Results 1 to 11 of 11
  1. #1
    parts leftover
    Reputation: schlim's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    981

    2011 Epic Expert Carbon EVO R 29er Review (Long).

    I finished a race in May thinking that I'd chosen the wrong weapon for the course. It was loose and had several rock gardens in it that made it seem like my hardtail was rolling backward compared to other riders. On smooth, relatively flat courses, my carbon hardtail 26er is incredibly fast, but I was totally beat down after slamming through rock gardens and being unable to retain any momentum pedaling through them. Two teammates asked, "Why aren't you riding a 29er?" My experience with 29" bikes has been limited to a Haro rigid singlespeed steel bike that I had for a year or so and then sold because I had no idea what to do with it, and a Gary Fisher Superfly demo that was disappointing due to a poorly tuned rear shock. I also rode a Specialized Epic Comp alloy demo bike for 60 miles training in April but it was pushing 30 lbs and it didn't feel magical or really anything more than "fine".

    My teammates, who finished in front of me, handed their carbons Epics over to me for a quick spin. The medium Epic Expert felt a little small, but surprisingly nimble. After riding the 26" hardtail, the large Epic Evo felt a bit like a truck, but the most interesting thing was now nicely controlled the suspension was though the really rough terrain. Because of a shortage of time, I didn't get a full test ride though.

    So I negotiated another ride on that large 2011 Epic Evo R 29er a couple of weeks ago to do some hammering on one of my favorite local trail systems - one that Lance is rumored to enjoy when he is in town. It's ideal because I know every inch of it and how my hardtail, 4", and 6" travel bikes respond. I also know that I can rule out a bike real quick if it doesn't feel right on that loop. Basically, it's straight up a mountain climbing singletrack for 45 minutes, a rocket ride down, and a cut over to another set of trails that are steeper and take me back to the foot of the mountain. This late in the season, the trails are covered in a fine, thick moondust that sits over hardpack and gravel. It's the sort of trail condition that makes me nervous sometimes because stuff doesn't always hook up like it should in corners and steep chutes.

    I'm going to say some very good things about this bike, but I feel compelled to put in a word regarding the Epic's appearance. On a bike that is one notch below the top of the line unobtainium S-Works, you expect a certain level of elegance and craftsmanship. The carbon front triangle looks good. The downtube is straight (thankfully), without the useless bend at the bottom bracket that seems to be the industry fetish right now (regardless of shock and water bottle clearance). However, the aluminum rear triangle doesn't match the front. The joints look as if they're dipped in gunk rather than neatly welded together. It looks terrible. Is Taiwan incapable of welding metal attractively? I assume they are solid, but I'm spoiled by the SAPA weld work on my other bikes. Specialized, take a page from Turner and Intense and pay attention to the detail work in welding and machining. It's not as if boutique bikes are more expensive to buy than Specialized at this point. Plus, does anyone else find it ironic that bikes used to add carbon seatstays to alloy main triangles to enhance stiffness, save weight, and tune the ride? It's not 2005 anymore. For $5200 Specialized ought to put a carbon rear triangle on their bike. Just guessing, but I can't imagine Yeti bolting an alloy rear triangle onto a carbon SB95 or Ibis putting an aluminum back end on the Ripley.

    Secondly, the SRAM crankset is one ugly beast. XT, XTR, and Middleburn's R8 are practically works of art. This thing is a merely a hunk of composite. However, the PF30 system worked fine and the cranks seem solid, so functionally I have no complaints. I'm also not a fan of the Specialized grips, but this is clearly just a rider preference issue. They are too small in diameter and feel unnecessarily hard. I'd switch them out for Ritchey WCS foam, ESI, or ODI Rogues.

    I should mention that this particular Epic Evo has been upgraded with the carbon Roval SL wheelset with the DT Swiss internals. Set up tubeless with ~24psi, the wheels were clearly turbocharging the ride, making this bike feel *very* different than the 30lb Epic Comp I rode. This Evo is 23.3lbs without pedals.

