A Specialized Epic is a fine place to sit when the intention is a high rate of speed XC style. The last time we were on an Epic for review, a 2013 Marathon model, the bike came across very clearly as a race bike or at least a very high performance oriented XC bike. For 2014, Specialized has taken the Epic platform one step further into hard core race with the World Cup models, one in S Works and this one, the Expert Carbon WC (World Cup). We already mentioned in our first article that World Cup denotes a dedicated 1×11 single ring drivetrain as there is no provision for a front der. On the Epics it also means a more aggressive geometry with 10mm shorter chain stays and a 1/2 degree steeper head tube angle of 71*. It has 95mm of travel at each end.
The Brain is at both ends here and the WC gets a firmer Mini Brain tune on the rear shock. The wheels are carbon, but not the SLs. Still it is darn light and wicked fast feeling when you pedal hard.
I took it down the same trails that I rode all week, all gravity fed single track with lots of rock filled switchbacks and gravely, loose dirt corners, all hashed up from lots of bike travel. The Epics were always a somewhat sedate feeling bike as far as steering response…maybe neutral would be a better word…and that is great for anything endurance based. The WC felt perkier for sure and cut a sharp line when the tiller was turned but it takes a lot to get a 29er skittish feeling and I never got that pucker up feeling that things were out of control. But know that overall the Epic remains a race/performance focused bike line and the WC takes that up a notch. Cruising it along is OK, but you know you are not on a trail bike. But push hard, then harder still…pedal like the devil is chasing you and it just flys.
The Brain(s) on this model felt balanced front to rear, letting you charge hard but taking the hits for you. Is it firmer? I think it is, but I did not test that back to back with a non-WC Epic. Specialized says that it is, so I will agree. As you would expect, the new carbon chassis with M5 alloy seat stays was stiff and the Roval Control Carbon 29 142+ wheels kept it so all the way to the ground.
SRAM XX1 11 speed shifting is fast and will likely have the gear range anyone buying this bike will need. The Magura MTS brakes took a bit to bed in, but by the end of the trail they were smooth and controlled, but not immediately powerful.
If speed is what you value over anything else and the podium beckons (and your wallet does not let an S Works hang in your garage) check out the Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup.