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  1. #1
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    New question here. Specialized Epic (the Brain dilemma)

    Heya folks,

    while I am healing my broken bone, I am considering new purchase for the spring. By that time I will be up and driving again.

    I am hooked on Specialized Epic. Frame is important, parts are irrelevant as I will transfer mechanics from my other bike onto it.

    The only issue I got is the reliability, or better said - predictability of Brain. As the Brain unlocks/locks rear suspension when it thinks it should, could this lead to situations where I have a feeling that it will unlock it (like going down from the curb, or doing some small DH riding) but it doesn't?

    I could ride towards the bump, expecting shock to absorb it, and then the Brain says "No you don't it's not that bumpy!" totally screwing me, possibly knocking me of balance, etc.

    Do you guys have any experience with Brain? Is it worth it? Is it predictable enough not to cause problems during rides? Thoughts?

    The alternative is Stumpjumper FRS or Camber. They got full suspension that just works all the time and that's it (140 and 120 mm respectively). No surprises there.

    Thanks.
    Daemon
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  2. #2
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    1. Epic != AM
    2. The "Brain" sucks.
    Last edited by chas_martel; 12-01-2010 at 09:27 AM.
    Nobody cares...........

  3. #3
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    Yes, I know Epic is not AM, but there is no other 100/100 full suspension there. After Epic there is Camber with 120/120. 20 mm extra is nice, but let's not pretend that if you can do something with 120 suspension that something becomes impossible with 100. It's the same, basically. What, have we all of the sudden became pussies? Not so long ago that same trail was ridden no suspension whatsoever... 140, 160 and above, that we can debate.

    Why Brain sucks?
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  4. #4
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    you've got a few issues, man.
    first of all, when chas was busting your chops about posting questions about an Epic in the AM forum it has merit. the Epic is a XC RACE bike, period. You'd be better off asking the questions in the XC Race forum because more people who ride one will be able to respond to you.
    second, bikes have come a long way since guys were riding DH on rigid bikes. I'd bet dollars to pesos that the lines that are taken by AM riders these days are far more technical than those of yester-year.
    third, there is a huge reason that bikes have changed over time. riders and designers have figured out what characteristics are desireable for a specific type of riding.
    basically, with more travel on a bike, also comes slacker geo and burlier frame design. that is what makes a bike more AM vs XC. It is the whole package. A bike designed to be very light and nimble, stiff platform damping and sharp angles, isn't going to be a well-rounded do-it-all bike. It is going to be exactly what the designers had intended, a fast and efficient XC RACE bike.
    sounds like you should hold on to that wad of cash you have and start test riding bikes when you heal... not in parking lots but on the trails. it is quite apparent that you are buying a bike strictly off of speculation and on paper-based assumptions. however, the camber and stumpy would be much, much better all-round bikes.

  5. #5
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    O, look at that, I went to this forum by sheer momentum =) OK OK, I will post a question there as well, hope Admins do not bash me cause of cross posting.

    You are right about testing them, 100% right. But it is impossible for me to take a bike from the shop and go for a ride :/ That is why I need some words from experienced people to guide me a bit.

    As for the Camber and Stumpy being better all around - yes, I agree. There is absolutely no doubt that they are better all around. But I so much dislike going downhill I can't describe. If you ask me, I would prefer my bike route to be uphill there and back! But goddamn physics do not allow that. If I am going downhill, I prefer it to be a nice clean trail with no jumps, sudden turns or whatever. Just a relax from the 4 hour pedaling uphill.

    Again, all I am interested in, and that will make or break the Epic purchase in favor of 120mm Stumpy FSR, is Brain predictable? Will it screw me by not unlocking when I have a feeling it should unlock. If it is unreliable - I will rather go with all-time suspension even if that decreases my uphill pedaling power by few percent (if at all ...) simply because it is predictable.
    Daemon
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  6. #6
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    I'd steer clear of the Brain if you want absolute predictability. There is usually a bit of lag between when you hit the bump, and when the valve opens. This creates a harsh feeling in the rear of the bike that starts to suck pretty fast if the trail isn't a manicured sidewalk. Most of the time it opens properly, but every once in a while it doesn't at all, and you take the full force of whatever you just hit. If you absolutely must get a Specialized, I'd go for a Stumpy. Far better bike, able to handle more terrain better.
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  7. #7
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    I understand, you definitely posted in the wrong forum. No big deal.

