2011 S-Works Epic 29er – 24 Month Report
This report is intended to compliment the 12-month report on this bike that I posted here. Where conclusions have changed, I will highlight these, but otherwise the observations in my 12-month report remain valid.
I have now covered about 4,500kms (3,000 miles) on my Epic 29er. During the last 12 months the bike has continued to be reliable with no warranty repairs required. However my experience is that you need to keep on top of your “preventative maintenance” with the bike to keep it performing in the manner it was designed for.
I am 6’ tall and 93kgs, and I still find the 29” more “right” for me than the 26” did at least for my type of riding. With the 29er I can find that I am more in tune with the bike, more “in the bike” than the 26er where I felt “on” the bike. I guess that this is due to the lower centre of gravity of the 29er over the 26er, but the difference is real from my perspective.
The frame has continued to hold up well. I fully stripped the rear triangle for my annual maintenance a couple of weeks ago and found no damage and no issues whatsoever. I run a down-tube protector for any significant gravel tracks but otherwise make no other concessions to the use of carbon fibre.
At the 24-month anniversary, I stripped the frame and re-lubed the bearings. After removing the shock the rear triangle was noticeably "notchy" in operation. All the bearings were dry, the S-Link and swing-arm bearings more so than the Horst bearings. I had replaced the S-Link bearings at the 12-month maintenance last year, and a couple of these bearings again needed to be replaced, although not all 4. The drop-out (Horst) bearings on the other hand, just needed a re-lube and were good to go. They have now covered 24 months without replacement - quite different from my old 2009 Epic where I replaced these bearings every 12 months. I had to replace the swing-arm bearings this time as they were terminal (I couldn’t turn one with my fingers) as a result of what looked like water ingress. On replacement I ensured that I packed the RHS (dual) bearings with grease between the bearings and greased the pivot shaft to keep the water out. The water ingress had come from the RHS side (i.e. from behind the front derailleur mount) where there is no seal on the shaft – the LHS is fully sealed and that bearing was serviceable (although I replaced it anyway).
The conclusion is obvious: on these bikes, treat the bearings as replacement items and budget to replace every 12 months. The other conclusion is learn to do it yourself - you don't need a press, you can re-lube bearings in situ with a small mechanics pick to remove the bearing cover and a grease gun to do the business. Any bearing not up to a re-lube you can drive out with a standard punch (you will destroy the bearing) and you can drive in the new bearing using a suitable socket with an OD the same as the OD of the new bearing. Simple and inexpensive. Source your bearings from your local engineering supply shop. C3 spec is sufficient for the use these are put to.
With this bike my practice has gravitated to running lower pressures in the AFR shock than recommended, meaning sag is higher than recommended. The brain platform continues to work as advertised and I have not had to get a damper service. I do an “Air Sleeve” service every 50 hours which now takes me all of 30 minutes to do. The AFR seal has remained in good condition with the oil showing no signed of contamination and the shock continues to hold air without any issues.
For the front it is a very similar story. I do a 50-hour lube service (remove lowers, change wiper and seal, re-lube and re-grease) and the fork continues to operate well. It holds air but I have noticed a little oil coming from the negative air chamber when I re-gassed the fork so it is coming up for the need for a service. I am comfortable servicing the air sleeve myself – it’s a standard Reba procedure and so well documented, and I have obtained a seal kit for the air sleeve, but I will wait until the fork needs a damper service – I am going to wait for my LBS to have the ability to do a full brain service before I book the fork in.
A few months from new, I changed the drivetrain with the kosher S-Works spider and a 26/39 setup and have not looked back since. I am on my 2nd cassette and 4th chain. This SRAM 1090 (XX) cassette has now got 1,500kms on it and is still going strong, I expect to get 3-3,500kms on a cassette. The chain (SRAM 1091R) is now well used but still within tolerance and has also got 1,500kms on it. I use Pedro’s “Ice Wax” exclusively unless I am knowingly going to undertake a long wet/muddy ride. The Ice Wax product has been very successful at keeping the chain dry and as a consequence much cleaner than a traditional (wet) “dry” Teflon-based lube – it also operates well in the wet, but not as well as a good wet lube. I re-lube the chain after most rides.
