specialized epic expert carbon brain

First Look: Specialized Epic Expert

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On the first of July this year, amongst a plume of smoke and an array of lazers, Specialized unveiled the brand new Epic. Redesigned from the tyres-up, the 2018 Epic remains as Big Red’s flagship full suspension XC race bike, but almost everything on it has changed from the 2017 model. There’s a brand new frame, a new suspension design, and a custom fork offset that Specialized’s mountain bike design team is particularly keen to shout about.

Our big boss Marky Mark flew over to the US back in May of this year to see the new Epic presented to a select group of journos, where he also had the opportunity to put the flagship SWORKS model to the test on some pretty hectic bike park trails. He came back impressed (and jetlagged), and ever since we’ve been keen to get one into the office to see how the Epic handles our local trails – and more importantly – our local conditions.

Well, Specialized has delivered on its promise, and we now have a shiny 2018 Specialized Epic Expert in the building and ready for a shakedown in preparation for an upcoming group test. Well, that is if we can prize it out of the treasured embrace of the office magpies – just look at this thing shine!

specialized epic expert carbon brain
It’s like those glittery stilettos I wore once.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
Tequila sunrise anyone?

Race courses have evolved over the past few years. They’re more technical, steeper, and simply more challenging to ride. But instead of quivering in our boots, we saw this as an opportunity to make something special—something that both World Cup athletes and XC riders alike can instantly feel the benefit from. Lightweight carbon frame? Check. Industry-leading suspension technology? Oh yeah. Race-ready build kit? You know it. The Epic Expert is not only ready to shine in races, but it’s also ready to put your closest buddies in the pain cave on the weekends” – From Specialized.

specialized epic expert carbon baaw
The 2018 Specialized Epic Expert in all of its carbon glory.

Specialized Epic Expert Features

  • Full suspension XC race bike
  • 29in wheels
  • Specialized FACT 11m carbon fibre frame
  • Single pivot suspension design
  • RockShox/Specialized Micro Brain rear shock
  • 100mm rear travel
  • 100mm fork travel
  • 69.5° head angle
  • 74.75° seat tube angle
  • 438mm chainstay length
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Tooled 148x12mm rear thru-axle
  • SWAT storage
  • Available sizes: Small, Medium, Large, & X-Large
specialized epic expert carbon brain
It looks like an Epic, but this one is very different to the last 15 years of Epicness.

So there have been a load of changes for the 2018 Epic, and Mark did an extremely good job of explaining all of those changes here. The overall shape of the Epic frame remains similar to the previous model, though there have been some substantial improvements and updates to the chassis, including the significant move away from the FSR four-bar suspension design to a lighter and stiffer single pivot setup. Specialized has also updated the Epic to Boost 148x12mm spacing for the rear dropouts, which along with the omission of the chainstay pivot, has helped to increase rear end stiffness while dropping weight. According to Specialized, about 525g has been lobbed off the frame weight over the 2017 model.

Other changes include the move from a 27.2mm diameter seatpost to a more dropper-friendly 30.9mm diameter, as well as a stretching and slackening of the bike’s front centre. The head angle has slackened 1.25° to 69.5°, and the Epic is now running a custom fork offset that sits at 42mm (compared with 51mm on the Epic HT), which Specialized claims offers more stability on the descents without giving up too much nimbleness. There’s also a whole new Brain damper and rear shock, with oil flow now integrated through the custom shock extender, which is said to improve the responsiveness of the Brain system.

But enough of all that mumbo jumbo. Let’s take a good ol’ sticky beak at that stunning frame!

