Long Term Report: 2014 Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup Edition

29er All Mountain Trail
Lighter, faster, smoother – pick three. The Specialized Epic focuses even deeper into racing.

Specialized Epic Copper Mountain.

For 2014, Specialized assembled their largest development team ever to revamp their top-selling bike, the Epic. With a three year old design as a baseline, they looked to make the Epic faster, lighter and smoother. They saw two audiences for the bike: the top-level cross country racer and the hardcore enthusiast who races regularly and is always looking to go faster than his buddies or faster than he’s gone before.

Eric Schuda (engineer at Specialized) spent some time at the Leadville 100 mountain bike endurance race and observed. Schuda saw many bikes taped with tubes, tools, Gu, bananas on to the frame to transport the necessities for the 100 mile race. He looked at how folks were using their racing bikes and looked for solutions not only for going faster but also longer with efficient ways to transport tools and water.

Specialized Epic S-Works.

The Changes

The big change is a frame that’s laterally stiffer and about .5 lbs lighter. The new carbon frame has lighter, more optimized materials yet has thick chain stays to provide lateral stiffness. The seatpost is now 27.2mm in diameter to save weight and to make room for the brain shock cable that is fed in between the seat tube and the moving seat stays.

Left: Specialized Epic Front Triangle. Right: Specialized Epic Internal Routing.

The cable routing is now internal. This is a big diversion for Specialized as they’ve stayed the course with their neatly organized external cable routing. Their old system tucked the cables under the down tube in a very organized manner and it worked well when set up properly. But it was a bit dated as most of the competition migrated to a much cleaner internal routing system. Internal routing is great for the end user but is a nightmare for bike shops and home mechanics as feeding the cables through tiny frame holes is never easy. To counter this, specialized designed in big port holes for the cables and seal them off with big, elegant caps that guide the cables out of the frame. In the frame, they house the cables in a foam ‘noodle’ material that prevents any kind of rattling noise inside the frame.

Specialized Epic Hard Cornering.

The latest Brain Shock still strives to lock out during pedaling and activate during trail bumps. But it is now smoother than ever during this transition between locked out and active mode. It is light years ahead of the first brain shock almost a decade ago and it is noticeably better than the Specialized Epic we tested from 2012. The transitions are much smoother now and the ride is almost seamless. But one can still tell this is a Brain shock as a slight ‘knock’ can be felt through the frame during the transition.

SWAT (Storage, Water, Air and Tools) has been introduced for the endurance racer who prefers not to use a hydration pack. A family of tools and water carriers has been integrated with the bike. Two water bottles, a chain tool, multi-tool and flat repair kit are now designed in the frame itself. They are all designed in and readily available but can all be easily removed if the extra weight is not desired. An in-depth look into SWAT is available HERE.

Specialized Epic SWAT Removed.

What We Liked

What the Specialized Epic does is make you go fast uphill. It has performed this task well in the past and this new version does an even better job at it. One of the new sample Epics with very rideable parts weighed in at 19.6 lbs without pedals. This is a responsive frame that is very stiff laterally.
Stomping on the pedals results in best of class acceleration. Whether it’s spinning efficiently or jumping out of saddle with massive torque, the frame and brain shock respond to deliver the best acceleration in a full suspension bike.

Specialized Epic Vista.

We loved the wheels and tires. Specialized Carbon Roval SL wheels are the best of any bike manufacturer bar none. They are light, stiff, durable and affordable. The old wheels Roval wheels were good but these new ones are wider, lighter, stiffer and more durable. The new 1370 gram, 22 mm internal width, hookless rims are just phenomenal. They are a decent value at just under $2k but the Roval Control Carbons are the best for the money at $1200.

Specialized Epic in Durango with Mtbr and Chad Cheney.

SWAT is good. Two large water bottle capacity is a godsend and it will make one leave the hydration pack at home whether on a bike race or just a long ride. The hidden multi-tool above the rear shock is actually very cool. Some may be tentative about adding weight to the frame but this tool is the smallest, most functional one we’ve seen to date. And it is so easy to access that it will be used often.

