Following the announcement of the 2021 Cannondale Scalpel, Specialized has today dropped the covers off its all-new Epic - a bike the Morgan Hill-based firm has touted to be its greatest and most progressive cross-country mountain bike race package ever. There's also an Epic Evo variant that looks to blur the lines between XC and trail riding thanks to flip-chip adjustment and a host of other additions.
With a racing lineage spanning 20 years and over 100 wins and podiums at World Cup level, the Specialized Epic is arguably the most celebrated bike moniker in mountain biking history. According to the big S, its new Epic is the fastest bike it's ever produced and has been developed with input from its athletes to improve trail manners, ride quality and efficiency.
As such, it's undergone a radical refresh to stay up-to-date with the demands of both contemporary cross-country courses and multi-day stage races such as the Absa Cape Epic. Along with a stiff, lightweight carbon frame, the new model utilises modern tube shaping and geometry together with the firm's fabled Brain suspension platform.
Lighter package, slacker geometry
For 2021 the Epic features a brand-new frame built around 29 x 2.3in wheels and 100mm of front/rear travel. The FACT 11m carbon-fibre framework is claimed to provide a more responsive pedalling platform and a 15 per cent stiffer rear triangle. The revised tube shaping, layup techniques and construction methods have resulted in a significant reduction in weight that now matches the previous-generation S-Works Epic. The 2021 S-Works Epic, however, has managed to shed a further 100g over its predecessor thanks to a new FACT 12m carbon frame, carbon shock linkage and new layup recipe - a large will tip the scales at an incredible 9.3kg (20.5 pounds).
In terms of numbers, the new-fangled geometry sees the bottom bracket height lowered by nine millimetres while a slacker, 67.5-degree head angle complete with 44-millimetre fork offset, shorter 433mm chainstays and a longer reach have been dialled into the equation to improve overall trail manners.
A smarter Brain
Brain technology is nothing new to Specialized having first appeared back in 2003 on the 90mm Epic as part of a Specialized-Fox collaboration. While not to everyone's taste, the Brain's inertia valve has been a mainstay on the Epic and the latest generation appears smarter than ever.
The Brain suspension platform has subsequently been re-mastered with pro athlete input and now offers efficiency levels like never before. The new system - like before - can actively pick out the difference between rider and trail input but it's more sensitive and perceptive for 2021 thanks to the improved Rx XC Tune of the 100mm rear suspension assembly.
The RockShox-Specialized rear shock complete with rear-stay-mounted Rx XC Tune Brain canister is standard fare across the entire Epic range while the Brain-equipped RockShox SID RL is only available on the Expert model and up. The Epic Comp base model makes do with a 'dumb' RockShox Reba RL front fork.
New Roval wheels
To better access the new Epic's new-found talents, Specialized commissioned its in-house wheel specialist, Roval, to create a specifically designed carbon wheelset - the Roval SL.
The new wheelset is built around a 29mm wide profile and 25mm internal rim width - these two attributes help promote better traction and lower tyre pressures. The entire wheel system is claimed to tip the scales at 1,240 gram a pair.
Other notable highlights include an all-new bead-hook design which ultimately reduces pinch flatting on more technical descents - an area that has plagued the brand in the past.
Pandering to the needs of those who enjoy rowdier terrain, Specialized has also updated its Evo recipe to combine the very best attributes of the XC and trail disciplines. It combines the front triangle of the Epic with a dedicated, Evo-specific rear triangle increasing travel to 110 millimetres at the rear.
The Evo foregoes Brain technology in favour of a more traditional suspension arrangement but still benefits from an Rx CX Tune - all Evos will utilise RockShox 120mm forks up front.
Compared to the XC-focussed Epic, the Evo's geometry is naturally skewed more towards the relaxed end of the spectrum with a 66.5-degree head angle, 5mm longer chainstays (438mm), shorter reach, a slacker seat tube angle and a 336mm bottom bracket height. However, if that's all a bit too progressive for you, there's a flip-chip at hand to steepen everything up. As such, the head angle will become 0.5-degrees steeper (67-degrees) while raising the bottom bracket by 6mm to 330mm.
To ensure the Evo honours the models that came before it, a slew of careful component considerations were carried out to keep it on-trend. These items include an X-Fusion Manic dropper seat post with 110-125mm travel (frame-dependent) and beefier four-pot brake calipers.
Pricing and range
Buyers will have four Epic models to choose from. The Epic Comp is Specialized’s entry-level offering at $4,125. It features a FACT 11m carbon-fibre frame, Shimano SLX 12-speed 1x drivetrain, 100mm RockShox Reba RL and RockShox-Specialized Rx XC Tune Brain shock.
The $5,925 Epic Expert takes things up a notch with a 10-50T SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Level brakes and 100mm RockShox SID SL Brain fork up front to go with a RockShox-Specialized Rx XC Tune Brain rear shock and Roval Control carbon wheels. At $8,250 the Epic Pro adds SRAM AXS Eagle, Level TLM brakes and a host of other carbon component garnishes.
The range-topping Specialized S-Works Epic is positioned at $11,524. The most significant specification highlights are the Fact 12m carbon frame, RockShox SID SL Ultimate Brain fork, SRAM XX1 AXS Eagle 1x12 drivetrain and Level Ultimate brakes. It also rolls on Roval Control carbon wheels wrapped in Fast Trak 29 x 2.3in rubber.
The Specialized Epic and Epic Evo will be available from retailers on 4 June 2020.
- Epic Comp - $4,125 / £3,999
- Epic Expert - $5,925 / £6,099
- Epic Pro - $8,250 / £7,499
- Epic S-Works - $11,524 / £10,499
- Epic Evo Comp - $5,925 / £3,999
- Epic Evo Expert - $7,925 / £6,099
- Epic Evo S-Works frameset - $5,025 / £3,499
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Aaron is Cyclingnews' tech editor. Born and raised in South Africa he completed his BA honours at the University of Cape Town before embarking on a career in journalism. As the former gear and digital editor of Bicycling magazine and associate editor of TopCar, he's been writing about bikes and anything with wheels for the past 16 years. A competitive racer and Stravaholic, he’s twice ridden the Cape Epic and completed the Haute Route Alps. When not riding, racing or testing bicycles in and around the UK's Surrey Hills where he now lives, he's writing about them for Cyclingnews and Bike Perfect.
Rides: Cannondale SuperSlice Disc Di2 TT, Cannondale Supersix Evo Dura-Ace Rim, Cannondale Supersix Evo Ultegra Di2 Disc, Trek Procaliber 9.9 MTB
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