Friday, May 22, 2009

2009 Specialized S-Works Epic - Race machine

It has been almost 3 months since my new rocket ship arrived at my door – the award winning, 2009 Specialized S-Works Epic, more than enough time for me to form an opinion on it and give a little review – briefly, I think it’s an amazing technical achievement. The mix between rigid rocket and sofa bike is astonishing – It just knows what to do.

For 2009 there has been a massive shortage of S-Works Epics with the Irish and UK supply being sold out long before they even became available. Due to this, my new bike didn’t arrive until the day before I left for for my first set of races in Cyprus. Basically, my housemate, Alan, picked it up for me from Cycleways and I laid hands on it at around 8pm to build up – once built, it was time to pack into a bike bag. I did take a little risk in that I never rode it and I was taking it away to race on for several weeks. Although the suspension had changed significantly from my 2008 version, the geometry was going to be pretty close so I believed that I would feel right at home on it from the start.

Race prepped in Cyprus

Having read a great deal about it on various forums I knew that setting the front and rear suspension correctly at the start was important – in that regard, I watched the various suspension setup videos Specialized has online and spent 30 minutes setting it up – I got it perfect first time around and aside from changing the brain threshold, based on the type of course, I have not altered anything since.

From the first pedal, what got me was the rigidity of the bike – it felt almost like my road bike with every bit of energy going into the pedals. Initially, I was a little worried that I made things too stiff and that when I hit the offroad I would be knocked around a lot. Obviously, the first thing I did was try and find the roughest, most technical terrain I could find and see how it feels. My reaction was, OMG, this feels like my Enduro SL – the suspension worked magically, like riding on a magic carpet – everything from trail buzz to square edge hits were hammered into a smooth ride. It was like a mini destruction crew working just in front of my wheels to make the trail as smooth as possible – just for me, yet when I stood on the pedals, there was a road bike under me – amazing. Another nice thing, the S-Works Frame is naked carbon like last years S-Works Tarmac SL2 road bikes – not only does the frame look sweet (and save about 150grams on paint) but is actually super easy to clean. Important when your racing abroad, cleaning to make it look spotless takes about half the time of last years white Kona.

The front and rear suspension was the main difference with this years bike for me – a lot of the control, drive train (except the new S-Works crankset – very smooth – which I’ll be converting to a double once they become available), wheels etc… was very similar to last years from a performance point of view and has worked perfectly. Racing really is the toughest test of any bike – especially on trails as technically demanding as the ones in Cyprus and I have to say this bike has come out with flying colours. I know it’s really clich├ęd to say it is the “best bike I’ve ever ridden” – but it really is! It is by no means a cheap bike though at 6,000E, but if you want the best…

Both our bikes ready

Now for the all important bit – what is the weight – well, in the pimped race version with my KCNC components and crankbrother pedals and real tires (not 300gram show bike tires) it hits the 9.2kg mark. Not bad for something built to last under a 73kg rider!

KCNC supplied chains, seatpost, skewers (a new, longer rear skewer is need as the carbon dropouts are pretty wide), stem and bar. Thanks Andy!

Most importantly, thanks to Specialized and Cycleways for sorting Mel and I out with our bikes this year - it is a real privilege to be riding these amazing machines.

Mel has already written a piece about her bike too with lots of pictures here.

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