Field Test: 2021 Specialized Epic - The Lightest & Slackest

Aug 3, 2020
by Sarah Moore  


PINKBIKE FIELD TEST

Specialized Epic S-Works



Words by Sarah Moore, photography by Margus Riga


The Specialized Epic been rocketing around racecourses for almost twenty years and has World Cup, World Championship, and even Olympic hardware to its name. We last saw an update to the frame in late 2017 and now, three years later, we’ve seen another overhaul for what was supposed to be an Olympic year.

The new FACT 12m Epic S-Works carbon frame with Specialized's Brain-controlled suspension is said to be over 100-grams lighter than its predecessor, and according to Specialized the size medium frame now weighs as just 1,869-grams. We can confirm that our complete medium test bike is the lightest here, weighing just 21.2lb with our Schwalbe control tires installed.

Specialized Epic S-Works Details

• Travel: 100mm rear / 100mm fork
• Carbon frame
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 67.5°
• Seat Tube Angle: 75.5° (effective)
• Reach: 445mm (size M)
• Chainstay length: 433mm
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL
• Weight: 21.2lb / 9.61kg
• Price: $11,525 USD
www.specialized.com

As for details on that ultralight frame, it employs a carbon link, uses SRAM's Universal Derailleur Hanger, and has a threaded bottom bracket. You won't find a SWAT box on the Epic, but you will see a SWAT chain-breaker tool in the headset for emergency repairs. The Epic accommodates two water bottles inside the front triangle on all sizes, with the exception of extra-small frames that can fit one bottle on the downtube. There's also a Quarq power meter that comes stock on the S-Works model.

The big story with the new Epic is geometry. With a 67.5° headtube angle, a 75.5° effective seat-tube angle, a 445m reach, and a 1,148mm wheelbase on our medium, Specialized says that their geometry borrows from trail bikes while optimizing cross-country responsiveness for today’s technical courses.





Climbing

With a head angle on the new Epic that's two whole degrees slacker than the previous generation, and slacker than any of the other cross-country bikes I was riding during the Field Test, I was curious as to how the numbers would add up on the trail. The cockpit and position feel modern as well, with a wide handlebar, shorter stem, longer reach, and relatively relaxed steering. At the same time, you’re in the right position to be efficient while pedaling. Riding the Epic, I had to think, 'why has it taken so long for cross-country bikes to use geometry like this?' Although at the same time, I can understand why racers might resist change.

One example: The new-school geometry on the Epic results in handling that, while not by any means lazy, does require a bit more anticipation when the tight corners get even tighter.

The pedal-assisting (no, not that kind) Brain system also took a bit of getting used to but it does work really well on climbs, which, let's be honest, is where cross-country races are usually won. It feels super efficient on the smoother stuff, but when you get to more technical sections, you still have ample traction. When you try to push down on the bike from the top it feels like it’s locked out, which is a bit funny. But true to its marketing materials, when you actually encounter a bump, the Brain opens the suspension and helps you maintain traction up whatever you point it at. In short, there's ample traction while climbing, but not at the cost of that efficient feeling. The Brain system also means that you don't have to worry about remembering to lock or unlock your bike, and your handlebar is as clean as it gets with just the brake levers and the shifter on it.




Descending

It’s hard to recover on the descents aboard many cross-country bikes since you’re often struggling to stay upright and not get thrown around. With the Epic, you actually have time to breathe and recover from the climbs since the geometry doesn't want to pitch you over the handlebar. You can easily keep weight on the front wheel and have more input into where your bike actually goes as opposed to just "riding the slide". On a technical, wet course, you wouldn't be worrying about slick rocks and off-camber roots.

That being said, while the Specialized Brain is awesome on climbs, it’s not always as easy to ride on the descents. At speed, and on smoother sections, it was great in the middle setting that made the bike easy to pump into the terrain. But on our rooty test track, I found my that favorite setting was wide open, which basically means that I liked the Brain best when it was backed right off. That made it feel the most natural and there wasn’t the sensation of the valve opening like there was with the firmer settings. Switching back and forth between bikes with "regular" suspension definitely didn't help though, and I'd like to spend more time with the Brain to see if I can get used to it in a firmer mode.

Timed Testing


Our timed lap for the trail bikes was just shy of 20 minutes long and split into three sections. First, we powered up a smooth section of switchbacks before starting up a more technical, twisty section of trail that tested the bike's slow-speed handling and traction with tired legs. After that, we evaluated how the bikes maintained speed on a short bumpy traverse before the main descent, comprising of a small rock roll before a series of rough, suspension-testing corners and straightaways. Nothing too rowdy, but representative of the terrain the trails these modern cross-country bikes were intended to see.

Don't forget that timing is just one of many ways to judge a bike, and fast doesn't always mean it's the best for everyone.


Sarah Moore: "The Epic was 5% back on the overall test lap time, tied with the Supercaliber, but it was the fastest on the descent by a small margin of 0.3%. I did the entire lap with the Brain in the open setting since I didn't use a lockout on any of the other bikes for the timed laps."





Pros

+ Modern geometry helps a lot on the descents
+ Very light, even with a stock power meter and tool in the steerer tube
+ Specialized Brain is great for climbing and smooth terrain

Cons

- Slow speed handling takes more anticipation
- Can feel Brain working, especially in rougher terrain








The 2020 Pinkbike Field Test was made possible with clothing, protection, and support from Giro. Control tires provided by Schwalbe, and power meters provided by SRM. Filming took place at The Backyard pub in Squamish.




