Specialized Epic S-Works – first ride review

Brilliant, but so, so expensive

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £5,499.99 RRP | USD $8,800.00

Our review

Expensive, but super-light, balanced and uniquely trail tuneable
Skip to view product specifications

While racers have loved Specialized’s Epic bikes, their technical ability has always been compromised by the auto lockout BRAIN suspension. With a new and improved shock for 2010, the system finally makes sense.

Advertisement MPU reviews

Ride & handling: Balanced and capable

With even the large size weighing less than 10.5kg (23lb), the Epic’s acceleration and climbing ability is astonishing. Its handling and position are well balanced, and it’s long and stable enough to haul ass on the climbs and hold a straight climbing or reliable railing line.

The tapered head tube and decent width riser bar mean plenty of accuracy and feedback for picking and holding the line through rock gardens. While the back end and wheels can get slightly out of shape under power, there’s enough muscle in the mainframe to heave it round inside its natural arc – valuable on techy trails. 

This is the production colourscheme: this is the production colourscheme
Dan Campbell

It’s the reworked BRAIN that really makes the Epic an outstandingly high-speed bike though. By including – rather than isolating – the compression flow of the oil from the inertia valve trigger, its reactions can be made far more sensitive and immediate than before, so no more tyre-splitting on the first rock or wallowy delay after the last wallop.

While it’s still a tight rather than plush feel, the Fox damping is more controlled for proper ground connection. Set the trigger threshold to suit the course or rider preferences and it really is a hardtail on the hard and fast sections, and a grippy, rider responsive full-susser on the rough stuff. Reliability is likely to be massively improved too.

There are several light, tight and fast 100mm (3.9in) travel race/rapid trail bikes vying for attention right now, but the reworked BRAIN finally gives the Epic a genuine advantage in terms of automatic trail sensing suspension. And though the S-Works is uber-pricey, the Epic family now starts at £1,999, so it’s not just for racing nobility.

The fox-produced rear shock improves performance: the fox-produced rear shock improves performance
Dan Campbell

Frame: Very light full-carbon chassis

The full-carbon-fibre frame is unchanged from last year, but it’s still one of the lightest race frames around. The oversized bottom bracket and 1.5-1.125in tapered head tube give impressive mainframe stiffness too.

There’s reasonable mud room, and the uninterrupted seat tube gives full seat drop potential. The miniature rear shock and its BRAIN inertia trigger unit are now designed and made by Fox, rather than Specialized, which makes a huge difference.

The brain is finally clever: the brain is finally clever
Dan Campbell

Equipment: Scale-scaringly light kit

Specialized still provide their own carbon topped E100 BRAIN fork. It’s impressively light and stiff, if not as easy to set up or controlled as a RockShox SID or Fox F100.

Specialized’s super-stiff oversized cranks get SRAM XX chainrings to match the XX gears and brakes, which made excellent first impressions.

Advertisement MPU reviews

The seatpost creaks a bit and the wheels are twangy, but they’re seriously light, which helps towards the scale-scaring weight.

Carbon cranks spin in an oversize bb30 bottom bracket: carbon cranks spin in an oversize bb30 bottom bracket
Dan Campbell

Product Specifications


Name Name, 0, 10, Name, Epic S-Works (10)
Brand Brand, 0, 20, Brand, Specialized

Brakes Brakes, 2, 0, Brakes, SRAM XX hydraulic disc 160mm with 160mm rotors
Cranks Cranks, 2, 0, Cranks, S-Works OS carbon crank with SRAM XX double chainrings
Fork Fork, 2, 0, Fork, E100 Future shock fork, 100mm (3.9in) travel
Frame Material Frame Material, 2, 0, Frame Material, FACT 10m carbon
Handlebar Handlebar, 2, 0, Handlebar, Specialized XC 660mm carbon riser
Rear Shock Rear Shock, 2, 0, Rear Shock, Fox AFR with Mini BRAIN remote, 100mm (3.9in) travel
Rims Rims, 2, 0, Rims, Specialized Roval Controle SL
Saddle Saddle, 2, 0, Saddle, Specialized Phenom SL
Seatpost Seatpost, 2, 0, Seatpost, S-Works carbon/
Stem Stem, 2, 0, Stem, Syntace F119 OS stem
Weight (kg) Weight (kg), 2, 0, Weight (kg), 10.5
Weight (lb) Weight (lb), 2, 0, Weight (lb), 23