With regards to the chainrings, I am on my 2nd 26 tooth ring (done 1,500kms along with the chain and cassette), and still on my original 39 tooth ring. The XX setup has performed very very well and still gives me fast and reliable shifts. I have had no issues whatsoever with the shifters.
BB longevity OTOH is only average. After fixing a BB spacing issue with the crank soon after I purchased the bike, I have standardized on 2 PF30 spacers on the RHS side of the crank, outside of the large crank spacer. This pushes the RH crank outboard about 1mm and solves the issue I had with RH crank clearance against the chainstay, and it doesn’t put too much side loading on the BB bearings. Remember that “Ultra-torque” style cranks, such as these, use a “wave” washer to provide side loading to the bearings – so the use of extra PF30 spacers is actually SOP.
I trialed the SRAM PF30 BB setup but found that it only gave me 500kms before it got noisy and necessitated replacement. The current Specialized BB setup is back on the bike and has gone 1,500kms without further remediation required. It remains an area that I monitor regularly and expect to replace the PF30 bearings more regularly that I should expect to. Shimano has a much better story in this area than SRAM/Specialized.
I had to replace the shifter cables on the 24-month anniversary. Both cable outers had sustained significant damage to the casing due to scuffing around the BB. In both cases the outer shield had worn off and the metal cable shield has suffered damage. I replaced the rear cable 6-months ago when it failed due to scuffing on the rear derailleur pivot cam (unusual failure and I would assume it was a 1-off). The front cable was replaced at this service, although it was in good condition. Otherwise the cables & casing have performed well. +1 for Jagwire.
I re-greased the rear derailleur pulleys using a “Ceramic Grease” and found they were in pretty good condition, well sealed and although dirt had made its way under the metal covers, had not penetrated the bearing shields markedly.
The 2012 Avid XX World Cup brakes replaced the 2011 model under warranty, and have performed flawlessly. I bled them both as part of my service and found that there was no air and the old fluid was still in excellent shape. I believe that Avid have now got these brakes to where they should have been on day 1.
When the brakes were replaced I replaced the rotors with Avid HSX ones. The HSX rotors is very similar to the old XX rotors, but have with proper drilled holes rather than the groves on the original XX rotors. The brakes no longer squeal and have been consistent and reliable for the last 12 months.
For most of the last 12 months I have been riding with a SW Control on the front and a Crossmark on the rear. The Control is a very impressive tyre, quite heavy but with exceptional grip, and is strong enough such that on a recent 8-hour race, I had absolutely no concerns over punctures or casing damage.
I prefer a tyre like the Crossmark (or Larsen) on the rear where the premium is on traction as opposed to cornering, and the Crossmark’s ability to hookup and yet provide a low-friction ride is pretty unique. Given the UST casing, it is quite heavy, but is also comes with good peace-of-mind.
I am now running a Racing Ralph (folding which I’m running tubeless) on the front just because I am amazed at the low weight of that setup and in my riding over winter I will not encounter any rocks, only loamy, sandy forest trails.
The wheels (Roval Control SL’s) have been exemplary but are a pain to run tubeless. The rim strips need regular replacement and you can spend many frustrating hours until you appreciate that any failure in any part of the sealing strip will pressurize the inside of the rim and then escape through the valve stem. I spent some time trying to seal the valve in the rim before I realized that the leak was not coming from the inner interface between the rim and the stem, but from the pressure inside the rim from one of the spoke holes not being sealed properly by the rim strip.
I have had to keep an eye on the rear Control SL wheel due to its habit of loosening spokes, particularly over rougher rides. Having said that the rims are still as true as the day they were new, and there had been no issues with longevity. I replaced the bearings on the front Control SL because they felt rough. The replacement bearings, when installed also felt rough but the wheels roll very well so I have ignored the symptom.
I continue to lube the rear FWH using the proper DT grease every 500kms or so, and have found no contamination other than the expected grease discolouration. No evidence of water or foreign matter ingress. DT make a nice hub.
I have recently bought a set of Easton Haven wheels for more trail-orientated use (they are wider, and alloy, and still just under 1800gms, and cost not a lot). I’ll use them a bit over winter and report on how they have got on.
Seat: I have ridden the last 12 months with a Fizik Gobi XM. I like the Fizik “ICS” concept of “clip-in” attachments to the seat, and have found that the new version of the under-seat bag has lasted the year without any issues. It is a larger bag than the equivalent Specialized bag and is much easier to clip and unclip depending on the circumstances, so I am reluctant to change back to the Romin saddle, although it is in the garage looking at me most days.
Pedals: I continue to be fan of the Look Quartz pedals. I find that they provide a better (bigger) interface to my shoes, and a nice low clip-out torque, with the penalty of a higher stack height than the competition. I have run Quartz Carbons’ but there is no difference to longevity with these pedals as opposed to the normal Quartz pedals, and since the standard pedals are already substantially lighter than XTR’s, you lose nothing by saving a bit of money. The Quartz will last around 3,000 kms before you need to see to the bearings and re-lube them – but even if you throw them away, new pedals are not expensive.
Grips: I run Ergon CX Carbon grips with integrated 2-finger bar-ends. Love them. No issues. Enough said.
Kit: The following toolset occupies my under-saddle bag. All will fit comfortably.
- 25g CO2 canister (larger required for 29” tyres), with a screw-on inflater cap.
- Dry patches (5) – glue is so 20th century
- Stick-on sidewall patch (3) – a much better option than the usual credit card to deal with a sidewall tear
- Spare presta valve. Always use tubes or valves with removable cores.
- Shraeder valve adapter for Presta which is required for any ride where you may find your pump insufficient. Pumps that can work with Presta valves out in the big wide world are zero. Nada. Zip. BTDT.
- Small multi-tool including a 25 Torx (required for all SRAM XX fittings).
- Chain breaker and 2 spare chain links
- For longer rides:
* Spare derailleur hanger
* Spare cable for shifter
* Zip ties and Velcro strip
Santa Cruz TBc
I have verified with a side by side comparison between my 2011 SW and a 2012 SW Epic that Specialized has changed the chain stay design between the model years. The 2012 has a noticeable straightening of the stay as it leaves the bottom bracket which gives the crank arms considerably more clearance than that which is available on the 2011. The 2012 has a good 10-15mm of clearance between the stay and the crank, whereas my bike is barely 5mm.
I am certain that I would not have the clearance issues with the 2012 that I have with the 2011.
11' Giant Talon 1
11' Giant Anthem X 29er
11' Giant Trance X2
12' BMC Fourstroke FS02 XT
13' Epic S-Works XX1
Thanks skiwi! My 2013 frame with XTR has no BB issues (touch wood). I remember both of us feeling a bit frustrated about our 2011 bikes needing BB bearings a little too frequently!
Glad you're still enjoying the beast.
How are you enjoying the Epic 29er second time around?
Hi jathanas - I was surprised to see the difference as the LBS had said that there would be no recall of the 2011 chainstays when I complained. Probably should have tried harder as certainly there was an engineering change for 2012.
Originally Posted by jathanas
Having said that I have 1mm of extra spacers in the RHS and the clearance is pretty good, certainly something that i can live with, and the BB life seems to be OK. I did think that I had toasted a bearing set when the bike started creaking, but I eventually traced that to a loose cassette - after swapping BB & pedals mind you ;-(
There is a ex-demo 2013 SW sitting in the LBS with 40% off, but can't see enough of a difference to justify the coin. Still love the bike.
How do you find the XTR compared to the XX?
Well last week-end after 4 days of hard rides I was ambling through the forest with my kids and some friends and their kids and the front wheel rode over a smallish stone. The fork made a funny noise and then I noticed that I was riding on the stops with all fork travel gone. Stopped and the fork could move but I had no positive air pressure. In the absence of a shock pump I released the negative air and rode very carefully back home.
Once back I confirmed that the fork would take air but leak it over the course of a few minutes.
At this point I have the "shade tree mechanics dilemma". I have all the parts that I require for an air sleeve R&R - after all the seals are standard Rock Shox Reba parts. But if I do the service I could lose 2 ways - if the fork has actually failed I could lose the replacement and, if not but the fork fails at a later date and it is suspected that I have done un-authorised repairs, I get the same result.
As a consequence I have booked both the fork and shock for a full service. At least they can be done in town and I will get the units back inside of a week.
