2019 Specialized Epic EVO Review by Team Rider Pete Emme
I've been looking for a do it all mountain bike for some time now and the opportunity arose when I saw first hand reports of this bike becoming available, so I went ahead and purchased this from George at Broken Spoke. Here's a quick rundown thus far.
A little background of the rider, entering 2019 will be my 5th year of racing mountain bikes, started in WORS, did very well immediately in the Sport class and advanced to the Comp class but somehow felt lost in the fast pace environment, lost my drive, even though I made a few podiums. Tried a few long distance endurance events and took the series 6 Hour Overall in WEMS in 2017. The endurance events intrigued me from the get go, thanks to Todd Poquette and the master minds at the Marji Gesick 100, I absolutely love the grind. I was hooked, and used 3 different bikes to race these 100 mile grueling events including the Cheq 100, Maah Daah Hey 100 and Mohican 100 and a few others. The bikes I used were a 2014 Trek Rumblefish, 2015 Specialized Epic World Cup, 2017 Salsa Spearfish and 2017 Specialized S-Works Camber. The Camber, by far, was the best tool for the job. Oh, andI'm 50 now, 6'1" and 162lbs and don't know much except that I love riding 2 wheel stuff.
Let's cut to the chase. How is it? It's good, really good. The Epic EVO is not exactly a new model, I guess they made them in 2011, well before my time behind bars, so I have no idea what that model was like. But I do know that Specialized overhauled the Epic last year and it was a favorite amongst trail seekers in the XC world. What's different about this bike is, the EVO is fitted with 120mm Fox 34 Stepcast forks, on the same frame as the Epic. More control, more travel, and in my opinion, a plusher ride. It also uses Fox's Grip Damper, whatever that is, it sounds cool though. The fork is really good, plows through everything and can take the big hit as well. I don't think I'll ever have a 100mm travel fork again. For me, the 120mm works better and doesn't punish me for my mistakes. I like that alot.
Out back, the Epic EVO sports the updated Brain 2.0 rear suspension. I was never a fan of the early version as I had one on my Epic and that was paired with the RockShox RS-1 fork, maybe it was the fork. Either way, it didn't work for me. The new Brain 2.0 works very well and you know it's working when you can hear the slight knock underneath you, I'm satisfied knowing that it's working, feeling and hearing this. It tracks very well, and seems like a good match to the Fox 34 Performance Fork. It soaked everything up, from roots to large rocks that layden the Greenbush trails this past week. I was all smiles about the suspension performance and really found no need to dial it in other than twisting the cool looking blue dial on top of the fork from Open to Firm. Kind of old school tech, but effective. For the shock, all we did was set the air and we were good. When pedaling hard, you could feel the Brain firm up and when you hit the rough stuff, it would open. Worked great at Reforestation Camp as well. Win win.
To the wheels, yes Roval Carbon wheels are nice, great looking too. They really help this machine roll. Up front was fitted with the Specialized Ground Control. David Bowie approved with Major Tom, these tires are tough, great sidewalls and has something called Gripton, kind of like Krpytonite or something, I think that's good too. The rear was a more faster tire, Fast Trak, it said Fast on the tire, so I guess they are fast too. The 29'er has 2.3 tires on a 25mm rim, more surface contact, better grip and still fast enough in the right hands. Specialized makes a decent tire.
I had swapped the bars out to RaceFace Next Carbon bars that are almost flat with very little sweep. The stock bars just weren't for me as they were fitted with a 80mm stem and a goofy bend. I put my usual 100mm stem on as I have ape hanger arms. Really opened it up for me and made the steering of this bike became sharper. The EVO cuts a corner just as good as any bike fitted with 100mm forks, this is due to the Epic frame. I may end up putting 35mm bars on soon if I can find a 100mm stem to match. More beef, very little weight difference. I went with the same width, 750mm, feels solid and in control.
The controls are nice, the SRAM TL brakes are OK. Not Guide Ultimate, but they work. Reports say they feel wooden, I don't know what that means, I'm not old enough to remember wooden wheel bikes. Again, they work, but I may upgrade before Marji, because of the steep descents and the stopping power needed. For now, they work.