    IMO, the "brain" is a bunch of BS. It is easy enough to throw the lever on an RP23, the brain just tries to do that automatically. Plus, if anything goes wrong with the shock it is up to Speci to fix it. No aftermarket options for replacement either.

    Take a look at some other bikes as well. Pivot Mach4, SC superlight, Trek's offering.

  8. #8
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    If you hate going down hills, maybe it's precisely because you're on an xc bike, and not an am bike. It would give you SO much more confidence going down if you were on a bike that didn't place you so far over the front of the bike. I switched a year ago, and I'm so happy I did.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daemon[CRO]
    ... I so much dislike going downhill I can't describe. If you ask me, I would prefer my bike route to be uphill there and back!...I prefer it to be a nice clean trail with no jumps, sudden turns or whatever. Just a relax from the 4 hour pedaling uphill...
    Wow. Are you ever in the wrong forum... I think most of the people here ride up just to get to the DH with jumps, sudden turns, and whatever.

    And to answer your question: My experience riding friend's bikes with the Brain is that they are ok for XC, but not the plushest over chunder (which it sounds like you avoid, anyway?). It should pedal ok for you uphill.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by charging_rhinos
    Most of the time it opens properly, but every once in a while it doesn't at all, and you take the full force of whatever you just hit.
    Ah, see, stuff like that was what I was afraid of. That one time when it unpredictably does NOT open, and I smash my jewels.

    OK, will have to find a Stumpy to try it for a few hours.
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  11. #11
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    Well, starting w/ the 2010 line, the Stumpy FSR now has 140mm travel front and rear. The Camber has 120mm. You can get a Stumpy w/ a brain.

    My experience is with the 2010 FSR Expert SJ which has the brain. The brain on my bike (and I believe it's the same on the Epic) has 14 clicks from no brain to full brain. With the brain dialed all the way off, it basically behaves like any other full suspension bike I have ridden. With the brain dialed all the way on, it rides like a hardtail unless I hit something big or at high speed. In between those two extremes, the brain is highly adjustable. I have tried to fool the brain in the full brain setting, and it works superbly. My preference for most riding that I do ( here in NM lots of technical, steepish long climbs, with long technical descents) is brain dialed 6 clicks from no brain. The transtion from locked out to full 140mm suspension is seamless IMO. I don't think I could ever ride a non-brain bike any more. I'd be hitting the propedal lever 50 times a ride. My SJ climbs like a goat and rips descents like a demon.

    I imagine that the Epic would climb like a scalded monkey, while still pretty fast on the descents.

    It seems that people either love the brain. or hate it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by zahgurim
    Wow. Are you ever in the wrong forum... I think most of the people here ride up just to get to the DH with jumps, sudden turns, and whatever.
    Awwww hell no! Man, I value my bones far too much to go there. As we speak, I am healing this little baby:

    http://nivas.hr/pub/titanium.jpg

    And that stuff happened going DOWNHILL not UP. Therefore, up is the way I wanna go. =)
    Daemon
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlx john
    Stumpy FSR now has 140mm travel front and rear. The Camber has 120mm.
    Yes yes, I inverted the options. My bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by mlx john
    I don't think I could ever ride a non-brain bike any more.
    Ah man you are killing me!!

    Crap. Gotta find a way to really testdrive Brain.
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  14. #14
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    The brain has 14 clicks from no brain to full brain. With the brain dialed all the way off, it basically behaves like any other full suspension bike I have ridden. With the brain dialed all the way on, it rides like a hardtail unless I hit something big or at high speed. In between those two extremes, the brain is highly adjustable.

