First rides on new Specialized Epic and Epic EVO

by and 10

In case you hadn’t noticed yet, it’s an Olympic year this year. Kicking off a whole slew of XC race rig rejiggings is Specialized and its new Epic. There’s also an EVO suffixed Epic for, you know, downcountrying.

But first the Epic.

And being first is what the Epic is intending to do. As World Cup XC courses feature more and more rough bits, steep descent and even some occasional mandatory airtime, XC race bikes have had to become a bit more versatile.

While being fastest up the climbs is still overwhelmingly when XC races are won, it’s now very much the case that wins can be lost be flailing about on the aforementioned tricksy descents and tekkers features. If you come off, or wash out, anytime on a World Cup XC, you probably ain’t gonna win.

The new Specialized Epic does change a bit in terms of suspension travel (up to 120mm from previous 100mm), it does see a bunch of significant changes to its geometry. The head angle is now 66.4°. The seat angle is 75.5°. The BB is a slung down 333mm height. And last but in no way least, the reach figure has increased a fair amount (475mm reach on a Large).

Specialized has not totally ignored the obessions/desires of XC-heads the world over; the new bike is lighter. 76g lighter. That’s approximately two Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers. And that’s whilst also including SWAT 4.0 downtube storage (for two Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers?) and integrated headset bump stops to protect the top tube.

One of the more interesting places/methods that it has saved some grams is where the shock meets the top tube: “Compression molding composite parts is inefficient because they’re solid and require filler. Hollow composite structures are lighter and stronger. In our quest for optimization, we invented a way to bladder mold and post machine [the] forward shock tabs to save 24 grams out of the top tube.” Well, we thought it was interesting anyway.

The rear suspension claims to be less prone to pedal bob (20% is the figure used, but that is compared to the previous Epic EVO model not the standard Epic*). Having said that, Specialized clearly doen’t intend the Epic to be rock-solid under pedalling all the time. The Epic is intended to offer actual suspension up-and-downingness.

(*Specialized elaborates: “When our World Cup racers turned to the Epic EVO as the bike of choice for many of the ’23 season tracks, it became clear that capability had become the prime mover for the winners of tomorrow.”)

Here’s a rather bullish phrase pulled from the press launch PDF document: “Old thinking is that the stiffer the frame and suspension, the more efficient the bike will be. We’re calling bullsh!t on that. Efficiency is delivered by keeping the rider in the optimal pedaling position, reducing pedal-induced bobbing, and maintaining active suspension to decrease fatigue.”

The rear shocks offer three compression settings: Wide Open, Magic Middle and Sprint-on-lock. These are fairly self-explanatory.

The S-Works Epic 8 comes equipped with RockShox’s new Flight Attendant suspension (see the other story on the front page of this very website), with custom-tuned dampers in the fork and rear shock. The S-Works also features the toppest-end FACT 12M carbon frame, titanium hardware and a carbon shock extension.

Oh and yep, there’s a new Epic EVO.

The Epic EVO gets 10mm more travel than the regula Epic (ie. 130mm), a rear shock with two settings (Wide Open and Sprint-on-lock), bigger rotors, beefier tyres, shorter stems and riser bars.

UK pricing

  • S-Works Epic- £12,000
  • Pro (Epic + EVO) – £8,000
  • Expert Epic – £6,000
  • Comp (Epic + EVO) – £4,250
  • S-Works Epic frame – £5,500
  • PRO EVO frame – £3,500

How do they ride? Over to Amanda for some firsthand testimonials…

Specialized Epic first ride thoughts

The Epic I rode was built for an elite racer, there’s no need for anyone outside of a race track to have that amount of technology on a bike – it had 9 batteries on it (TyreWiz front and rear, Flight Attendant fork, shock, L shifter, R shifter. AXS Seatpost, AXS mech, Quark power meter). So of course, it rode like an absolute dream. Obscenely fast and responsive, with the Flight Attendant actively finding traction by shifting to pedal mode through the technical terrain that isn’t delivering really hard hits. You basically feel as though you’ve got the right bike for every section of a trail in a really enhanced way. It’s made to climb up steep ramps efficiently, it’s made to power through long slogs uphill at low gradient, it’s made to skip down the descent and soak up the small bumps whilst giving you the confidence to jump, or rail a berm, or ride through the roughest section of a rock garden because there’s someone in the way on the smooth line. Incredibly capable, insanely priced.

