Noticing that its staff were setting up their bikes differently to stock, Specialized started offering revised, more aggro EVO versions to the public. The 2020 Epic EVO has 20mm more fork travel than the regular bike, along with a dropper post.
It shares the ‘intelligent’ rear shock, which has a separate ‘Brain’ inertia valve to read bumps. This keeps the suspension taut on smooth trails, with the damping only opening up when the rear tyre encounters hits.
Specialized Epic Comp Carbon EVO frame
Only available in carbon, the latest Epic chassis carries up to S-Works level (although those top-end models are made from pricier, higher-modulus fibres) and, with its subtle tube profiles and slim seat-tower brace, looks fantastic.
The single-pivot frame eschews Spesh’s usual chainstay pivot to dump grams for racing. Instead, the light, one-piece carbon back end flexes to deliver the rear wheel’s 100mm of travel, with the proprietary Brain unit mounted right at the chainstay tip for better bump reactions.
Version 2.0 of Spesh’s clever lockout system can be tuned externally via a five-way dial and has been tweaked for more sensitivity, using a bladder instead of the old floating-piston design.
Specialized Epic Comp Carbon EVO kit
SRAM’s 12-speed NX Eagle drivetrain has good shifting and range but is heavy for a bike like this. Mick Kirkman
Dropper posts are integral to the EVO philosophy, and X-Fusion’s 125mm-travel Manic (with Spesh’s own remote) works great, with a lightweight action and a zero-offset clamp for efficient climbing.
The 750mm bar is wider than on the ‘standard’ Epic and clamped in a 10mm-shorter stem. You get 20mm more front travel too, but because the RockShox Reba RL fork uses the lower-tier Motion Control damper, it smashes through it too easily.
This means control is lacking and I’d expect better on a £4k bike. The rear Brain suspension is now built by RockShox too, with air pressure set via a clever AutoSag feature.
Specialized often reduces the spoke count in its wheels to save weight. The 24-spoke front hoop feels soft when you’re leaning in on hardpack berms or killing speed at the end of rough straights. Plus, these wheels relatively heavy, with a slow engagement in the rear freehub.
Specialized Epic Comp Carbon EVO ride impressions
Even after I settled on a firmer shock pressure than AutoSag recommended, the Epic floats over small bumps.
With the chassis mirroring chatter, it rolls fast and feels fluid, especially considering its tightness and punchy pedalling response. Even with just 100mm of rear travel, the Spesh feels pretty capable.
The frame shape and rider position are excellent too, with a real ‘heads down’ XC feel. With the 120mm fork slackening the head angle to 68 degrees, the steering is perfectly balanced, so it goes precisely where you point it without being too unsettled.
Specialized’s bump-reacting inertia valve now lives at the very tip of the chainstay for extra sensitivity. Mick Kirkman
Spesh’s Brain technology divides opinion. Some love the urgent response when stomping the cranks and the way it makes the Epic feel close to an XC hardtail. Others feel it’s inconsistent, and can plummet deep into the travel unnaturally. This reveals itself as a ‘clunk’ underfoot when climbing up roots and steps, and means the tyre can lose traction.
Turning the Brain down to the lowest setting improves this. Pedalling remains pretty rapid, but the suspension feels softer, smoother and more consistent, helping to generate extra grip on damp UK trails.
Up front, the Reba fork bounces erratically when you crank uphill. It’s easy to lean down and use the leg-top lockout dial to improve its efficiency. However, this raises the dynamic height of the front end and detracts from the weight-forward, purebred XC feel that urges you to attack harder in the first place.
With rapid reaction speed and a well-damped, calm-feeling carbon chassis, the Epic EVO is a blast to ride. For this price though, the wheels and drivetrain add too much weight for its category, and both are noticeable uphill compared to lighter bikes I tested alongside the Epic.
Specialized Epic Comp Carbon EVO geometry
Seat angle: 73.8 degrees
Head angle: 68.5 degrees
Chainstay: 43.8cm / 17.24in
Seat tube: 41.1cm / 16.18in
Top tube: 62.6cm / 24.65in
Head tube: 12cm / 4.72in
Fork offset: 4.3cm / 1.69in
Trail: 9.9cm / 3.9in
Bottom bracket drop: 3.2cm / 1.26in
Bottom bracket height: 34cm / 13.39in
Wheelbase: 1,159mm / 45.63in
Stack: 61.9cm / 24.37in
Reach: 46cm / 18.11in