Things happen quick over at Specialized: Todd Wells didn’t even have his new S-Works Epic 29er until the day before the U.S. national mountain bike championships, but that didn’t stop him from taking both the elite cross-country and short track national titles on it.
“Leading up to the race, I was going to either use my 26in Epic, which I raced last year or the 29er hardtail,” Wells told Cyclingnews. “I rode a lap on the 29er hardtail and it was much too rough, so I was going to use the 26in Epic, but then I got a call from Ned [Overend] two days before the race asking if I wanted to race the new 29er Epic. Before that I had ridden the bike once in Offenburg for 30minutes about a month ago. So I got the bike and it worked just like the 26in except with the benefits of the big wheels, so it was a no brainer.”
Wells cited the larger wheels stability on the course’s fast 40mph fire road descent and its ability to conserve forward momentum through down to uphill transitions as their main advantages.
“This was a high-speed course with a lot of transitions,” said Wells. “I definitely felt the benefit of the 29er.”
After such a successful first weekend on his new bike, Wells took the new bike to the World Cup in Champery, Switzerland and narrowly missed a top 10 placing, finishing 12th.
Wells said that changing his bike just days before the national championships then taking it straight to Europe wasn’t really a big deal.
“Going to a 29er is easier, always,” he said. “The bigger wheels are just more stable.”
Wells’ new S-Works Epic 29er
Wells’ extra-large Epic 29er weighs just 22.26lbs and carries a very similar specification to the 2011 S-Works production model. Highlights include the Roval Controle SL 29 carbon wheelset with 142-plus rear wheel design, Specialized’s modified RockShox Reba S29 Brain equipped 29er fork and the custom-for-Specialized Avid XX R brakeset.
Specialized’s 142-plus rear axle system benefits the bike in two ways. To start the 142x12mm rear axle adds considerable stiffness to the svelte rear swing arm, when compared to a standard titanium or even steel quick release.
Specialized’s design, however, takes things a bit further capitalising on the wider hub spacing by, also, widening the stance of wheel’s hub flanges. This increases the wheel’s stiffness by increasing the spokes’ bracing angle and also moves the cassette out, thereby better aligning it with the crankset, which gives the bike a considerably better chainline. On a race bike, a straighter chainline is absolutely appreciated for its ability allow cross-chaining.
The 142-plus rear end uses a DT Swiss 12mm RWS thru-axle.
The final touch to the new wheelset is its carbon 29in rims. The set is, ultimately, an evolved model of the prototype spotted on Wells’ bike during April’s Sea Otter Classic. The carbon rims are sealed with tape for tubeless use.
“The rear end is just so stiff,” said Wells. “Even for the short track; I thought I’d race the hardtail because it’s more of an explosive type of effort, but I feel like the rear end on that new Epic is stiffer than the hardtail.”
Specialized took their 2010 S29 Reba chassis, which sports a FACT tapered carbon crown and larger dropout flanges and adds the Brain damper for 2011. The tunable automatic lockout is said to perfectly complement Specialized’s Fox manufactured Mini-Brain rear shock.
SRAM’s XX R brakeset puts the finishing touches on Wells’ new Epic. The brakes include a retrofit tool free reach adjuster to Avid’s top cross-country racing brake. The adjuster adds a few grams, but reaps immense benefit in terms of adjustability.
All of three of the highlights found on Well’s bike are incorporated to the 2011 production model.