Video: Specialized Epic vs. Viathon M1 – Match XC Hardtail Cage

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Epic Specialized RIB
vs.
Viathon M1

S-Works Epic at $ 9,500 from Specialized vs. $ 6,500 M1 from Viathon


Lyrics by Daniel Sapp, video by Michael McQueen

Two semi-rigid equipped with SRAM AXS


Last year we received a press kit for a new brand of bike, Viathon. Now, we don’t really spend a lot of time reviewing cross country hardtail here at Pinkbike, but when we realized that Viathon was owned by Walmart Stores, Inc. our interest in this particular bike grew.

Last winter, we had the opportunity to test one of Viathon’s M1 XC bikes equipped with XX1 AXS. As it happens, I already had Specialized’s all-new S-Works Epic hardtail, also fitted with SRAM’s XX1 AXS drivetrain in my garage. That meant it was time for back-to-back races and comparisons between the two bikes. Because when else can you compare a “Walmart” bike to what is arguably one of the best performing production XC racing bikes in the world?

Big box store versus big bike brand

Specialized holds a ton of power in the world of cycling. It is one of the biggest brands, with the ability to handle all aspects of this brand, from R&D, to prototyping, to testing, to manufacturing, to developing unique parts for anything, to sales area, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year. . While this is undoubtedly impressive, Walmart is the largest company in the world, with more than $ 514.405 billion in revenue and 2.2 million employees. Both brands have their roots in being family businesses. Specialized was founded in 1974 by Mike Sinyard who is still at the helm of the Red Ship today, and Walmart was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 with family members still heavily involved in the brand.

The connection Walmart has with bicycles is not necessarily what you see when you walk into one of their stores. As any serious mountain biker would tell you, buying a bike from Walmart is probably not the best idea. However, their brand of Viathon bikes shuns this notion, although you won’t see a Viathon anywhere in a store as they are sold exclusively online through Walmart.com.

Walmart’s interest in mountain bikes stems from a personal connection. Brothers Tom and Steuart Walton are both avid mountain bikers and have invested heavily in the trail infrastructure surrounding Walmart’s world headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Their investment firm also recently purchased premium cycling clothing brand Rapha.

So, is Walmart about to disrupt the bike industry? Their massive reach, purchasing power and supply chain are strengths that few other big companies in the world, let alone bike brands, can even begin to compete with. Just looking at the two bikes here, there’s a difference of $ 3,000 for almost the same specs.

However, for Walmart to have an impact in the bike industry, its bikes must not only compete with the top players at the checkout, but also on the track.

The S-Works Epic and Viathon’s top-of-the-line M1 are both very similar when it comes to the kit. They both feature SRAM’s XX1 Eagle AXS wireless drivetrain, RockShox SID Ultimate fork, and sophisticated carbon wheels. The Epic has Specialized’s BRAIN cartridge in the fork and a power meter while the M1 has a RockShox Reverb AXS seat post. The Epic also has 100mm of travel compared to 120mm for the M1.

When it comes to geometry, things are quite similar at first glance, but there are some notable differences. The M.1 is designed and manufactured by Kevin Quan, who has worked for brands like Cervelo, Diamondback, BH and many more for the past decade. Viathon claims they aren’t just targeting runners with the M.1, but the numbers are comparable to most carbon hardtails we see in XC racing, despite its slightly longer travel 120mm fork.

The wheelbases are a few millimeters and many other numbers are close. But, the Epic has a slightly longer reach, a looser 68.5 ° head tube angle, and a slightly stiffer seat tube. Everything about what you would expect from a more avant-garde bike at the forefront of World Cup racing. At least on paper, the Specialized has the edge in the geometry department.

Both frames feature a threaded BB and internal cable routing. They have multiple bottle racks and everything you would expect from a modern, high performance XC bike. The Epic HT frame is a light weight of 790 grams, while the Viathon is a more typical 1,035 grams. Specialized achieves this by doing a lot of fancy work with its carbon fiber and using its nearly infinite R&D budget to reduce weight absolutely wherever possible, without sacrificing durability or ride quality, while Viathon uses the More standard Toray carbon found in most high end. XC racing bikes. That said, the Viathon is still pretty light and in the realm of most production racing hardtail bikes, so a weight difference of ½ lb (245 g) is pretty astounding.

As complete bikes there are a few differences with our test bikes: The Viathon has a slightly longer fork and wireless dropper post, but the Specialized has a power meter. Yet even with that, the Epic comes out well over a pound lighter as a complete bike.

If you are going to buy the Epic HT, it is from a certified Specialized bike shop and will be built by a mechanic who is likely trained by Specialized and certified to work on that bike. You’ll walk out of the bike shop with the right size bike for you, the pedals installed, the tubeless tires mounted and everything’s ready to hit the trails. All you have to do is swipe a credit card and go on horseback. If there is any warranty issue or some other issue, your store should support you.

With the Viathon you tap online purchase, the bike is built by a PBMA certified mechanic at Viathon, then lightly disassembled, packaged and delivered to your home or local Walmart. Reassembly requires a few basic Allen keys, a Torx, and a pump. All the necessary tools, including a torque wrench, are provided (minus a pump), and the bike can be ridden at a trailhead or in a parking lot following the instructions provided if you need to. I ran into the issue of the AXS batteries not being fully charged and the tires not configured tubeless so this is something to consider.

By comparing prices, the Viathon is manner advance in this area. At $ 3,000 less than the Epic, you can take a week or two off, fly somewhere warm, have your own training camp, vacation, whatever.

How does it all stack up? Both bikes have their strengths in the specifications. Some riders will appreciate the dropper post, while others will definitely want a power meter. Specialized has some of its proprietary technology in the Epic with the BRAIN fork and the Epic certainly wins in terms of geometry and weight.

On the track, even without the dropper post, the Epic outperforms the M1. The bike has a more modern geometry and while both bikes are undoubtedly at the top of their class, the Epic has a significantly better ride quality and is less harsh than the M1. The geometry makes it easier to ride and the weight is reduced, which is essential for accelerating out of bends and when the bike is pointed up.

Ultimately, many riders will find great value in Viathon’s bikes, especially their low-end offerings which come in at one of the best component-for-component values ​​around … similar bikes from Specialized or other brands cost much more. There’s a lot to be said for the Epic’s ride quality, however. For someone who wants one of the best riding bikes in this class, that $ 3,000 may not be a big deal, but for many others it will be better spent on something else.

If you had to choose between the two, which one would be right for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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