South Africans are Specialized Epic crazy – we all love the fast, light and lively race machine which has seen the brand topping podiums throughout the world. With the addition of the brand new Epic Evo, they’ve dialed up the fun.
Words by Lance Stephenson
Images by Frans le Roux
Specialized have long been known for their Epic being a Race machine, using its in-house technologies in suspension such as the Brain and FSR linkages. Specialized dropped the FSR linkage on the shorter travel EPIC to lighten the bike, and to change the bikes kinematics. Specialized also moved away from FOX for the rear shock and Rock Shox now produce the Brain unit for them. What does this all have to do with the Epic Evo? Well, all of these changes have been positive in the ride quality and suspension feel of the new Epic over the older models, and that plays into this review in a massive way. The Epic EVO is the same frame as the XC models but fitted with a 120mm FOX 34mm fork, 25mm wide (internal) rims, 2.3” tyres and a X-Fusion Dropper seatpost. If this was attempted on the older Epic models, I will tell you that the effect would have been lacklustre and dismal.
The Epic EVO is a clever bike for our market in RSA, with all the marathon mad bike riders out there, having a bike that is “race” and climbing strong, with relaxed and confidence-inspiring angles and grip. Adding the 120mm fork in the front end, the lifted BB height (makes a bike very chuckable/nimble) and slackened head angle (makes a bike more stable on downhills at speed and gives the bike good low speed manners). Wider rims spread wider tyres better, meaning you have lower pressure for more grip and a more stable tyre/rim interface. This all means one thing, it’s easy to ride hard and fast. Tricky technical sections will be easier to navigate and the dropper seatpost further increases your confidence by ridding you of the lollipop between your legs that threatens to bump your butt forward on steep drops. Does the bike actually deliver this on the trail though?
I took the EVO out on a trail I had only ridden twice before, but I knew the area and the surface, so I set the suspension up using the Auto-sag feature (which was mighty easy and quick), fettled my tyre pressure and set off. Immediately the bike position felt comfortable, it comes with a nice wide bar and a short stem, perfect for a “trail” type bike. I was expecting the suspension to be harsh on the rear and the fork to be over active in comparison, but I was surprised how well they matched when the Brain was set to its softest setting. The bike felt awkward to me in the turns at speed at first, feeling short because of the stock 70mm stem (my norm would be 100mm) but, with the bar being wider than my bar, the overall setup wasn’t too short. I felt over the front on the bike in the turns, until I dialled the dropper down two inches, then suddenly this bike came into its own.
The dropper created the space I needed to move and PILOT the bike, and it railed and changed direction in an intoxicating fashion. I found myself pushing faster and harder into turns and hitting every bump to “pop” the bike over it into a flashy whip (yeah right) and so on. It’s fun to ride! Climbing was also as expected aboard an Epic, efficient and straight forward. This will be one of the easiest climbing “trail” bikes you could buy. This will actually climb better than a skinny-tyred race setup Epic for the average person out there. The combination of better gripping wide tyres, longer more supple suspension means the bike grips and sits on the rough terrain better than a skittish “rigid” bike could. You’ll get a lot out of this bike if you let its personality shine, it’s not an EPIC, it’s a trail epic …
This bike is not a trail bike by any account. It’s suspension isn’t plush enough for that (trail bike shocks are very plush in comparison), this bike is not a XC race sled but it’s the best combination of both. It’s light, it climbs with ease, it’s chuckable and stable and most of all, fun. This bike isn’t trying to be a trail bike though. This bike is going to hit a segment of our market very well, the current batch of riders on traditional XC sleds should pick this bike to do their races on, it’s as fast uphill, but safer and faster downhill. This bike is what I call a Mountain Bike, it does everything properly and is fun to ride. Who should buy this bike? If you’re not in the top 30 at any race, this is your bike.
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