Continue reading for more information and full photo gallery.

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • Liberty555 says:

    I love this marketing gumpf…

    “Eric Schuda (engineer at Specialized) spent some time at the Leadville 100 mountain bike endurance race and observed. He looked at how folks were using their racing bikes”

    Ummm, maybe I’m doing it wrong? Am I sitting on it the wrong way?

    I wonder what pearls of wisdom he collected…

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      Need better visuals. Folks were taping and ziptie-ing inner tubes, bottle holders, bananas and Gu packets on to their frames.

    • Benjamin Brindle says:

      He actually meant how they used the frame to carry the kit they needed. “Using their racing bikes” to carry gels (taped on bars) tubes (taped under saddles/inside the frame triangles). He didn’t mean how they use them to pedal.
      So said pearls of wisdom are sticking those things in the frame tucked away keeping the weight down low and off your back. Many even chose the hardtail stumpy over the epic like susi did in the XCM as the option to carry two bottles wasn’t around again.

      Hopefully clears a little up ^^

      • Liberty555 says:

        Yeah, I really hate it when the weight of a Gu packet upsets the handling of the bike!

        I have this image of the Specialized R&D department designing little black plastic boxes to put inner tubes and CO2 cartridges in… I believe the latest thing in the skunkworks there is – get this – a little bag you can tie under your seat! Shhh – don’t tell anyone!

  • Baltazar Franco says:

    awesome bike… 10 Grand, not awesome price…

  • Luis says:

    I second that. Nice bike, but way overpriced IMO !! Not enough upgrades to warrant such a price.

  • Mr. P says:

    Having raced in multiple XC race series with a dropper post, I would call it near useless. I love them, and now can’t ride trail without them, but in an XC race, downhill is for recovery. XC Races are won and lost on the ups.

    27.2 is smart, as the smaller post diameter provides a bit more flex to smooth things out, but still a good platform for pedaling.

    I have to say that I was initially unimpressed by the SWAT tools, but I can see how the racer-set would really like them. Notably the long distance racers.

    P

  • Mike says:

    So, this new S-works will arrive some people at the following dilemma:
    Ducati or Specialized? I’ll pick a Ducati any day…. but it is soooo wrong to even think about a bicycle for $10k.

    • Tom says:

      You show me where to buy a Moto GP Ducati for 10k and I’ll jump on it, that is the equivalent, the very pinnacle of technology in each sport, very low volume production pushes the price up and not that many 10k bikes get sold compared to the 4k alloy comp version.

      • Scott Orsini says:

        Yet the funny thing is if you look on Ebay, you’ll always see 5 or 6 Sworks models for sale but its hard to find the alloy versions. When I race you might see one or two S works but a ton of the alloy versions are out there.

    • Don says:

      I’d take the mountain bike over the Ducati anyday. More performance that I can actually use, and when the heck would I have time to ride a Ducati around? It’s useless for weekend trips as it’s tough to bring a mountain bike, my rock climbing gear, or my snowboard, so I actually have something to do when I reach my destination. I’ve thought about getting a motorcycle, but the best time of day for riding a motorcycle in AZ is the best time of day for riding my bike. If I spend that time on the motorcycle I would just get fat and slow, or have to eat like an ascetic. Spending that money on a Ducati that would just end up being a garage queen would be a waste for me. I’d rather spend it on the mountain bike and get FAR more enjoyment from it.

      • skim says:

        I agree. I will take mountain bike over a motorcycle anytime. What a great workout on a bike. Using your own muscles to power a vehicle! Pressing gas, yea that’s really hard. Plus motorcycles adds more carbon into the environment, I feel the social responsibility of each one of us.

    • Motor Cycle says:

      Yeah, but an SWorks isn’t likely to leave you 6 feet under!