Photos: Margus Riga
Video: Jason Lucas, Cole Nelson, Max Barron



211 Comments

  • 285 4
 Everytime I see Roval wheels I think Rircular would be better.
  • 15 0
 wow
  • 7 1
 You win.
  • 45 2
 My enduro came with Roval 24 straight pull spokes per wheel (same as my road bike), I stand by the name. Robbly and Roose would also do.
  • 7 1
 R-ound perhaps?
  • 1 0
 @dirt-roadie comment gold
  • 9 7
 @pbuser2299: Funny you say that. My GF's road bike came with 24h Roval SLX wheels, and they're by far the worst built wheels I've ever encountered. Fresh from the bike shop, they were ~1mm out of true laterally & radially, and after a handful of rides they were ~3mm out of true laterally. At that point, I put them on the truing stand, and spoke tension was all over the place (varied by ~30%). It's as if they did an initial tensioning and forgot to stress relieve and do the final truing.

I would hope the QC is a bit better on these wheels, but it's pretty sad that they're willing to sell an aluminum wheelset for $800 USD and do such a poor job building it.
  • 11 2
 @DaneL: whoosh
  • 10 10
 @DaneL: I'd say a lot of that is on your LBS. As a longtime mechanic the thing that drives me the most nuts about off-the-floor bikes these days is how little attention goes into the wheels when building the bike. Those wheels are all machine built in Taiwan, and then packaged and left in a box for X amount of time. Generally no one touches the spokes until the mechanic pulls the bike out of the box to build it. It doesn't take long for a good mechanic to throw a new wheelset in the truing stand, even out tension, and stress release the spokes (5-10 minutes), so I think you've got some crap mechanics. However, the 24h wheel is some kinda BS.
  • 18 0
 @pbuser2299: Rircular -> Roval -> Robbly -> Roose -> Rucked
  • 1 0
 @adamszymkowicz: Because most bike shops will put a bike back onto the stand at time of sale for any final tune-up before it heads out the door, it does not always make logistical sense to do that in-depth of a tune-up out of the box...especially if they are in a time crunch or short staffed. A also consider it's not uncommon for new bikes to have stems and bars moved around, pedals added, new tires installed, bottle cages added, at time of purchase by the customer, etc.
  • 1 0
 Damn you, sir. Damn you to hell!
  • 5 0
 @adamszymkowicz: You're getting flak, but not at all wrong. Any semi-decent shop will make sure the builders are de-stressing and truing the wheels on new builds. They're all shit out of the box, it's the shop's job to make sure they don't get to the customer that way
  • 8 0
 @jammf: When I read this I hear Scooby Doo saying it
  • 1 0
 @adamszymkowicz: Remember this is on a £5k 170mm travel enduro bike, to be fair the rims were pretty good, the hubs were ok. I knew with the spoke count they'd be a liability from the start, so I kept a close eye on the spoke tension and tweaked those myself, then got a decent shop to retension and true them semi regularly. By the end I'd get maybe 1 and half big days out in before the whole rear wheel would be loose and baggy. Just a weird place to save weight on such a burly bike, to be fair it looks like they're moving away from straight pull spokes now, though they're still using 24-28h i think.
  • 1 0
 @pbuser2299: the rear never was 24h , was it? And 28 is pretty much standard nowadays.
  • 1 0
 the name is crappy.. but I think the spz intend to means Roll Over All = ROovAl = ROVAL .... who knows about?
  • 2 0
 @adamszymkowicz: While I agree that the shop could have made sure everything is perfect, do you really think they should have had to check a $800 wheelset? They should be hand built at that price point, IMO. Especially considering you could build yourself a better wheelset for ~$600. If Specialized is going to send their dealers bikes that need that level of work before they can go on the showroom floor, they definitely need to allow more room in their dealer pricing for margins. They also shouldn't be counting on their dealers to have competent enough mechanics to do that for every bike. Most shops outside of serious biking communities can't even figure out how to rotate the bars to a reasonable angle.

