First Tour: 2020 Specialized Epic HT – World’s Lightest Production RIB

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For 2020, Specialized has given its XC World Cup hardtail, the Epic, a makeover. With a frame weight alone of 790 grams (including paint) for an average size, Specialized claims this is the lightest production hardtail frame available. The new Epic is designed to be more capable and comfortable than the previous model, and while the bike has been designed with the fastest riders in mind, it offers a handling that non-superhuman riders will appreciate.

The Epic HT is available in seven different models, as well as a frame only for the high-end S-Works option. Prices start at $ 2,110 USD for the Carbon 29 model and go up to $ 9,510 for the top-of-the-line S-Works model equipped with SRAM AXS shown here.

Epic Details HT

• Intended use: XC race
• Wheel size: 29 in.
• Booster 12×148
• Full carbon frame
• Two holders for water bottles
• Size: S to XL
• Weight: 19.0 lbs / 8.6 kg
Frame weight: 790 g / 1.74 lb (size M)
• Full price: $ 2,110 – $ 9,510 USD / S-Works frame only: $ 2,500
• www.specialized.com

There are two different frames on the line. The standard Epic frame has a slightly different carbon layer and weighs around 140g more. It’s still super stiff – rated at 11m from Specialized (the S-Works is 12m) and it’s a bit more affordable. All models are equipped with internal Specialized components including Roval handlebars and stems, seats, seatposts, tires and wheels.
Considerations were taken throughout the construction of the carbon frame by Specialized’s design team in order to take what they had with the previous Epic HT and optimize it even more for modern driving. The first consideration was to make the bike comfortable and compliant in order to face the increasingly technical World Cup racetracks. Weight was obviously a consideration, but it wasn’t the number one priority.

They ended up with a bike that their testing was not only better but also much lighter – the weight of the S-Works frame was around 790g (1.74 lbs) for an average size. That number is actually higher than the weight of frames available for launch – they weighed around 775 grams – but it’s always better for a frame to weigh less than advertised rather than more.

Frame details

There are a number of framework updates for the new Epic HT. The legs are smaller and the shrouds are narrower than the previous version. Tire clearance is increased and the frame itself features a few more curves to reduce weight and meet Specialized’s performance targets. It now comes with a fork that is 42mm offset, compared to the 51mm offset previously specified.

The seat tube measures from 27.2mm to 30.9mm. While this goes a bit against conventional thinking, the team at Specialized says it’s more compliant than version 27.2 thanks to the new tube shape and smaller seatstays. Plus, it allows much more compatibility with a wide range of dropper seatposts. The frame is now 1x only. This allows for more tire clearance and allowed the design team to remove carbon in areas it wasn’t needed on the frame, making things even lighter.

With the frame as a whole there was a new take on how carbon was laid out and the bike was optimized to save weight in every way possible while still meeting the strength, stiffness and compliance goals of the team. The carbon layer is different depending on the frame size in order to match the stiffness to the intended size of the rider – Specialized calls this their air “Rider-First”.

Geometry

Modernizing the geometry of the Epic HT was also an important part of the design process. The reach has increased across the board, with an average size measuring 430mm, a large 455mm, and an XL 480mm. These numbers aren’t as long as you’d see on a modern trail or enduro bike, but remember, the Epic HT is designed for use with a 60-75mm long stem.

The head tube angle is 1.2 degrees softer than before and now sits at 68.5 degrees. The seat tube angle remains the same at 74 degrees and the chainstays measure 430mm.

The bottom bracket drops a few millimeters to keep the bike level with the larger volume tires it is now specified with (there is room for 2.3 “to 2.4” tires with the place in reserve).

Mike Kazimer and I both spent time on the new Epic HT. I rode him in western North Carolina around my home in perfect summer conditions, and he spent time on it in California at the Northstar Resort. These days we both spend most of our time on full suspension bikes, and for good reason, but there is something to be said about the sharpening of skills that happens after spending time on a semi. -rigid.

The Epic HT is definitely made for climbing. The S-Works frame is remarkably stiff and the power transfer to the ground is solid, which is particularly impressive considering its super light weight. The bike prompts you to go faster and go down a gear or two compared to what you normally ride, especially if you’re used to pedaling around a full suspension bike.

When pedaling over slightly rough terrain from a seated position, the frame is comfortable and does an admirable job (for a hardtail) at reducing small bumps and chatter on the trails. It doesn’t flex while pedaling, but there is enough frame compliance to keep your pads from snapping as you launch into a rocky section of the trail. After several hours in the saddle, this little bit of flexibility integrated into the frame and the seat post adds up.

Although the RockShox SID Ultimate fork incorporates Specialized’s Brain system, I found it unnecessary to use it most of the time, no matter if I was going up or down and generally running it wide open. There is no doubt that this could prove to be beneficial, like the Leadville 100 which I will be trying (on the Epic) this coming weekend, but for most of my trips home it is not. necessary.

I enjoyed my time on the Epic HT more than I expected. Sure, I’d love to add a dropper to it, but I’ve done the ‘Pisgah High Post’ for the past two weeks with little to no issues on many trails that will choke full suspension bikes. The Epic is balanced downhill and incredibly fast. The progressive geometry of the bike makes it possible to stay centered and to carry speed easily on smooth, rough and technical grounds. Sure, every now and then I get a jarring reminder that there is no rear travel, but for a 19-pound World Cup racing machine, the new Epic HT is a surprisingly good speed demon. balance.

I’ll have more thoughts on the Epic HT in the coming weeks. I’ll be spending most of the day running the Leadville 100 this weekend in Colorado and might even find a dropper for it once it’s done.



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