  • Ed says:

    I have the 2011 S-Works Epic and have absolutely been amazed by this bike. $10k is a ton of cash for a bike, but if you ride a ton, there is no price you can put on this “habit”. If you ride 4 times a week and keep the bike for 3 years it is well worth it. You will still have a residual value to sell it after you have enjoyed the crap out of it.

    I think it all comes down to how often you ride to whether this is worth the investment. IMHO.

    • Harris says:

      I also have 2012 S-Works Epic (No car, I commute, ride, and race it, ~4000 miles/year). It blows my mind every time I ride it. I agree that if you ride enough it is worth the obscene price. Plus, buying the new model will give you ~3 years before the next one comes out. This can help you maximize the ownership period before trading up for the new.

    • Jeff says:

      Hey Ed, I have the 2011 S-Works as well. I knew after the first climb that it was the bike for me. I race it, ride it, and am not at all gentle with it, and it has taken everything I throw at it ( i’m a 6′ and 210lb aggressive rider). Question is for me, is the new one that much better?

  • Gregg Kato says:

    As a Ducati owner (Monster 1100) and as someone who has spent some time on Specialized bikes (most recently the 2013 Epic Comp Carbon 29) I can appreciate them both for what they offer. No doubt about it…$10k is a lot of money for a bicycle. But to compare it to a Ducati is just plain silly. It’s apples and oranges. (@Tom, I wouldn’t compare the S-Works to a Desmosedici…it’s more like a Panigale R!)

    And as to whether to take the motorcycle over the bicycle or vice versa…why choose? Get both! They both offer their own kind of fun and unique ride experience. Pretty much all top level motorcycle racers (roadracing and moto/supercross) train or race road bicycles and/or mountain bikes.

  • Don says:

    Question, did they switch to a 51mm offset fork for 2014?

  • Tom says:

    This bike would be perfect if the brain fade knob could somehow be put on the shock. As it stands now, it still seems like the ultimate Pure Race Whip, but for 100 milers, I want to be able to fade that brain while on the bike!

    How was the brain fork? I never did come to terms with that concept, except for 2-hour explosive training rides.

  • nonsense says:

    For those who know nothing about motorcycle racing, Honda and Yamaha are spanking the snot out of Ducati in MotoGP. Therefore, when one speaks of “top line” motorcycles, it should not start with Ducati. Same goes for Specialized. :)))

  • Jeff says:

    For those complaining about the price tag: Yup, this is a pricey beast, but you have to remember that this the flag ship super-bike. Compare to this to the top end bikes of other companies and you’ll see similar prices. For the common man, there is the much more affordable marathon and expert versions, not to mention the comp, which is still a great bike. you can get most of the technology and performance with a much, much lower pricetag (almost half) and a little more weight. We get the trickle down technology from the pros and the guys who just want the best (nothing wrong with that). But without super-bikes like this, the technology won’t get pushed to the same limit. In the end, everyone is happier with the bikes we get.

  • Steve says:

    What a fantastic review and pics. Thanks for sharing!

  • Marco Lopez says:

    I just bought an Epic Marathon. Love it but can anybody reccommend a fork mounted rack for these new bikes?

  • DP says:

    Francis – big long time fan of you and mtbr, but i have to admit, disappointed by the review… I think your original Tallboy review was one of the best that you posted. Video plus real feedback on the bike was great! I feel like this Epic review was more of an overview. You stated that you rode this bike in Moab, I wish you outlines how the bike performed… Did it meet your expectations or underperform as multi-purpose bike. Everyone knows the Epic is the most sought after bike, but I left confused if you we’re talking about the WC Epic or Standard Epic geo? Did you like this bike in Moab??? What brain setting did you like for Moab vs. racing? Did 95mm vs 100mm rear suspension make a difference? shock setup? I just feel like everyone is looking to add content and providing an overview then an actual in-depth review… Hope this helps.

  • brizzy says:

    @Mr P downhill is for recovery??? Tell that to Nino Schurter, who’s been opening up massive gaps on the descents all season. And a few hardtail riders on the world cup XC circuit have already been using short travel carbon XC droppers. They’ll be everywhere soon.

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