FWIW, I've had a few $500 wheelsets, and all have taken a beating and not gone more than 1mm out of true after a season of riding.
  • 1 0
 @DaneL: What most people don't realize is you can can a custom set of superb wheels with excellent hubs for around $600. And you know they are built by a human that pays attention to detail. Most of the wheels that are sold aftermarket by big manufacturers or come as OEM spec on bikes, are never going to be a good as a shop/wheelbuilder built wheelset. Crappy wheels is one reason why I buy frames and not complete bikes.
  • 1 0
 @DaneL: Sorry for the long wait for a response. Yes, it's my personal opinion that any wheel that gets pulled out of a box by a mechanic in a shop needs to be checked on a stand. As you get up above about a grand in terms of price, they should absolutely be checked with a tension meter. As for going hand built, go for it! If you come to my shop and want me to build a wheel for you, it's going to cost you the rims and hubs, plus spokes, plus time (generally around 2.5 hours for a wheelset start to finish @ $50 an hour). So while you can min-max a wheelset for $600, you're not getting the highest-end spokes (probably DT Champions or crap from Wheelsmith) which are going to be heavier and have less tensile elasticity (meaning they won't resist coming out of tension as well) you're not paying someone to build it for you, and unless you've built hundreds of wheels, the money you save is going to be lost on the back end with wheels that require more upkeep and have a shorter shelf life. And not to be antagonistic, but if you've had a $500 wheelset on a mountain bike and it hasn't gone more than 1mm out of true after a season than either your definition of "beating" and mine are very different, your season is incredibly short, or you are the luckiest person on the planet.
  • 1 0
 @Jamminator: If that's what your bike shop is doing, your bike shop is cutting corners. It always makes the most logistical sense to make sure that the bike is as ready to go out the door as possible before it ever gets test ridden. One of my biggest peeves is hopping on a new bike and hearing spokes jangle as I start to pedal. Depending on the bike and the quality of the wheels, if you don't true and set tension out of the box, if a customer takes something off the shelf for a test ride they can come back in from riding in the parking lot with a potato chip of a wheel. When I sell a bike the only things I want to put it back in the stand for are tubeless conversions, to change a personal preference item (bars, stem, grips, bottle cages etc.) or change contact point position. Wheels that are true and tensioned are an integral part of a functional system, and those systematic adjustments SHOULD be done before a customer ever sets eyes on the bike.
  • 90 8
 While I understand decision not to use the brain for timed test, I think it’s unfair to this bike. A main selling feature is this bikes ability to lockout without using a lockout lever. It also runs contrary to your philosophy of using the dropper on the Lux. There you gave Canyon credit for speccing a dropper; here no credit for speccing a high tech lockout.
  • 35 45
flag friendlyfoe (Aug 3, 2020 at 12:13) (Below Threshold)
 She didn't not use it, she turned it to it's lowest setting because it's crap. Big difference and completely appropriate if that's how she would ride this bike under normal conditions.
  • 41 13
 Fair point but they also all came with expensive fancy lockouts which I didn’t use for the timed laps either... I also didn’t feel super safe riding the Canyon downhill without that dropper on the timed laps Wink
  • 19 10
 @sarahmoore: I wouldn’t call a plastic lever and shifter cable expensive or fancy, plus those are purely on/off. Point of the brain is suspension is still active on climbs but stiff while pedaling. I for one am curious if it makes the climbs faster?
  • 6 3
 @friendlyfoe: my understanding is that “open setting” if off. You might think it’s crap but I’ve never ridden a brain bike and I’m curious if it works to make climbs faster. Too bad they didn’t test that?
  • 13 2
 @Bikerburt: Maybe it is *shrugs*. She said that she tried various settings and that the lowest setting is the one that felt best to her. If that's how she would ride the bike given the choice of all available settings then that is the most appropriate way for the bike to be tested IMO
  • 19 2
 I'm new to the Brain platform after purchasing a 2021 Epic, and I can definitively say that when working it is not crap. I know in the past there have been durability issues, and that could be true for this version. My guess is that on a higher setting the Epic would've been significantly faster on the ascent, and maybe lost a little on the descent. I'm not 100% on that though, as it really does open up when it needs to once your suspension is setup. Coming off a Scalpel-Si my perception, I didn't do any scientific testing, is that the Epic is significantly more efficient due to the Brain. It really gives the pedal feel of a hardtail, but I don't know if this truly makes it faster or if it just feels faster.
  • 5 0
 @friendlyfoe: I can see that. Definitely you should ride it how you normally would.
  • 1 0
 @Counsel: thanks for that information
  • 8 0
 @sarahmoore: Sarah, did you find the Brain delayed opening at all when hitting roots, rocks etc? When I road them a decade ago, I always felt the delay of the Brain shock was a half second too slow. Especially hitting anything square-edged.

Thanks for great videos.
  • 2 4
 @friendlyfoe: I think people lack nuance when critiquing this bike because "full-suspension" means an image of a fat dude doing the good old parking lot test, where he bounces on it 50 times and gives it a thumbs up if he can get the o-rings to bottom/top out. Car was employees on Motiv bikes with coil shocks made of paper clips would gladly approve.
  • 4 1
 I wasn’t going to comment but I had the same thought as you. It's a main feature of the bike.
  • 10 2
 @Bikerburt: Agree, and listing the Brain feel among the cons when it wasn’t used on the timed laps to give it a chance to show its upside seems difficult to justify to me
  • 3 2
 @Bikerburt: putting the brain in the fully open position doesn’t turn it all the way off, it allows the suspension to be more active when it’s active. It’s still quite supportive under load , like when climbing or putting in a very strong out of the saddle pedaling effort. I ride mine one click from wide open or completely open depending on terrain and how...sporty Im feeling at any given time.

This is all based on my 2014 Epic so this two generations newer one may be quite different.
  • 4 3
 @friendlyfoe: open is not the same as off. There is no off on the brain setups.
  • 2 11
flag bubbrubb (Aug 3, 2020 at 16:03) (Below Threshold)
 @Bikerburt: it’s not “I think” it’s crap, rather we all KNOW it’s crap, you just missed the memo. The number of repairs under warranty are unacceptable and you can’t service in-house. The frequency of failures after service is also terribly high, if you like the idea of that please buy an Epic.
  • 4 1
 Also there's no way a test like this can be accurate enough to see a .3% variance. I would question if even a pro rider on a course they train on can get such accuracy across bikes.
  • 2 0
 I have a 2015 Epic. It works really well and has been trouble free during the many many miles I have put on it (regular service at Spesh). The nuance is when fully soft (Brain fade adjustment several clicks on a continuum from firm to soft), it never feels as fully open as other suspension designs in open, and when fully firm, you can feel that it is more harsh. BUT... with some time (very little really) you can set it up so that it works for you and be right in that sweet spot where you don't feel it but it provides the firm and soft feeling you want. For me, I run one click more soft when I know the trail is rougher, but otherwise leave it alone. They have made some changes since 2015 though - theoretically to improve it.
  • 2 0
 @bubbrubb: Haters gonna hate.
  • 3 0
 I always had my best performances on the Epic with the Brain on the lowest setting. So it isn't necessarily a handicap not having it full on.
  • 3 0
 @sarahmoore Why not run both configurations with and without brain function? I would have liked to have seen the benefits of the main selling feature of the bike.
  • 1 1
 @chase2wheels: It still ruins small bump sensitivity. As does Fox Live Valve.
  • 2 1
 @JeffCoyle: I’m not a hater I’m a professional wrench giving you an opinion based on all the failures we’ve seen of the brain shock over the years.
  • 3 1
 @bubbrubb: as a "professional wrench" you must be aware that this is an entirely new design that dropped the bladder largely believed to be at fault for most failures in last generations Brain. I assume you've got your hands on the new unit, tested it, disassembled it for inspection, and that is your basis for calling it "crap" and saying you "know it's crap." If you've done none of that it sounds like you're a hater talking crap on the internet about a product you're unqualified to give an opinion on.
  • 2 0
 @Counsel: I'd say @bubbrubb is going off of the only thing any of us can: historical evidence. It would seem to me that the burden of proof here is on Specialized to show that they've made the BRAIN stable and reliable. The expectation isn't on the consumer to assume that they have done that before history proves it to be true. And taken further, given the historical failures; it's fair for us to assume that it's only as reliable as the previous generations because they've had a very long time to figure it out and it hasn't fully happened yet... If it was easy to make the brain reliable, they would have done it immediately, rev. 1.

