Just three years after the release of the previous generation Specialized Bicycles have updated their XC Epic platform. In 2018 the bike became longer and slacker, but the headline upgrade was the Brain 2.0 inertia-valve rear suspension system. For 2021 the Specialized Epic gets a new Brain, a slacker 67.5 degrees head angle, shorter chainstays, a lower BB and comes built with shorter stems.
The Epic Evo meanwhile becomes a bike of its own. Whereas the outgoing model felt like a 100mm XC bike with a 120mm fork, the 2021 edition is more than just trail tuned. While it shares a main triangle with the Epic, but has a unique rear triangle. This allows the Evo to maximise it’s rear travel to 110mm. Paired with 120mm forks, simply put, it creates a more balanced bike; than the outgoing model.
Most importantly we feel though is the dropping of the Brain for the Evo. It utilises a Rx-tuned metric shock rather, along with a purpose-built link which yields a 2.8:1 leverage ratio. To further enhance its all-round capabilities the suspension rocker features a flip-chip which can turn the Evo from a trail shredder to a hybrid racer by steepening the head angle and raising the BB. In the low (trail) mode the Evo’s head angle is 66.5-degrees, which increases to 67-degrees in the higher mode. The BB is 336mm (regardless of frame size) in the low mode and 6mm higher in high.
While we will have to wait a while for a test ride here’s what Specialized have to say in the official press release… (Or read about the Specialized Diverge or Diverge Expert reviews so long.)
THE ALL-NEW SPECIALIZED EPIC AND EPIC EVO: THINK FASTEST
You’re looking at the fastest XC bikes in the world. Building on the legacy of the winningest full suspension XC bike in history, these freshly redesigned Epics deliver an unmatched combination of pedalling efficiency, light weight and control.
“Make the fastest XC bike ever.” That was the Epic development team’s audacious mission. Luckily for them, the starting point was the winningest full suspension XC race bike in history. Building from this, the team delivered an unmatched combination of pedalling efficiency, light weight and control. Mission accomplished.
EPIC: WINNING IS EVERYTHING
If winning isn’t everything, we’re doing something wrong. For 20 years, Epics have rocketed more racers to the top of the podium than any other full suspension XC bike. Now with a smarter, tougher, more responsive Brain shock and a stiffer, lighter frame, the new race-focused Epic cuts the time between starting line and victory even shorter.
EPIC EVO: SINGLETRACK SCORCHER
Crossing the finish line first isn’t the only way to worship at the altar of speed. When it comes to ripping backcountry miles and railing endless singletrack with ruthless efficiency, the Epic EVO—with its purebred Epic speed, tuned suspension, increased travel and trail-tweaked geo—is your crazy-fast riding partner.
BRAIN TECHNOLOGY, IT KNOWS
Brain technology in the Epic fork and shock knows the difference between pedalling force and bump force—it keeps suspension efficiently firm on smooth terrain and automatically switches to active the instant things get rough, boosting control and speed. The new Epic gets a fresh Brain shock, the most durable and control-enhancing that we’ve ever made.
The culmination of two decades of obsessive refinement, the new Epic frames are lighter and stiffer than ever. The S-Works Epic FACT 12m carbon chassis shaves over 100 grams from its predecessor, employs a carbon link, and boasts a 15% increase in rear triangle stiffness. The FACT 11m frame found on the rest of the Epic range now matches the stiffness and weight of the previous S-Works chassis.
Dominating today’s technical XC courses demands geometry that borrows from trail bikes while optimizing XC responsiveness. Combining precise handling with improved capability in technical terrain, we relaxed the headtube to 67.5 degrees, stuck with the reduced fork offset that we pioneered in 2018, increased reach, specified shorter stems, shortened chainstays and dropped the bottom bracket by 9mm. Bring it.
RX TUNE – YOUR PRESCRIPTION FOR FAST
Riders all, our team of engineers and technicians toiled to develop every aspect of the Epic suspension into an optimally performing singularity. Chassis design, telemetry, wheel rates, spring curves, custom shim-stacks, oil viscosity—every detail obsessed over, prototyped and tuned until the whole was way faster than the sum of its parts.
EPIC EVO: SINGLETRACK SCORCHER
What do you get when you give a crazy-smart, singletrack-obsessed development team virtually unlimited resources and tell them to make the fastest XC trail bike ever? Epic EVO. Start with the Epic front end, build an all-new rear end, swap the brain for a custom-tuned metric shock, and tune the geo for technical terrain capability. Ready, set, shred.
EVOLUTION OF A CHASSIS
The heart of the EVO chassis is the same wicked-light and super-stiff front triangle as the Epic. Next, for stability, we designed a purpose-built rear end. Finally, we boosted control and trail performance by unifying the front and rear end with a stiff shock link optimised for the plush metric damper used on the EVO. Evolved for trail speed.
EVO GEO: RELAXED AND FAST
The EVO’s 66.5-degree head angle and lower bottom bracket keep things calm when the trail turns technical. For pedalling efficiency, the seat angle is 3/4 of a degree steeper than its predecessor. If you want sharper handling and a bit more clearance, just rotate the FlipChip—angles get half a degree steeper and the bottom bracket comes up 6mm.
