The 2020 Specialized Epic HT – Same Same, But Different
Wil reports on the new Specialized no-mercy XC race hardtail.
Back in June this year, I was invited out to Lake Tahoe in the US for the Specialized Summer Camp. We were there to test out several new bikes, one of which was the brand new 2020 Epic HT.
Before the start of the presentation on the Epic, I noticed a blacked out carbon hardtail frame sat on top of a table with a set of fish scales next to it. Scales at a product launch are a sure bet that weight is going to be one of the main talking points of a new bike. And in the new Epic hardtail, weight most certainly is one of the talking points.
There are actually a load of other significant changes over the previous Epic, all of which are designed to make this a more comfortable and capable race bike for taking on modern World Cup XCO courses.
We’ll get onto those nitty-gritty details shortly, but first let’s take a closer look at that stunning carbon frame and the headline-grabbing weight figure.
That Sub-800g Frame
Now the previous Epic S-Works frame wasn’t exactly a heffalump, given it only tipped the scales at 845g. Not content on resting on one’s laurels though, Specialized decided it could do better.
How much better? The new 2020 Specialized Epic S-Works frame comes in at a claimed weight of just 775g (+/- 15g) for a medium. Yup. Seven hundred and seventy five grams. At the time of writing, the new Epic is (as far as we’re aware) the lightest mass-produced mountain bike frame on the market.
Believe it or not, that weight figure is actually a bit conservative. According to Specialized’s carbon whizz, Peter Denk, about 50% of production frames are actually coming in at 760g. That is insanely light, particularly when you factor in that the new frame is quite a bit longer in the front end, and it’s still hitting all of Specialized’s strength, fatigue and stiffness targets.
Now, 80-100g might not sound like a whole lot, but that’s about a 10% weight reduction. And in the world of ultra weight-weenieism, it is ALL about the percentages.
It is worth bearing in mind that the 775g claimed weight figure is for the frame with only the derailleur hanger installed. By the time you add the 32g axle and the 13g seat collar, you’ve got an 820g frame with hardware.
That isn’t quite as light as Unno’s Aora hardtail (790g claimed weight for a Medium frame with hardware). But Unno is a much smaller manufacturer that doesn’t have quite the same demands as a big brand like Specialized when it comes to things like price, quantities, and durability. Unno also only makes the Aora in a single frame size.
Specialized says it’s been able to achieve weight drop by scrutinising the carbon layup of the Epic’s frame to minimise overlap where possible, while also shrinking down key junction points and reducing tube diameters. The seatsays have been slimmed right down, which has the added benefit of increasing rear-end compliance for a more comfortable ride.
The bottom bracket junction is much more compact than the old frame, and it also makes the significant move away from the PF30 standard to a good ol’ threaded BB. That’s right – Specialized continues its trend of ditching press-fit BB systems in favour of thread-in BB cups.
To do this, two alloy inserts are co-moulded into the carbon frame’s BB shell, and after the frame has been baked in the oven, these are then tapped to ensure precise bearing alignment.
The 2020 Specialized Epic frame gets drop-in bearings up at the headtube, and further weight reductions have been achieved by eliminating the bolt-on downtube bump-stops. These bump-stops were previously there to prevent the shifter and brake levers from hitting the top tube during a crash. You no longer get that protection, which does make the new frame is lighter and tidier, but you might want some heli-tape over the top tube if it looks like your shifter and brake levers are likely to make contact during an over-rotation of the bars.
Cable routing has been simplified, with all lines (including the full length gear cable) routing internally. These are wrapped with foam ‘churros’ to help eliminate cable slap.
The dropouts are now fully carbon, with a lightweight sandwich-style hanger clamping down on the drive side. It’s worth noting that Specialized is using this two-piece mech hanger for all of its latest models including the Stumpy range, the Fuse, and the Epic FSR, which I’m sure dealers, mechanics and owners will be very pleased by.
Oh and there are no funky new axle standards – the Epic sticks with a Boost 148x12mm rear end with a neat bolt-up alloy axle.
Less Anger, More Fun
In addition to all the frame improvements, the new 2020 Specialized Epic gets significantly reworked geometry to bring it up to speed for modern World Cup XC race courses.
The head angle kicks back over a degree to 68.5°, which incidentally, is the same as what you’ll find on the Epic EVO. The Epic HT also follows in the footsteps of its fully-suspended cousins by moving to a reduced offset fork. This has boosted ground trail from 82mm on the old bike, to 101mm, which should make for a less twitchy steering feel.
The new frame is longer too, with reach growing around 12-14mm depending on the size. Reach measurements are as follows: 405mm (S), 430mm (M), 455mm (L) and 480mm (XL).
To match the longer top tubes, the Epic HT is spec’d with a shorter 60-75mm stem, depending on frame size. Well, unless you’re a stubborn World Cup racer like Sam Gaze, who prefers to downsize his Epic frame so that he can run a super-long and inverted 130mm stem.
Otherwise the Epic HT maintains similar figures to the previous version, which includes the 74° seat angle and 61mm BB drop. Chainstay length remains at 430mm. Despite the longer and slacker front end, Specialized has aimed to keep the wheelbases short and snappy for carving up tight and twisty singletrack. After all, this is still a proper XC race hardtail.
Dropper Post Ready
A welcome addition to the 2020 Specialized Epic frame is the move from the skinny 27.2mm seatpost to a 30.9mm diameter post. This provides a tonne more options for running a dropper post – something that more and more XC racers are looking for.
Even with the bigger diameter seat tube though, Specialized has maintained compliance by curving the seat tube so that it delivers more flex underneath the rider. Also helping with rider comfort is the option to run fatter rubber, since the Epic HT can accommodate up to a 2.4in wide tyre in the back.
For 2020 there will be four Epic models available in the UK starting at £2,250 for the Epic HT Carbon 29, and going up to a cool £8,000 for the Epic HT S-Works.
There are two different frames; the top-level S-Works frame that’s made with Fact 12m carbon fibre, and a slightly cheaper Fact 11m frame that will come on Expert, Comp and Carbon 29 models. The Fact 11m frame has the same geometry and overall shape, but comes in 140g heavier. That’s still well under the 1kg barrier though.
All bikes are built around a 100mm travel reduced-offset fork, and roll on Roval wheels wrapped with 2.3in wide Specialized tyres. Since the frame is 1x specific, wide-range 1x drivetrains feature throughout, and there’s clearance to run up to a 36T chainring on both frames.
2020 Specialized Epic HT First Ride Impressions
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Wil’s flights and accommodation for this trip were covered by Specialized.
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