It's not fair to say it will for sure be crap. It's also not fair to assume it won't be crap.
  • 1 2
 @Counsel: call me a hater. I’ve actually been in the trenches not an armchair Fanboy who knows only what the inter webs says.
  • 43 3
 Really curious on the tester's opinion of her own energy levels/recovery/etc. affecting the times between bikes. In other words, is she convinced that her fastest and slowest times are primarily because of the bike she was on? Or, if the order of bikes tested was different, would the results be different?
  • 19 1
 Hopefully we get to see some heart-rate data from those timed sections. With cats and astronomy as visual aids.
  • 25 1
 @MikeAzBS: I'd like to see her astrology results as well tbh.
  • 28 3
 We controlled for as many variables as possible but obviously it’s impossible to control everything. That’s why timed testing is only part of what we evaluate the bikes on!
  • 9 1
 @sarahmoore: Power flies to back that up?? The timed loop with power data would be more indicative of efficiently these bikes go uphill on actual trails, rather than having a dirt road climb and a separate timed loop.
  • 1 0
 @sarahmoore: I guess that means I have to wait until the very end to know which bike was your fave...
  • 40 4
 I really appreciate these XC reviews. Most of the US doesn't have bike parks or 10,000' mountains for MTB riding, and a light bike that goes up as well as down is the right choice. 100mm travel bikes are so much more responsive now than even a decade ago.
  • 21 6
 I agree with the first sentence and the last sentence; but not so much the middle :-) I would more say the US' terrain can vary wildly from place to place and you don't need 10,000 feet of climbing or a bike park to justify something bigger than an XC bike. Within a 90 min drive of my house in the northeast there are I believe 2-3 lift access bike parks and many non-lift access mountains with 30-45 minute climbs over 1000' followed by chunky 15-20 min DH runs for trail bikes or larger that most folks don't enjoy on 100mm bikes.
  • 27 45
flag Geochemistry (Aug 3, 2020 at 13:07) (Below Threshold)
 @yupstate: Real riders don't have to drive 90 minutes for a fun fix, they find the accessible hills and valleys and make their path, often leaving from their backdoor for the ride. Please tell the riders of Kansas, Iowa, Texas, etc. how much better they would be on a 170mm travel 35 lb ride 90 miles from home, when they are crushing their daily 20 mile loops without having to start up a gas guzzler.
  • 9 5
 @Geochemistry: Gotta agree with you on this one. The home terrain of a long travel Yeti or Santa Cruz in Colorado is on the back of a rack and that's where they seem to perform best.
  • 103 0
 @Geochemistry: if you start your statement with "Real riders" there's a 99% chance you're kind of being a dick.
  • 6 3
 @Geochemistry: A light bike that goes up as well as down is a trail bike. I guess you can argue on the fine line between DC and trail. The specialized descended well for an XC bike, all of them had deficiencies pointed downhill. And by the same logic I can say 150mm travel bikes climb so much better than even a decade ago. But 'real riders'? Come on. I've driven anywhere between 15 minutes and 7 hours for a ride and have declared myself a 'real rider' anyway. Go me.
  • 2 2
 @Geochemistry: they made poor life choices. And if you’re talking 170mm bikes, the party starts in the Rockies. Big Tex is gonna have to drive his gas guzzler a little longer than an hour or 2 to get the goods.
  • 16 21
flag Geochemistry (Aug 3, 2020 at 17:08) (Below Threshold)
 @PhillipJ: I'm completely being a dick about it. I'm so tired of 2nd year wannabe racers that have the kit that matches their $8k bike, and both they and their bike spend more time next to the beer cooler in the parking lot than on any trail. Props go to the guy/gal that busts out a 50-hour workweek, then jumps on the bike to ride the neighborhood trails for another couple of hours every day they can. They are the REAL RIDERS, the ones that love their bike because it's a bike, and a bike means freedom to them. Doesn't matter that it's an old 3X8 hardtail. Doesn't matter if it's a new bike or a 25 year old alley find. Doesn't matter that they ride in a t-shirt and jeans. Doesn't matter that the trail they ride isn't groomed. All that matters is they can ride.
  • 3 1
 I've always objected to the notion that elevation numbers ought correlate with bike travel or type(excluding lift serve and dh here). Climbing 5k' once and climbing 100' fifty times are the same amount of climbing, and the same amount of descending. You need a bike that does both well enough. It only takes ten feet of change to build a ten foot drop. You can build enough speed in 100' of descent to send some Kamloops sized gaps. Riders in smaller terrain dream small and build small. If you're terrain isn't pancake flat and xc bikes are appropriate for your trails, that's self limiting trail design.
  • 2 2
 @Geochemistry: ...and where are these neighborhood trails?
  • 3 0
 @AllMountin: there is a difference between doing a 5 mile hour long climb so you can shred down, and constant up and down. You have to carry speed into every climb on an XC trail, punchy climbs require momentum, fire road climbs just require you to stay awake and keep spinning. There is a huge difference.
  • 2 1
 @Geochemistry: #1 there's alot of bikes between 100mm XC race bikes and 170mm 35lb bikes; especially in 2020. I have a short travel 29er and a 140/160 27.5 bike. 90% of the time even on my "neighborhood" trails the big bike is more fun and its not 35lbs, its 29. Also "within 90 minutes" is not always a 90 min drive, sometimes its a 30 min drive. I have ONE trail system I can get to from my back door with a 6 mile road ride each way and it gets old if you are riding 6 days a week. But to each their own, there is no right or wrong way to ride a bike.