To conquer rough trails as fast as humanly possible, the Epic EVO maintains ultra-efficient pedalling manners, but trades the Brain in favour of an Rx-tuned metric shock. A purpose-built link yields a 2.8:1 leverage ratio, and milks bump-devouring performance from its 110-mm rear travel. 120mm forks with custom Rx-tuned valving complete EVO’s balanced, trail-smart suspension.
ROVAL CONTROL SL: THE ULTIMATE XC WHEELSET
A wheelset that matched the potential of the new Epics simply didn’t exist, so we tapped Roval to create one. Enter the new Roval Control SL wheelset. Seemingly intent on destroying every benchmark thrown at it, the Roval Control SL wheelset is wider, lighter, faster, stronger, more compliant and more durable.
Built around a completely new rim design, it’s 29-millimeter-wide profile grows by four millimeters, providing a better tire profile for increased traction, while the system weight falls by nearly 90 grams for a featherweight total of just 1240 grams. Debuting an all-new bead-hook design, wider hooks feature a flat profile that not only offers greater impact strength by distributing impact force over a larger area, but also increases the impact force needed to pinch flat by 22 percent.
Offset spokes and an asymmetric rim profile paired with two-cross lacing not only provides a better bracing angle for increased lateral stiffness but allows for the use of a single spoke length across the entire wheelset.
FAQ about the 2021 Epic and Epic Evo
WHAT SETS THE EPIC AND EPIC EVO MODELS APART FROM ONE ANOTHER?
While the design process of both Epic and Epic EVO was dominated by an obsession with finding every last bit of speed, the Epic and Epic EVO look for it in different places.
Dedicated solely to crossing the finish line first, Epic is the fastest XC race bike Specialized has ever created, thanks in large part to the most efficient BRAIN suspension platform yet.
EPIC EVO takes the Epic family’s cherished tradition of finding every bit of fast and injects increased rough-terrain capability, applying the winning combination to backcountry adventures and singletrack sojourns where speed is of the essence.
Taking into account these different aims, Epic and Epic EVO each adopt completely dedicated suspension platforms offering different amounts of travel as well as exclusive geometries for each bike in order to maximize speed in each setting.
HOW MUCH SUSPENSION TRAVEL DO THE EPIC AND EPIC EVO HAVE?
Epic offers 100 millimeters of travel front and rear, Epic EVO sports 120 millimeters up front and 110 millimeters of rear-end travel.
WHY DOES THE EPIC EVO FOREGO BRAIN SUSPENSION?
In a word, specialization. By approaching the respective suspension platforms of both EPIC and Epic EVO separately, we were able to design each solely around their intended application, shutting the door on even the slightest possibility of compromise.
This allowed us much more leeway in our quest to squeeze out every ounce of race performance from the BRAIN platform, resulting in game-changing efficiency tailor-made for winning races. To better serve the EPIC EVO’s wider-angle focus on fast, we paired custom Rx Tune suspension components across all sizes/models with bespoke suspension kinematics to achieve the perfect balance of capability and efficiency for riders looking for speed outside the confines of a race course.
HOW MANY MODELS ARE IN THE NEW EPIC LINE?
There are four Epic models (Comp, Expert, Pro, S-Works) and five Epic EVO models (Base, Comp, Expert, Pro, S-Works) as well as S-Works frameset options available for both.
WHAT’S THE WEIGHT RANGE WITHIN THE EPIC LINE?
With even the Epic EVO Base coming in well under 30 pounds, S-Works Epic models tip the scales as light as 20.5 pounds (Size L frame, average of all colorways).
WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM TYRE SIZE THE EPIC AND EPIC EVO CAN ACCOMMODATE?
Epic can accommodate 2.3-inch tyres front and rear, while Epic EVO can accommodate a 2.3-inch rear tyre and 2.4-inch front.
WHAT SIZE TYRES DO THE EPIC AND EPIC EVO COME EQUIPPED WITH?
All Epic models come equipped with Fast Trak 29×2.3-inch treads (2Bliss Ready, Control casing, 60TPI, GRIPTON® compound) front and rear, while all Epic EVO models come equipped with 29×2.3 Ground Control (2Bliss Ready, Control casing, 60TPI, GRIPTON® compound) front tyres and 29×2.3 Fast Trak rear tyres (2Bliss Ready, Control casing, 60TPI, GRIPTON® compound).
HOW ABOUT THOSE WATER BOTTLES?
Epic and Epic EVO both accommodate two standard water bottles inside the front triangle in all sizes, with the exception of XS frames, which can accommodate one bottle on the downtube.
EPIC DEVELOPMENT LEADS
Being tasked with making the fastest XC bike we’ve ever made even faster is no small feat. Brian Gordon, Jason McDonald, Mike “Mick” McAndrews and Chance Ferro dug into every aspect of handling, stiffness and suspension kinematics to do exactly that. The result is not one, but two, purpose-built Epic platforms for the fastest racers and riders in the XC world.