2013 Specialized Epic Expert First Impressions

A few friends had expressed interest in my first ride impressions of the 2013 Specialized Epic Expert, so I decided to blog it.  For reference, I live in Seattle area, Washington.  Mine arrived yesterday at Gerks Cycle in Redmond and I have done two rides.  If you don’t know the guys at Gerks, get to know them.  Great service, and great guys.

My current bike (on sale soon if anyone is interested) is a 2009 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon.  Yesterday was a shakedown ride at Paradise Valley  (http://app.strava.com/rides/19325694) and today I rode from Duthie Hill and Grand Ridge to test the climbing. I will get my data for the ride this morning uploaded later tonight.

The Bad

  • For the way that *I* climb (Ironman, 6 time half Ironman, heavy road cycle background), the 2×10 setup leaves me working too hard on the steepest parts of upper grand ridge.  I wish I had 1 or 2 less teeth on the small front.
  • Specialized abandoned SRAM for their brakes on this years bikes.  They went with Magura.  Maybe I need to brake the pads in more, but the brakes do not feel as grabby as the Avid Elixr.  In fact, the rear brake is downright suspect.  It’s a 160mm rotor, but I don’t feel like it’s stopping the bike at all.
  • The bars are too wide.  That’s fixable, but it made for a strange first couple of rides.
  • Downhill.  The geometry of this bike is very different, and I was not at all comfortable going downhill.  It’s going to take time and work.  I didn’t feel like the bike couldn’t handle it, but it didn’t inspire comfort.  When I test rode a friend’s Blur XC, going downhill felt normal and the bike invited me to go harder and I was OK with that.  The Epic is inviting me, but I haven’t accepted the invitation yet.

The Good

  • Speed.  Look at the link I provided for the shakedown ride yesterday at paradise.  I set a few PRs.  I am not a fan of Paradise at all, owing in no small part to my low rent technical riding abilities.  I wasn’t even trying yesterday.  Nose breathing the whole time.  Totally a shake down time.  The bike just went fast.
  • Weight.  When removing the front wheel to put the bike in my car, I can lift the bike by the seat post with one hand and put it in my car.  Out of the box weight with pedals was 24’10 at the shop.  At some point I will go tubeless, and swap the seat post, bars and stem for carbon.
  • Rolling speed.  The bike wants to roll. This is no doubt related to weight, geometry and 29".  Letting go of the front brake on downhills caused a noticeable and unexpected forward surge.  Much more so than on my Stumpjumper.
  • Geometry.  It is going to take a ton of getting used to – it’s very different than my Stumpjumper.  However, it’s clear to me that this is a bike made for road cyclists who want to ride mountain bikes.  I felt very at home on this bike.
  • Suspension.  Brain tech in the front and back is nice to have.  The rear seems way more compliant and performant than my Stumpjumper.  No weird knocking when the first hit happens.  I still have some dialing in to do, but once I got to a point of comfort, I stopped thinking about it on the trails.
  • Climbing. Yeah, so I popped my cork going up  Grand Ridge today because the bike felt like I could just go faster.  On the upper steeps, I ran out of teeth, but anything less than 12%ish, and I was riding with a lot less labor up hill.  Coupled with the suspension, there was no suspension bob that I noticed.  None.
  • Chain slap.  I almost forgot this one.  The Shimano Shadow rear derailer eliminated all chain slap.  I kept thinking that something was sounding "wrong" with the bike on the downhill.  It took me almost the entire ride to sort out that it was the lack of chain slap that I was missing.

The way I have framed this in my mind is as such: it feels like I have been a good club racer.  Regular podium guy, regarded as reasonably fast, but on club level budget and club level equipment.  Then, yesterday, I got a call from an F1 team and they said "hey, we hear you are pretty fast. Why not come over to your home track and take a test spin in our F1?  No pressure."  So I show up, get in the car, and it’s clear that without working very hard, I am going way way faster than I ever have.  The bad part is that the equipment is causing me to overshoot corners (too much entry speed), miss my turn in markers, work the engine too hard on the uphills, and overall feel like a baby driving a car.  A clumsy baby at that.  It makes me feel stupid and sloppy, but I am 15% faster than I have ever been at my home track.  I know that this is almost entirely because of the new equipment, and I have a lot of work to do before I am driving with more skill than the equipment can handle.

This bike demands and commands a nickname.  I have settled on "ED 209."  Bing it if you don’t get the movie reference.  It’s unlikely that I will find a better one.  That name perfectly matches how I feel about this bike.  It’s big. It’s menacing.  And it kills things with complete and utter disregard.

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/donsolo/1301608111/sizes/m/in/photostream/

  • Motoxer913

    Give the wide bars a chance, way more control. I recently went to 685mm width and I think it’s the ideal width for me. New bikes are so fun. I’m still geeking out on my first full carbon bike, Giant Trance X Advanced SL…it’s incredible. Best do-it-all bike I’ve ever ridden perfect for all our Utah riding from Moab to Park City.
    -motoxer913

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