The Specialized Epic is one our sport’s most iconic cross-country race bikes, earning more medals and titles than we care to count; however, with the word “EVO” attached to its name, this race machine becomes a completely different tool. Those not familiar with the term EVO simply need to know that it’s Specialized’s way of saying it took its classic design and stretched its capabilities. In the Epic’s case, it means the bike received a longer fork and a dropper post. The goal was to transform this XC racer into a lightweight trail shredder. Our testers have spent time on the latest version of the Epic, but the EVO promises a whole different ride. This month we set out to see what the Epic EVO is all about.
The Epic EVO comes in three models greatly ranging in price and performance. At the top level sits the S-Works beauty, retailing for a hard-to-swallow $10,400. The midrange model continues to offer an impressive build kit and carbon frame with a more approachable price of $5850. Then comes the alloy model we tested. The entry-level option is referred to as the Comp EVO and retails for $3220.
Although the Comp level is made from alloy, that doesn’t mean it has to be a compromise. Specialized has put a lot of time and attention into developing its aluminum frames to be as competitive as possible, thanks to Smartweld technology. Other key features of our test rig included a threaded bottom bracket, Boost hub spacing and internal cable routing. The frame rolls on the same 100mm of travel and Brain Shock as the rest of the Epic’s lineup.
The key components that make this Epic an EVO are the following: First, the RockShox Reba RL fork was extended to 120mm of travel, and an X-Fusion Manic dropper post was added so riders could get rowdy. Further changes include 750mm-wide bars and 2.3-inchwide rubber wrapped around 29mm-internal-width rims. Specialized then spec’d a SRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed drivetrain to ensure riders would have a wide range of gears for tackling steep climbs or pedaling descents.
AutoSag is a unique feature seen throughout Specialized’s lineup that allows riders to quickly and easily set their sag. The concept is to pump your shock up well above the pressure you normally run and then use a release valve while sitting on the bike to let just the right amount of air out for your weight. We set sag a few different times and consistently landed on the same measurement. This ease of setup is a welcome feature, especially on an entry-level bike.
Another notable feature of the Epic is its Brain, which opens and closes the shock’s damping in order to react to the trails. The technology is far from new but has been reworked since its previous iterations. The Brain now sits closer to the rear axle in order to be more sensitive to small bumps. A switch can be found by the rear axle that allows riders to tune the suspension feel between soft and firm. This switch, however, is nearly impossible to reach while riding, so it’s meant to be more of a set-it-for-your-conditions-and-leave-it adjustment.
DOWN AND DIRTY
Climbing: The EVO excels on the descents but gives up very little on the climbs. Sure, the tires are a little bigger and the fork is a bit longer, but the platform is as efficient as can be. In a head-to-head battle, the non-EVO model might win in a photo finish, but for the regular trail rider, the added comfort of the EVO model will make it a more ideal weapon off the racetrack.
Whether hammering on the pedals out of the saddle or in it, acceleration is felt almost immediately. We did a few hill repeats, changing the suspension settings each lap, and found the switch offered a noticeable but small change. In the firm setting, the bike felt fast but lost traction out of the saddle in loose conditions. Our home trails called for a softer setting in order to reap the benefits of traction up our climbs.
The Epic EVO is a cross-country bike at heart, and while its EVO upgrades offer a higher level of shred, the bike is still somewhat limited to mellower trails. Our test riders had no issue ripping flow trails, rallying jumps or railing turns, but when the course got technical, our riders had to back it off.
The ideal riding situation for the EVO is a cross-country loop with a few bonus lines sprinkled in.
The bike would suit a rider who wants a fun trail bike capable of handling weekend races without compromising on either end. The Epic is a speed demon, and with its EVO trim, riders are able to push the bike a bit harder. Of course, you can’t expect this beefed-up XC machine to handle like a true trail bike, but its ability to accelerate is second to none. Oh, and did we mention you can jump it, too?
MODS AND UPGRADES
The Epic EVO was developed because Specialized employees thought it would be fun to modify their current Epics. Wide handlebars, a longer fork, bigger tires—and all of a sudden those employees realized how rad a shred-worthy Epic could be. The EVO essentially is a modified Epic, so, in a way, Specialized already handled the necessary list of upgrades.
Short of personalization, there’s not much a rider will need to do to this bike. We found the stock build was right on the money and included everything we could expect from a bike in this price range.
The Epic EVO falls into an interesting category, since it’s not quite a cross-country bike anymore and it comes up a little short in the trail bike category. It’s a hybrid that allows riders to go out and enjoy singletrack or gear up for local races. We would recommend this bike to any rider with a cross-country background looking for a more capable option without giving up climbing performance. At the Comp level, this bike offers a great value for entry-level riders or advanced riders looking to stay on budget. www.specialized.com
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