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First Look! All-new Specialized Epic 8 S-Works & EVO XC bikes

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works xc race bike
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Now in its eighth iteration, the Specialized Epic keeps its cross-country race heritage evident but expands its capabilities with an even more aggressive EVO model.

These two new bikes, called “Epic 8”, give Specialized three full-suspension XC bikes under the Epic moniker, joining the shorter-travel Epic World Cup that debuted in April 2023 with an inline shock. The idea is to give racers three options – the Epic Hardtail (which is likely due for a refresh itself), the Epic World Cup, and the Epic S-Works – plus an Epic EVO model for riders who want something more playful but still fast.

Before we get to the specific models and their differences, let’s look at what’s new with the frame and why they changed what they did…

What’s the TL;DR on the new Specialized Epic?

There are a lot of words and pictures below this, but if you only want the highlights, here ya go:

  • Epic 8 has more travel – 120mm rear with 120-130mm forks
  • Frames are lighter despite adding SWAT storage and being longer & slacker
  • It’s faster thanks to new kinematics, no BRAIN shock needed
  • Yes, the S-Works model is ridiculously expensive

Curious? Grab a coffee and let’s dive in…

Why have so many Epic options?

Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup hero
The Epic World Cup, introduced in 2023, uses a short-travel integrated rear shock.

With a model that’s been in the line as long as the Epic, you have to ask, what’s left to change?

The better question might be, how have riders and courses changed? And what needs to change on a bike to keep up?

Earlier, Specialized launched the Epic World Cup (WC, shown above), with a semi-integrated rear shock, short 75mm rear travel, and the lightest possible frame. IMO, it eliminates any need for a hardtail altogether, potentially giving Specialized a single model for every XC race.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see two additional new Epics launch just months later, but Specialized says these two new options give riders the right tool for the job, no matter what type of course they’re up against.

Justification for the Epic 8

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works xc mountain bike shown from low front side angle

The prior Epic had 100mm rear wheel travel with a BRAIN-equipped shock, which meant it was more complex yet with barely more travel than the new WC model in the rear. And with 100mm forks, it had 10mm less travel than the new WC.

The new Epic 8 bumps up to 120mm rear wheel travel with matching 120mm forks, making it a much more capable bike than the WC when things get rowdy. It’s purpose-built for modern UCI XCO tracks, where efficiency and weight can’t come at the expense of capability.

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works

In their words, the new Epic 8 is “Fastest for XC Racing”, which may seem like an odd claim when the World Cup model exists, so let’s back up a sec. The Epic World Cup is “Fastest on SMOOTH XC tracks”, which means two things. For top pros who have to use the same bike for both short track and XC courses, it’s a good compromise between a hardtail and a full suspension bike when the XC course isn’t too aggressive.

For those of us without a team truck and a six-figure racing budget, it’s a great option for amateur racers who live in flat terrain and want suspension but don’t need much of it and want the lightest possible bike.

Justification for the Epic 8 EVO

The prior Epic EVO had 110mm rear travel with 120mm forks. The new Epic 8 EVO has the same frame as the standard Epic 8, with the same 120mm rear wheel travel, but fork travel increases to 130mm.

Where the standard Epic is for racers, the Epic 8 EVO is for people who might occasionally race but mostly want a fast bike that’s also fun. Specialized suspects most riders wanting a short travel bike will be best served by the EVO model, and I agree. You’ll see why further down in this post.

2024 Specialized Epic 8 tech details & features

frame weight for 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works

Impressively, the new S-Works level Epic 8 frame is 76g lighter than the prior S-Works Epic. The frame, with all hardware, including the rear axle (which threads into the T-Type derailleur, hence the open dropout in the pic) and a non-Flight Attendant shock is just 1.81kg (3.99lb).

And they could have made it lighter if they were making a bike that was only for racing. But they wanted something that’s very capable and instills confidence. And convenient…the SWAT system adds a bit of weight, but it’s worth it.

And it has more travel than before, with a longer, slacker frame, and an integrated steering stop so your handlebar won’t smash your top tube. Which makes the sub-4lb weight very impressive!

The Epic 8 EVO frames are up to 120-130g lighter than before, depending on size, but are overall a bit heavier for reasons you’ll soon see.

So, how did they drop weight?

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works rear shock and linkage

To cut weight across all frames, they eliminated all compression-molded carbon parts, which are often used for thicker sections like shock mounts. Those parts add weight and usually need to be bonded on, which adds filler (aka more weight).

Instead, Specialized designed the forward shock mounts directly into the layup and bladder-molded top tube, then machine away the spots where they attach the mounting hardware. This section alone saved ~24g, allowing more continuous fibers for a stronger tube. For S-Works, they went further and made a carbon fiber shock extension at the yoke, plus a titanium shock mount, extension bolt, and internal pivot hardware.

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works rear triangle

They also cut weight with smaller dropouts and slimmer seatstays (reduced diameter), which is fine because most of the stiffness comes from the chainstays.

The S-Works frames use their top-level FACT 12M carbon, which they say is incredibly expensive, but it’s stiffer and stronger so they can use less of it. Inside, there are no internal tubes for cable guides other than the rear brake, which saves weight from the tubes and also the extra bonding required to connect them.

Below the S-Works level are FACT 11M frames, which have a bit more carbon, but are designed to have the same exact ride quality and stiffness. These do have internal guides for mechanical rear derailleur and dropper post routing, which adds a bit more weight, too.

And standard Epic 8 frames are up to 120-130g lighter than before, depending on size.

What about ride quality?

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works rear brake

All frames have size-specific layups and tube shapes, letting them optimize for different rider sizes and weights. They say the layup schedule and plies are nearly the same across the size range, but the sizes of each ply and actual tube shapes and diameters change as sizes go up.

The overall frame and torsional stiffness throughout the frame carry over unchanged. They were happy with the way the prior frame was, so nothing’s changed there.

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works head tube

Like all modern bikes, it keeps getting longer, lower, and slacker. It comes with really short stems and a bit longer reach. They tested a lot, with a custom-built test mule frame that let them try different head angles, reach, etc. They pushed it until it was ‘crazy”, then dialed back a bit before bringing in the team riders for their input. Beyond modernizing the geometry and increasing travel, the real ride quality improvements come from the suspension…

Tricky suspension tuning FTW

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works flight attendant rear shock

Behind the scenes, their Ride Dynamics engineers start with the desired kinematics and ride performance, then figure out how to make it happen. Some of that comes from the frame, and some from the fork and shock. Specialized works with the suspension brands to get custom tunes on both. This is somewhat unique – most brands get custom tunes for the rear shock, but not many brands go to the trouble to do custom tunes for the fork.

It’s not just done by feel. Their team has backgrounds in F1 and Trophy Trucks, plus some of the same testing equipment used in those industries to verify performance improvements and apply all of that to their full-suspension bikes.

specialized epic rear shock tune compression chart

The rear shock has three modes, like most shocks. The lockout mode is very stiff like racers want, but the “Magic Middle” Pedal Mode setting is where, well, the magic happens.

First, they tuned the damper with more low-speed compression damping to resist pedal inputs and support the rider when cranking through little rollers and small bumps. But the high-speed compression damping matches the Open mode so that it can quickly and fully react to big bumps.

Then, they removed all of the shock’s volume spacers and the bottom-out bumper to give them a lot more air volume. This gives it a plush feel that can easily get deeper into the stroke for a more bottomless feel. The combination means good pedaling support and a shock that’s also very active when you need it to be. Magic, indeed, and they say this middle setting is where you’ll want to be 80% of the time during a race.

diagram showing rockshox flight attendants parts on new specialized epic 8 s-works
The yellow lines mean the RockShox Flight Attendant is monitoring and adjusting everything.

The top models get Flight Attendant to manage all those modes for you, and lower models use a three-position TwistLoc remote. As convenient as the TwistLoc is, on a multi-hour or multi-day race, that’s still a lot of mental processing to manage, so they made that middle mode a sweet spot that works great for almost everything. Meaning, you can kinda set it and forget it.

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works flight attendant fork

All versions of the Epic 8 have the same shock and fork tunes across all price points, regardless of how they’re managed. The Flight Attendant bikes just give you more customization options, which I covered in this post.

It’s slightly different for the EVO models.

2024 epic 8 evo closeup on fox shock

The Epic 8 EVO suspension loses the Magic Middle mode, it’s just Open and Lock. These bikes also have no remote lockout, relying on a custom-tuned, two-position Fox Float shock. The Open mode has minimal compression damping, and the Sprint (Lockout) mode keeps it really firm. Both work quite well.

Regardless of which version and shock you get, the new Epic 8 has 20% less pedal bob in the “open” shock setting than the prior model, but without diminishing the suspension’s ability to remain active when pedaling. They say it’s also 12% smoother, with the frame able to absorb more vibration and bump forces, which means fewer of those forces reach the rider, so you stay fresher.

There’s also adjustable geometry

For the first time, the Specialized Epic gets adjustable geometry via a flip chip at the rear shock mount. It changes the head angle by about 0.5º and BB height by 5mm. Click either geometry chart to enlarge the image.

