2003 Specialized Epic - a suspension revolution? - Bike Magic

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2003 Specialized Epic – a suspension revolution?

We’d tell you how we got it to stand up, but we’d have to kill you

“Come and see the exciting brand new product” is the cry of the battle-worn marketing manager. Unfortunately, for all concerned, the reality is often little more than a new colour scheme or an almost meaningless tweak to the giggle-pin or the thrunge sprocket. So when Specialized invited us down to see the “most exciting new concept in mountain biking” we weren’t, honestly, expecting to have our socks blown off by the new Specialized Epic. So it was a bit of a surprise to look down and see naked feet.

At the heart of the Epic is ‘the Brain’, the result of a four-year joint project, dubbed the Holy Grail, between Specialized and Fox Racing. The Brain, for want of a simple explanation, is an automatic switch which locks out the four-bar linkage rear suspension when it’s not needed. At the heart of the system is an inertia valve which sits slightly awkwardly off the bottom of the rear shock, as close as possible to the axle movement it’s designed to sense. It keeps the shock completely locked out until the rear wheel hits a bump and then it instantly breaks into proven FSR plush. Nice. Chain forces do not affect the Brain. Obviously they affect the rear end of the bike in the same way as they do on any other bike. But pedalling doesn’t, under any circumstances we experienced, affect the lock out function of the Brain.

Specialized have worked hard to innovate around the new shock. To start with they’ve managed to keep the overall frame weight, including shock, down to 5.5lbs – which is pretty light. Standover height is reduced considerably and they’ve introduced revised sizing which includes a really small, and two women’s geometry specific frames. Our test bike also had a pair of very, very nice prototype Specialized carbon riser bars which should be available next year. But the icing on cake for prospective purchasers is that 2003 is also the year for new XTR which we previewed a few weeks back. The top end model will be a brand new bike in a way that we haven’t seen for a number of years now (checks bank balance)…

This is very, very clever stuff, that genuinely seems to work. But, at the end of the day the Epic family are high-end cross race bikes, this year at least. And the lock out function isn’t going to be for everyone.

We’ll have a full test of a 2003 XTR equipped Specialized Epic, think around the three grand plus mark, in mid Autumn. Until then we’ll leave it up to you to discuss whether lock out has a place in your must have list. See you in the forum…


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