One major negative I had with this bike was that the S-Works handlebar was perfectly shaped and positioned to block my view of the fork Flight Attendant – meaning I couldn’t see what mode I was in at a glance. The Flight Attendant is colour coded to show the effort you’re giving, so if I was racing and needed to know if I was at sprint power, I’d be peeved that I couldn’t see it.

Specialized Epic EVO first ride thoughts

Given that the frame and geometry match the Epic now, you’d expect the two bikes to ride very similarly, but build kit is key. The Epic EVO rides like a fast, light and rather capable trail bike where the Epic is very XC. There were a few stand out differences for me, the main one being that I really struggled climbing anything steep on the Epic EVO. It wasn’t a lack of power or determination, I just found myself lifting the front end almost every climb. Ultimately I think it came down to the bars being too wide and maybe needing to shuffle some headset spacers to lower the bars.

The other difference was just general capability on descents. The EVO has 10mm more travel at each end and you really notice it. It’s a lot more fun, it feels like less of a serious ride and more like Play Time.

I have an Epic EVO on the way to STW Towers as we speak for a proper test. Keep an eye on Fresh Goods Fridays!

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Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

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Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • First rides on new Specialized Epic and Epic EVO
  • devash
    Free Member

    Seriously good geometry numbers for everyday riding. I would definitely buy a regular Epic 8 for my day to day riding. Will be interested to see how this translates into podium positions on the WC circuit.

    Full Member

    Any news on specs for the EVOs

    Full Member

    They are all on the Spec website.

    I’ve just watch a few minutes of the Guy Kesteven review on you tube. I had to turn it off after experiencing five minutes of quite galling fake whoops and hollers from the man himself – is he sponsored by them by any chance? Good grief…

    Full Member

    Never watched a guy kes vid before?

    Free Member

    9 batteries!

    Why don’t they cut to the chase and just call it a Kenevo?

    Full Member

    I’ve just watch a few minutes of the Guy Kesteven review on you tube. I had to turn it off after experiencing five minutes of quite galling fake whoops and hollers from the man himself – is he sponsored by them by any chance? Good grief…

    Got to earn his way! One of the many I actively avoid, as they bring little value to the review.

    My stumpy is 140/130, weighs similar to the Epic EVO, but with a pike up front. Offers no improvement so I’m sticking for now.

    Full Member

    Olympic year, so all the majors are releasing their brand new top flight XC machines. Love it. Really cool to see the technology.

    Full Member

    I’ve just watch a few minutes of the Guy Kesteven review on you tube. I had to turn it off after experiencing five minutes of quite galling fake whoops and hollers from the man himself – is he sponsored by them by any chance? Good grief…

    … This made me laugh…., 7x Specialised (Specialized) related videos released in 2 days by ‘ole Kes ….. there is no indication that these are promoted/ADs on YouTube so clearly not sponsored at all ……. As has been said many times before this is challenge with consumer based “journalism” from many outlets and media platforms, all the people churning this stuff out rely on the bike brands to send them stuff / be flown out on freebies to test new products etc…. You can imagine if they are making their living out of this that they are not exactly going to give negative reviews in case the brand does not fly them out somewhere nice / send them stuff next time as without stuff they cannot create content – I can think of many platforms and  bike based YouTube “reviewers” who in stating the obvious if they were not sent bikes/stuff they would have no platform/channel, in which case I would take every review provided with some level of cynicism.

    Full Member

    I’d be whooping if specialized flew me to Chile to ride some dusty trails 😊

    Full Member

    I’ve just watch a few minutes of the Guy Kesteven review on you tube.

    Let me guess…

    He loved it and it was the best bike he’d ridden, as ever.

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