2024 specialized evo 8 rear shock flip chip for geometry adjustments

The flip chip is invisible, hiding inside the front of the shock yoke. Just remove the rear shock mount bolt, flip it around, and reattach the shock to change it.

About that stealth cable routing…

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works internal cable routing

Since the S-Works model has a different carbon and mold (lacking the internal cable management), they could give it different entry ports and went with semi-integrated routing through the headset. It looks great, but any time you’re running brake hoses or cables through the headset bearing, there are concerns. Shops hate to work on them, and the holes in the headset cover introduce opportunities for water and dust ingress.

Specialized acknowledges this, so their cover has a small rubber port with flaps to guide big stuff away, and they say they haven’t had a problem with water ingress unless you’re “pushing it in there” when washing your bike.

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works turning radius

As for service, the only time you’d have to cut or separate the brake hose is if you need to replace the upper headset bearing. And the steering is limited internally to keep the bar from spinning around into your top tube or twisting up the cables inside.

There’s a new SWAT 4.0, too

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works new swat downtube storage compartment

The latest SWAT internal storage gets a new cover and latch with quicker, easier opening and closure. Just flip the lever open and pull off the cover (which doubles as the downtube’s bottle cage mounting spot). The prior version used a hinged clasp to close it, which took longer to operate and was heavier.

The new SWAT door also holds a CO2 and tire plugger on its cover, making those tools quickly and easily accessible. A Specialized mini-tool can be mounted at the base of a bottle cage so that everything you need for emergency repairs is immediately at hand.

2024 Specialized Epic 8 S-Works

For riders wanting (and willing to pay for) the very best, the top Epic 8 S-Works bike rings in at a whopping $14,500. It’s outfitted with the new RockShox Flight Attendant XC suspension, which partially explains the pricing but is also what makes this a purebred race machine with a singular focus on winning.

closeup details of 2024 specialized epic 8 s-works tire clearance

All Epic 8 models come with Rockshox suspension front and rear, all with the custom tunes and modes mentioned above. And all come with Specialized Fast Trak 2.35″ (front) and Renegade 2.3″ (rear) tires.

roval control SL cockpit

The S-Works model gets the Roval Control SL integrated cockpit and, at launch, Roval Control SL wheels with DT180 hubs and ceramic bearings.

The drivetrain is SRAM XX SL Eagle AXS T-Type w/ Reverb AXS (125/150/170mm travel depending on frame size) and SRAM Level Ultimate Stealth brakes. It’s also the first bike they’re shipping with their top-of-the-line S-Works Power 3D-printed saddle with carbon rails and base.

Claimed weight is 10.24kg (22lb 9.2oz) for size medium. Available in two colors. It’s also available as a frameset (3.67kg – 7lb 15oz) that includes the SWAT, Roval Control SL seatpost, SID Ultimate fork, and SIDLuxe Ultimate shock (including the grips with Twist-Loc remote), seat binder with ti bolt.

2024 Specialized Epic 8 Pro / Expert / Comp

2024 specialized epic 8 pro xc mountain bike

The remaining Epic 8 models all have flat handlebars with traditional stems. The Epic 8 Pro gets Roval Control wheels, SRAM XO AXS Eagle Transmission, S-Works carbon handlebar, Bike Yoke Divine SL dropper, and Power Expert saddle. Claimed weight 10.87kg (23lb 15.4oz), MSRP $9,000.

2024 specialized epic 8 expert xc mountain bike

The Epic 8 Expert gets SID Select+ suspension, GX Eagle AXS Transmission with SX cassette, X-Fusion Manic dropper, and Power Sport saddle. Claimed weight is 11.1kg (24lb 7.5oz), MSRP of $7,000.

The Epic 8 Comp (not shown) keeps the Select+ SID suspension but drops down to GX Eagle 12-speed mechanical and alloy wheels. Claimed weight is 11.7kg (25lb 12.7oz), MSRP is $5,000.

2024 Specialized Epic 8 EVO

2024 specialized epic 8 EVO pro downcountry mountain bike

It’s worth noting that this is the first time the EVO model shares the same frame as the standard Epic. Meaning, you can throw lighter, faster tires on it (and maybe a 120mm fork) and have a very good race bike, too. Or buy the standard Epic 8 to get the three-mode “Magic Middle” rear shock, then put bigger tires and a longer fork on it.

It’s also worth noting that the prior Epic EVO was their racers’ bike of choice for most XCO tracks in 2023, which also explains why the non-EVO bikes got a big boost in travel and capability.

2024 epic 8 evo tire clearance

But that means the new Epic 8 EVO can focus more on fun, aiming squarely at the light trail/downcountry rider. As such, it gets bigger, more aggressive tires – Purgatory 2.4″ (front) and Ground Control 2.35″ (rear).

