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First Look: 2021 Specialized Epic & Epic Evo

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The Epic has been Specialized’s flagship full-suspension race bike ever since its introduction some 18 years ago. In that time, the bike has been on the podium of top tier races countless times under the world’s top riders. For 2021 Specialized is introducing two updated versions of the Epic. The goal with the new Epic platform was to bring the bike into the category of what Specialized considers “modern cross country.”

Previous versions of the full-suspension Epic used Specialized’s proprietary BRAIN shock that uses an inertia valve to discern between trail inputs and rider inputs. The BRAIN is still present on the 100mm front and rear travel race-ready Epic but the Epic EVO cuts the baggage and utilizes a metric shock to get 110mm of rear-wheel travel. That is coupled with a 120mm travel fork and a dropper post to make the bike more “shred friendly.”

Both the Epic and Epic EVO are available in a number of different builds composed of SRAM and Shimano drivetrains and RockShox or Fox suspension. Bikes are available in sizes XS – XL with prices starting at $ 4,125 USD and ranging to $11,525 USD for the top of the line S-Works models, complete with SRAM’s wireless AXS drivetrain and RockShox SID suspension.

Epic Details
• Wheel size: 29″
• Travel: 100mm
• Carbon frame
• 67.5° head angle
• 75.5° seat angle (size medium)
• Chainstays: 433mm
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing
• Sizes: XS-XL

Epic EVO Details
• Wheel size: 29″
• Travel: 110mm
• Carbon frame
• 66.5° head angle
• 74.5° seat angle (size medium)
• Chainstays: 438mm
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing
• Sizes: XS-XL
www.specialized.com

The bike is also light. The S-Works EVO we’ve been testing at our XC field test in Squamish tips the scale at 21.88 lbs, with our Schwalbe control tires installed.
Suspension Design

Both models use a linkage driven single pivot suspension design, and the 100mm travel Epic features Specialized’s BRAIN shock platform. The BRAIN is designed to deliver a firm pedaling platform until a bump is encountered, at which point it allows the shock to absorb the impact. The BRAIN has been refined time and time again, getting better with each iteration and coming a long ways from the overly clunky and unreliable shock of decades past. The location of the BRAIN is still at the rear axle, but it is now in a different orientation and designed to give a firmer platform with a smoother transition from closed to open.

The BRAIN has no doubt been a polarizing product and riders have had some trepidation with it in the past due to its need to be sent into Specialized for any major service. That hasn’t changed, but Specialized now offer two years of service included for the original owner of the bike. Service intervals are now longer and dealers will also have loaner shocks to give customers to keep them on the trail for the few days it’s away.

The kinematics of the Epic give the shock a more progressive curve with more mid-stroke support for a smoother transition to the BRAIN engaging. There’s a firmer platform but better small-bump performance as well.

For the 110mm travel Epic EVO, the BRAIN is gone, and in its place is a higher volume metric shock and a flip-chip adjustable link that gives riders another half-degree of adjustability. This bike uses a very different leverage ratio than the racier Epic, and it has more anti-squat as it has to give more support in the suspension without the BRAIN.

Frame Details

Both Epics utilize the same front end, but the EVO gets a totally different rear end as it doesn’t need to integrate with the BRAIN. Additionally, there are numerous other updates across the board.

The new Epic frame is, you guessed it, lighter and stiffer than the previous generation. The 12m S-Works frame is 100g lighter than the previous bike while the 11m frame that the rest of the line gets is equal to the former S-Works bike.

Tubing on all frames is scaled by frame size for optimal stiffness and weight and the S-Works bike gets a carbon compression-molded link. The rear triangle is now said to be 15% stiffer to match the stiffness of the front triangle and 20 grams lighter. In the frame redesign, shock forces were a major consideration and side loading on the shock is reduced by 30% in order to help with performance and durability.

Both the Epic and Epic EVO use SRAM’s Universal Derailleur Hanger and a threaded bottom bracket.

Riders won’t find a SWAT hole in the downtube of the Epic bikes as the tubes are simply too small. Adding the feature would have also increased weight, not what most XC racers or riders are looking for. There is, however, a bolt on the downtube that allows riders to attach Specialized’s external SWAT box if they so choose, in addition to having room for two water bottles.

Geometry

With the Epic designed for World Cup level XC racing, the geometry has been updated to meet the needs of modern XC courses. The 100mm travel bike has a 67.5-degree headtube angle, 433mm chainstays, and 44mm offset fork with a bottom bracket height of 324mm. The size XS bike has a slightly lower BB of 314mm. The size medium has a reach of 445mm and 75.5mm seat tube angle.

The Epic EVO and its more trail-capable geometry sits the 110mm bike with a 66.5-degree headtube angle, 438mm chainstays, a 44mm offfset fork, and a 336mm bottom bracket height. The size medium has a reach of 436mm and seat tube angle of 74.5mm. The geometry can be adjusted a half-degree steeper with a flip-chip.

Ride Impressions

We’ve been riding the Epic and Epic EVO consistently over the last few weeks in Squamish as a part of our XC field tests, so stay tuned for in-depth ride impressions on both bikes in the coming weeks.




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