  15. #15
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    Note: If you buy a Camber to avoid the Brain, the Camber Comp and Elite both come with an Ario shock, which is either open or closed, no pro-pedal. If you want a Camber and want pro-pedal, go up to the Expert.

  16. #16
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    I still say go with a Stumpjumper. Your riding will grow a lot more with a more confidence-inspiring geometry
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daemon[CRO]
    Yes, I know Epic is not AM, but there is no other 100/100 full suspension there. After Epic there is Camber with 120/120. 20 mm extra is nice, but let's not pretend that if you can do something with 120 suspension that something becomes impossible with 100. It's the same, basically. What, have we all of the sudden became pussies? Not so long ago that same trail was ridden no suspension whatsoever... 140, 160 and above, that we can debate.

    Why Brain sucks?

    There is way more to this equation than travel, what about geometry?

    Brains suck, in my opinion, because they are "rigid" at the exact point I want plush. They
    are solely used to compensate for an "almost" antiquated suspension design. My 2 cents, I realize many herein will bash me for saving this. Also, is bobbing even an issue in AM? Why does a Spesh "need" the brain yet other Horst links bikes do not?

    My most direct answer is to go with a more modern suspension and don't worry about the brain. Check out a DW-Link or VPP bike.

    I ride both, well my VPP ride was stolen last month, and will attest to never needing "the brain".

    And more importantly do yourself a favor and go ask this question somewhere besides the AM forum.
    Nobody cares...........

  18. #18
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    Why not get a HT 29er? After reading what types of trails you want to ride why bother with a dually? Hell, go rigid.

  19. #19
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    Ha. Did you tell a guy who loves to climb to get a 29er?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkslide18
    Why not get a HT 29er? After reading what types of trails you want to ride why bother with a dually? Hell, go rigid.
    lol. best advice in this thread. while suspension will aid in climbing it doesnt sound like the op is tackling anything too brutal. to say you dont like the down hills in the am forum is blasmspey.

  21. #21
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    Test ride it.

    I rode an Epic and didn't even knew it did that until I was given the explanation of the suspension. It just hauled ass uphill and hauled ass downhill. Granted, downhill is a bit different on a 4" 70*HA bike than a 5.5" 66*HA bike, so there's that.

    Test ride everything, buy what you want. Not what's popular.

  22. #22
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    I can understand that you want the bike design to be intelligent, but I'd stay away from bike that required brain Sooner or later it would do the thinking for you, and you know how that goes

    mlx john, how bad is your pedaling that w/o brain you'd flip PP 50 times/per ride. I've been in most bike design and I don't flip the PP. Sure some are bad but nothing smooth pedaling can't cure.

    Epic are different breed of bike period, it's design for racing. Geometry and feature is not something you'd want to use as trail riding. It performs well on a "race course" type of trails, rolling smoothish singletrack with some short tech, or short steep descend. It's design to be fast not necessary fun with the flat back geo and low BB, like a more forgiving HT.

    Unless you have brand loyalty and want to stay with Sp, there's many other good choices

    Ibis Mojo SL
    Pivot Mach4
    Santa Cruz Blur XC or better yet LT
    Giant Trance or Anthem.

    Personally I think you would enjoy Maverick Durance, or Matic as it's somewhat similar to Epic in someway.

  23. #23
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    Oh, if you want a better Specialized bike, go with the Stumpjumper FSR EVO. That's THE bike. Great geometry and suspension.

  24. #24
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    The newer iterations of the Brain work very well. You just need to take the time to dial it in.

    As far as the Epic is concerned... the 26" wheeled version is a XC race bike. Pure and simple.

    However, having ridden my 2011 Epic Comp Carbon 29er for a few months now, I can safely say that the 29" wheeled Epics are great bikes for trail riding as well.

    I don't do anything too crazy, but I do ride aggressively and I rarely feel like I'm pushing my bike beyond its limits.