    Regarding fit, I felt that this bike was spot-on in nearly every way. Knee clearance and standover height is enhanced by the flying butress seattube brace in the large that I rode. The owner inverted the stem and ran it with a low rise carbon bar that felt pretty close to right, although the 105mm stem was perhaps 5mm too long for me. Either way, the cockpit felt pretty good, and I was even surprised by how comfortable the stock Specialized Phenom saddle was. Specialized is getting their saddles right, and I have a Romin Pro Ti installed on my own road bike. However, the Phenom had loosened up considerably at the interface between the rails and the shell, giving me an odd feeling of flex on climbs when riding fast on flat ground.

    On the pavement, the Renegade and Fast Track tires had a rolling resistance similar to what I've experienced with a Conti Race King. This is to say, not much resistance at all. In fact, the sensation was more akin to riding my road bike than any full suspension rig I've suffered on the road with before. I felt a little more tug in a forward direction than a similar cadence would produce on my standard mountain rides. The brain was clearly doing it's part to keep the rear feeling solid, preventing excessive translation of motion into shock movement. There was a touch of bobbing (just a few mm at 6 clicks of the brain), but it took the buzz out of the chipseal somewhat and didn't feel inefficient enough to warrant cranking up the brain threshold.

    I hit the fireroad and I couldn't make it up the climb on big wheels!

    Just kidding.

    In reality, I did need every tooth in the 36t rear cog with only the single chainring, but the bike powered right up. The slight movement the brain allowed in the rear facilitated some active traction on the climb without succumbing to squat. Bike squat bugs me tremendously, but reaching for pro pedal for compression damping always makes the suspension perform like mush in my opinion. The brain's on/off is clearly preferable to mere increased resistance that causes the bike to kick back over real trail obstacles and interrupt my spin technique. The brain is seamless, but almost feels like a bottom out when it opens that doesn't have a harsh jolt at the end. It's as if you feel the bike hit a large exposed root, and then feel it sink into the group before it can cause the bike to buck. It's weird and different, but highly effective.

    While I'm mostly a sit and spin rider, when I stood up (primarily due to the single chainring) the bike powered over all sorts of stair step chunk that can (and does) stop my standard mountain bikes dead. Part of it was clearly the lower tire pressure, but these tires do not have the tread aggressiveness to account for all of this ability. Several times, as I was negotiating a short, steep section, the bike carried its speed through the crest and over where my other bikes stall out. I even pedaled straight up a rock formation that I normally go around on a better line, and the bike shockingly plowed right up and through. The bike also held onto the edge of some of the off-camber sections of trail that had been turned into moguls by motorcycle throttles without sliding back down into the rut. Additionally, there were no drawbacks to the bike around some switchbacks that I negotiated well on the Epic, but give me some problems on other bikes (sometimes, I believe, due to squat and dive in the suspension). I didn't have to put a foot down, and the relatively short wheelbase of the Epic (for a 29er) worked in my favor here.

    On flatter sections, the Epic stood out in its ability to flow smoothly through rock gardens that an knock me off my line or cause a kick through the saddle on repeated hits. This trait is fairly remarkable given the relatively short amount of travel coupled with an auto-lockout feature in the Brain. As an endurance racer, being able to stay seated and spinning when things get not so smooth on the ground is a big advantage in energy savings. A propedal lever to prevent rider-induced movement isn't helpful in this type of terrain because the compression slows down the ability of the shock to react. Just opening to swallow rocks is much preferable, in my opinion.

    Descending, the bike continued to shine. I can describe it best as being connected to a slot in a track. The Evo just had this oddly solid and planted feel through some really loose dust, gravel, and occasional loose babyhead rocks. My guess is that the contact patch was making a difference here, but in my opinion, the Fisher Superfly 100 did not exhibit this same trait. The rear travel didn't feel like any more than 100mm on the Epic, but the bike was certainly using it well and not getting bogged down as speed increased. If I can descend mostly seated, I'm happier overall, and the bike let me do that. While the carbon front end and carbon Rovals seemed solid, the bike has a slight "twang" (for lack of a better term) out of the apex of corners. It provides a little extra burst of speed into the next section and actually helped me recover from an error at one point. I took the bike too sharply into an off-camber turn and started to lose the rear wheel in a slide. The bike sort of "snapped to" and shot off in my original intended direction. A demo bike merits huge points bike when it saves you from a yardsale.

