Editor’s Note: We would like to thank Specialized Bikes for providing us with the opportunity to present the information Grannygear gathered at the Press Camp in Utah. Here is Grannygear’s last post from that trip. Enjoy!

Ride Impression: 2013 Specialized Epic Comp 29″er- by Grannygear

Snowbird resort in Utah was not the premier destination for mountain bike trails so when we had that ‘extra’ day to get shuttled to a real ride, I was stoked.  I knew this area had to have some great routes if I could only find them.  Found one!  A bus trip to a nearby canyon presented us with a 1000′ climb to 10k feet or so and then dropped us into a 3000′ single track descent.  The ride called out for an all-rounder bike…something that climbs as well as it downhills.  The trail had some rock gardens and root drops, nothing too dramatic, but not to be taken too lightly either.  In the Specialized line-up the ideal bike would have been a Camber or maybe that S Works FSR Stumpjumper.

But, I had left a bit of a gap in my reporting by not being on an Epic at all this week. So when the guys in the demo paddock asked me what I wanted to ride, I chose an Epic and was given a 2013 Specialized Epic Comp 29″er.  Not a high end model, this one was an all aluminum frame, main and rear triangle, X9/X7 drive train, Magura brakes, a Reba fork, and non carbon Roval wheels.  Of course, like all Epics, it had the Mini Brain rear shock that sets the bike apart from the other scoots like it.  The 100mm/4″ travel XC slot is pretty packed with great bikes.  I still feel that, despite the growing 120mm-ish more AM 29″er selection, 100mm is the sweet spot on a 29″er.  There are some real neat bikes in that group like the Giant Anthem X, Rocky Mountain Elements, the Niner JET9 RDO, the Santa Cruz Tall Boy, etc, and there are some new ones such as the BMC Fourstroke 01 and the Orbea Occam 29.  Very competitive field indeed.

I have a lot of hours on an Epic 29″er and I feel that I know the bike very well, but I was challenged to see if I could tell what might have been different on this 2013 bike over the 2010 model I had ridden.  Pedaling up towards the dirt section of the ride, we had a 1/2 mile or so paved climb.  I had the Mini Brain set to about mid-way off firm toward open and the fork and rear shock settings right where the tech guy had them, good or bad, I had no time to fiddle.  I was reminded why I love the Mini Brain on an XC bike like this.  It just is awesome when you pedal it out of the saddle or in, especially on a smooth surface like this.  But, the 2010 model I had a lot of time on was always  bit harsh off the top of the stroke on small trail chatter.  Compared to something like a Tall Boy, the older Epic felt way less compliant until the bumps were bigger, then it would open up and feel like you would expect.  It was a tradeoff that some accepted and some did not, but there it was.

Another thing I loved about the Epic I had was the wide range of trail conditions that it did very well on.  Want to race it?  Sure.  Light to medium trail rides?  Sure as it is not too quick handling for that as long as the 100mm/90mms of travel was enough.  Endurance stuff?  Oh you bet.  If knee and elbow pads are not what you find yourself in a lot and the word ‘shuttle’ is not in your vocabulary, the Epic is a smart choice.

So back to the present and the 2103 version, I was curious how it would compare.  Although the newer carbon framed Epics are pretty swanky and some of them now have carbon seat stays too, retaining aluminum chain stays until you get to the S Works level, this all aluminum version was very similar in construction to the one I know well. The angles are pretty much unchanged but in the last few years the rear travel has gained 10mm and is up to 100mm now.  The  Mini Brain has gone through several refinements as well.  Well up into a granny gear lung wrenching climb to the summit, the Epic was just what I remembered it to be, but there was quite a bit less ‘pop’ back up through the saddle on small chatter and sharp edges.  It was noticeably smoother off the top and still resisted bobbing with pedaling and or body motion.  Nice.  I know this was not an S Works bike, but the Fast Trak 2.2 tires on the Roval wheels spun up well and the only limitation was my flat lander body.  Man…where do they hide the air around here?

The single track drop began and 3000′ later, the bright red (Orange maybe?  Not sure) Epic Comp and I popped out to a parking lot sprawling with dusty and happy riders.  Some thoughts:

  • The Reba was set with too much air pressure, but despite that the Epic swallowed up all the rocks and roots although I used all the travel in some places.  I never felt like I was in over my head and the handling of the Epic is very much to my liking and always has been.  It walks the middle ground very well.
  • The new Magura brakes were stunningly good.  They were smooth and quiet right out of the box and stayed that way even under a lot of heavy braking and hot rotors and pads.   The ergonomics of the levers were a bit odd, but that is all the bad I have to say.  Really nice stuff.
  • The refinement on the Mini Brain seems to have dealt with the only negative attribute of the shock that I ever had.  It is much more seamless in the transition from closed to open.  It is still a proprietary deal and you are stuck with it as is, so that part has not changed.  It is Mini Brain or nothing on an Epic.
  • The Epic, in my opinion, is the best all round package in the Specialized 29″er full suspension line-up.  It has the broadest range and and the execution is just spot on.  It remains one of my favorite bikes I have ever ridden.
  • The 29″er full suspension market is getting soooo good that the choice is getting harder to make, but if I had to buy one bike for all things, it would be a 100mm/4″ travel 29″er full suspension as it can do so much, and depending on the intent/slant of the manufacturer and the choice of wheels, tires, bars, etc, it can feel very racy or more like a trail bike.
  • It was a great trail to ride, a beautiful day, and a beautiful place to be alive.  Mountain bikes rock.  Oh…and I got to ride with Deadly Nedly.  That truly rocked.