Specialized S-Works Epic: Big Wheel Fun

Up near the cows

Fear and adrenaline flashes your memory quick. I hadn’t been on a Mountain Bike for two decades, turned a sharp corner on some single track and suddenly yelled,

hey! …. get the F out the way!

A couple of journalists had stopped on the trail to take photos of the demo bikes they were on and my ride was instantly in extreme peril. I threw the bike right to avoid the journos, banked up on the single track, then left. BREATHE and then more body english to keep it upright. The rear shocked compressed, butt up, back, and bam I was on my way with a, “Hooaah!”

The rush from that awesome trick maneuver encouraged me to take another trip up the mountain and back down. 29rs are fun I decided. The most fun I’ve had in years on a bike. I also learned that the 45 minute climb to the cows was NOT the bunny trail, but the TripleX Black Diamond Death run, or whatever they call it. More fun!

22 lbs, XTR

I ride for many reasons and those aren’t necessarily fun. Racing, training hard, is never fun. It’s for the challenge, the high of going that fast or hard. I do it to clear my head and remember why I do what I do. When I travel, I’m riding and blogging. That’s work. I enjoy it all immensely - maybe too much like the Venge Ride – but there’s a reason we publish this blog and that’s cause we’re unabashed in our enthusiasm for the bike.

I’d heard for years about 29rs and there was lots of talk about them during the Specialized Global Product Launch. It was as if you had to convert or something to a faith evangelized with big statements like, “And you can go fast on the road too.” I thought, it’s a wheel size, right? What’s the big deal? The deal is that it’s something to talk about in Mountain Biking and they’re finally getting the geometries down from the ridiculous looking bikes a few years ago. Does it roll better? I guess. See above for the most important part: fun.

More than the 1/2 inch of travel on the last MTB I rode

Without any real context our history of 29rs and 20 years out of the loop, I walked up to the demo tent and said, “gimme one of the best you got.” The Demo Attendant handed me an S-Works Epic. Apparently, even for Spesh critics, that bike is the “shizzle.” Demo Attendant said, “How much lock out.” “Don’t know, the last suspension I rode was a Girvin.” He set it up tight and the bike went good for me. The Epic felt like a Cyclocross Monster Truck. On the trail, it’s like I was riding a high-end bouncy Cross bike with enormous tires. The suspension lock out did its thing and, as I wrote above, appreciated the big hit it took when I nearly took out a couple Euro journos.

Monster Truck Tire

Next Level

Follow me on Twitter, elsewhere, and you know I don’t care much for the monthly CAD-drawing, fantasy bikes that make the design blog rounds. That’s because there are next-level, innovations going on for real right now. Wheels, frames, aero road bikes, and equipment have all improved dramatically in recent years. If you haven’t upgraded in a while and have the means to do so, it’s time. In other words, if you enjoy mountain biking, get to your local shop and try a 29r.

I’m keeping this review short because I don’t possess enough historical knowledge and have only ridden one 29r to say much more than, “Damn that Epic was fun to ride.” I expect other bikes in that genre, dialed as well as the Epic, to also cause you to yell, “wheeeeeeeeeeeee” all the way down the trail.

This crew dropped me as my legs settled into grinding up a climb for 45 minutes


Like that rear 3/4 shot dude…

Thanks! Here’s a high-rez version with the rest of the photos from this post


With those full suspension bikes, so much of the ride quality depends on the suspension setup (notice that the Specialized rep’s first question was ‘how much lockout’).

Talking with a RockShox/SRAM rep about a year ago who did MTB neutral race support, he estimated 9 in 10 amateurs didn’t have correct suspension pressures set. With a bike with sophisticated valve porting like the Specialized “Brain”, setup is definitely not a pull-it-off-the-rack-and-ride, one size fits all thing.

First time ever that I’ve heard or seen a skinny Fast Trak 2.0 referred to as a ‘monster truck tire’. You should try a trail bike on some filthy dirt, that’s when you bring out the real big guns :)

@Matthew Cole

Good point and much of the pre-ride setup was suspension for everyone there in the line. As I said in the post, I don’t feel qualified to talk much more about the bike then the ride itself, but it certainly did work. I climbed just fine and then hit some big drops and bumps. Part of the experience there was thinking I was on the bunny trail, but not, and then nearly going off the trail. At no time did I feel the bike wasn’t working for me or I wasn’t in the control. I can conclude, that’s cause it was dialed and doing what it was supposed to do. The buzz at the event was the camber, which I believe is the same bike with another inch of travel.

@Ólafur Ólafsson

Context to that comment is from a roadie who races Cross and has been hearing about 29rs. The height, balance, and feel of a 29r on dirt is like what I said, a Cross bike with huge tires. I saw even larger tires there at the event, that’s for sure, but didn’t ride them.

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