The 2018 version of the Specialized Epic is a whole new animal; new frame, entirely different suspension, a new version of the Brain shock and it's a good deal lighter too.
Prior to this launch, every Specialized used a Horst Link (FSR) suspension system but the new Epic forgoes the chainstay mounted pivot point. Instead the Epic relies on flex in the seat stay to account for the small amount of movement that occurs at this point.
The most obvious benefit here is weight loss; the swingarm alone saves around 240g. Over the entire frame, the top end S-Works model is said to be 345g lighter while the more affordable Pro, Expert and Comp models are meant to lose a substantial 525g. From a technical suspension kinematic perspective, the move to a single pivot format may be a retrograde step, but it's not a huge issue on a 100mm travel bike like the Epic—an application where weight and pedalling efficiency are paramount. This simplification also stands to reduce maintenance and may even improve the lateral stiffness of the frame.
To ensure efficient power transfer, the Epic still employs the 'Brain' rear shock; a very tricky system that uses an inertia valve to differentiate between bumps that come from the trail and rider inputs such as pedalling. While the Brain concept is not new to Specialized, the new version is made by RockShox (not Fox) and is completely different to before.
For those who are not familiar with the Brain, it relies on a sensor that's located down at the rear wheel. Hitting a bump (an impact that comes up from the trail) triggers the Brain system and takes the shock from a firm and efficient pedalling mode to an open and active setting. The shock then remains active until smoother ground allows the Brain mechanisim to settle and the suspension returns to the firmer pedalling mode once more. It reacts and swaps modes according to the trail conditions and does so without any need for remote lockout levers. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the Brain and decide how big a bump is required to trigger the suspension into action.
With the new RockShox version, the Brain sensor is now mounted more rearward and closer to the rear wheel axle. This aims to make the system more reactive and better able to detect bumps. The internals have also changed with the goal of reducing internal friction and improving suspension performance.
Beyond the suspension, Specialized has modernised the frame geometry and done something interesting with the fork offset. Of course by 'modernise' we mean that it's longer in the reach and wheelbase and slacker in the head angle. The head angle goes from 71-degrees to 69.5 while the reach has grown to 433mm on a medium and 456mm on a large (there's four sizes in total: S,M,L & XL). With the added reach, Specialized has gone with shorter stems; between 60 and 100mm depending on the frame size. At 438mm, the chainstay length is moderately short for a 29er.
All of this is pretty indicative of most modern bikes, which are getting longer and slacker to add stability on the descents and over more demanding trails. Where the new Epic differs is in the fork offset. Most modern 29ers use a 51mm fork offset but the Epic runs only 42mm of offset. In theory, reducing the fork offset should make the handling even more stable. Specialized believes the reduced offset adds stability without the 'floppy steering' feel that comes with a more pronounced fork offset. It also brings the front wheel closer to the rider which makes it easier to weight the front end when climbing or through a turn.
In Australia the all-singing, all-dancing S-Works model will sell for $12,000. you can also purchase the S-Works level frame and fork kit for $6,500. At the other end of the scale the Epic lineup kicks off with the Comp at $3,800 and the Comp Carbon at $5,200. Filling the middle ground is the Epic Expert for $6,500. Within this lineup the S-Works and Comp Carbon bikes will also be offered in women’s specific versions; these will feature female friendly saddle, bars and grips as well as a shock tune that's better suited to a lighter rider.