    It's still not "All-Mountain" necessarily, but it's a great short travel trail bike. I'd suggest getting a test ride or two on a brain equipped bike to see if it's something you'll like.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by CasteelG
    The newer iterations of the Brain work very well. You just need to take the time to dial it in.

    As far as the Epic is concerned... the 26" wheeled version is a XC race bike. Pure and simple.

    However, having ridden my 2011 Epic Comp Carbon 29er for a few months now, I can safely say that the 29" wheeled Epics are great bikes for trail riding as well.

    I don't do anything too crazy, but I do ride aggressively and I rarely feel like I'm pushing my bike beyond its limits.

    It's still not "All-Mountain" necessarily, but it's a great short travel trail bike. I'd suggest getting a test ride or two on a brain equipped bike to see if it's something you'll like.

    I think Epic is a good bike and does exactly what it's design to do, unfortunately I outgrew the bike and join the darker side To their credit, lag on the brain shock is much, much better than before, but...it's still there, and it ain't my cup of tea no more.

    I love the new enduro though, man that's so unlike Specialized trail bike line up, quite impressive. Theire DH, and FR has always be great.

  26. #26
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    I was being facetious.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by mimi1885
    ... lag on the brain shock is much, much better than before, but...it's still there, and it ain't my cup of tea no more.
    Seems to be a fairly popular opinion.

    Quote Originally Posted by chas_martel
    There is way more to this equation than travel, what about geometry?

    Brains suck, in my opinion, because they are "rigid" at the exact point I want plush. They
    are solely used to compensate for an "almost" antiquated suspension design. My 2 cents, I realize many herein will bash me for saving this. ...

    My most direct answer is to go with a more modern suspension and don't worry about the brain. Check out a DW-Link or VPP bike ... I will attest to never needing "the brain".
    This is dead nuts on. The precise moment you want suspension to be at its most buttery and softest is in the moment of impact. That sets the character for the entire duration of the impact, throughout the shock's entire stroke. To choke that off at the beginning like a Brain does, even for a millisecond or two, negates much of the plushness the shock might be designed to have. Definitely go try something like a Santa Cruz Blur (or Blur carbon) if you want to see what I'm talking about. They climb every bit as good as an Epic, but they just feel so smooth! It's really amazing the difference the VPP makes when going over chatter bumps. Even when climbing, the back end of the bike stiffens up progressively the more you torque the pedals, and it automatically softens up some when you let off the pressure. But through all that, it doesn't bob. Amazing bike. I'd pick it a hundred times over anything with a Brain system.

    VPP/DW Link/Maestro = good design
    Brain = band aid on problem, rather than eliminating it from the equation
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by charging_rhinos
    Seems to be a fairly popular opinion.



    This is dead nuts on. The precise moment you want suspension to be at its most buttery and softest is in the moment of impact. That sets the character for the entire duration of the impact, throughout the shock's entire stroke. To choke that off at the beginning like a Brain does, even for a millisecond or two, negates much of the plushness the shock might be designed to have. Definitely go try something like a Santa Cruz Blur (or Blur carbon) if you want to see what I'm talking about. They climb every bit as good as an Epic, but they just feel so smooth! It's really amazing the difference the VPP makes when going over chatter bumps. Even when climbing, the back end of the bike stiffens up progressively the more you torque the pedals, and it automatically softens up some when you let off the pressure. But through all that, it doesn't bob. Amazing bike. I'd pick it a hundred times over anything with a Brain system.