    I used the brakes quite a bit less on the Evo than I do on my 26ers. With the bike allowing me to reset after choosing a bad line, I got more and more comfortable just carving through 90 degree turns without brake feather for control. The Avids felt very on/off to me without much modulation but didn't warble like a dying turkey like other Avid brakes I've had the misfortune to come across. I'm glad the 2012 Experts are getting Formula R1s. Strangely, I got sketched out on an 8" drop to transition that needs to be rolled given it's orientation. I have no explanation for this, but I had to step off. I'll just put this one in the "that's odd" category, because the bike did fine on other small drops and stair rollers.

    The Reba fork was acting pretty sticky and gave me some forearm tightness on the ride down. It's possible that it didn't have enough negative air pressure or that it needed an oil change to get things loosened up. I didn't mess around with the brain setting, but it wasn't a full lock out when compression the fork hard while on the bike. With the brain engaged, the fork felt a little gooshy. There was no brake dive, which was good for descending, but the fork quality of travel was not the same as my SID or Revelation 150. My guess is that it wasn't coming anywhere near full travel. I'll be interested to see what the SID 29er Brain fork acts like on the 2012 bikes. It's hard to fault the bike here for what might have been a maintenance or tuning issue, and the bike was great overall in spite of it.

    The Evo's single 34t chainring was perfect for all kinds of climbing. I never wanted a granny gear to get myself up and over something. However, as an endurance racer, I'd prefer a double up front to avoid blowing up my legs on climbs over a 12 or 24 hour period. Otherwise, as an all around bike, there's no way I'd need a front derailleur.

    Lastly, there was a continual popping sound throughout the ride that resonated through the carbon. I don't know if it was the bottom bracket, chainring, the saddle that was separating from its rails, the seatpost, or a sticky pivot. The sound was not something I'd be able to tolerate for very long without tearing the bike down to find out what the source was. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the mini-brain out back, but I can't rule anything out.

    I returned the Evo to it's owner and said "You didn't tell me you've been on a cheater bike all season." I'll bet the Epic is cheaper than EPO and HGH. The verdict is that the Epic Expert Carbon 29 will be my race rig for all sorts of events next year, along with the carbon Roval wheelset. I was sufficiently impressed that I'm picking this bike over some other good boutique options such as the Turner Flux, Ibis Mojo, Santa Cruz Blur carbon, and the Yeti ASR-5. The SB95 carbon and Ibis Ripley aren't available yet, but it would be neat to compare back to back. My main concern is long-term durability, but I have several bikes to split the miles and I'm not overly hard on them. I think some 3M helicopter tape for protection and regular maintenance will keep it running nicely. The carbon rear triangle of the S-Works Epic, different modulus carbon, and a couple of component updates aren't enough to offset the additional $3700 in cost after adding the carbon Roval SLs to the Expert. Seriously Specialized, include a carbon rear triangle for $5800.

    It's a great bike, though - very impressive.

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    411
    Thanks for the great write-up. It's a very enjoyable read.

    I agree with your findings about the Epic 29er. I'd rate it as "the bike" for enduros or XC marathons. Very good descender, and an absolute weapon on rock gardens.

    I just finished a 5 hour enduro on the 26 Epic, on what was some pretty rough terrain. Missed my 29er.

    Cheers, J

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Reputation: GTR2ebike's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Posts
    1,881
    Great write up, in regards to the welds on the seat and chain stays they are much better than most machine welds I've seen. In regards to not having a carbon rear triangle the lower lever bikes won't get them because that is one of the few things that sets the s-works apart. When they do get it prepare for a nice price hike.

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    55
    Good review, Thanks

  5. #5
    parts leftover
    Reputation: schlim's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    981
    Quote Originally Posted by GTR2ebike View Post
    Great write up, in regards to the welds on the seat and chain stays they are much better than most machine welds I've seen. In regards to not having a carbon rear triangle the lower lever bikes won't get them because that is one of the few things that sets the s-works apart. When they do get it prepare for a nice price hike.
    Glad you liked the review, and thanks for the vote of confidence on the welds. I just mostly wish they looked prettier.

    My point on the alloy rear is that the Epic Carbon Expert/Evo isn't a lower end bike. It is a high-end bike and the carbon rear doesn't justify the $10k+ tag on the S-works.

    Competitive Cyclist has a Santa Cruz Tallboy full bike with SRAM XX (the Expert Carbon has X.9 and X.0 level stuff) priced at $5599.00, $200 less than this year's Expert Carbon... and with a full carbon frame. Specialized can hike the price if they want, but my point is that Specialized is not currently at a competitive price point with the market for what they are offering.

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Reputation: ocie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    59
    good review, but i don't quite agree with a few statements.

    first, with regards to wanting a double up front, specialized offers a 2x10 in the non-EVO R expert model. i don't feel it's fair to point out that you'd want a 2x10 when you're borrowing a specific race model bike. specialized makes an expert with 2x10. not a big deal, but i wanted to point that out.

    secondly, i think that despite the lack of a rear carbon triangle on the lower models, the price tag of the specialized is pretty justified by the brain. the bike is not a lower end bike, and it doesn't perform like one either. it doesn't quite make sense to compare two bikes and price points based on whether there's a carbon rear - you have to take the full bike into account. you even said that the pro-pedal is not the same as the brain, a superior technology no other bike has. i think there's a little disconnect in your comparison.

    also, the price you're quoting on the specialized is MSRP. If you pay MSRP for your bike, I don't care what bike you're getting, the problem isn't the bike, it's you or wherever you bought it. My 2011 comp carbon 29er retailed for $4100 I believe. I got it in Dec 2010 for $3400 plus a $400 gift card that I used to upgrade components to SRAM XX.

    the clunk you were feeling could have been the brain turning on/shutting off. it's hard to tell based on how you describe it, but i've felt it on my 2011 epic.

  7. #7
    mtbr member
    Reputation: GTR2ebike's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Posts
    1,881
    Quote Originally Posted by schlim View Post
    Glad you liked the review, and thanks for the vote of confidence on the welds. I just mostly wish they looked prettier.

    My point on the alloy rear is that the Epic Carbon Expert/Evo isn't a lower end bike. It is a high-end bike and the carbon rear doesn't justify the $10k+ tag on the S-works.

    Competitive Cyclist has a Santa Cruz Tallboy full bike with SRAM XX (the Expert Carbon has X.9 and X.0 level stuff) priced at $5599.00, $200 less than this year's Expert Carbon... and with a full carbon frame. Specialized can hike the price if they want, but my point is that Specialized is not currently at a competitive price point with the market for what they are offering.
    Depends on how you look at it. They have something which no one else has on a FS bike which is the brain, it's the reason I chose an epic over other FS bikes regardless of price. We all know that Specialized is a marketing machine, not that they don't make great bikes but they market them better than anyone else imo. Now they also have the ability to say the only 29er HT and FS to win a world cup ( race and overall) and world championship. How many other 29er's do you see doing well at world cup events?

    It may not a lower end bike but it is not a Sworks and specialized needs as much different/better stuff on the S-works as possible. I'm sure the expert will get a carbon rear end sometime in the future, maybe even the comp carbon. Remember it was only a year ago that specialized made their first carbon epic 29er, I imagine it will happen when the frame gets re-designed next year or 2014. Then some of the non S-works will get a carbon rear triangle (and a bigger price hike than the bike was going to get without it ) Some people will be happy because of it and just as many will not be.
    Last edited by GTR2ebike; 09-19-2011 at 12:08 PM.

