Specialized gives its new Epic the Evo treatment: 120mm travel, sticky tyres, aggro geometry and flexstay suspension

Product Overview

Specialized Epic 8 Evo Pro


  • • Superlight frame for a 120mm trail bike, at 1,870g
  • • Aggressive geometry that's ideal for riding hard, and climbing well too
  • • Components are superlative, with 130mm fork, powerful brakes and sticky front tyre


  • • Rear shock tight in feel and doesn't quite match up with the plush 130mm fork
  • • Rear tyre clearance isn't the best


I tested the latest Specialized Epic 8 Evo, and couldn’t believe the transformation from XC racer to down-country ripper


Price as reviewed:


The new Epic 8 Evo isn’t the pumped up race machine it once was, weight and stiffness are no longer the driving forces any more and really it’s impossible to call it an XC bike. Instead we’re looking at potentially one of the best down-country mountain bikes on the market, a short-travel trail bike with 130mm travel, sticky tyres and proper dropper post. Sure it still gets a modestly lightweight frame and flex stay suspension, but this is now a bike that’s built to shred.

If this is sad news for you there’s an XC race alternative in the Specialized Epic 8 that hasn’t abandoned its uphill prowess, and you can read all the stats, design ideas, range focus, sizing and details on the two new Epics right here.

The new Specialized Epic 8 Evo is now firmly in Stumpjumper territory, with big sizing, trail bike geometry and a burly parts list

Need to know

  • Superlight 120mm travel XC frame with trail hungry geometry
  • 130mm fork, big brakes and sticky front tyre are ready to riot
  • Efficient and effervescent rather than smoothly damped
  • High volume internal storage, and SWAT multitool in the steerer tube
  • Full Fox Factory suspension, with Roval carbon XC wheels and trail bar

Suspension travel has sprung up to 120mm, with the new frame accommodating a longer stroke shock

Epic 8 Evo Pro frame and geometry

With its top tube shock placement and flex stay rear suspension design the Epic 8 Evo looks very like the previous generation bike, but there’s a whole lot going on here under the surface.

The mainframe is 10mm longer in the large I tested, and slacker by over a degree in the low flip chip setting. The fresh rear end also uses a longer stroke rear shock for 120mm of travel. Anti squat values are also increased for “20% less bob,” Spesh says. The bigger down tube gets SWAT internal storage and the internally plumbed cables/hoses are all threaded through the head tube front, and not the headset. There’s a steering stop to prevent the bar rotating into the frame and you also get rubber armour on the belly and chain stays. That leaves limited rear tyre room as the only obvious gripe.

The composite lay up is all new, with a focus on vibration damping – Specialized claims a 12% decrease – as well as low weight. A hollow in-moulded front shock mount also saves 24g over the previous solid, bonded on mount. But the use of Spesh’s heavier 11M carbon, extra length and strength, steel fixtures, internal storage and 75g of rubber armour means claimed frame weight is now 2,105g, some 446g heavier than the old S-Works Epic 7 Evo.

The Epic 8 Evo is no XC race bike, with slurpy T9 rubber and Fox 34s on the front


It’s not just the frame that’s burler than previous Evos, the components are too. The RockShox SID is out and instead the bike uses a 130mm travel Fox 34 Factory fork with GRIP damper. You get a 970g Purgatory front tyre in sticky T9 compound and the Code brakes run extra thick, extra powerful HS2 200mm front and 180mm rear rotors. The rear shock is a Fox Float with oversized EVOL can and you get a fully adjustable Fox Transfer Factory dropper post rather than the two position Transfer SL version. The Race Face stem hides the heavy (96g) steerer pin for Specialized’s pop up SWAT micro tool.

The drivetrain is trail-orientated too, with an alloy crank, reinforced T-Type mech and monster 10-52 tooth cassette of SRAM X01. The Roval Control wheels are light at 1,480g though and even in a Grid carcass the Ground Control rear tyre is relatively featherweight at 837g.

Climbing on the Epic 8 Evo is still snappy and direct, but you can certainly feel the extra weight and drag over the Epic race bike


Given the previous Epic Evo Expert I reviewed was 11.1kg, the 12.4kg overall weight of the new Epic 8 Evo was a shock at first. Even though the Purgatory is the fastest rolling of Specialized’s trail tyres it’s still sticky and slow compared to lighter, harder downcountry or XC rubber. That meant the first climbs and accelerations were a bit underwhelming when compared to the ‘still basically a race bike’ vibe of the previous Epic Evo.

