Specialized Epic Hardtails

You know what they say about the best laid plans, they often go awry, and ours went up in smoke when much of the Pacific Northwest was on fire this summer.

That’s why we escaped to Park City.

While missing a few good rides was nothing compared to the loss of forest land, what I was gonna share with you is how awesome Specialized’s Epic hardtails are. We have them in his and her models and the reason I say awesome is they ride pretty much like a road bike.

Pam with her Epic on the descent.

For roadies like me returning to dirt, you’ll feel right at home with the handling, geometry, and what happens when you stomp on the pedals. However capable adventure bikes are these days there’s still a threshold where roots, rocks, and drops require a front suspension.

So these Epics were entirely redesigned with one purpose and that’s to go fast. I teased the Methow Valley rides that didn’t happen in this short video.

Where we have been riding the Epics is the Grand Ridge, a short drive east of Seattle on trails maintained by Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and the just-opened Olallie State Park. That grunt of a ride gains 2700 feet in 5.6 miles through second-growth forest stands, ridges, and along abandoned logging roads. You get to it from the Iron Horse, where most of our gravel rides start.

Epic Hardtail with rounder tubes.

It’s perfect for a super light mountain bike that’s designed to propel you further with every pedal stroke. What I want to emphasize is Specialized didn’t just make the bike lighter which usually comes at the expense of handling and or durability; rather, they reinvented the XC Hardtail and in the process created a bike that is light and fast, not only uphill but as importantly downhill.

While I’m mostly on single track with the Epic, the increased frame stiffness and updated geometry handle the roughest terrain; including, washboard fire roads and charging descents.

Pick a trail head and ride all day without seeing a car. #ironhorse @wastatepks

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Thank the compliant 27.2 seatpost for that and the boost hub with 2.3s tires running at about 18 PSI. And, to better understand why the Epics go so good, I asked Brian Gordon from Specialized who worked on the bike to explain it to me. What I learned about the weight and handling is in these bullets.

Thorp to Ellensburg and we stopped for a snack.

Weight

  • Weight has always been a focus of Specialized XC bikes but it was never prioritized above things like aesthetics, and we always considered simplicity in manufacturing to assure bikes would deliver on time and factories could keep up with production. This bike was taken to a new level which required a lot of work at the factory level to achieve.
  • Epic HT was the first bike to use Rider First engineering – so every size of the bike has a tube set that is tuned for the rider that will be riding it based on research of the way these people ride. This creates a consistent feel from size to size so we can deliver the best ride experience to riders of all bike sizes.
  • In addition to this, large amounts of weight were shaved from the previous carbon hardtail known as the Stumpjumper Hardtail. The new frame was nearly 400 grams lighter for a medium. This was achieved through very specific lay-up schedules that minimize fiber overlap, as well as using round and straight. This allowed Specialized to drastically increase stiffness while shaving large amounts of weight.
  • A few other tricks were done in development to make the system weight of the bike lighter. Dropping the downtube lower created a lighter and stiffer head tube junction which leads us to creating a lightweight bump stop that will prevent frame damages in crashes where the handlebar shifter would contact the top tube. The hardware such as seat post clamp, cable guides, headset cap, rear axle was all developed with weight as a huge priority, saving over 50 grams over the hardware on the previous bike. The cable routing uses split style, so we also shed around 35 grams of cable housing weight on the complete bike.

Handling

  • As mentioned above, stiffness was drastically increased on the frame, this delivers a much more stable and positive feel for riders going downhill. The connection between the handlebars and pedals feels very sturdy and positive which lends to increased confidence in technical descents.
  • Geometry was a large contributor to the increase in handling performance with this new bike. We made changes to almost every aspect of the geo to make the bike handle better than its predecessor. Lengthening the reach 5 millimeters and slackening the head tube angle by 1.2 degrees gave us significant benefits in high-speed stability and confidence on steep sections. Keeping the rear end short at 430mm helps balance this longer front end in keeping the bike nimble through tight corners. (Note: that’s the road bike feel)
  • The new bike is dropper seatpost compatible so riders are able to increase confidence even further by getting the saddle out of the way and carry more speed through rough downhill sections.
  • The New Roval Control Sl wheels use a 25mm internal width to improve tire profile for more traction in cornering while being 50+ grams lighter, stronger, and stiffer than the previous Control SL wheels.

For those of you that follow design in the bike industry, Specialized did not partner with McLaren on this project, however, there are little bits and pieces of that technology in this bike and certainly with the design intent. It’s also the first effort from Peter Denk at Specialized who moved over from Cannondale.

Like I’ve been saying for most of this year, product is so good now if you haven’t upgraded in the past 5 years, it’s probably time to do so. While it may sound like a boast when Specialized says they reinvented the hardtail, I can confirm they did; at least in terms of capabilities and the ride tuning. It’s a lightweight climber that can bomb a descent too.

SRAM Eagle offers huge gears.

You should test and Epic Hardtail out yourself. The model I’m riding is the Pro Carbon World Cup in Satin Charcoal and the MSRP is $5500. Pam is on the women’s Epic Hardtail Comp Carbon that retails for $2500.

While our plans didn’t work out this year, we’ll ride them soon enough in the Methow.

Specs

  • Frame: FACT 11m, XC Geometry, internal split-housing cable routing, PF30 BB, 12x148mm rear end, triangulated post-mount 160mm brake
  • Fork: Custom RockShox SID w/Brain, Position Sensitive damper, bottom-mount Brain Fade adjust, rebound adjust, Solo Air spring, tapered alloy crown/steerer, 110x15mm Maxle Stealth thru-axle, 90/100mm travel, 51mm offset
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Revolution
  • Front Tire: Fast Trak, Control Casing, 29X2.2″, 60Tpi, Aramid Folding Bead, 2Bliss Ready
  • Rear Tire: Fast Trak, Control Casing, 29X2.2″, 60Tpi, Aramid Folding Bead, 2Bliss Ready
  • Crankset: Custom Sram Xx1 Eagle, Alloy, 30Mm Spindle, 52Mm Chainline, 32T
  • Chainrings: Sram X-Sync, Direct Mount, 32T
  • Bottom Bracket: Sram Pf30, Os Press-In Bearings
  • Shift Levers: Sram X01 Eagle, 12-Speed, Trigger
  • Rear Derailleur: Sram X01 Eagle, 12-Speed cassette: Sram Xg-1295, 12-Speed, 10-50T
  • Chain: Sram X01 Eagle, Silver, 12-Speed W/Powerlink
  • Front Brake: Shimano Deore Xt M8000, Hydraulic Disc, Metallic Pad, 180/160Mm Rotor
  • Rear Brake: Shimano Deore Xt M8000, Hydraulic Disc, Metallic Pad, 160Mm Rotor
  • Handlebars: Specialized Mini-Rise, 7050 Alloy, 8-Degree Backsweep, 6-Degree Upsweep, 10Mm Rise, 720Mm Width, 31.8Mm Clamp
  • Grips: Specialized Sip Grip, Half-Waffle, S/M: Regular Thickness, L/Xl: Xl Thickness
  • Stem: Specialized Xc, 3D-Forged Alloy, 4-Bolt, 6-Degree Rise
  • Saddle: Phenom Expert, Adaptive Edge Design, Hollow Titanium Rails, 143Mm
  • Seatpost: Specialized Alloy 27.2Mm
  • Seat Binder: Alloy, 30.0Mm