Specialized's lightweight 29er carbon hardtail aims to be a lower-cost alternative to a race-ready XC full suspension XC machine.

Product Overview

Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp


  • Light, reactive ride. Nice damped feel to the carbon frame. SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain offers impressive performance


  • Shifter hits top tube. Cables rattle in frame. No dropper post. Geometry is dated


Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp review


Price as reviewed:


Who is the Epic hardtail for? That’s the question I posed to the product manager responsible for Specialized’s XC race bikes. His response was both honest and telling. “It’s for anyone that wants an XC bike, but can’t stretch their budget to get a full suspension bike.”

And it makes perfect sense. At 10.68kg without pedals, the Epic Hardtail Comp is a really light 29er for the money. To get even close to that target weight with a full suspension bike you’d easily be looking at double that, which instantly rules out those bikes for a lot of riders.

Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp

A low frame weight and fast wheel and tyre package for a rapid ride

Need to know

  • Lightweight 29er XC race hardtail designed of speed
  • Fact 11m carbon frame with threaded BB and 148m dropout spacing
  • RockShox Reba RL fork delivers 100mm travel
  • SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain with full range 10-52t cassette
  • The cockpit has a 60mm stem and 750mm bar to enhance control
  • Four frame sizes: S – XL  with entry-level bike for £3,300

And it makes perfect sense. At 10.68kg without pedals, the Epic Hardtail Comp is a really light 29er for the money. To get even close to that target weight with a full suspension bike you’d easily be looking at double that, which instantly rules out those bikes for a lot of riders.

Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp

Our test bike’s overly long cable hosing and hoses need shortening

And weight is very important. XC racers are obsessed with it; their own, and that of the bike.  And for good reason. Because for a given power output, lighter is always going to be faster when going uphill. In fact, that’s where I really noticed the benefits of the Epic HT over much heavier trail forced hardtails. The combination of the faster rolling tyres and reduced weight instantly lure you into a false sense of fitness, and before you know it you have your sights set on distant riders that you know you can easily pick off.

That’s not to say the Epic HT is amazing on the climbs. Fast, yes, but you do need to stay focused, pick good lines and wrestle the front end quite a bit. And that’s primarily because the Epic HT has a short 425mm chainstay length and relatively slack 74.2º seat tube angle. Taken together, these dimensions give the bike a more rearward weight bias, which makes the front end on the Epic is pretty flighty when seated climbing, at least on steeper gradients.

Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp

A lack of dropper seatpost keeps the weight low but the saddle high

And if the climb is chunky, then the relatively skinny 2.35in Specialized Fast Trak/Renegade tyre combo means you need to be on your A game not to lose traction or get knocked off line. Power delivery is direct and purposeful though, and the 100mm travel RockShox Reba fork really limits how much of your energy gets lost in compressing the suspension with every downstroke of the pedals.

Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp

The Epic Hardtail Comp sports the almost default 100mm travel air-sprung fork

Approach the top of the cassette and SRAM’s cable operated Eagle transmission has less even jumps than Shimano’s 12-speed cassettes, but shifting is still really smooth, precise and quiet. Also the jump to the 52t cog makes it a great bail out gear when you apex a switchback only to be greeted with a wall of a climb.

Longer 175mm cranks also give you the leverage you need to keep the wheels turning, and even though the 305mm BB high is taller than say a benchmark trail hardtail like the Whyte 909 X, you actually need that ground clearance so you can keep the throttle open in all situations without fear of clipping a pedal.

Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp

A stock 34 tooth chainring hints at this bike’s racing intentions

So the Specialized Epic HT is fast uphill, but how does it handle everything else? Well, as I quickly discovered that really depends on where you set the saddle height. Let me explain. With the Body Geometry Power Sport saddle set for optimum pedalling efficiency the Epic HT feels pretty good on smooth flowing, high tempo singletrack. The handling feels very reactive, the bike is easy to pick up over anything you don’t want to roll over, or smash into, so the overall sense of speed is high and exhilarating. Yes, the brake hose and gear cable both rattle around inside the down tube, which is annoying, but overall the carbon frame has a nice damped feel to the ride.