The Eureka moment came as I piled into the first descent and it was instantly clear that the Evo has jumped up a whole category in terms of capability and control. A stickier front tyre, stiffer short stroke 34 fork, big trail bars, beefier frame front end and longer, slacker geometry all let you push a lot harder. Into turns and rock gardens, off drops, down loose / rutted descents: whatever looks like fun, the new Epic 8 Evo is more than game to get into it fast and loose.

You can still cover big distances is quick time on the Epic Evo 8, something we loved about the old bike

Don’t worry about those Control wheels letting you down either as I’ve been treating a set horribly for several years without any issues and they’ve got a generous “It happens” warranty if the worst does occur. Just check your Specialized dealer has set the tyres up tubeless as I didn’t realise my UK sample bike came with super light inner tubes and ended up fixing two rear flats in a sleet storm before getting valves and sealant in.

The back end doesn’t match up to the muscle of the front though, in more ways than just the lighter Ground Control tyre. The Factory Float shock does a great job of sucking up bigger hits, drops and flowing over slower speed ‘jank’. But even with the damped mainframe the Epic 8 Evo can feel harsh and ‘tappy’ over washboard, rooty, rocky sections at high speed. That seems to be a Fox Float rather than specific Specialized RX Compression tune issue though as we’ve experienced the same tightness on Whyte’s E-Lyte 140 bike. Accurate rebound tuning is also needed to keep the flex stay rear end calm and connected rather than skipping and flicking too much.

Unsurprisingly given the super low weight of the frame, you can also flex and shimmy the back wheel out of contact by shoving it sideways in turns or dumping too much torque into it over roots or rocks. It’s not a terrible twang though, more of a ‘steel vibe’ twist and slide and it actually increases traction across off cambers and random surfaces if you let it flow rather than fighting it.

The upside of the taut compression feel and relatively light rear tyre and Roval wheel is a very efficient, firm suspension feel when pedalling. Add the effect of the increased anti squat and the Evo stands tall to absolutely haul on climbs or wherever else you want to hustle. Even with internal storage it’s the best part of a kilo lighter than the similar travel Pivot 429 Trail, Yeti SB120 and Santa Cruz Tallboy I tested a year ago. You could easily dump significant weight with a crank switch and brake rotor downsize too, especially as the latter seems overkill on a bike best suited to agile combat rather than outright aggression.

It might not be XC race ready, but there is some hefty competition in this down-country field, from the likes of Canyon, Transition and Santa Cruz


The new Epic 8 Evo is a very different bike to the previous one, so if that was your vibe you now want the Specialized Epic. That’s because Evo is now a properly rally-ready bike with the handling, front end hench and spec to match. The back end is definitely more XC in its flexier feel. It makes the Epic 8 Evo faster, feistier and significantly lighter than most other downcountry contenders without obviously compromising its can-do control. The T9 front tyre and 200mm rotor might be overkill for some, while others might want a tougher rear tyre to create their ideal balance. I’m also hoping the rear shock will lose its harshness over time. For now though I’m going to carry on blasting the climbs and descents on this new benchmark downcountry bike that’s the closest you’ll get to an SL e-bike in terms of free speed and flat out tech fun.


Frame :Specialized FACT 11M carbon fibre
Shock :Fox Float Factory EVOL 120mm travel
Fork :Fox 34 Factory Grip 2 130mm travel
Wheels :Roval Control carbon rims with Industry Nine 1/1 hubs, Specialized Purgatory Grid T9 29x2.4in front and Specialized Ground Control Grid T7 29x2.35in rear tyres
Drivetrain :SRAM XO chainset with 175mm arms and DUB bottom bracket chainset, SRAM XO AXS, T-Type 12-speed derailleur and shifter pod, SRAM Eagle XO CS-1289 12-speed 10-52T cassette
Brakes :SRAM Code Stealth Silver hydraulic disc brakes with 200/180mm HS2 rotors
Components :Roval Control carbon 800 x 35mm riser bar, Race Face Turbine 45 x 35mm stem, Fox Transfer Factory 175mm dropper post, Specialized Body Geometry Power saddle
Sizes :XS, S, M, L (tested), XL, XXL
Weight :12.4kg (Large with bottle cages, SWAT tool and tubeless valves/sealant)
Size ridden :Large
Rider height :180cm
Head angle:65.4/65.9º
Effective SA :75.1º
BB height :331/336mm
Chainstay :435mm
Front centre :782mm
Wheelbase :1214mm
Seat tube :450mm
Top tube (horizontal):633mm
Reach :470mm