Big changes for the Epic as it ditches FSR.
The Specialized Epic is a platform with huge racing heritage. 2018 sees it put the on a crash diet and the first ever single pivot design for Specialized.
2018 Specialized Epic need to know
So let’s break down the key points of the new Epic…
- Utilises Rider-First Engineered technology to give each frame size unique carbon layups and tube profiles.
- New Brain 2.0 rear shock, now produced in conjunction with Rockshox. Now located at the rear axle. Still featuring Auto-Sag.
- Carbon one-piece rear end. Eliminates FSR pivots but reduces weight.
- Reduced fork offset to improve handling on more technical terrain.
- Lengthened top tubes and shorter stems, following longer travel bike trends.
- Travel remains the same at 100mm front and rear.
- S-Works features a FACT 12m carbon frame. FACT 11m for all other carbon models.
- Full length dropper post compatible
- S-Works complete bike now weighs in at 9.6kg/21.2lb (large frame size)
- Two women’s specific models also available
- Four sizes available: S, M, L, XL
- Prices from £3,500-£8,500
The 9.6kg, big daddy S-Works Epic.
No more FSR Epic
The Epic is a platform with huge heritage for Specialized, being its most winningest cross country frame to date.
2018 sees the latest revamp and whilst on the surface it seems very little has changed, scratch a little deeper and the new Specialized Epic has seen a few radical changes.
The biggest news that might be lost amongst everything else is this is Specialized’s first non-FSR (four-bar Horst Link) bike. Yep, the Epic is now a single pivot.
For 2018 Specialized wanted to take the Epic beyond its original remit of being ‘just’ the most efficient race bike on the scene.
As cross country courses have mutated into practically DH-lite tracks with climbs, the buzzwords of ‘confidence’ and ‘stability; have entered into the realm of XC racing. So the Epic has similarly evolved, mixing characteristics of bigger travel bikes such as longer top tubes and shorter stems along with some unique geometry changes.
Why lose the FSR?
The Epic could never be described as a portly bike, but in order to reduce weights further something radical had to give. For the 2018 model, Specialized has managed to not just eke out weight losses but practically put the frame on a starvation diet.
We are talking savings of 345g for the S-Works and 525g on the Expert level, just off the frame.
To put it in context, the S-Works loses the equivalent of a complete chainstay assembly and suspension hardwear. For the Expert it’s pretty much an entire Brain shock, extension and pivot hardwear.
Changing to a one-piece carbon back end (it’s carbon across all models) instantly dropped 240 grams. According to Specialized, this drastic change actually enhances performance. The rear triangle now has engineered ‘flex zones’ to emulate the FSR suspension path, plus no pivots = a stiffer rear end.
Specialized are also at pains to point out that FSR is still very much alive and kicking across its other ranges.
Brains before brawn
2018 will see the 15th anniversary of the Brain and once again sees a big change to the ‘shock that thinks for you’. Under the helm of suspension guru Mike ‘Mick’ McAndrews (who devised the first ever Brain shock), this iteration sees a change not only in provider (Fox has made way for Rockshox) but also in the location of the Brain.
Brain 2.0 as its coined, sees it moved closer to the rear axle to make it much more responsive. Also the way oil is ported to and from the Brain and main shock has been tweaked to provide more consistent damping.
Hose routing has also been changed to minimise frame rub, cleverly flowing through the shock extension.
The Brain can be adjusted from Firm to Soft within four clicks
So what about the geometry?
Simply put, Specialized has made the Epic longer and slacker.
Reach has been extended by 10mm for each size, top tube length has been extended by 5mm and stem lengths have been reduced by 10mm. Hopefully making for a more stable and quicker handling machine.
To further the handling characteristics, the head angle has been slackened by over a degree to 69.5° (from 70.75°).
This might not scream capability on proper fall lines but Specialized has also reduced fork offset to 42mm to give a greater amount of trail and therefore more stable handling.
How does it ride?
It’s not often you find yourself tearing down a bike park Black run on a 21lb, 100mm travel XC race bike.
Normally if this is to happen you would be there by mistake, and said mistake would be accompanied by an involuntary loss of control of all bodily functions right before parting ways with the bike. Yet on the Epic the only involuntary expulsions that were happening were the occasional whoop of delight.
In short this bike is a complete ripper.
Okay, you might not want to be taking it down these sorts of runs all the time, but the sheer fact that it can be an enjoyable experience is something special.
I’ve personally had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Epic over the years ever since handing over my own money to purchase an S-Works version over ten years ago. Then I was a bit disappointed by the whole suspension action of the Brain but now, after countless refinements I think it’s almost there.
Those that have ridden an Epic will know of the classic ‘knock’, when the Brain first opens the shock on a hit. This is still present but it’s only really noticeable on slower, smooth trails when you might get the solitary feature that causes the shock to wake up.
On harsher tracks the Brain reacts wicked fast and then remains supple and active until the obstacles have passed.
This bike that begs to be ridden fast! As soon as you notch the speed up it begins to all make sense. The knock is no longer an issue as once the system is open it acts like a standard active suspension.
The 4 mile XC test loop was incredibly technical with baby head rocks, off camber root sections and log crossings. In several sections I was stunned as to how easily the Epic coped with the trail.
Let’s be totally honest, it’s not a plush trail machine so you do get battered around a bit and larger rock gardens see you not sure if you entirely managed to clean them through skill, the bike or just plain luck.
What’s also good to point out is even though you might be tempted to set it the Brain softer for the harder sections and downhill, don’t.
It just doesn’t feel as stable, almost like it becomes a little vague and forgetful. It also loses a lot of its snappy acceleration out of corners.
And it’s acceleration that’s one of the biggest weapons in the Epic’s quiver. Acceleration is just insane! Any ounce of power gets translated to speed.
With the Brain now working much more effectively, it helps harness that snappiness and speed. I can see many a race won on the new Epic.
Is it only ‘just’ a race bike?
Luckily the guys from Specialized had had the same thoughts and duly wheeled out a version with a full length dropper. I can report back that this version of the Epic was exactly that, epic. It might even take a share of riders away from its longer travel sibling, the Camber.
2018 Specialized Epic models
The Expert edition will be available in this glorious Gold/Red metallic fade colour scheme. £4,800 gets you SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed, Rockshox SID Brain and Roval Control Carbon wheels.
When when when?
The first of the new 2018 Epics should be hitting these shores imminently. So feel free to start haslsing your local Spesh dealer right now.