Thought I would share this from my blog... I spotted this bike at a local bike shop a few weeks ago and after hinting enough about the possibility of purchasing one when they come out, I was handed it for an afternoon. Frequent flyers of this website may remember THIS post I did a few weeks back talking about all of it’s bells and whistles. This bike has perked my interest for several reasons which include; 29-inch wheels of course, the tried and true Epic geometry and Specialized’s FSR suspension using the Flow Control Mini Brain. I decided to hit my local trail this morning (Tijeras Creek) to test the Epic because it offers varying types of terrain and I am familiar with every bump and turn. The frame and fork on this bike were given to the shop to use as a test unit for various riders/shop employees. The build on it is not something that will be offered in stores. So, I am not going to elaborate on how the Juicy brakes or XT cranks performed. The bike is a 17.5 or typically what most 29ers would be considered in medium. At 6′ tall, I was unsure if the bike would fit me. I normally ride medium size 29ers but this bike felt a bit small in the cockpit when I rode it around the shop. I adjusted the seat post to max height and the saddle as far back as it could go. I also flipped the stem over to bring the bars up a bit more. I usually setup my bikes with a short stem for quicker handling. If you want to know more about the specific features of this bike, READ THIS POST. The bike weighed in at a hefty 28.56lbs with the current build. If you spend some time googling this bike you will find people are getting them down to about 23-24lbs with XTR/SRAM XO components. I believe, but don’t quote me, the fully built bike that comes with the new SRAM XX groupo will weight in around 21-22lbs. Now that’s what I’m talking about! Sadly, that bike is going to be over $6000. This frame and fork combo should be in the neighborhood of $2500 if I had to guess. On the trail, the first thing I noticed about the ride was the stiff headset. At first, it put me off a little. Then, I remembered this bike is engineered with racing in mind and a stiff headset is a good thing. The frame/fork were engineered this way to work with the Brain shock technology. Off the bat blasting down fire road I was amazed at how fast the bike was. The geometry was spot on for high speed acceleration standing or seated. I had the rear shock setup for a more plush suspension rather than super tight race setup. There was absolutely no pedal bob and as I dumped into the dirt and into a rock garden the bike held its line. The steering was very predictable and controlled through singletrack and small rutted sections of the trail. When you get into more aggressive terrain on most full suspension bikes, you typically feel like the rear end is sagging or dropping down (squishing). On the Epic, you feel like the rear tire is moving up and down behind you. That is the best way I can describe the feeling. My body wasn’t having to move as much with the bike which meant I could prepare better for what was coming. This also made me feel like I had to think less about what I was doing. All of this = better reaction time. The more I pushed the bike the better it felt. I actually (and hate to admit it) feel like I am not fast enough for this bike. I sprinted as fast as I could through very familiar terrain until I was at my comfort limit and the bike kept getting better and better. Climbing was not as efficient as my Niner Air9 hardtail but much improved over my Ellsworth Evolve (as expected). Climbing is also where I discovered that I may need a 19-inch size in this bike. Seated climbing the bike fit me pretty well. Standing climbing my body was pushing itself too far forward and out of my normal climbing position. I launched off a few small jumps roughly 1-3 feet in height to see how the bike would react. I adjusted the rear compression from wide open to closed off. Wide open the landing was smooth, controlled, but I wouldn’t say it was plush. The bike did not spring back up and shoot me forward, it stayed planted to the ground and wanted to keep moving. Closed off the landing had much more force to it but surprisingly it still didn’t break traction or cause the rear tire to wander off like a hardtail drop landing. This bike is going to be a great choice for those looking for a 29-inch race bike. I would love to have one of these for my next 12-hour Solo race. The bikes biggest strength is it’s ability to overcome varying terrain. No matter what I threw at it, the bike reacted the same. Think about that for a second. The suspension was consistent through everything. Can your bike say that? You probably want to say yes but I doubt it. There are a few other race inspired bikes I hope to get my hands on one day so I can compare them to this. It probably seems like I am giving Specialized a BJ with all the love I have for this bike, they just made it hard to find much I didn’t like. A few side notes. Tire/mud clearance looked good on the front running a 2.20 tire. In the rear it looks like a 2.10 is going to be about all you can stuff back there. The front tire was a 2.20 Specialized Captain which has always been a great tire. The rear was a 2.00 Specialized Fast Trak which I would never use again. I really love the Maxxis Crossmark 29×2.10 as a rear tire. I hope someone I know buys the SRAM XX version because I feel like this bike will be a completely different animal at 21-22lbs. We shall see. I should mention this bike is a prototype not a full production run. So, there may be some slight changes on the ones you see in stores soon.