    VPP/DW Link/Maestro = good design
    Brain = band aid on problem, rather than eliminating it from the equation
    Well said
    I paired my first M4 Epic with Fox Terralogic, what a mistake that was. It felt great in the parking lot or around town, but on the singletrack, you pay for it at the first bump, it's quite a rude awakening

    Daemon, have you try anything else other than Specialized, if not you should. Even if you are going to end up with Stump or Epic. and
    Quote Originally Posted by Daemon[CRO]
    Yes, I know Epic is not AM, but there is no other 100/100 full suspension there. After Epic there is Camber with 120/120. 20 mm extra is nice, but let's not pretend that if you can do something with 120 suspension that something becomes impossible with 100. It's the same, basically. What, have we all of the sudden became pussies? Not so long ago that same trail was ridden no suspension whatsoever... 140, 160 and above, that we can debate.
    Geometry, and comfort. If you can descend on the same trail easier and more fun

    I ride my YBB SS on the same trail I usually ride with my 6" bike. Can it be done? yeah. Would I do that all the time, NO

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkslide18
    Why not get a HT 29er? After reading what types of trails you want to ride why bother with a dually? Hell, go rigid.
    Driving hardtail now, Kona Kula. I want something softer for my old bones, no longer a 19 year old crazy nut =)
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  30. #30
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    Also, I appreciate all the comments form the experienced and less so guys.

    However, it seems that most of you forget that Brain can be tuned. It can be switched off to make Epic behave just like any full suspension. Therefore, on my climbs and straights i can have it dialed to some "smart" setting (people suggested 4-6 clicks from the full suspension mode) so it absorbs some of the shocks. Once I reach top of the mountain, I can just kill it, go full suspension down.

    Not that I am defending the Brain technology, I am just saying that things are not black and white. There is a whole range of settings for it.

    However, I will try and test drive Camber and Stump FSR before deciding.
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  31. #31
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    Can you adjust the brain while you're riding? Or do you have to get on and off everytime you feel the "need" to adjust your bike?
    I agree that the Brain is wack.
    Maintain internal heights.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by nixgame22
    Can you adjust the brain while you're riding? Or do you have to get on and off everytime you feel the "need" to adjust your bike?
    I agree that the Brain is wack.
    The only time I adjust the Brain anymore is when I'm on a trail or loop that is straight up and straight down.

    And that's only right before I head downhill.

    Any other time I keep it 4 clicks from open.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daemon[CRO]
    Also, I appreciate all the comments form the experienced and less so guys.

    However, it seems that most of you forget that Brain can be tuned. It can be switched off to make Epic behave just like any full suspension. Therefore, on my climbs and straights i can have it dialed to some "smart" setting (people suggested 4-6 clicks from the full suspension mode) so it absorbs some of the shocks. Once I reach top of the mountain, I can just kill it, go full suspension down.

    Not that I am defending the Brain technology, I am just saying that things are not black and white. There is a whole range of settings for it.

    However, I will try and test drive Camber and Stump FSR before deciding.
    We know that Brain can be tuned, but it would still be a compromise, unlike the mechanical PP that's design into the bike like DW, Maestro, VPP, etc. That's why the recommendation is for you to try them all.

  34. #34
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    All suspension designs make compromises.

    I've never understood why the compromises other suspension designs make aren't brought up in conversations about why certain people really dislike the Brain.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by CasteelG
    All suspension designs make compromises.

    I've never understood why the compromises other suspension designs make aren't brought up in conversations about why certain people really dislike the Brain.
    Because we have tried other designs, and they are clearly easier to live with

    I don't dislike the brain, but I would not use them again for my riding. Like I said it's no longer my cup of tea. If I race, and want a HT bike that would give me enough comfort over big bumps and big hit, may be. Then there's other great XC designs like Pivot M4, or Giant Anthem, or SC blur XC. Also Mojo SL, and Blur LT are just as light and even more capable on the descend.

    You engage the brain to assist the on the climb, without one, Faux-bar or FSR would be out performed by the other current designs.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by CasteelG
    All suspension designs make compromises.
    It is also true some designs make fewer compromises.

    PS: I get so tired of people trotting out that argument. While true it diverts the conversation
    away from the fact that times do change and advances are made in all areas including
    suspension design. Guess what, 20 years from now someone, somewhere will come up
    with a suspension design better than what we have today. Will it be a compromise? Perhaps, but it will be "better" than what we have today.

    PPS: Are some so brainwashed in PC thought that they dare not say one design is better than another? Almost seems that way to me.
    Nobody cares...........