But my turn to be a dick. I am so tired of people that have been mountain biking for 20 years trashing new or expensive bikes as "unecessary". They say "I saw Joe Blow ride that trail twice as fast as you and he made that climb you failed; he's on a steel singlespeed hardtail." Well guess what? If I had Joe Blow's bike I'd never ride because I'D be miserable. That's great that Joe likes it and is a better rider than me; can I still have fun on my $8000 bike please without being judged?
  • 1 5
flag Geochemistry (Aug 6, 2020 at 8:57) (Below Threshold)
 @yupstate: Never have trashed new or expensive bikes, only little boys who have inflated egos that don't have a grasp of what life and reality are (I guess it's all those participation awards). You'll see.

And it's 39 years of MTB, 57 years of bikes.
  • 29 1
 If this bike was 5% slower overall while being fastest on the descent that implies a pretty slow climbing time which is very hard to understand given the specs on this bike. I wonder about the repeatability of these test results?
  • 55 0
 Don’t look too much at the timed test. Statistically, one lap under a single rider just isn’t enough data to draw any meaningful conclusions from. Differences on the order of 5% are indistinguishable from statistical noise.
  • 18 0
 I wish we were living in less covidy times and they could have had 3-4 testers for each bike; no fault of Pinkbike there just is what it is. That's one thing I've always appreciated about a certain other website's yearly test that is named after the good book. They usually have 3 people who have ridden the same bike and its very interesting to see the sometimes different opinions.
  • 7 0
 Climbing is going to make up easily 85% of the timed lap and it was barely fastest on the downhill. So you can basically read into it that it was 5% slower climbing. That could easily be attributed to rider fatigue but by the same token she also mentions that the slacker geometry made tight corners tougher, so maybe the bike actually is slower under a less than pro XC racer on technical climbs..
  • 6 14
flag ilyamaksimov (Aug 3, 2020 at 12:54) (Below Threshold)
 5% slower than a supercaliber. Supercaliber 5.75% slower than a scalpel, that is, an epic is 10.75% slower than a scalpel. Scalpel is better
  • 7 2
 @ilyamaksimov: I like you and your love of the Scalpel, but it was 5% slower than the Scalpel on the overall lap. Turning the Brain off to climb sealed the Epic's fate.
  • 10 2
 @ilyamaksimov: That's not quite how percentages work, but in this case the values are low enough that your answer approximates the true value (10.5%) pretty well.

The math:

Epic is .95 the speed of Supercal. Supercal is .9425 the speed of Scalpel.

=> Epic is .95*.9425 the speed of Scalpel = .895 Scapel = (1-.105) Scalpel
  • 6 12
flag ilyamaksimov (Aug 3, 2020 at 13:34) (Below Threshold)
 @bemery: Thanks for the accurate calculations, but the only important thing is that during the announcement of the tests I said that the scalpel will be the best in the test, and it turned out that the scalpel is the fastest in the test.
  • 10 0
 @ilyamaksimov: Very true. Honestly that wasn't necessary of me at all and kind of douchey but my shotty-math senses have been piqued ever since Levy calculated range by multiplying the number of teeth on the big cog by the number of teeth on the small cog.
  • 7 4
 @bemery: everything is fine, we need to be enlightened and corrected
  • 4 0
 @Ttimer: but most bike races are won within the “statistical noise”.
  • 2 2
 @bemery: Unless I misread, and that is always a possibility, the epic and supercaliber were tied. So there was not a 5% difference between those two bikes.
  • 3 1
 @Ttimer: suprised this was so far down. Its impossible to claim the accuracy they are in these settings with these variables.
  • 30 0
 why do i like xc bikes now, please stop that
  • 6 0
 Just refer back to the $11,500 price tag and you'll be cured
  • 18 0
 Great reads so far! I'm as excited for this field test as anyone, having been hunting for a new XC/DC race bike for a while now. I think it would really add a lot to have one person ride and compare XC & DC bikes head to head; test the Epic vs. the Epic Evo, or the Scalpel vs. the Scalpel SE. This would really answer a lot of the questions about which is really "faster", by how much, and help people who ride mostly for fun and race occasionally but are sitting on the fence about buying an XC or a DC bike figure out how much speed they might be giving up by going DC. Since the reach on the medium Epic is close-ish to the large Epic Evo and the weights are within less than a pound of each other, maybe Levy or Sarah could take both bikes out for some head to head comparisons?
  • 26 1
 We’ll be talking about this in the round tables and in the next podcast. We also have the XC and DC bikes in head to head in the efficiency test video and the impossible climb video. Smile
  • 5 0
 @brianpark: would be nice to see the same rider do the complete lap on all of the bikes to get a more accurate sense of how, eg., the Epic compares to the Epic Evo on the same track.......
  • 5 0
 @expatrider: My guess is the EVO, with that killer leverage ratio, outperforms the standard EPIC on the climbs unless they start using the Brain. Hopefully they activated the brain for some of these tests... that's the bike's competitive advantage and it's kinda being overlooked so far :/
  • 17 1
 Not exactly an unpopular opinion here, but I think these two are doing a great job on these reviews. I feel like I have a reasonable sense of how these bikes perform and compare. You can't always say that after reading/watching bike reviews.
  • 15 0
 @sarahmoore It would have been interesting to see if the other Brain positions changed the time trial results. And, if so, by how much.
  • 2 0
 You can directly compare a bike like the scalpel with a er checks notes seatpost that IS used vs a frame tuned suspension system that er checks notes isn't used FYI
  • 13 0
 Been waiting for my XC fix today...thx!
  • 10 2
 "The Epic was 5% back on the overall test lap time, tied with the Supercaliber, but it was the fastest on the descent by a small margin of 0.3%. I did the entire lap with the Brain in the open setting since I didn't use a lockout on any of the other bikes for the timed laps."

Maybe I'm misunderstanding this - why didn't you use the lockouts? They're part of the design and performance intent.
  • 9 1
 Summary:

Canyon Lux. Great gravel bike (XCM), terrifying mountain bike.
Cannondale Scalpel. Really fast pretty much everywhere but not an engaging ride (high BB?). The rougher and longer the course the better.
Trek Procaliber. The bike that really seemed to put a smile on Sarah's face to ride. Great traction, great climbing, more attention needed descending but a great all around XCO race bike.
Specialized Epic. Fast on the smoother climbs, fast on the rougher descents but not on the bits in between. Lovely to descend but annoying to ride. But erm... have you seen that red Smile
  • 12 1
 Thank you for XC pinkbike!
  • 4 0
 I'd think the efficiency test will give the most "controlled" numbers for a bike-to-bike comparison. All of these bikes are going to be fantastic race bikes, if that's your thing. I'd put more stock in the impressions of the bike to help make a buying decision, and less in the lap times. I'm really enjoying the series so far, and I'm really looking forward to the impressions of the more trail-focused offerings vs. the full-on racers.
  • 9 1
 Sarah and Levy are both really good presenters on camera. Nicely done.
  • 4 0
 wow that bike is so nice looking.....hmm maybe in the future but right now im building up a downcountry bike but i really am loving this bike. Im enjoying this field test in fact i think its my favorite one so far and am so happy to see more xc content on here. keep up the good work.
  • 7 0
 I only follow PB for XC content. I wish you did even more XC stuff. Nice reviews. Thanks.
  • 4 0
 @sarahmoore remarked how she wondered why it took so long for XC bikes to have geometry like this, yet the Intense Sniper is an XC bike with trail geometry released in 2018, and the BMC Fourstroke was released in 2019, just to name two. I have a Sniper and I can confirm this geometry is the way to go.
  • 7 0
 I read "lightest and sickest" at first. Not wrong though.
  • 5 2
 I really like seeing the XC reviews but most of the population doesn’t live in BC. I wish there was some some of review normalizes the performance of these bikes in different conditions. I also would like if the articles provided some sort of normalization for the times laps. The articles provides no information on differences between runs, effort level, etc., to truly put faith in a conclusion on how fast the bike is.
  • 3 0
 They should have done several laps on different days with the same bikes to get a baseline on variability. But that rapidly becomes difficult to manage. Did they use a powermeter on each lap ?
  • 7 2
 Yeah, I would take the times with a grain of salt. 5% is well within the difference of a good day and a bad day, a first run and a second run, a wet or damp or dry trail, familiarity with a bike, fueled and hydrated vs not, etc.

It’s very hard to believe that the lightest bike in the test is the worst climber by a significant margin.
  • 5 1
 I don’t live in BC either but if you want reviews from others who don’t live there I guess that’s what other sites are for.
  • 8 3
 Ok but where’s coverage on the new Status? It’s on UK websites like Bikeradar... Did Spesh mess up release dates they gave to different websites or something??
  • 9 1
 the red adds 50 watts.
  • 5 0
 You're the only person mentioning 'watts' on the entire page btw
  • 5 1
 @tempest3070: that’s surprising. I stick by my statement though, red adds at least 50 watts. (it distracts from the hidden motor)
  • 4 1
 IMO it is pretty useless testing bikes this expensive. 0.01% of sales will be this spec, so it really is NOT representative of the bike we will see in the real world. These group tests should have a price cap of something like four to six thousand dollars, or they should Use the "GX level" spec for each bike.
  • 4 2
 Yep, car websites should only test Corollas and Foresters. Smile

