carbon models
Ten years after launching the original Epic to a chorus of pundits criticizing it as too heavy and slow to be successful on the cross-country stage, Specialized has completely overhauled the design for 2014, and split it into two variants.
Marathon riders and general cross-country riders will get a lighter and snappier version of what they already know, while more dedicated competitors will find an edgier World Cup edition with slightly shorter travel, sharper handling and even more efficiency. Specialized says the new 100mm travel S-Works Epic Carbon sheds about 50g from the previous version, while offering increased frame stiffness and overall efficiency.
This is thanks to all-new frame tube shapes and the stiffer 'shock block' upper swing link, borrowed from the Enduro and Camber range, that rigidly bolts directly to the back of the shock eyelet. A new concentric pivot design on that link also piggybacks several pivots together around a single axis to further reduce weight and potential flex points.
S-Works Epic World Cup
Added to that is a smaller and lighter rear shock that ditches many of the softer settings of last year's bike. Just five clicks are left on the Brain Fade adjuster, for easier setup. And, despite the firmer threshold, Specialized claims the transition between fully locked and active is yet again smoother than before for better performance on rough courses.
"We're trying to make it simple but still effective," says Specialized mountain bike PR man Sam Benedict. Should a buyer not like the stock settings, Benedict points out that the company still offers its S-Tune program for a custom feel.
Other features for 2014 include thru-axles at the rear andfront, internal routing that can be configured for up to four lines, chain stays that are 16mm narrower at the rear for improved heel clearance, in-molded headset bearing seats, post-mount rear brake caliper tabs tucked inside the rear triangle, a high direct-mount front derailleur tab, and a slightly revised rear shock position that's now tucked a little more tightly into the top tube than before.
The Brain-equipped fork should provide a balanced feel with the Brain-equipped shock
That new shock position lends a slightly cleaner silhouette than before but also provides one huge advantage over most other full-suspension cross-country bikes: the ability to mount two water bottles inside the main triangle. And not just any two water bottles – we're talking two big ones on sizes medium and higher. This might seem like a trivial point to trail riders accustomed to donning hydration packs, but for racers it's a big deal.
Along those lines, Specialized also introduces the SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) accessory suite on the new Epic. It will be included as standard equipment on S-Works, Expert Carbon, and Marathon-level bikes.
The full SWAT suite includes three separate pieces: a small plastic box that secures to a third rivnut on the down tube to hold a spare inner tube, CO2 inflator, and tire lever; a mini-tool that snaps securely into a hidden socket just ahead of the forward shock mount; and a chain tool that stores inside the steerer tube and doubles as a headset preload cap.
In total, all of the SWAT bits add about half a kilogram to the bike weight, but it's all tucked neatly out of the way and is always available without you having to strap on a bunch of bags or resort to unsightly electrical tape.
The SWAT accessory suite includes this frame-mounted flat pack
Critical geometry figures are mostly carried over on the standard Epic version, including the 70.5-degree head tube angle and 448mm-long chain stays. So handling should still fall on the quicker end of the spectrum.
If that's still too tame, consider the even edgier Epic World Cup, which is designed exclusively for use with single-ring drivetrains – there is no provision (or room) for a front derailleur.
The front end is shared with the standard Epic (save for the omission of the front derailleur tab). But the World Cup's dedicated rear end offers just 95mm of travel (with a fork to match), the chain stays are 9mm shorter, and the head tube angle is 0.5 degrees steeper. Epic World Cups will also have firmer Brain Fade damper tunes, and there is no SWAT kit included.
Actual weight for a large Epic World Cup is a stunning 8.9kg (19.6lb) without pedals and with just a few minor upgrades (foam grips, a lighter S-Works Renegade front tire, and a 160mm front rotor). There's a similarly stunning price tag of US$10,500 to match (UK pricing is to be announced).
Thankfully, pricing on carbon Epics will start at a more reasonable US$4,250 (UK pricing to be announced) and there will be all-new aluminum Epics with similar frame upgrades and an even more dramatic weight loss of 200g relative to the previous version.
New carbon and aluminum hardtails
Stumpjumper HT carbon hardtails have undergone a similar transformation for 2014, with a lighter frame, quicker handling, more efficient rear end, and a generally sleeker look all better fitting the platform's racing intentions.
Also included is the same configurable internal cable routing as on the new Epic, plus 142x12mm thru-axle rear dropouts, and post-mount rear caliper tabs tucked inside the rear triangle.
Three rivnuts on the down tube will make the new Stumpjumper HT compatible with Specialized's SWAT system, too, although in this case the multi-tool will be affixed to the bottom of the seat tube-mounted bottle cage.
S-Works Stumpjumper Carbon 29er
Claimed frame weight for the top-end S-Works edition is down just slightly to 1,050g, and Specialized will have about half a dozen new models for 2014, including World Cup editions with SRAM 1x11 drivetrains. The Stumpjumper Comp Carbon and women's specific Fate models will use the same frame as last year, though, and alloy Stumpjumper frames will be carried over as well.
Specialized's mid-range aluminum 29er hardtails get a wholesale redesign, plus a new name – Crave, as there was apparently some sort of trademark dispute with the old Carve moniker.
Compared to last year, the top-end Crave Pro's triple-butted alloy chassis sheds more than 200g for a claimed 19in frame weight of 1,585g, while gaining a more comfortable rear end. There's also 6mm to 9mm more standover depending on size, plus cleaner-looking dropouts, larger chain stays, and a broader top tube.
There will be five Crave models for 2014, with prices ranging from US$1,300 to US$2,000. UK pricing was not immediately available.
Last year's Carve is a lighter bike with a new name – Crave