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Interbike 2008 – Specialized 2009 Epic S-Works

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Specialized’s all new 2009 Epic is a complete overhaul from ’08.  It’s lighter, faster and in my opinion, much cooler looking.  The video above gives you a quick run down of the features, and I had a chance to demo it on some rocky Nevada trails.  Read “more” for some pics and my first impression of this thing on a trail…

Shown above is Christoph Sauser’s World Cup winning rig, slightly altered from production spec.  The scale shows it tipping in at about 20.6 lbs., roughly one pound lighter than the version you can buy. (The immediately noticeable differences are that Sauser’s bike has: flat bars, bar ends, SRAM twisters, 4-ti eggbeaters, a gold cassette (?), and Nokon cable housing.  Not sure about that seatpost.)

So, what’s it like to ride this thing?  Well, I rode it very shortly after riding Trek’s new Top Fuel (see that post here).  Like the Trek, this bike floated when jumped.  It’s hard to explain the feeling of flying through the air with such a light bike underneath you, but it made me giddy.  Granted, the demo trail’s only a couple miles long, but it has climbing, descending and whoops, turns and berms.  Enough to give you a fair idea of what the bike is made of.

The 2009 Epic is very, very fast.  The suspension felt “livelier” than the Trek, and by that I mean it was much springier.  That could be entirely due to the rebound and compression settings, which were hard to dial in for such a short test ride.  Regardless, it never felt like it wasn’t hooking up enough to remain in control, and I’m sure with a little more time spent adjusting for my weight and riding style, it could be tuned pretty much any way a typical XC rider would want.  On one particular bermed turn with a little gravel and sand, the tires gave a little more than I was comfortable with, but, to the bike’s credit, it remained in control until they hooked back up, keeping me upright.

The travel is 100mm front and rear, and it soaked up the bumps nicely.  One thing that did not stand out, which could be good or bad, was the BRAIN activity.  Again, this could be due to the settings, which I didn’t touch, but the bike didn’t feel mushy under hard pedaling.  There are adjustments to make the suspension more or less sensitive to input, effectively giving you a stiffer platform before the travel kicks in.

My full-on stand up sprint on a dirt road translated into lots of forward movement and occasionally spinning the rear tires with no discernible frame flex.  Based on the short demo, my impression is this is something to consider if you’re looking to race hard and fast.  And Sauser’s results would back that up.

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