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Devastazione's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    994
    right...you've got me into even more drool now...my 2012 Epic Expert 29 is due in 2 days. Can't sleep at night..

  9. #9
    parts leftover
    Reputation: schlim's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    981
    Quote Originally Posted by ocie View Post
    good review, but i don't quite agree with a few statements.

    i don't feel it's fair to point out that you'd want a 2x10 when you're borrowing a specific race model bike.

    secondly, i think that despite the lack of a rear carbon triangle on the lower models, the price tag of the specialized is pretty justified by the brain.

    also, the price you're quoting on the specialized is MSRP.
    Yeah, I might not have been clear enough on my 1x10 vs 2x10 thoughts. As I stated in the review, the 1x10 Evo did everything I wanted it to and I really didn't feel a need for more gears on my test ride. If I was just going to use the bike for fun or short course racing, it would be the Evo, definitely. However, my need for a 2x10 for 24 hour races trumps my preference for a single chainring, so what I actually ordered from my lbs was an Expert Carbon 2x10. To be really really fair to the actual Evo as offered, I should have taken off the carbon Rovals and installed the no-name 2011 Evo wheels before testing the bike.

    With regard to the brain, there's no doubt it makes a difference in ride quality and suspension characteristics vs. a basic horst link relying on ProPedal. For me, I'm putting my money where my mouth is an buying the bike's ride and therefore not buying something that might be full carbon. *However* if some of the new anti-squat carbon 29ers like the Ripley and SB95c were available, I'd be making some decisions. At the end of the day, though, I like the Epic enough that I'm not seeking out a Tallboy or a Jet 9 RDO to compare it.

    I'm quoting MSRP for ease of comparison and ensuring apples to apples. It doesn't make sense to compare a Specialized clearance from the previous year to a full MSRP custom build on a boutique bike frame. Obviously, Specialized discounts are out there and custom builds are sourced from catalogs, back rooms NOS, and eBay. It's not really practical to try to compare someone's good customer shop deal to someone else's eBay build.
    Last edited by schlim; 09-19-2011 at 05:12 PM.

  10. #10
    parts leftover
    Reputation: schlim's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    981
    Quote Originally Posted by GTR2ebike View Post
    How many other 29er's do you see doing well at world cup events?

    Remember it was only a year ago that specialized made their first carbon epic 29er, I imagine it will happen when the frame gets re-designed next year or 2014.
    I think Gary Fisher deserves the credit for staunchly sticking with 29ers for years when they weren't fashionable or mainstream.

    Specialized R&D and racing should get the credit for 29ers completely taking over Interbike this year.

  11. #11
    mtbr member
    Reputation: GTR2ebike's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Posts
    1,881
    Give whoever you want the credit but at the end of the day who came up with the idea or stuck with it when it wasn't mainstream doesn't matter now. When you go to buy a new bike your going to go with the best one (or perceived to be the best one by you personally obviously everyone has different opinions), that is in your price range.

    It also comes down to marketing and Specialized DOMINATES marketing anything, it has been especially easy for them in the 29er FS and HT market over the past year or so. They have the lightest FS 29er and as I said before the only 29er to win anything worth mentioning. I know it's due mostly to their powerhouse of a xc race team but the bike does make a difference.

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 360
    Last Post: 07-09-2013, 07:39 AM
  2. 2011 SJ FSR Expert 29er - Review
    By Soupboy in forum Specialized
    Replies: 45
    Last Post: 09-06-2012, 08:05 AM
  3. 2011 Epic Carbon Expert 29er or Epic S-works 29er?
    By crimecrusher in forum Specialized
    Replies: 27
    Last Post: 05-13-2012, 10:42 PM
  4. 2011 Epic Expert Carbon EVO R 29er
    By Blade-Runner in forum Specialized
    Replies: 30
    Last Post: 02-05-2011, 08:10 PM
  5. Replies: 11
    Last Post: 12-07-2010, 01:34 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •