2013 Specialized Epic Marathon: Out Of the Box- by Grannygear

specialized 2013 Epic MarathonFor 2013, if you are shopping for a 100mm, XC type 29er FS, then Specialized is hoping you will look very closely at the Epic’s when you go shopping.  And if you do look at the Epic line, then you will find a pretty large selection to choose from…seven models by my count, not including the S Works frameset option.  From the starter Epic Comp 29 at $3300.00 to the top of the line S Works bikes (there are two of them) at a cool ten grand each, there should be one here that will work for most buyers and we have on test a 2013 Specialized Epic Marathon.

The Marathon name has been missing from the Epic line since it was a 2010 model.  We had a long term affair with that bike…XX drivetrain, carbon Reba, Roval wheels.  That was a bit of a showcase bike in its time.  It was the first bike I saw with XX 2×10 on it and even with the aluminum frame, it was a pretty amazing bike.  Since then, the Epic 29ers have gained a bit more travel in the rear end…100mm up from 90mm…and gone to a lot of carbon, both in the frames and rims of the more costly models.  They have retained the Mini Brain rear shock with its tunable platform action and kept the bias toward efficiency over pure comfort but with a moderate geometry and that helps the Epic, depending on the tune and parts spec, cover a pretty wide range of uses on trail beyond just racing.

So the Marathon sits just below the S Works bikes and above the Expert Carbon/Expert Carbon Evo R models and retails for $7200.00.  Yeah.  But both S Works bikes are $10,000.00 so there ya’ go.  It has a slightly eclectic mix of parts and walks the fine line of offering very ‘smart’ spec and a chassis that is most of what an S Works would give you.  The Marathon, compared to an S Works, offers the FACT IS 10M instead of the 11M frame (typically this means a slightly less costly carbon construction) and the Marathon has aluminum chain stays instead of being an all carbon frame.  Engineering tests showed Specialized that the most gain is in a carbon seat stay so it gets that.  It loses the Kashima coating on the Fox Mini Brain shock and drops from the full boat Roval Control SL 29 142+ wheelset and gives you the Roval Control Carbon 29 142+ carbon wheelset.  The Marathon is pretty much full XO (w/Type II derailleur) as well as offering XO Grip Shift.  Really?  Really.  How unique!  There is a Brain equipped SID but it is not a carbon crown/steerer version that the S Works have.  It is OS28 too, no 15mm through axle.  The handle bar is carbon but not the seat post.

Ok.  So where does the Marathon fall in to play?  Why this one and not S Works?  Who would buy this over an Expert version?  Well when I saw this bike at last year’s press launch, I thought “This is the way I would spec a high-end bike for a discriminating buyer.”  It has the new beadless carbon wheels that are slightly heavier (130g) and a good bit cheaper ($500.00) than the SLs, but are still a DT Swiss based star ratchet hub and are a stiffer, stronger wheel than the SLs.  Grip shift is a wild card here.  You may like it or not.  I have been running Grip Shift on bikes since they first came out so I am a fan and the new XO is stunningly good.  The carbon SID is not quite as stiff in the crown as an alu one so the Marathon gains some rigidity there, if that is significant.  So you give up here and there, but really the core of the bike has the value parts on it albeit really costly ones.

So it has the good stuff, just not the very best or lightest stuff.  Still this XL version was 24lbs 8oz with SPDs on it and that is not exactly piggish.  It is well under 24 lbs stock.  In fact I made two, well, three actually, changes to suit me over the way it came out of the largest bike box I have ever seen.  I went tubeless and in the process swapped the S Works Fast Trak 2.0 front tire (the rear tire is a Control casing 2.0 fast Trak) for a Control Fast Trak 2.2.  I have enough rocks around me to not feel good about S Works tires tubeless on long trail rides.  Note, that is why Specialized spec’d this bike with a tougher rear tire, the one that typically takes the most abuse.  Thinking about it, I cannot recall ever tearing the casing on a front tire.  Interesting.  Plenty of rears, though.  I also changed from a 110mm stem to a 105mm stem with a bit more rise to get the cockpit in the zone for me.

So stay tuned as we get this bike set up, play with the Autosag rear shock, the Brain fork, Mini Brain rear, the somewhat controversial ‘beadless’ carbon rims and go riding (as you can see, that is well under way).

Meanwhile, here are some build-up and detail pics for your entertainment.

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Note: Specialized Bikes sent the Epic Marathon for test and review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being bribed, nor paid to do this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.