2014 Specialized Epic
A Faster Epic
Specialized’s dual-suspension XC 29er gets an update for 2014
dual-suspension XC 29er
. You wouldn’t notice many of the changes at first glance, despite the fact that Specialized said this year’s model was designed by the largest team of engineers the company had ever assembled for a single project. I had a chance to check out the new bike with Specialized’s engineers during several days of riding in Durango, Colorado
—which happens to be my hometown. On my own trails, I got a solid first impression of the new bike in only a few days of riding.
There are now two different editions of the Epic, both with new frames and many updates. The World Cup is a sharply honed race machine that improves on the already fast platform, while the standard Epic has the same geometry and travel as 2013’s model. The two bikes are similar, but not identical, which makes each better for a certain kind of rider. All Epic models feature the BRAIN automatic shock lockout system and AutoSag, which greatly simplifies shock setup.
The S-Works Epic World Cup has tighter geometry and works only with single chainring drivetrains, just the thing for serious racers.
If you frequently enter XC, short-track, or marathon races, choose one of the two World Cup models (there are S-Works- and Expert-level models). The Epic, a two-time winner of our Editors’ Choice award for best race bike, has always felt fast and aggressive, and this variant feels faster and more aggressive. It rips around switchbacks, especially when you’re climbing, and transfers your pedaling effort directly to the rear wheel. The steering geometry is quick and reactive (compared to the 2013 Epic, the chainstays are 10mm shorter, and the headtube angle is a half-degree steeper), reminiscent of a hardtail. Compared to other Epics, it also has less suspension travel—95mm versus 100mm, and a firmer suspension tune. The World Cup is intended for use only with a single-ring set up—there’s no provision for a front derailleur. With no derailleur, Specialized was able to make the chainstays bigger and stiffer, helping to improve power transfer. This version of Epic is a focused tool for racing, not one I'd chose for a day of cruising trails.
If you don’t always race, opt for one of the regular (non-World Cup) Epics. After spending a lot of time on last year’s S-Works model, I noticed that the 2014 bike has a BRAIN that’s more responsive, and transitions even more seamlessly from locked to open. This higher threshold means that the bike feels snappy on smooth terrain, but the new tune also rides more smoothly in rough terrain. One of the biggest improvements: While the old bike had a bit of a trap-door effect, a sudden dive through the mid-stroke when the BRAIN opened, the transition is controlled much better on the ’14 model. The new bike’s travel is also more progressive: During my limited time aboard, I was never able to use the suspension’s entire travel. It did feel a little quicker, and cornered better than last year’s Epic in technical terrain. Both the S-Works World Cup and standard Epic come at a premium price of $10,500—or $5,500 for the frames.
The Carbon Comp is the least expensive carbon Epic at $4,200. (There’s also an aluminum Epic Comp, which costs $3,300. It’s now a half-pound lighter, and incorporates many of the same features of the carbon bikes). The Carbon Comp has an aluminum rear triangle, and does not have a BRAIN fork. Even so, this is an excellent bike that railed harder than I expected it would. Without the BRAIN fork, the bike felt a bit unbalanced—and I couldn’t find a threshold setting on the RockShox fork that complemented the rear suspension. To make the bike feel balanced, I used the most open setting on both the front and rear suspension, but that sacrificed much of the quick feel that I love about the Epic.
For the 2014 model year, Specialized made some subtle-yet-effective improvements to its