Bicycling (South Africa) - - SHOOT OUT - Model year: 2018 Price: R105 000 spe­cial­ized.com

With a proven race- win­ning pedi­gree, and a rep­u­ta­tion as the ‘go- to’ MTB for the av­er­age South African moun­tain biker, the Spe­cial­ized Epic needs no in­tro­duc­tion.

Pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tions were in­fa­mous for their twitchy ten­den­cies, but the new 2018 Epic sports a tweaked front end that testers found of­fered no­tice­ably im­proved han­dling. James, who spent most of his pro­fes­sional ca­reer rac­ing the Epic, said he felt Spe­cial­ized had taken “an in­cred­i­ble bike, and made it bet­ter”.

In line with mod­ern trends, the frame’s front cen­tre is longer, stem lengths are shorter, and the head an­gle has been slack­ened by 1.5°, com­pared to the 2017 Epic ‘ World Cup’, to 69.5°.

In or­der to main­tain steer­ing agility, Spe­cial­ized have re­duced the Rock­Shox SID’s fork off­set ( by 9mm) to 42mm; which brings the front wheel closer, en­abling our testers to get more of their weight over the front wheel and im­prove trac­tion. While the han­dling has seen tan­gi­ble im­prove­ment, you still need to keep your wits about you when the go­ing gets rough, as the Epic’s Brain sus­pen­sion is not as for­giv­ing as tra­di­tional sys­tems.

Speaking of the Brain, its unique de­sign fea­tures an au­to­matic lock- out sys­tem that keeps both front and rear sus­pen­sion firm on smooth trails (or roads), un­til a bump forces the Brain’s in­er­tia valve to dis­en­gage, al­low­ing the shock to ac­ti­vate fully. When you’re lay­ing down the law, this elim­i­nates any sense of la­tency. Sim­ply put, ev­ery watt is re­served for for­ward propul­sion.

The Epic’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance does come at a cost. The ‘clunk’ you feel when the in­er­tia value ac­ti­vates can be un­nerv­ing, feel­ing at first as if you have a flat tyre or loose axle – and as Chris pointed out, that’s some­thing he wouldn’t want to feel ev­ery time he cy­cled. He did add, though, that he got the feel­ing the Epic is the kind of bike you could use to chase KOMs all day long.

The gen­eral con­sen­sus con­firmed his view: the Epic is an un­de­ni­ably quick, clin­i­cal ma­chine that’s a gen­uine KOMhunter. What it isn’t, how­ever, is a bike that our testers would want to ride ev­ery day.

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