One of the best-known XC bikes on the market, the latest Specialized Epic is notable for two reasons. First is the updated geometry, reflecting the changing nature of XC courses, with a longer reach and slacker head angle. Second is the continued evolution of Specialized’s Brain system – an automatic mechanical lockout.
With a rigid post, wireless SRAM AXS shifting and no lockout levers to worry about, it has some of the cleanest lines going. As you’d expect from Spesh, it comes with plenty of own-brand kit, too.
- Specialized’s new Epic steals its shape from the trail-bike rule book
- Specialized’s Epic HT has a sub-800g frame
Specialized Epic Pro frame and geometry
This Epic is built from FACT 11M carbon, as used on the previous- generation S-Works Epic (the new top-end frame is 12M carbon).
Although Specialized has rejigged the shape of the bike, with longer tubes, it’s still kept the weight low (10.22kg). While not as ‘out there’ as the NS Synonym, which was also on test, the geometry is more trail than XC, with the large frame boasting a 470mm reach, 67.5-degree head angle and 75.5-degree seat angle.
|Seat angle (degrees)||75.8||75.5||75.5||75.5|
|Head angle (degrees)||67.5||67.5||67.5||67.5|
|Seat tube (cm)||40||43||47||52|
|Head tube (cm)||9.5||10||11.5||13.5|
|Fork offset (cm)||4.4||4.4||4.4||4.4|
|Bottom bracket drop (cm)||4.8||4.8||4.8||4.8|
|Bottom bracket height (cm)||32.4||32.4||32.4||32.4|
|Crank length (cm)||17||17.5||17.5||17.5|
Specialized Epic Pro kit
The main story here is the Brain, designed to keep the suspension firm for pedalling but instantly make it fully active when things get rough.
It works using weighted inertia valves, which open up the compression circuits of the fork and shock when a bump force is encountered.
The rear Brain – the small reservoir tucked in behind the non-driveside dropout – is now closer to the wheel axle and has improved oil flow for a smoother feel. Both fork and shock have five levels of manually-adjustable Brain sensitivity and are built by RockShox.
Specialized supplies its S-Works finishing kit, Roval Control carbon wheels and Fast Trak tyres, which are grippy and fast-rolling, with a supple carcass.
With a SRAM X01 AXS wireless drivetrain and no dropper (although there is routing for one), the cockpit looks nice and clean.
Specialized Epic Pro ride impressions
The Epic is calm in the rough without feeling sluggish when changing direction. The long reach and slackish head angle mean it rolls easily over rocks and roots, and can be tipped into steep corners without feeling like you’re going to get pitched over the bars.
You can also lay the bike onto the tyres’ shoulder tread for snappy changes in direction, with the fast-rolling rubber and light rims enabling rapid acceleration out of corners.
While the Brain system is a bit love it/hate it, for pure XC race performance I reckon it’s worthwhile, despite its occasionally quirky feel.
The rear Brain’s sensitivity can’t be changed while riding, so it needs adjusting before each race, based on how rough the course is; the fork’s Brain can be tweaked via the top cap.
While the transition from open to closed is smoother than with the previous Brain, the knock on opening is still there, most noticeable through the cranks in the firmer setting.
When closed, the bike feels almost like a hardtail, with next to no give in the back end. This is efficient but takes an adjustment in riding technique should you be faced with a jump, where you either need to preload as you would on a hardtail or jolt through the Brain’s platform.
When open, both the SID SL fork and Brain rear shock have Specialized’s Rx XC tune, which is fairly aggressive under compression and doesn’t give the smoothest of rides, but is fast.
The fork occasionally feels a little less sensitive when fully open than the rear shock, meaning the bike can feel unbalanced at times. Of course, the big benefit of the system is that, so long as the rear Brain is in an appropriate setting, the Epic’s suspension should always be doing the right thing, without you needing to worry about heading into a descent with the suspension still locked out – it takes away the necessity to think about it.
Specialized Epic Pro bottom line
There are better value bikes out there. However, given that none of the spec choices feels like a true compromise, and with its combination of race-ready suspension, modern geometry and Brain tech, the Epic is hard to beat.
How we tested
We put four high-end XC race bikes to the test, which were tested on all day epics, bar-chewing, on-the-limit evening blasts and back-to-back comparative loops.
This way, not only could we be sure they can go the distance, but also that we’ve revealed their every nuance has been revealed.
Other bikes on test:
|Price||br_price, 5, 3, Price, AUD $13000.00EUR €9299.00GBP £8250.00USD $8000.00|
|Weight||br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 10.22kg (Large) – without pedals, Array, kg|
|Year||br_year, 5, 9, Year, 2021|
|Brand||br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Specialized|
|Available sizes||br_availableSizes, 11, 0, Available sizes, XS, S, M, L, XL|
|Bottom bracket||br_bottomBracket, 11, 0, Bottom bracket, SRAM DUB|
|Brakes||br_brakes, 11, 0, Brakes, SRAM Level TLM, 160mm rotors|
|Cassette||br_cassette, 11, 0, Cassette, SRAM XG-1295|
|Chain||br_chain, 11, 0, Chain, SRAM X01 Eagle|
|Cranks||br_cranks, 11, 0, Cranks, SRAM X1 Carbon, 32t|
|Fork||br_fork, 11, 0, Fork, RockShox SID SL Brain, 100mm (3.9in) travel|
|Frame||br_frame, 11, 0, Frame, FACT 11M carbon fibre, 100mm (3.9in) travel|
|Grips/Tape||br_gripsTape, 11, 0, Grips/Tape, Specialized Trail Grips|
|Handlebar||br_handlebar, 11, 0, Handlebar, Specialized S-Works Carbon XC-Mini, 760mm|
|Headset||br_headset, 11, 0, Headset, Integrated|
|Rear derailleur||br_rearDerailleur, 11, 0, Rear derailleur, SRAM X01 Eagle AXS|
|Rear Shocks||br_rearShock, 11, 0, Rear Shocks, RockShox-Specialized BRAIN, Rx XC Tune, 5 Position Platform|
|Saddle||br_saddle, 11, 0, Saddle, Specialized Power Expert|
|Seatpost||br_seatpost, 11, 0, Seatpost, Specialized S-Works Carbon rigid|
|Shifter||br_shifter, 11, 0, Shifter, SRAM X01 Eagle AXS (1x12)|
|Stem||br_stem, 11, 0, Stem, Specialized XC, 70mm|
|Tyres||br_tyres, 11, 0, Tyres, Specialized Fast Trak GRIPTON Control 29x2.3in|
|Wheels||br_wheels, 11, 0, Wheels, Roval Control Carbon, 25mm internal width, DT Swiss 350 hubs|