We did a value test this spring: www.pinkbike.com/news/welcome-to-the-2020-pinkbike-field-trip.html
  • 6 0
 @brianpark: I don't thinkForesters and Corollas is an appropriate equivalency to my suggestion. More like: Don't test the GT3 RS, just test the 911S instead. You are still testing expensive high performance bikes, but is it necessary to take on some of the absurdly expensive $11,000+ bikes when there are lower spec levels available? Testing the lower spec bike would serve us readers better as it would be more relevant to more of us and you could mitigate the price differential between the test bikes to provide a better picture of the value of each bike. The price spread in this test is $6,500. There are less components to hide behind on a $7,000 bike than on a $12,000 bike, so you might get a clearer picture of the bike platform with a less expensive bike.
  • 2 0
 @WheelNut: I'm so sorry this is happening to you. Why not go to another website that reviews less expensive bikes, or write your own review?
  • 1 0
 @denson-91: I'm just trying to offer my thoughts on how to create more relevant content for what *I* think PB readers want. And guess what? Nobody said you had to read the comments either, so why don't you just buzz off with your useless comments.
  • 2 0
 @WheelNut: I think I saw a commercial recently featuring Sarah McLachlan about poor people who can't afford nice bikes and how for $1 a day we can help by making bike review articles about cheap bikes
  • 11 4
 Evo or gtfo
  • 2 0
 I think Mike hates the brain as Sarah noticed some things but Mike seemed to want to keep killing it. Some love and others hate it, only con mentioned. One thing on the cons that I feel is overlooked from a fit perspective is stand over. At 5-8 or 5-9 testers the top tube has to be close. While worse for men it is a problem if anyone gets into a tough climb over with the font wheel high and needs to get off. Specialized has the highest TT of any bike I have ridden. (Aluminum Fat Boy has the same problem) Otherwise sexy light ride and as long as brain doesn't fail...It works.
  • 6 0
 Just can’t wait for the full clip of the Levy ball ride.
  • 1 0
 Yes!!! In slow mo please
  • 5 0
 so, basicly what @mikelevy is saying is that the specialized epic evo is a no brainer . . . :-)
  • 4 0
 Clearly Pinkbike is saving the best for last here with the UpDuro / Downcountry bikes yet to be reviewed...
  • 15 2
 So we have to wait two weeks for the Spur review? (bc that's what we're all waiting for anyways #amirite???)
  • 9 0
 @smartyiak: Exactly - along with the Epic EVO...
  • 11 0
 @smartyiak: Spur looks good but for some reason I am now more interested in the Epic Evo.
  • 2 2
 @sspiff: if they made an XXL, I would be too. But, alas, only comes in jr. sizes.Wink
  • 1 0
 @smartyiak: same here...missing the XXL Spur. Just got the new Sentinel in XXL and it's sweet! If you're looking for options check out the Tallboy XXL, I also got it and feel just at home switching between both.
  • 2 0
 @yeti85: No...you misunderstand me. I think the Spur in XL will be perfect for me (the Smuggler was). But a Specialized (and TB4) in XL is pretty similar to a Spur in L. In order to get geo equivalent to an XL Spur, Speshy would have to make an XXL...and, for you, and XXXL!
  • 1 0
 @sspiff: I really hope the Epic Evo has brain
  • 2 1
 Nearly 6% slower over 20 minutes is more than just an off day, that's over a minute of lost time. When I'm personally having an off day, I don't drop that sort of time from my crew. That's enough to indicate that the Epic is just a fair bit slower overall than the Scapel. Or is it that the Scapel is just that much faster than all the competitors?
The real question to me is how much slower are the DC bikes? If the DC bikes are say less than 5% off the Scapel's loop time, then anyone short of a Pro XC racer might as well be on the top performing DC bike.
I suspect that Spur will trash the average AM/ Enduro bike when an entire loop is considered as the time benchmark, even in true AM terrain.
  • 4 1
 Problem is they are not actually going to compare times between XC and DC. Except for efficiency test, they didn’t have one rider time all the bikes. Unfortunately the time testing done just really isn’t very useful because of the poor way it was executed.
  • 1 0
 Really? How often do you time yourself on the same course? Even on the road, where there are a lot fewer variables my “going hard” time on our local 20 minute benchmark climb, on the same bike which I’ve ridden for years, is almost 3 minutes. And those are days that I opt in to going hard, because I feel pretty good. A lot of days I don’t have that kind of effort in me. 20 minutes at max is absolutely brutal.
  • 2 0
 @nattyd: That doesn't happen to me and I time myself often enough to see that I don't vary much.
When it's hot I stop and take breaks, but ride the same pace.
Tires make the biggest difference in my overall speed. Over a 25 mile trail ride I went 7% faster due to much faster tires recently. I wouldn't lose nearly 6% just cause an off day.
  • 1 0
 @SunsPSD: I didn't see power or heartrate data to correlate to climbing or loop times, so as far as we know there could have been a significant effort difference between all 4 of these bikes.Maybe they have that and will provide more info later.
  • 1 0
 "I did the entire lap with the Brain in the open setting since I didn't use a lockout on any of the other bikes for the timed laps."
That's not a very fair comparison. The bike comes with it, and it's automatic once setup. Takes even less effort to use than a dropper, which you did use on the Lux, because it comes with one. But the other ones didn't come a dropper... so you shouldn't have used the dropper if you weren't going to use the lockouts or the Brain. Especially since you admitted that using the dropper on the Lux was not ideal because of the lockout levers (that did not get used...)
  • 4 0
 Never considered a specialized, until now
  • 4 0
 Very red and very fast....and very expensive
  • 3 0
 "Cons: Can feel Brain working, especially in rougher terrain"
Yep, my brain and my eyes..
  • 4 4
 It’s a clunk. I road epics for almost a decade (in the 00s). The engagement of the Brain always felt like a clunk. Sounds like it still does. It’s a beautiful bike though. I think the Fox-live valve is probably or could be a better system, but I don’t know for sure as I haven’t ridden a bike with it. Or perhaps the tried and true lockout lever?

