Specialized just released the 2018 Epic
, a 100mm-travel all-out cross-country race bike, so it was no surprise to see Kate Courtney aboard the new machine in Andorra, shot here by Pinkbike race photographer Irmo Keizer. Gone is the FSR design, with the rear axle pivots now replaced by a flex-stay system that's said to shave 240-grams on its own, or a weight saving of approximately 39% over the previous model. The top drawer S-Works frame is claimed to be a whopping 345-grams lighter than the 2017 version, with the total weight coming in at 1,900-grams for a medium with a shock. Geometry has also been updated - there's a longer reach paired with a shorter stem, and they've gone with a shorter, 42mm offset fork. The goal was added stability but without taking away from the nimbleness that cross-country bikes are known for.
Courtney's Epic is rocking a 60mm stem and a party post, albeit a short-travel one.
The new Epic employs an equally new shock and Brain setup that's bolted to the disc-side dropout.
Something tells me that Raphael Auclair is a fan of carbon and electronics. His 100mm-travel Pivot Mach 429SL is a tech dork's dream, with carbon rims and cockpit from ENVE, and Fox's iRD electronic lockout that allows the compression settings of the fork and shock to be changed at the same time with a handlebar mounted remote. Raphael is also running Shimano's XTR Di2 setup, or at least the rear derailleur, shifter, and required electronics. The front of his drivetrain is a Rotor REX-1 crank with noQ non-oval ring, and there's also a tidy chain guide from Paul Components that acts as extra insurance.
The simple and classy looking Paul Components Chain Keeper guide is the antithesis of the battery powered suspension and carbon fiber frame and components.
Unlike a lot of World Cup rigs, Auclair's stem isn't slammed as low as possible. Instead, there looks to be 20mm of spacers under his stem. He's also running Maxxis' fast rolling Ikon rubber.
More carbon fiber, more electronics, and yet another dropper post for the Vallnord cross-country course. This red rocket is Reto Indergand's BMC Fourstroke 01, another bike with Shimano's XTR Di2 drivetrain and Fox's Live Valve suspension. The dropper post is KS's LEV CI that offers 65mm of stroke and weighs around 450-grams thanks to a carbon outer tube and pared down components. The Vallnord course is no joke, and tire choice is one of the most important decisions that a racer can make; some roll the dice on mega-light rubber, while others opt for something a bit more robust. Indergand has gone with a set of Vittoria's Mezcal tires, sans tubes.
Indergand prefers organic pads for his XTR Race brakes, and he's also running a very trick carbon fiber guide that probably weighs about as much as a sheet of paper.
Did you spot that tiny silver square on the inside of the fork arch? Many World Cup cross-country and downhill racers are sticking these silver-colored squares onto different parts of their bike, and while they look like tiny GPS trackers from a spy movie, their true intention is much more interesting. They're made by Axxios Technology, a Swiss company that says that their AXS Sensor System is able to allow a rider to go faster thanks to their tiny silver stick-on squares providing a ''massive reduction of the negative impact of vibrations of the bike.'' How much faster? ''Among the best racers in the world, the improvement is 1 second per racing minute; among amateur pilots, time saved is even greater, about 2 or 3 seconds per minute.'' Those numbers are no joke when you at the level of Mathias Flückiger, whose bike is pictured here.
Axxios claims that the AXS Sensors on Mathias' bike reduces vibrations by 26-percent.
Axxios says this is possible due to a series of small oscillating circuits (capacitors and inductors) inside the stick-on AXS Sensors that act as very fast access energy reservoirs. I'm going to let them explain how the system works: ''Whether in a solid, liquid or gaseous medium, the AX Sensor acts directly within the material by inducing atomic diffusion. It affects the electrical and mechanical properties of the material onto which it is bonded, by means of electromagnetic interactions. Effectively, because this material and the AXS Sensor are of different natures, a difference in contact potential is created at the interface, since the energy required to remove an electron differs between the two materials. All potential differences give rise to an electromagnetic field that affects the basic material: higher elasticity modulus, higher natural frequency, and reduction in amplitude of parasitic oscillations.''
More vibration control is said to equal less fatigue, better performing suspension, and more traction, but does it actually work? The AX Sensors are being used in motorsport, human-powered sport, and industrial fields, but I'd have to try it myself before becoming a believer.