All the tubes on the Epic are manipulated M5 alloy. Both the ORE top and down tubes are teardrop in profile and welded to each other for extra impact strength and stiffness. The bike has asymmetrical chainstays — the left one routes straight from the drop to main pivot increasing stiffness and reducing weight. A FACT carbon shock link saves more weight, but at 27.5lb the Epic is the heaviest bike here.
The top tube is long at 23in, mated to a 69.5deg head angle and oddly a steep 74deg seat angle. The bottom bracket is low (12.5in) and the 44in wheelbase wouldn’t be out of place on a six-inch bike. For some reason the sizing is a little off on Epics; they now come up a little small — a medium size used to fit us perfectly but now it’s borderline. In fact, when you’re racing you tend to run a higher saddle so it makes more of a difference.
A useable bottle cage position is a requirement on a marathon bike and on the Epic it’s on the down tube. There’s a secondary one underneath but it’s asking to get sprayed by mud from the front wheel. Rapid wheel changes are also critical on a race bike but the rear quick-release on the Epic jams on the chainstay pivot.
Specialized’s new AFR (active functional response) shock is air sprung, has rebound adjustment and a Flow Control Brain remote with Brain Fade adjustment. Rebound oil flow is now responsible for moving the internal brass mass and closing the compression valve inside the Brain, meaning it closes a lot quicker and results in the suspension feeling a lot more seamless. Brain Fade allows you to set the amount of force it takes for the suspension to actually start working — once active it feels the same whatever the position of the dial. To allow front and rear suspension balance there is a Fox 32 Float F100RLC fork with threshold adjustment.
It’s easy to overshift on SRAM’s XO triggers — especially riding bumpy terrain with your thumb primed over the upper lever. Magura Marta brakes are fitted because they’re the lightest on the market but the front had a sticky piston and the rear pads only lasted a dozen rides. Like the Trek, both jockey wheels on the XO derailleur seized, which we put down to poor sealing.
At 25in the bar is too narrow. You might like this width but we’d prefer to start wide and trim down. Inside the ‘Adjustable Rise’ stem is an eccentric shim that allows you to change the stem’s rise.
Due to the overall length the Epic is very stable descending, and the front end also stays planted even up steep granny ring ascents. Normally on a long bike it’s a big effort to get out of the saddle but the Epic’s low front end and short chainstays means it’s responsive when sprinting. To reduce fork dive, which happens on the Epic as we tended to climb out of the saddle, we ran the RLC fork with threshold adjuster fully on.
Tyres are the best here — they have a good edge so you’re not face planting every turn and the small block pattern works in most conditions you’d encounter on a marathon, even deep mud.
We’ve a couple of criticisms — by design the bike isn’t very supple and in the lightest Flow Control setting we could feel the valve close and the shock extend with a slight clunk. We also clipped the pedals every ride, which is a worry.
Having ridden previous Epics we wanted to turn off or disengage the Brain to see if the bike rode better fully active. With the new Brain Fade we’ve been able to get close to this and it’s not actually something we want — the Epic works best when the dial is close to max. This means you don’t have to think about when to lock your bike out and can get on with racing, which we suspect most racers want to do anyway. It also doesn’t make sense to carry the extra weight and not make use of the technology: you’d be better off buying
MBR RATING: 9/10