2024 epic 8 evo cockpit

Shown above, the Epic 8 EVO Pro headlines with SRAM XO Eagle Transmission, Roval Control wheels with carbon rims and Industry Nine 1/1 hubs, Fox Transfer dropper, 34 Factory fork, and FLOAT Factory Evol LV rear shock, Roval Control Rise carbon handlebar, Race Face stem, and Specialized Power Expert saddle. Claimed weight is 12/12kg (26lb 11.5oz), MSRP is $8,500.

An Epic 8 EVO Pro frameset gets you the frame and shock for $3,800 (claimed weight 2.2kg – 4lb 14oz). Not shown, the US market will also get a $7,000 Epic 8 EVO Expert model, too.

2024 specialized epic 8 EVO comp

The Specialized Epic EVO Comp bike gets you Fox Performance suspension, SRAM GX/NX mechanical drivetrain, Code brakes, basic alloy wheels, and an X-Fusion Manic dropper for $5,000. Claimed weight is 12.61kg (27lb 12.8oz).

Specialized.com

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27 Comments
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Oliver
Oliver
1 month ago

Rear clearance looks tight on the 2.35″ with not particularly wide rims. 2.4″ on wider rims probably won’t offer enough clearance.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  Oliver

This has been a long standing problem with the Epic. I have a 2018 running rims with just a 25mm internal and still have some clearance issues with the rear stays if I run 2.3 or 2.4. I’d love to see some input from their engineers as to why they’ve kept the rear so narrow. I’m not an engineer but I wonder if there’s something to do with the weight or stiffness. Probably weight I would assume although the savings would have to be nominal at best.

Rim Brake enjoyer
Rim Brake enjoyer
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Don’t worry. It’s a bicycle company so there’s a good chance the engineers don’t know either. Ask marketing.

Nick
Nick
1 month ago
Reply to  Oliver

The specs for the EVO Comp are listing 30mm internal rims, which seems wide enough for an XC/DC bike, but I’m totally in agreement. The new EVO was on my list to replace my Rocky Mountain Element but the lack of rear tire clearance has me concerned, especially since I spend 400 days a year riding in the rain up here in the PNW.

will
will
1 month ago

my 2016 Hightower cc was 11.5kg with 140mm suspension and heavy 2.4 tires like the evo fox34, im quite sure theyre still being conservative with carbon and weights (which is good i think)

seraph
1 month ago
Reply to  will

25 lbs, yeah right. You’re taking the piss with that weight.

theweaz
theweaz
1 month ago
Reply to  seraph

They are being very conservative. I run a 2023 EVO Expert and with a few upgrades (XX1 Cassette, X01 crank, Rocket Ron 2.25s and Transfer SL post) I have mine under 24.

DefRyder
DefRyder
1 month ago

Just when I thought Specialized would come to their senses, they decide to give the middle finger to average biking consumer that’s sensitive to the current biking trends.

Specialized has turned biking, and consequently their brand, into a mecca for the wealthy or the elitist that cannot truly afford their atrociously overpriced bikes.

The other day I visited an Erik’s Bike Shop location and had the opportunity to test ride an S-Works Diverge ($12,500) and Diverge Comp Carbon (on “sale” for $3,500). I honestly could not truly tell the difference apart, except that the S-Works Diverge felt just a teeny bit more responsive.

More importantly, as I was riding both of the bikes I was astonished how some could justify something as simple as a bicycle costing $12,500 between their legs compared to a $3,500 bicycle when the differences were quite trivial…

Here’s my response to you Specialized: both of my middle fingers proudly hoisted.

Chris
Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  DefRyder

For some, spending $12k has less impact on their wallet than others spending $3500. Who are we to judge their purchase, one which in tough economic times are helping to keep businesses open?

You’re blaming a bike brand for systemic inequality and there attempts to push the price of their product to where people are actually buying. I work in the bike industry, managing purchasing for a 21 door chain, and I can tell you that in general folks are not buying between $2500 and $5000. But the $8500+ crowd, those who live above politics and outside regular Americans economic realities, are still buying nice bikes. I’m personally grateful for it despite being saddened by the broader shape of American economic equality. I’m not an apologist for the current system either, I’m just a realist.

Jon
Jon
30 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Well said Chris. True from all I see from within the industry. Sad as the economic realities are brands need to stay in business and this is one tactic they can use.

KnobbieHead
KnobbieHead
1 month ago
Reply to  DefRyder

Your assessmen on the current sentiment of the biking industry today may be spot for must of us regular folks, but Specialized is targeting the Epic line for the more serious riders (or racers) willing to pay more for that teeny difference.

