First Look: 2018 Specialized S-Works Epic Hardtail World Cup

by
May 18, 2017

Barely a month ago, Specialized soft-launched the 2018 Epic hardtail. Already refreshed for 2017 with Boost hub spacing and improved geometry, it might have seemed a little frivolous of Specialized to bring out another new hardtail only 12 months later. As it turned out, the 2018 Epic S-Works Hardtail (thankfully) retains the same tube shapes and excellent geometry of last years bike, but simply cranks up the performance dial with a move to Specialized’s FACT 12m carbon fibre.

The result? A claimed frame weight of just 800 grams, making this frame not only the lightest hardtail that Specialized has ever made, but the lightest frame FULL STOP. As in, lighter than an S-Works Tarmac road bike frame – yikes!

We’ve already managed to take a closer look at the new bike, after bringing you a story about Aussie XC racer Andy Blair’s 7.8kg Specialized S-Works Epic Hardtail. Now though, we have a full-blown production bike in for testing. And if the early reports are anything to go by, this bike is going to be very, very fast…

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
Neat integrated SWAT storage comes as stock on the S-Works Epic Hardtail.

Call it a healthy disrespect for the status quo, but we were getting bored with hardtail designs. So instead of playing along, we opted to turn the cross country world on its head with a bike that’s not only the lightest mountain frame we’ve ever made. It’s our lightest frame—period. Introducing the S-Works Epic Hardtail World Cup” – From Specialized.

specializedepic11
Just looks fast standing still right?

Specialized Epic Hardtail Features

  • Superlight XC race hardtail
  • FACT 12m carbon fibre frame with S-Works specific layup
  • 800g claimed frame weight
  • 29in wheels
  • Designed for 90-100mm travel forks w/51mm offset
  • 69.8 head angle
  • 74° seat angle
  • PF30 bottom bracket shell
  • Boost 148x12mm rear hub spacing
  • 430mm chainstay length
  • 27.2mm diameter seatpost
  • Internal gear cable and brake line routing
  • Available sizes: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
  • Price: £6900
specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
The FACT 12m carbon frame achieves a feathery 800g claimed weight.

For 2018, the Epic Hardtail frame retains many of the same features as last years bike, with an integrated tapered headtube up front, and neat little fork bumpers that bolt on to the underside of the downtube to stop the fork crown from whacking into the frame. The frame uses a mixture of internal and external cable routing, with discreet entry ports found on the head tube.

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
Lightweight SID World Cup forks packed with Brain technology.

The fork is a custom RockShox SID World Cup fork, chosen because it’s both lighter and torsionally stiffer than the RS-1 fork. The carbon one-piece upper is unique to the World Cup version of the SID fork, and along with the slender magnesium lowers and Maxle Stealth axle, RockShox claims this fork comes in at just 1366g.

One difference over the stock SID World Cup fork is the addition of Specialized’s Brain damper. This threshold-adjustable compression feature is designed to offer a firm platform for hard sprinting out of the saddle, with the ability to open up as the front tyre encounters a hit. Specialized has used this inertia valve technology for over ten years now, both inside the rear shocks and forks on its flagship XC and trail bikes.

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
Carbon Roval Control SL rims.

Wheels are from the Roval stable, being those new carbon Control SL hoops that feature a 25mm internal rim width. Claimed weight for the wheelset is 1300g with Boost hubs and a SRAM XD freehub body. These race-spec wheels are only available in a 29in diameter and use trick CNC machined hubs with DT Swiss 240 internals and a 54t Star Ratchet freehub mechanism for rapid pickup.

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
Is that a 90mm long stem, OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME?

Being an XC race bike, the stem is loooong! Well, only 90mm long on our Medium test bike, though the Large goes to a 100mm length, and the XL frame features a 110mm stem. Handlebar width sits at 720mm, with a slight rise to the FACT carbon handlebars. Long and low is the name of the game here.

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
Carbon handlebars, carbon shifter body, carbon brake levers.