In fact, you could probably chop 50mm of all the cables on the Epic, so I suspect it’s the same setup that’s used on the XL build. Not only would this look way neater and be a little lighter, every gram counts, right? It may even reduce the cable rattle a touch. And if you cut the cables short enough, they could also prevent the handlebar from spinning all of the way round, so the shifter would be less likely to smash into the top tube and damage the frame if you crash.

Get the Epic on more technical trails that require the rider to move more dynamically and all of a sudden, the width at the back of the Body Geometry Power Sport saddle that makes it such a comfortable perch for climbing, suddenly becomes an obstacle for getting off the back of the bike.  When running the saddle at full height for maximum pedalling efficiency, you’re really limited by how much you can use your legs to absorb bumps, get lower for cornering, or get your weight back to prevent yourself from being ejected over the bars. As such, your ability to descend with any speed or confidence is really curtailed.

Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp

The Epic Hardtail Comp runs 2-piston SRAM brakes but with a larger 180mm rotor up front

It’s a good thing then, that the firm feeling SRAM Level TL brakes are up to the task, easily providing more stopping power than the contact patched of the tyres can deliver traction to the ground. Adjusting the lever reach is a little tricky, even with a ball-end Allen key, but once set you quickly forget about not having tool-free reach adjustment.

With Allen keys to hand, dropping the saddle height by just 20mm, made a massive difference to the overall ride quality of the Epic HT that it begs the question. Why doesn’t this bike come with a dropper post as standard? Again, it comes back to weight. But I’d argue that the ability to drop the saddle for descending, would expand the capabilities of the Epic HT to a much greater degree than anything you could achieve with frame geometry or frame compliance. Seriously, the dropper post is the biggest breakthrough in mountain biking tech in the last 20 years and the Epic HT not having one, even one with limited drop, instantly dates the bike.

It also needs a shorter seat tube and better standover height too, as currently the SRAM GX 12-speed shifter pod slams into the top-tube when the handlebar is turned 90º to the right. And that’s with the stem almost at max height, so the consequences of a crash will be even worse for anyone looking to achieve a more aero riding position, or trying to make the front end less wayward on the climbs. It’s why steering block headsets are such a good idea on some bikes.


If the Epic HT is pitched at XC racers with limited funds, I’d argue that it needs to be as slack, or even slacker, in the head angle than Specialized’s equivalent full suspension bikes, as the relatively steep 68.7º head angle dates the bike. Wider rims and larger volume tyres are also a good idea, especially when you have zero rear suspension. All of which is a long winded way of saying that the Epic Hardtail Comp looks a little long in the tooth, even by XC standards.


Frame:Fact 11m carbon
Fork:RockShox Reba RL, 42mm offset, 100mm travel
Wheels:Alloy sealed 110/148mm hubs, Specialized Alloy 25mm rims, Specialized Fast Trak/Renegade, Control Casing T5 29x2.35in tyres
Drivetrain:SRAM X1000 Eagle 34t, 175mm chainset, SRAM GX derailleur and 12-speed shifter, SRAM XG-1275 10-52t cassette
Brakes:SRAM Level TL 180/160mm rotors
Components:Specialized alloy Minirise 750mm bar, Specialized 3D forged 60mm stem, Specialized alloy 30.9mm post, BG Power Sport saddle
Sizes:S, M, L XL
Weight:10.68kg (23.55lb)
Size ridden: L
Rider height:5ft 11in (181cm)
Head angle:68.7º
Seat angle:73.2º
Effective seat angle:74.2º (@750mm)
BB height:305mm
Front centre:722mm
Down tube:720mm
Seat tube:480mm
Top tube :630mm
Reach :460mm