The world’s lightest production hardtail chassis (775g, Medium S-Works frame), is now claims to be "the most capable and comfortable" anywhere.

The world’s lightest production hardtail chassis (775g, Medium S-Works frame) now claims to be “the most capable and comfortable” anywhere.

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Specialized Epic HT press release

We know, “comfort” and “capability” aren’t words normally associated with a top-tier race bike, but they should be. After all, you’re not winning races or setting PRs if the bike beneath you is twitchy or harsh. The new Epic HT lets riders of all stripes ride faster over any kind of terrain or race course.

Here’s how we did it.

We Made It Crazy Light

The Epic HT is the lightest production frame on earth. We optimized every inch of this frame, fine-tuning the fiber and resin mix, as well as custom shaping every ply to eliminate unnecessary carbon overwraps. A painted S-Works frame weighs a mere 775 grams (+/– 15 grams). More impressive yet, we made it far lighter than the competition, while also boosting capability, comfort, and versatility. Our FACT 11m (non-S-Works) frames weigh an impressive 915 grams—considerably lighter than most brand’s top-shelf offerings.

We Gave It More Capable Geometry

The Epic HT retains a short wheelbase for deft handling, yet it offers more predictable steering and a more centered rider position for increased control. We achieved all of that by relaxing the Epic HT’s head angle to 68.5 degrees, reducing the fork offset (to 42mm), increasing reach, and moving to shorter (60-75mm) stems on all frame sizes.

We Tuned the Carbon for Comfort

We fine-tuned our composite layup and tube shaping to make the new Epic HT more forgiving—because you’re faster when you’re comfortably in control. Smaller-diameter seatstays increase vertical compliance. Likewise, our new arced seat tube design provides just as much vertical compliance as the previous Epic’s smaller-diameter seat tube, which allows you to run full-length dropper posts due to its 30.9mm inner-diameter.

We Made It More Versatile

In addition to accommodating longer dropper posts, the new Epic Hardtail also features increased tire clearance. You can run 2.3- or 2.4-inch tires with tons of mud clearance. More cross-country riders are looking to ride wider rim widths and larger-volume tires. The Epic Hardtail gives them all the room they need to go that route.

We Made It Incredibly Simple and Reliable

No one wants to fuss around with a high-maintenance bike, which is why we’ve made the Epic Hardtail incredibly simple to own and maintain. The only bolt-on piece on this frame is the derailleur hanger, and we’ve ditched the PressFit bottom bracket for a threaded BB. No creaks. No loose bits to lose. No hassles. Just get on and hammer. Simple. Awesome.

How many models of Epic HT are you offering?

We now offer seven complete Epic HT models, as well as an S-Works frame-only option.

Do all of the Epic Hardtails share the same frame? If not, what sets the frames apart (and which models get which frames)?

There are two frames in the lineup. The S-Works models feature our FACT 12M carbon frames, while Pro, Expert, Comp, and Carbon 29 models are built around our FACT 11M carbon frame. The S-Works frame is 140 grams lighter.

What was the goal of the redesign?

It’s an XC race bike, so cutting weight was a starting point. That said, XC courses are undeniably more technical than in the past. That fact drove us to make the bike more capable on rougher tracks—necessitating entirely new geometry, clearance for bigger tires, and the ability to run dropper posts. In other words, the goal here was to make the Epic HT lighter, more comfortable, more controlled, and more versatile than before.

How much does the new Epic HT weigh?

A size Medium frame, painted, weighs 790 grams (1.74 pounds). That’s more than 75 grams lighter than the previous Epic HT chassis and a solid 50 grams lighter than the closest competitor. The new Epic HT is the lightest full-production hardtail anywhere.

How did you achieve the weight savings?We optimized every inch of this frame, from fine-tuning the carbon fiber and resin mix to custom shaping every ply so that there are no unnecessary overwraps that add weight without improving ride quality or strength. We even eliminated the aluminum inserts in the rear dropouts. That said, we weren’t willing to sacrifice durability or strength just to cut those grams.

The new Epic HT is just as strong as before, has more tire clearance, and now accepts longer-travel dropper posts. It’s the lightest mass-produced hardtail on the market, but it’s also worlds more capable and versatile. You’re not the fastest rider on the course if you are on the brakes during the descents or if you feel worked-over every time you power through a technical section on an unforgiving bike.

What changes did you make to the geometry?

We wanted to give riders more control. We did that by growing reach and relaxing the head tube angle to 68.5 degrees. The bike still needed to be nimble and easy to thread through tight corners, which meant that we also needed the wheelbase needed to stay tight. The reduced fork offset (42 millimeters) helps us achieve that balance of increased downhill control and deft handling on tighter sections of trail.

The previous Epic HT featured a 27.2mm seatpost that was designed to flex and create a comfortable ride. Why did Specialized move to a wider-diameter seat tube and 30.9mm seatpost?

If every second counts (and it always does), then having the option to drop your saddle and ride with more speed and confidence on descents is essential. Going with a 30.9mm seatpost gives riders the option to run a full-length dropper. We did all that without sacrificing comfort thanks to a new seat tube design (note the arc) which is just as compliant as the smaller-diameter (27.2) seat tube on the previous Epic HT.

Your press kit mentions that the Epic HT is more comfortable over rough terrain than the version it replaces. How’d you achieve that?

The new Epic HT is noticeably more forgiving when you’re hammering away in the saddle, which might seem surprising since we went to a larger-diameter seat tube. The new shape of the seat tube allows us to maintain the same amount of compliance as before, while gaining the ability to run long-travel dropper posts. Finally, we went to slightly smaller seatstays, which also increased vertical compliance.

What’s the max tire size that can you fit on the new Epic HT?

The new frame will fit 2.3” to 2.4” tires with plenty of mud clearance to spare. Rim widths are increasing, and even cross-country racers are riding wider tires at lower air pressures than in the past. We took that into account with this frame. Of course, even if you aren’t racing, having the extra clearance to run a larger volume tire simply makes the Epic HT more versatile and more comfortable.

What were your stiffness goals with the new frame?

Creating an optimal, overall frame stiffness was key—if the front-end is too flexy, the bike feels like a noodle and steers poorly. If the rear-end is too stiff, the bike won’t track well in rough corners and will sap rider energy over the course of a long or technically-challenging race. Our goal was to hit that sweet spot with a stiff front-end that steers precisely and transfers energy well at the bottom bracket, and a rear-end that tracks well and provides the kind of compliance necessary to finish challenging descents without feeling wiped out. Tube shaping and diameter were absolutely key in achieving those goals.

We also invested a tremendous amount of development into developing Rider-FirstTM tunes—creating unique lay-up schedules for every size of frame, so that the Epic HT has a consistent ride quality and personality across all frame sizes. Small frames aren’t harsh. X-Large frames aren’t flexy. Every rider experiences the same perfectly-dialed ride quality, no matter their height.