Specialized Epic Evo Expert is streets ahead of its rivals in sizing and geometry. Long reach gives you freedom to get creative on any trail.
The Specialized Epic Evo Expert is born and bred in XC racing, so what makes it different to the pure XC-race Specialized Epic? Before we discuss that, let’s take a closer look at the one thing they have in common: both share the same FACT 11m carbon front end, where the rider-tuned carbon lay-up maintains the same ride characteristics across all four frame sizes.
No one can accuse Specialized of jumping on the down-country bandwagon; the lightweight, short-travel Specialized Camber Evo ripping up trails long before anyone had coined the term DC.
Specialized Epic Evo Expert review
Rather than simply slapping a taller fork on the XC frame, Specialized opened a new mould for a different carbon rear end, forged a new shock yoke, dispensed with the Brain shock and bumped travel up by 10mm to 110mm. There’s also an asymmetric flip-chip in the shock eyelet that offers two geometry settings; the high position raising the BB height by 7 mm and steepening the head angle by 0.5°.
And because weight, or the lack of it, is of primary importance for a short travel bike, Specialized uses flex in the carbon stays rather than its trusty Horst link chainstay pivot in the rear suspension. A move that’s also been employed on the latest Stumpjumper.
Specialized makes full use of the oversized Torque Caps on the front hub to increase steering precision on the 120mm travel RockShox SID fork. An added bonus being the hub fits snuggly in the cupped dropouts making it much easier to locate the 15mm axle when fitting the front wheel. You can lock the fork out with a quarter turn of the compression adjuster, and for a lightweight XC unit, we’ve been impressed by how much control the SID offers, interns of stiffness and damping.
And the same is true for the rear shock. With Specialized’s RX custom tune you get plenty of support for pedalling, but the rear end on the Epic Evo still does a great job of ironing out creases in the trail, while providing a lively poppy ride. You also get access to full travel when needed, so we can forgive it for measuring 5mm shy of the claimed 110mm.
By switching to a 34.9mm diameter seat tube, Specialized has been able to fit stronger, more reliable dropper posts – it’s analogous to increasing the size of the fork stanchions and a welcome move. The action of the 150mm X-Fusion Manic post is fast and smooth, and while the Body Geometry Power saddle looks funky it’s a comfortable and supportive perch. Specialized fits a generous 750mm handlebar, where the soft lock-on grips boost the overall width to 760mm and further enhance control. All in, the touch points on the Evo Expert are excellent.
Specialized’s tyre choice, however, is more about reduced rolling resistance, rather than increasing control, especially the semi-slick Fast Trak rear tyre. Given the choice, we’d stick the Ground Control front tyre on the rear, and put something with taller knobs up front to further enhance cornering grip.
Sling a leg over the Epic Evo and it feels more like a trail bike than its XC roots initially suggest. Standover clearance is good and the cockpit feels roomy without pulling all of your weight onto the fork, which makes you feel very centered on the bike. Granted, you haven’t got a ton of travel, but you’re free to ride dynamically, which makes the bike fun and engaging at all times. Also the geometry is not so progressive that you’ll constantly be writing cheques that the suspension simply can’t cash.
The Epic Evo feels tight and responsive when you get on the gas too, but when a climb really steepens and you find yourself grinding rather than spinning, the rear suspension tends to squat into its travel which makes it harder to keep your weight over the front. More often than not, the rear tyre will break traction before you get to that point though, so you could say it’s a blessing in disguise.
With the new Epic Evo Expert, Specialized has retained the best traits of a World Cup XC race bike; namely that it’s light and efficient, where the Evo twist gives it more responsive suspension and a less head-down riding position. It’s a great combination, not a compromise, as it lets you cover ground with ruthless efficiency and still have a blast on the fun stuff. Yes, it needs better rubber to really excel, but the real sticking point here is the price, and not just compared to the Merida. For less cash you can get the Transition Spur X01 which also has a better specification.