Onto to the seat, a Phenom, very good seat for me, sleek, a fair amount of cush for my tush on the long rides. Happy with that and so is my taint. The seat also sits on a nice dropper post, X-Fusion, when you need this, it works perfect. Although, it does pop back up rather slowly. My Camber has one, and when that thing pops back up, it has enough power to send you to the proctologist for an emergency visit. I like this dropper, even the lever is good. Thumbs up!
I went with this goofy color, they call it something, can't remember. It's different. It resembles the color of cow semen, how do I know that. I've helped a farmer or two doing some insemination stuff. Shitty job, but someone's got to do it. Actually, I like the color, haven't seen this color before. When I get tired of it, I'll hit up The Bike Brew, err, Tempo Wraps and David Rossow and let him do his magic. The black accents and components really make this bike shine. Again, different.
What makes this EVO go is the Eagle GX 12-Speed. I had a XO1 on my Spearfish and I have the XX1 on my Camber. This GX is not only cheaper, but cheaper to replace parts, albeit, a tad heavier. This thing shifts flawlessly, almost electronic like. And it's super quiet. I like that. Speaking of quiet, this bike is virtually SILENT. Seriously, it makes no noise, no creaks, no squeaks, besides that noise from the rear hub, just pedal, and it goes away, amazing. I like pedaling. Who woulda thought!
Who is this bike for? Why buy this when I have a Camber? This EVO bridges the gap between a fast XC racer and an adventuring type racer. I think it would work well in the WORS style events or any short course XC events. Why? Because the XC world is changing and changing fast, right from the UCI events to the local races, throwing in bigger obstacles and tougher sections. This bike bridges that gap and comes somewhere in the middle. And yes, perfect for those 100 mile grueling-all- day in the saddle events. I feel it can tackle anything, heck, just go for the sack!
The Camber that I have is a great ride, but it's mainly derived from the StumpJumper, still good for 100 mile events but the EVO can and will be better in the fast department and equally as good in the rough stuff. Did I mention that this EVO is really good?
For me, I sit well with the EVO, I feel that I'm a part of the bike, not on top, not too far in. It's comfort and a good fit and I feel that I can attack or just conserve when I want. Fit is key. They said the bottom bracket is slightly higher, no pedal strikes for me, I noticed that right away. I've seen Ryan Grotegut go in a scorpion type endo with his pedal strikes, not fun! It does have a longer wheelbase, probably due to the longer fork. The bike is so stable. It feels like my Camber, but much faster. Having said that, I will keep my Camber as I like having 2 bikes but you'll have to peel me off of my EVO, I like it that much. It's going to be a long winter........did I mention that this bike is really good?
Specialized FACT 11m, XC Geometry, Rider-First Engineered, threaded BB, 12x148mm rear spacing, internal cable routing, 100mm of travel
FOX Step-Cast 34 Performance series, GRIP damper, 44mm offset, 15x110mm Kabolt thru-axle, 120mm of travel
Custom RockShox Micro Brain shock w/ Spike Valve, AUTOSAG, 51x257mm
SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
SRAM DUB, threaded BB
Truvativ STYLO, DUB
SRAM GX Eagle, trigger, 12-speed
SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed, 10-50t
SRAM Eagle, 32T
SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
Body Geometry Phenom Comp, hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm
X-Fusion manic, 30.9mm, (S: 100mm, M-XL: 125mm)
Specialized XC, 3D-forged alloy, 4-bolt, 6-degree rise
Specialized Alloy Minirise, 10mm rise, 750mm, 31.8mm clamp
Specialized Sip Grip, half-waffle, S/M: regular thickness, L/XL: XL thickness
Specialized, sealed cartridge bearings, 15x110mm spacing, 28h
Specialized, sealed cartridge bearings, 12x148mm thru-axle, 28h
DT Swiss Industry
Roval Control Carbon, 25mm internal width, tubeless-ready
Ground Control, GRIPTON compound, 60 TPI, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.3"
Fast Trak, GRID casing, GRIPTON compound, 60 TPI, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.3"
SRAM Level TL, hydraulic disc
11.97 kg (size large