Great video folks.
  • 2 0
 I mean, live valve IS brain, but brain is mechanically actuated and the live valve is electronically actuated.
  • 1 0
 LiveValve is meant for this bike. That should have been the spec.! Next time?
  • 2 0
 They have nice specs entry level bike! (fill SLX with 4 pistons) - ready to shred trail / XC / DC
Also one of the nicest looking bike within the test;
  • 1 1
 For me, this is gold: "I did the entire lap with the Brain in the open setting since I didn't use a lockout on any of the other bikes for the timed laps."...lock out suspensions in MTB are like running Baja California in a Pick Up with suspension locked because it will go faster...until the first bump. If you want to go faster you need traction, traction is allowed by the tire reading the ground and this is only possible with a good suspension setting, not fully open, not fully closed..A proper suspension setting.
  • 4 0
 Lockouts are only useful on roads or smooth climbs when you get out of the saddle, and useless on Singletrack. Since the timed course is all singletrack then the decision is consistent with the lockout strategy of 99% of XC riders anyway.
  • 2 0
 This is exactly why S doesn't use remote lock on the XC race bikes. A benefit of inertia valve suspension technology is to provide an efficient platform while pedaling, but any vertical movement of the wheel instantly opens the damper, delivering needed traction and momentum carry through rough trail.
  • 2 0
 Awesome format, straight to the points and good to watch. Thanks for improving our reading and viewing experience! Jealous of all those great Squamish trails!!!
  • 3 2
 I'd like to see this tested in the 'Kulhavy' spec, so frame sized down at least 1 size to match the crazy seat to bar drop, seat angle, and stem that he runs.
  • 1 0
 Looks like a great platform for a great downcountry tandem bike (or dandem as we call them). Anyone know when the dandem epic will roll out?
  • 4 1
 It literally is the same geo as my Spez Enduro 29 from 2014...
  • 1 0
 Curious why xc chainstays are not longer to aid in climbing traction and weight shifts like hill climb motos have... Anyone explain? Is it weight?
  • 2 1
 The bike doesn't need to be long if the angles are steep enough
  • 3 0
 Long wheelbase makes it feel like turning a limousine in the corners, and many XC courses have many tight corners where it is imperative to keep speed.
  • 1 0
 Making the ST steeper is much more effective at moving rider weight forward than extending the CS. Also, there is a perception that the CSs must be as short as possible on a racer bike. Whether longer CSs would make a bike faster or not is a moot point as people will see a number on a chart and be afraid to buy it that number is too high.
  • 1 0
 wow looks like these reviews are going to get milked like a dairy cow...is it going to be 2 or three weeks to review 8 bikes?
  • 3 1
 Can somebody explain Brain to me?
  • 25 17
 A type of unnecessary automatic proprietary shock that is best when turned off as much as possible...as indicated by the reviewer.
  • 9 2
 It's a mechanical rear lockout that is temporarily deactivated by an internal inertial switch when the rear wheel hits a bump. The slight delay between hitting the bump and the shock giving way makes it feel a bit harsh on descents. But the really cool thing about it is that the bike automatically firms up for the next smooth pedaling section.
  • 3 2
 From what I understand it is a small hydraulic unit at the rear axle which senses the difference between the output coming from your legs and any actual obstacles on the trail surface, it essentially keeps the suspension locked out until it is necessary to open her up to absorb trail chatter, roots, rocks and the like. A mate of mine had one which he loved but when it came time to service it, he couldn't find anywhere to do it for less than £1000 so he sold the bike.
  • 1 0
 www.specialized.com/us/en/stories/brain-technology

Some good information on it here.
there are also a few great videos on Youtube
www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gxP57_Yxbw
  • 3 0
 Sarah did in the video around 02:00
  • 2 0
 @landscapeben: Pretty spot on description of the Brain!
Service on Brain is included with purchase for 2 years to original owner. Plus many Epic retailers have a loaner shock on hand so you can keep riding while you send the shock in for yearly service.
  • 9 0
 @zephxiii: Trail riders seem to consistently hate the Brain, but lots of XC racers love it. It’s not surprising to me that in a trail-centric website with trail-centric reviewers, they tend to prefer no lockouts at all. But for those of us that spend time between the tape of XC race courses, it’s not reflective of how we would use any of these bikes.
  • 1 2
 @nattyd: It might be a great idea but who wants to spend £1000 per year servicing the thing!? Not me that's for sure (despite the first 2 years being free).
  • 5 0
 @landscapeben: I’ve raced two different Epics over the last 6 years and never had any Brain reliability issues. YMMV, but I’m guessing almost nobody spends nearly this much on maintenance.
  • 2 0
 @landscapeben: The service rates are inline with RS and Fox Damper service. Around $140 depending on what the retailer charges for removal and installation of the shock into the frame on either end.
  • 1 2
 @xvxbg: could be different in the States I don't know, I'm only going on what my mate told me he was asked to pay.
  • 3 0
 The Slim Fonut
  • 1 0
 The Drim Monut
  • 2 1
 The Grimey Dognut
  • 5 3
 Disappointed not to see the Scott Spark included in the test fleet.
  • 3 0
 They haven't really announced the updated spark yet
  • 1 0
 @bentopi: Thanks - makes sense them.
  • 4 0
 I can review the RC for you since I have one:
Climbs like a hard tail, goes down like a 100mm single pivot. Not so fun in technical downhill but if it's not roots infested it's okayish.

Also it looks pretty except the part where there are 6 cables in the front. It's also light af. Fits a big water bottle.
Important side note, nino's legs heart and lungs aren't included when purchasing the bike, so don't do like me and go easy on the first rides even if the bike wants you to pedal faster
  • 1 0
 BMC Fourstroke and Scott Spark would be a nice comparison to these other XC race bikes but only the Spark would fit the XC vs DC theme I guess
  • 2 0
 I do like downcountry bikes
  • 4 4
 When talking to Epic owners you know they got the wrong bike when they say, "I like it, but I wish it was more plush. I'm thinking of putting a coil shock and Fox 36 on it."
  • 3 1
 That bike could almost get me into lycra.
  • 2 0
 Bike should be named “pinky and the BRAIN”
  • 2 0
 Get on with posting the Spur review already!!!! Jesus H!
  • 2 0
 Serious. Where is the review for today?
  • 6 5
 you know, scalpel is better Wink
  • 1 2
 @sarahmoore can you comment on whether the brain was "seamless" or not, i.e., does it open up before you feel the bump, or is there some noticeable delay?
  • 2 3
 This is a category that we really need the xc racers reviewing. I don't think any of these are getting a proper review or fair shake.
  • 17 1
 Sarah used to race pro\elite category XC on a national level. Is that good enough for you?
  • 4 0
 @Ginsu2000 she's raced some world cups too, and even came out of XC "retirement" to smash out 13th at last year's BC Bike Race.
  • 1 0
 there should be a ebike and downhill field test next
  • 4 4
 Why didn't they compare Sarah and Mike's lap times?
  • 6 1
 I ride medium bikes and Mike rides large bikes so we weren’t able to test ride all the same bikes. He rode the five downcountry bikes and I rode the four cross-country bikes on the timed laps.
  • 2 3
 WOW they copied the BMC Fourstoke, sweet!
  • 2 5
 What shock is that?
  • 24 0
 Obviously you are not using your Brain.
  • 2 2
 @zerort: To be fair, the word "shock" is used precisely zero times in the article.
  • 1 0
 @VTTyeahyouknowme: props for username.
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