Being the S-Works model, the spec on this bike is flat-out blingeriffic. It’s a largely SRAM affair for drivetrain and braking duties, with the trick Level Ultimate brakes doing the stopping thing, complete with sealed bearing pivots and curvaceous carbon fibre lever blades.

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
Oh and carbon crank arms too.

No Specialized cranks here. Instead, the S-Works Epic Hardtail is setup with a set of carbon fibre XX1 Eagle cranks from SRAM. There’s a 32t XSync 2 chainring in a Boost offset to match the Boost’d dropouts out back. For the XC riders and racers who want to fit a double chainring, the Epic frame will take it, and it has ports for Di2 cabling for electric fans.

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
Is that a 50t sprocket? OR ARE YOU JUST HA…

But with that huge 10-50t cassette, we don’t suspect many riders will bother fitting a front mech to the Epic. The dropouts feature a 148mm wide spacing for the 12mm thru-axle, and they’re tied to 430mm long chainstays that aim to keep the steering crisp on the Epic.

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
A bendy 27.2mm diameter seatpost is designed to flex more than a gym junkie.

The FACT 12m carbon fibre layup not only helps to chisel away the total frame weight, it’s also oriented to encourage flex through the top half of the frame, specifically through the seatstays and top tube. A slender seat tube uses a 27.2mm internal diameter for the slender carbon seatpost, offering more flex and damping over larger diameter seatposts. However, the skinnier diameter does severely limit the use of dropper posts for those progressive XC racers who want to get the saddle out of the way.

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
Blacked-out Body Geometry saddle on the carbon fibre single-bolt seatpost.

MOAR CARBON! This time in the saddle rails of the Specialized Body Geometry saddle. The Phenom saddle is a well loved perch for XC riders, and one that our bottoms are eager to be introduced to. 143mm width for those with matching sit bones.

Although the S-Works Epic Hardtail is fresh in the office, Chipps has already put the bike onto the race track over the weekend at the Singletrack 7 event in Catton Park. Early reports indicate that it isn’t quite the super angry machine that it might look like, with Chipps being impressed with just how comfortable and capable the Epic is. However, we’ll have a full-blown review coming for you once we’ve racked up some race time under our collective belts.

In the meantime, check out our video below on the new Epic hardtail, and for additional info, check out the Specialized website.

specialized epic s-works hardtail carbon 29in
Is the Epic hardtail just a superlight race bike? Or is this a bike made for proper mountain biking? We shall find out…

2018 Specialized S-WORKS Epic Hardtail World Cup Specifications

  • Frame // FACT 12m Carbon Fibre
  • Fork // Custom RockShox SID World Cup w/Brain Damper, 90mm Travel (Small frames) – 100mm Travel (Medium, Large, X-Large)
  • Shock // N/A
  • Hubs // Roval Control SL, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // Roval Control SL, Hookless, 25mm Internal Rim Width, Tubeless Ready
  • Tyres // Specialized Fast Trak GRIPTON 2.3in Front & 2.1in Rear
  • Chainset // SRAM Eagle XX1, 30mm Spindle, 32t Direct Mount Chainring
  • Front Mech // N/A
  • Rear Mech // SRAM XX1 Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Shifters // SRAM XX1 Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Cassette // SRAM XX1 Eagle, XG-1295, 10-50t, 12-Speed
  • Brakes // SRAM Level Ultimate, 180mm Front & 160mm Rear
  • Stem // Specialized S-Works SL, 6° Rise, Length: 75mm (Small), 90mm (Medium), 100mm (Large), 110mm (X-Large)
  • Bars // Specialized Mini-Rise, FACT Carbon, 720mm Wide, 10mm Rise
  • Grips // Specialized Sip Grip Half-Waffle, Lock-On, Regular (Small & Medium), Thicker (Large & X-Large)
  • Seatpost // Specialized FACT Carbon, 27.2mm,
  • Saddle // Specialized Body Geometry S-Works Phenom, Carbon Rails, 143mm
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large

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First Look