There's no denying that Specialized make smart bikes; with a brain-equipped fork and shock, one need only point and pedal. But are two brains really better than one?
Introduced back in 2003, the Specialized Brain shock has been the subject of ongoing surgery over the years in an attempt to smarten-up it's attitude. With over a decade of sensitive treatment invested into it the current result is ... ingenius!
Whilst awaiting the arrival of my new 2015 bike, I seized the opportunity to test-ride Brad Shannon's (owner of Pump'n'Pedals) fully-customised 2014 Specialized S-Works Epic 29 WC (World Cup) for myself.
Purchased as an S-Works (think uber high-end technology) frameset, Brad has built this striking gloss liquid silver and black masterpiece with a fine selection of parts, including a SRAM XX1 drivetrain with Shimano XTR brakes.
Contact points are taken care of with Specialized lock-on grips and a Body Geometry Phenom Pro (carbon-railed) saddle. To further liven-up the ride, Brad has chosen Roval Control SL carbon wheels with a 2.0" The Captain (2-Bliss-Ready) front tyre and a 2.0" Fast Trak (2-Bliss-Ready) tyre on the rear.
The World Cup designation on this particular model refers to its dedicated single-ring chassis featuring short 439mm chainstays, more aggressive geometry, and 95mm of travel (as opposed to the typical 100mm).
This race thoroughbred is also equipped with Specialized SWAT technology - Storage / Water / Air / Tools. What this offers is a dedicated storage area for spares (i.e. tube, patches, CO2 pump, levers, cash), a top-cap chain tool and spare link, plus a mini multi-tool which slots into the frame under the top tube above the head of the shock. Thus creating more room for other assorted paraphernalia in your jersey pocket. Impressive!
After a very thorough and informative bike fit and set-up with Gavin Scott, whose passion for cycling is evident in his methodical approach and attention to detail, I was ready to roll.
My first ride was a very hot and dry experience around my usual Freshwater/Redlynch off-road loop - which takes advantage of sugarcane fields, creek crossings, dirt paths, forrested tracks and a few short sections of singletrack. Straight away the lightness and efficiency of this bike became apparent. The suspension practically skipped across lumpy pot-holed terrain, providing a smooth and controlled ride with negligible feeling of lost momentum. At times I found myself breathless and trying to keep-up with the bike (which was clearly faster than I was).
The following evening we received a torrential downpour of rain. Knowing conditions would be interesting, I once again set-off to retrace my usual route. Two minutes into the ride and I was already wiping mud from my eyes. My once blue shoes were now various shades of oozing brown; the same oozing brown which was now dripping from the top tube of this once pristine bike.
In all honesty, I enjoyed the muddy adventure a whole lot more. The adrenaline of sliding around loose corners, exploding through puddles and being constantly bombarded by airborne debris was envigorating. I felt alive (and NOT hot). Suffice to say, much time was spent restoring the bike to it's showroom condition afterwards.
What have I deduced from a few short rides thus far ... the Specialized S-Works Epic 29 WC is a lightweight, extremely efficient, trail-worthy bike. Yes it has big wheels and race-tuned suspension, but it's tweaked geometry makes for an agile bike on tight technical terrain. As for SWAT, I want it on ALL my bikes please.