Behold the new Specialized Epic and Epic Evo. Do you prefer XC racing with Brain power or down-country duelling with a dropper post?

Behold the new Specialized Epic and Epic Evo. Do you prefer XC racing with Brain power or down-country duelling with a dropper post?

>>> Best XC race bikes: hardtail and full suspension

It’s supposed to be an Olympic year this year but… well, you know. Covid struck. The lack of a 2020 Olympics doesn’t stop the overhauled XC race machines from being released. Hence this new Specialized Epic.

By happy accident, Specialized have also got just the bike for XC raceheads to go and play on while they wait for some sort of race calendar to finally commence: the Specialized Epic Evo. Essentially a radder Epic. Bit more travel, bit slacker head angle, dropper post as standard. The Evo has also had its Brain taken out. More on that later.

Top end Specialized Epic S-Works

2021 Specialized Epic need to know

  • 100mm travel Olympic race rocket
  • Revised Brain suspension damping with firmer Rx Tune
  • Slacker, longer, longer
  • FACT 12m carbon S-Works Epic claimed weight 20.5 lb
  • 110mm travel Epic Evo is slacker still and comes specced with dropper post and burlier bits
  • 2.3in rear tyre clearance, 2.4in front tyre clearance
  • EPIC S-WORKS £10,499
  • EPIC PRO £7,499
  • EPIC EXPERT £6,099
  • EPIC COMP £3,999
  • EPIC EVO EXPERT £6,099
  • EPIC EVO COMP £3,999

New position for the Brain damper allows new position for disc brake caliper

Specialized have had inertia-valved Brain suspension for almost twenty years now. Every couple of years it’s gets a makeover and refinement. Essentially, Brain suspension locks – and unlocks – itself automatically. There are no bar-mounted lockout levers. Brain suspension claims to know the difference between rider input and terrain input and opens/closes accordingly.

Say yes to cut-away diagrams

The new 2021 Epic’s Brain is firmer than the previous version. Or more accurately, the new Rx XC tune can be set to be firmer than before. It can also be adjusted to be less on/off via an extended range of damper adjustability.

Linkage yoke attaches directly to the shock shaft

The Brain has also been moved to new location on the bike. It’s still on the swingarm, near the rear axle, but it’s now immeidately behind the rear axle. Its previous location (inside the chain/seat stay junction) is now where you’ll find the disc brake caliper. The new Brain location is claimed to improve the damper’s sensitivity as well as affording the frame designers to allow the chainstays to flex a bit more; remember, the Epic doesn’t have a Horst Link chainstay pivot anymore, it uses flexy stays instead.

Extra vertical flex in the chains stays

Despite the increase in vertical flex, the rear swingarm is also claimed to be 15% stiffer (presumably laterally) than the one on the previous Specialized Epic.

Regarding front suspension, almost all the specced RockShox forks also gets the Brain treatment. Position-sensitive damper Brain in fact. Which is significantly different to most other suspensoin forks that operate on speed-sensitive damping. The theory being that the Brain can have different damping characteristics at different parts of the fork’s travel ie. virtually locked-out around sag and then much more open when the fork is further into its travel.

Frame only option

Let’s get on to the gram counting. The new Epic (non S-Works) frame is made from FACT 11m and weighs the same as the previous S-Works Epic. The 2021 Epic S-Works is made from differently laid-up FACT 12m carbon and has lost another 100g.

Specialized Epic geometry

Geometry-wise, the Epic now sports a 67.5° head angle and has had its bottom bracket lowered 9mm. The reach has increased roughly 10mm on all frame sizes. Reach on a Large is now 470mm, XL 495mm. To pair with the increased reach, the stems are also shorter and the fork offset is 44mm (to be fair, Specialized have always been proponents of shorter offset forks on their 29ers).

Specialized Epic Evo

2021 Specialized Epic Evo

The down-country Epic, if you will. A bit radder but still wholly within the XC/marathon remit. 110mm travel at the back paired to a 120mm travel fork up front. All Evo models will come with dropper posts.

Ain’t got no Brain

A bit slacker in the head angle (66.5°) yet, perhaps surprisingly, shorter reach and higher bottom bracker than the normal Epic. This suggests the Epic Evo has been designed with an eye on traditonal XC trail riders who may raise their eyebrows too far if presented with anything too radically distanced from their previous XC rigs.

Different swingarm and linkage array on the Epic Evo

The Epic Evo is not just an Epic frame with a longer fork plumbed into the head tube. It’s uses a different rear swingarm to up the travel to the aforementioned 110mm and also sees the introduction of “additional anti-squat characeristics”. You can clearly see that the linkage array is a different design on the Epic Evo compared to the normal Epic.

Specialized Epic Evo geometry

The Epic Evo also comes with flipchip geometry adjustment. It comes shipped in the low setting (66.5° head angle) but can be set to high setting for a 67° head angle and a 6mm higher bottom bracket height.

Oh, and yes, there’s no Brain damping on the Evo’s suspension. Less of an emphasis on stomping up climbs whilst redline-drooling in a skinsuit and more focussed on all-day comfort and consistent traction.