I agree the S-Works is priced out of the marketplace and generally reserved for the pros, but their non-S-Works models actually seem to be somewhat reasonable, given the specs.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  DefRyder

I’d be curious to know what kind of car you drive. Or the size of your home. I hear people complain about bike prices while at the same time spending $70k on an SUV and living in a 2500 square foot house with 2-3 people. If you aren’t in that camp, chapeau.

I had a coworker roll their eyes when I told them how much my bike cost but when I brought up the price of their Volvo they said it was irrelevant. So let’s try this, let people spend THEIR money however they like. $12k to you may be a lot to spend on a bike but for others it’s not. Everyone has their priorities.

Chris
Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

It’s all about priorities and pocket books. And regardless of whether it’s a kid riding a $250 20″ bike, a regular Joe/Jane riding a105 spec road bike that’s 10 years old, or someone riding a 12k SWorks, they’re all riding. That should pull us together, not pull us apart.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris

YES! Exactly this. There is enough divisiveness around cycling without us driving a wedge between ourselves. Thank you Chris!

Tom Wenzel
27 days ago
Reply to  Tom

I love how Americans want their free-market economy to do its thing everywhere … except in the bike industry.

Jason DW
Jason DW
1 month ago
Reply to  DefRyder

All that stuff is true. We all like to ride and some have more money than others. But… Damn dudes $14,000? That’s just crazy. Thats car territory and beyond. People must the have money and they’ll sell out. #blessed

Joe Bond
Joe Bond
1 month ago
Reply to  DefRyder

Take advantage of the generally red hot labor market, get a part time bike shop job, and partake of the very sweet “bro deals” with a large discount off MSRP.

Leonardo Camargos
Leonardo Camargos
1 month ago

The prior S-Works epic evo frame weighs 1.657g, and is still the lightest one.

Chris
Chris
1 month ago

I think they all lie a bit and don’t tell you exactly what they are weighing. I had an Epic Evo Fact 11 and it came out to 1915 grams with the updated carbon yoke, shox, rear axle and seat clamp. I have a Cervelo and they state that it is 1716 grams but doesnt really tell you anything besides the weight and when I weighed mine with all the hardware and seat post clamp it is 2046g. Another far cry from what they state but again you never know until you weight it yourself.

Bench Mark
Bench Mark
1 month ago

I weighed my 2023 orbea oiz frame in large and it was 1850g. Complete bike is 21lbs

Chris
Chris
1 month ago

If you go to Flow Mountain Bike article on this bike, they weighed their frame and it came out to 2040g size L albeit it has the Flight Attendant shock, the non black paint scheme and the rubber bumper guard on the towntube but it is weighed without the rear axle…..

Patrick
Patrick
1 month ago

so there’s no s-works evo?
whats with the “at launch, Roval Control SL wheels” – are the wheels expected to change post-launch?

Deputy Dawg
Deputy Dawg
1 month ago

Two-position dampers on the EVOs?! Bah!

Tom
Tom
1 month ago

The S Works is way more $ than I’d ever spend on any bike, much less a MTB that gets regular abuse in our tough/rocky trails. But I’m glad Spec makes them, for two reasons 1) it drives tech down through the less expensive versions 2) If I ever have a hankering for a S Works race rig, I’ll be able to find one of these used in a year or two for much less $ due to tech changes. One nice thing about MTBing is that most of the peeps I’ve met doing it don’t give a toss about what bike you are riding, they only care if you make the party better on the trails. Don’t be a whiner, just enjoy the ride!

Bench Mark
Bench Mark
1 month ago

All this talk of lighter than previous bike, yet it’s 23lbs! Previous bikes was 21.5lbs https://bikerumor.com/review-specialized-2021-s-works-epic/

Other models certainly aren’t light either! 27lbs for 120/130 bike? Previous bikes were 24lbs. So 3lbs from a fork?!

I call marketing bs on these “lighter” frame weights.

Sirclimbalot
Sirclimbalot
27 days ago

I’m feeling validated for choosing the epic evo vs the epic waaaay back in 2021. 6k miles later, still one of my fav bikes ever, but… Not sure the new epic is a big enough upgrade to have me running to spend $9k.

G-Bike
G-Bike
27 days ago

Like all things big S, 20% faster / more compliant / lighter, until the next product launch that is 20% better of all the same things mentioned earlier. If the price is too much just wait for 6 months and it will be 20-30 cheaper / on sale. If you are patient and wait for an annual sale which I am sure will occur in this market it will be even cheaper….. S = Hype

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