specialized epic expert carbon brain
Specialized partnered with RockShox to develop the new Micro Brain rear shock, which is built specifically for the Epic.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
The rear shock is like a shrunken down Deluxe shock. It’s air-sprung, and it includes Specialized’s clever Autosag valve for dialling in sag.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
A machined bore runs through the alloy linkage, creating a tunnel for oil flow from the Brain damper, up into the shock.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
The Brain itself is low located out behind the rear dropout, where it offers maximum sensitivity.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
The carbon swingarm is now one-piece, with the FSR horst-link pivot removed for weight and stiffness reasons.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
Sleek internal cable routing from downtube to chainstay.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
The Epic Expert uses 11m carbon fibre, whereas the SWORKS model gets 12m carbon. Note the change to a threaded bottom bracket.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
Sleek lines. The cable routing clearly wasn’t an afterthought on this bike.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
And the entry port on the side of the headtube. There’s another hole on the other side for a dropper post line.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
Even the headset cap is light!
specialized epic expert carbon brain
Specialized includes the bottle cage and SWAT multi-tool with the bike.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
The Epic updates to Boost 148x12mm hub spacing.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
Ambitious tyres. 2.1in Fast Trak for the rear, and 2.3in for the front.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
They’re wrapped around Roval’s carbon fibre Control wheelset. They use 22mm inner width carbon rims, not the 25mm inner width of the new Control SL wheels.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
To match the rear suspension, there’s a Brain in the fork too. The chassis is a RockShox SID with the Solo Air spring, but the damping design is all-Specialized.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
Oversized Torque Cap hub end caps mate up to the SID fork dropouts for a nice and stiff junction.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
Because of the custom Brain damper, rebound damping is adjusted from the top of the fork.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
720mm wide bars for the front of our test bike. Bit different to the skinny XC bikes of old.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
MatchMaker X clamp ties the brake lever and Eagle shifter together.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
SRAM Level TL disc brakes.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
The drivetrain is SRAM GX Eagle, though the cranks are the non-series Stylo 6K alloy cranks, which are basically the same as GX Eagle cranks.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
The claw-like teeth of the Eagle chainring design.
specialized epic expert carbon brain
What front derailleur?
specialized epic expert carbon baaw
What does that colour remind you of?

So that’s a bit of a virtual tour of the new Epic Expert we have on test, which will be going up against the Giant Anthem 29er and another bike scheduled for a full suspension XC race bike test in an upcoming issue of Singletrack Magazine. Wanna know more about it? Then the Specialized website is probably a good place to start. Otherwise there’s always Ask Jeeves.

2018 Specialized Epic Expert Specifications

  • Frame // FACT 11m Carbon Fibre
  • Fork // Custom RockShox SID w/Brain Damper, 42mm Offset, 100mm Travel
  • Shock // RockShox/Specialized Micro Brain w/Spike Valve, Autosag
  • Hubs // Roval Control, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // Roval Control, Hookless, 22mm Internal Rim Width, Tubeless Ready
  • Tyres // Specialized Fast Trak Gripton 2.3in Front & 2.1in Rear
  • Chainset // SRAM Stylo 6K Alloy, 24mm GXP Spindle, 32t X-Sync 2 Eagle Chainring
  • Front Mech // N/A
  • Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Cassette // SRAM GX Eagle, 10-50t, 12-Speed
  • Brakes // SRAM Level TL, 180mm Front & 160mm Rear
  • Stem // Specialized XC, 6° Rise, Length: 75mm (Small), 90mm (Medium), 100mm (Large), 110mm (X-Large)
  • Bars // Specialized Mini-Rise, 7050 Alloy, 720mm Wide, 10mm Rise
  • Grips // Specialized Sip Grip Half-Waffle, Lock-On, Regular (Small & Medium), Thicker (Large & X-Large)
  • Seatpost // Specialized Alloy, 30.9mm,
  • Saddle // Specialized Body Geometry Phenom Comp, Hollow Cr-Mo Rails, 143mm
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
  • RRP // £4800
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Comments (6)

    £5k for a GX groupset? Ambitious…

    I’ve always liked the Epics, but that’s some seriously weighty money!

    I haven’t ridden a bike with Brain tech, but I’m dubious. Start of a race / short steep hill / sprint finish I want my suspension locked out. Flat rolling / drop offs / technical climb I want supple. Having a valve that ‘trips’ after a certain sized impact sounds like it’s working after the event and as such setting it up will be a compromise or either being firm or soft but not both (unlike bikes with a manual front and rear remote). Anybody got any experience of racing with Brain?

    mcvittees: http://www.iamspecialized.com/members/simonandreassen/ he’s got stripes for it and everything.

    I think the ‘brain’ technology has been around long enough now that the fundamental technology is fairly well sorted.

    Mcvittees, I had a 2013 Epic with Brain a while back and loved it, some of the early iterations were very clunky, but later revisions have been much better. You feel the start of the first bump and then you feel the valve open up. You can set how active the brain is, and I’d often have it on softest for a long day in the saddle and then firm when I was ‘on one’. I think the newer version is much better still.

    Relaxed head angle ha ha ha
    Giant are just as bad with this kind of comedy
    And their stem lengths oh my weird (I meant word but auto correct seemed fitting) it’s like the 90s so over again
    I race xc I want a bike that is fun to ride not leave you wondering where it will point next

    New Anthem 69 degrees, as is HEi HEi. Compared to old xc geo it is more relaxed?

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