Oooooweee the big S put together one killer bike here.

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon

The 2014 Specialized Epic Expert Carbon was among the top 3 best rides I had at the Interbike dirt demo. This came as a huge surprise to me too as I’ve never been a believer in “The Brain” concept that Specialized uses on the Epic platform. More on why I felt that way in a moment, first up is the specs.

Specs from Specialized’s Website

Price$6,300.00
FrameFACT 9m carbon front triangle, SWAT EMT tool cradle, 29" geometry, FACT IS construction, M5 rear triangle, tapered headtube, carbon PF30 BB, full internal shift/brake routing, 142mm dropouts, sealed cartridge bearing pivots, replaceable derailleur hanger, 100mm
ForkCustom RockShox SID 29 Brain, inertia valve damper, Solo Air spring, tapered alloy steerer, bottom-mount Brain Fade and rebound adj., 15mm thru-axle, 100mm travel
Rear ShockFOX/Specialized remote Mini-Brain w/ AUTOSAG, inertia valve w/ Kevlar hose, Brain Fade adjust, 205x53mm, 100mm travel
ShiftersShimano SLX, 10-speed, trigger
Front DerailleurCustom SRAM, 10-speed, high direct-mount
Rear DerailleurShimano Shadow Plus XTR, 10-speed, GS mid cage
BrakesMagura MTS hydraulic disc brakes, 160mm rotors front and rear
Brake LeversMagura MTS, carbon master cylinder, alloy lever blade, hollow lever pivot, reach adjust
CassetteSRAM PG-1050, 10-speed, 11-36
ChainSRAM PC 1051, 10-speed, PowerLink
Crankset Custom SRAM carbon S-2200, 10-speed XC double, PF30 spindle, removable spider, S: 170mm, Others: 175mm
Bottom BracketSRAM PF30, OS press-in bearings, sealed cartridge
WheelsRoval Control 29
TiresSpecialized S-Works Fast Trak 29x2.0 on front, with a Specialized Fast Trak Control 29x2.0 in rear

As far as I know everything on this bike was specced as listed in the above chart. I don’t think that any of the parts were different during my demo ride from their standard specced bikes.

How It Rides

First up I want to make it known that I have never been a big Specialized fan. I’ve always thought they were overpriced for what you get and that especially with “The Brain” technology that it was more marketing hype than actual noticeable ride improvement.

I stand in front of you today and admit that I was 100% wrong.

The Brain, for those that don’t know, is Specialized’s proprietary suspension design that uses a secondary inertia valve that essentially controls a lockout function within the suspension. Instead of controlling the suspension lockout remotely with a thumb button or by reaching your hand down to change it, The Brain technology automatically adjusts it for you. I can’t explain exactly how it works, but it does, check out this video for a better idea of how it works.

 

What was really shocking about the bike is how well the brain technology works. I felt like I was riding a hardtail through the smoother singletrack and while really ripping around corners. What was extremely surprising is how it would change in an instant when I started to climb a hill  and at the same time on rocky sections I felt like I had more than adequate cushion to attack anything that popped up in front of me. It was an absolutely mind blowing ride.

Also, the RockShox SID fork on this bike is equipped with the Brain technology as well which creates an auto-lockout in the front fork. It was amazing for when I really started pushing the pace on flat sections or on the paved road between the Specialized booth and the trail. This would be killer for racing on the flat open sections common to many of our North Texas race courses. I often times will reach down and lockout my current fork during those sections anyway, this removes that extra effort and makes you more efficient.

This was the overall stiffest bike I took out aside from the Giant XTC and Marin Team CXR Pro hardtails, that says a lot since it is a full suspension bike.

I only have a few detractors from this bike, and all are very nitpicky. First up, the bike does feel rather rough to ride, lots of vibration/shaking that I could feel, but that is because it is essentially a hardtail when the brain locks out. And that vibration/shaking is what I feel from every hardtail I have ever ridden. So it’s a good/bad thing to me. I both like it and dislike it at the same time, like I said, very nitpicky. Second, the trigger shift is SLX… for $6,300 I had better be getting XT at a minimum, that is bunk. Third, the rear triangle is M5 aluminum, again for $6,300 I better be at all carbon, thus reinforcing my point about Specialized being overpriced.

However, the bike rides like a dream and frankly I don’t think I have ever been impressed with something the way I was impressed with the Brain technology. It serves up what I would probably consider my perfect ride since I like a more hardtail feel to my full suspension bikes. A lot of people don’t care for that though, so it really depends on what kind of ride you prefer.

Overall Thoughts

The Specialized Epic Expert Carbon is a crazy good ride. It is absolutely among the top 5 best cross country bikes I have ridden and would be a great bike for riding trails here in Texas and for racing to boot. It felt fast, smooth, and crisp although a hair rough due to the hardtail feeling when locked out. Something I would gladly get used to based on my riding style.

But, it’s Specialized so you are going to pay a pretty penny for it. Do I think it’s overpriced? Maybe a little, but then I consider all the enhancements built right in like the brain rear suspension and brain fork, plus the carbon frame. It’s probably not actually overpriced, but it is hard to pay $6,300 for a bike that isn’t full carbon and has an SLX trigger. Great buy if you have the cash and can get over those little nitpicks of mine.

I definitely recommend you get to a local dealer or a Specialized demo in your area to test ride one for yourself because your ride may be massively different from mine.