Specialized Epic Expert Carbon review

Champion's choice

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
GBP £2,739.99 RRP | USD $5,500.00

Our review

Unique ‘automatic’ suspension actuation in a lightweight, race-ready package, but just not as controlled as more conventional competition
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The new carbon configuration of Specialized’s Epic clinched the ultimate debut when Christoph Sauser won the Cross-Country World Championships on its first outing. It’s still a horse for specific courses though.


Ride & handling: Fast race bike, but not as predictable, controlled or playful as some rivals

The main reason to buy an Epic has to be the FlowControl BRAIN rear shock with its ‘automatic’ switch from locked for sprinting to ground-huggingly supple over bumps.

An internal inertia valve can sense the difference between input from the rider pedalling, which is when it stays locked out, and a bump force from the ground, which is when it allows the shock to move by a cross-country race worthy maximum of 100mm (3.9in).

But while the BRAIN Fade threshold can be set lower than ever, we couldn’t tune a noticeable clunk and knock out of the BRAIN’s thinking process, and once you hit the rough stuff, the proprietary Specialized shock is nowhere near as controlled as a Fox damper.

Weight is kept to a minimum with specialized’s diminuitive shock: weight is kept to a minimum with specialized’s diminuitive shock

While the front end is adequately stiff, there’s enough bend in the rear end to ghost-shift gears under power and the 24-spoke front, 28-spoke rear wheels fumble and twist when pushed hard.

The difference between the locked mode and soggy-neutral FSR suspension feel takes some adjusting to as well – particularly if it switches mid corner.

While the 90mm stem, riser bar and 70-degree head angle are more singletrack friendly than a classic Euro flat bar setup, the Epic is definitely a racer rather than a raver. It always feels like we’re tiptoeing through technical sections rather than getting properly stuck in.

There aren’t many bikes that’ll edge it in a straight-line drag race though, and if you want thought-free bump insurance rather than state-of-the-art smoothness, it’s still in a class of its own.

The brain inertia valve shock is too intrusive: the brain inertia valve shock is too intrusive
Steve Behr

Frame: Good enough for a world champion

Even at £2,700, the Expert is the cheapest bike in the Epic family. That means you get the same FACT carbon mainframe as the top-end S-Works frame, but an alloy rather than carbon fibre rear end.

There’s a tapered 1.125in-1.5in steerer tube on the fork to increase front-end accuracy, and the lack of bridges on the back end means decent mud clearance.

Equipment: Quality forks, brakes and transmission

The Race version of RockShox’s 100mm (3.9in) SID fork isn’t as controlled as the Black Box version but it still doesn’t back down from much.


The Avid Elixir brakes are excellent, and the Shimano and SRAM transmission doesn’t miss a beat. Specialized’s S-Works Fast Trak LK tyres are fast, if not particularly grippy.

RockShox sid race forks are a surefire winner: rockshox sid race forks are a surefire winner
Steve Behr

Product Specifications


Name Epic Expert Carbon (09)
Brand Specialized

Available Colours Red/White/Black
Head Angle 70
Shifters SRAM X-9, aluminum trigger, 9-speed
Seatpost 2014 butted alloy, single-bolt setback, S/M: 350, L/XL: 400mm
Saddle Specialized Phenom, hollow Cr-Mo rails, thin foam, S/M: 130mm, L/XL: 143mm
Rims Custom DT Swiss X420SL, 24mm w/ eyelets, 28/32h
Rear Shock Specialized AFR remote mini , BRAIN inertia valve w/ BRAIN fade and rebound adj.
Rear Hub Custom DT Swiss 370 w/ DT RWS QR, 32h
Rear Derailleur SRAM X-0, 9-speed, mid cage
Handlebar Specialized XC low rise 31.8mm bar, 2014 butted alloy, 6 degree up, 8 degree backsweep, 640mm wide
Available Sizes L M S XL
Front Hub Specialized Hi Lo disc, CNC flange, sealed cartridge bearing, Oversized end caps, 9mm DT RWS, alloy QR, 28h
Front Derailleur Shimano M660 SLX, DMD, top swing, dual pull
Frame Material FACT 9m carbon front triangle, IS construction, M5 aluminum rear triangle. sealed cartridge bearing pivots, 100mm travel, replaceable derailleur hanger
Fork RockShox SID Race, 100mm travel, air spring, motion control damper, external rebound and external floodgate compression adj.w/ LO, alloy steerer
Cranks Custom Shimano FC-M762, 2pc., S: 170mm, others: 175mm
Cassette Shimano HG61, 9-speed, 11-34t
Brakes Custom Avid Elixir R Carbon SL, Carbon lever, SS hardware, alloy backed organic pads, S/M: 160mm, L/XL: 185mm rotor
Bottom Bracket Shimano M762
Stem Specialized adjustable rise, 31.8mm clamp, 3D forged w/ CNC finish