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by chas_martel
    It is also true some designs make fewer compromises.

    PS: I get so tired of people trotting out that argument. While true it diverts the conversation
    away from the fact that times do change and advances are made in all areas including
    suspension design. Guess what, 20 years from now someone, somewhere will come up
    with a suspension design better than what we have today. Will it be a compromise? Perhaps, but it will be "better" than what we have today.

    PPS: Are some so brainwashed in PC thought that they dare not say one design is better than another? Almost seems that way to me.
    It has nothing to do with being politically correct.

    There is no best design. What suspension design is "best" is a matter of personal preference.

    Hence why many people prefer bikes using "archaic" and "old" systems such as single pivots, over newer designs.
    Last edited by CasteelG; 12-02-2010 at 02:58 PM.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by CasteelG
    It has nothing to do with being politically correct.

    There is no best design. What suspension design is "best" is a matter of personal preference.

    Hence why many people prefer bikes using "archaic" and "old" systems such as single pivots, over newer designs.
    In my opinion, you are confusing "discernment" and "preference". Take two statements for example: 1) A DW_LINK bike has better braking performance compared to a high-mount single pivot. 2) I prefer to ride a single pivot as there are fewer moving parts to maintain. See both those statements can be true at the same time.
    Nobody cares...........

  39. #39
    EDR
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    IME the Brain tries to be a hardtail and a full suspension at the same time, doing neither very well. But in this forum that's what you're gonna hear.

    If you post in the xc/race forum you'll get a different point of view.
    Last edited by eatdrinkride; 12-02-2010 at 06:53 PM.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by eatdrinkride
    IME the Brain tries to be a hardtail and a full suspension at the same time, doing neither very well. But in this forum that's what you're gonna here.

    If you post in the xc/race forum you'll get a different point of view.


    Chas_Matel brought that up from the first post

    On the other hand if OP were to ask if it's possible to change brain shock to coil, we'd be having another interesting conversation

  41. #41
    Ben-Jammin
    Reputation: CasteelG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chas_martel
    In my opinion, you are confusing "discernment" and "preference". Take two statements for example: 1) A DW_LINK bike has better braking performance compared to a high-mount single pivot. 2) I prefer to ride a single pivot as there are fewer moving parts to maintain. See both those statements can be true at the same time.
    I'm not confusing anything with anything.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by CasteelG
    I'm not confusing anything with anything.

    I'm confused.
    tangaroo: What electrolytes do chicken and turkey have again?
    rck18: All of them, because they're meat.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by charging_rhinos
    Brain = band aid on problem, rather than eliminating it from the equation
    Bingo

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daemon[CRO]
    Driving hardtail now, Kona Kula. I want something softer for my old bones, no longer a 19 year old crazy nut =)
    If you are sold on the Brain and Specialized, why not a Stumpy 29er FSR? Im pretty sure the the brain on the stumpy has a "trail" tune instead of a "race" tune.


  45. #45
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    I had a bad experience with the Brain on an S-works Epic. I owned both a 2008 and a 2009 model, and the brain never worked properly on the 08 model. When I got a 2009 frame as a replacement, the hose junction at the brain shock ruptured on 3 separate occasions (in each instance, the brain was returned to specialized to be repaired/replaced) During the time I waited for warranty/replacement to be done, I purchased a Cannondale Scalpel, and I've never looked back. Dealing with Specialized was an absolute nightmare

  46. #46
    I like Chips
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    I owned a S Epic expert for many years and ended up trading it in for a 08 575. My motivation for getting a new bike was that the DH was beating me up and I couldn't keep up w/ buds riding Nomads and Mojos. I wanted to go faster on DH and still climb efficiently w/ out bobbing. My bike is in 28lb range and climbs like goat, even with a talas 36 on it. The extra travel and slack geometry allows me to push my limits well beyond what I was capable of on the Epic. One thing I didnt like about the brain is that I couldn't preload the shock before hitting a jump or obstetrical.
    I like Chips

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