For the record I have undertaken 3 "air sleeve" services on both the fork (replace wiper seals and oil) and shock (remove air can clean and lube). Both had done 200 hours since the last full service.
This is the best write up I have ever read. You should be a tester for bike mag Bike Bible. I would trust your analysis over any editor.
2011 S-Works Epic 29er – 24 Month Report
Is your Rock Shox Reba 29 brain fork still in warranty to begin with? If the bike is over two years old surely the fork is out of warranty and will cost whatever you do?
Originally Posted by skiwi
It might be different in New Zealand to the UK with warranty periods?
I'm sure that you have checked this out, but I have to mention it. I also lost all positive fork pressure and fork travel, and like yours, the fork would take air and then rapidly lose it. As it turns out, the valve core was loose! Once the core was tightened, all was well.
I checked with the LBS specifically on this issue and was told 5 years. I wasn't going to query that...
Originally Posted by WR304
Last edited by skiwi; 10-11-2013 at 01:44 PM.
Fantastic job Skiwi - sorry I didn't see it when you first posted. I have the same bike, so have a few questions:
-Not that I care, but are you certain the center of gravity is lower on the 29er? This was my first summer on a 29er (coming from a 2008 Epic Sworks), so I'm still relatively fresh on the 26-to-29 change, and had to adjust my approach on tight turns. Seemed to me that my legs & torso (the bulk of the mass) was higher. (?)
-You mention "SOP' re spacers. I'm familiar with SOB, as I've been called it often, but could you confirm the acronym?
-I was disappointed with the XX cassette. Super light, and an engineering marvel, but the early-wearing, non-replaceable ALU cog is a design flaw IMO. Amazed you are getting as many kms out of yours.
-I've also been frustrated with the BB. Moved to a relatively expensive ceramic XDR-15 in the hopes that water ingress would not affect it, but it is getting a bit noisy yet again. The seal looks promising on the Wheels Mfg unit. How is it holding up?
-Can you give the brand of the ceramic grease you use on the RD pulleys? Why that, and not "normal" grease?
-My original XX brakes also failed (at the lever) - seems like they are approaching a 100% failure rate. Sounds like they are now sorted, but I moved to XTR.
-Are you no longer running the Renegade tires? I found them amazingly good and light, except in muddy conditions.
-I also love the carbon Rovals - had a spoke break at the nipple though on the rear, with no other obvious damage to the spoke itself. I'll probably have to keep a closer eye on them for looseness.
-I may have been spoiled by Mavic UST in the past, but agreed, Rovals are not the easiest to run tubeless, and the default rim tape sucked.
BTW, wanted to thank you (and WR304) for the great help you've been to me. Appreciate all the advice.
Last edited by phlegm; 10-11-2013 at 02:58 PM.
My Chris King PF30 ceramic bottom bracket is going ok so far. I haven't done much in the way of wet riding yet though. It's been quite nice weather the last few weeks. The Chris King bottom bracket has a 5 year warranty and I've also got the dedicated grease port injector tool so that the bearings can be flushed with fresh grease easily too.
Originally Posted by phlegm
Bottom Bracket Tools | Chris King Precision Components
In terms of warranty on the brain fork and shock the Specialized own branded Futureshock forks and rear shocks (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 fork) had a five year warranty because they were so unreliable. I'm fairly sure that when Specialized moved over to Fox manufactured and branded brain rear shocks (2010 on) and the Rock Shox brain forks (2011 on) the warranty reverted to being only the shorter standard Fox / Rock Shox manufacturer warranty period, instead of the extended warranty that the earlier shocks had.
Thanks for the comments...
1) Centre of gravity is lower in the 29er because the wheels are bigger and the BB height is the same as a 26er. Therefore you are sitting lower relative to the centreline of the wheels and therefore your CoG is actually lower than in the 26er.
2) SOP - standard operating procedure
3) XX Cassette. My current XX now has over 2,200kms on it, and I have just replaced the chain after 1,900kms. That said I don't hit the large cog that much and run a good dry wax lube
4) The new PF30 unit has 300kms on it and it going OK, but I have a "tick" which I've got to fix - I think it is from the pedals. I've tweaked the spacers so that I now get no RHS crank strike. Have you had the issues that I have wrt RHS crank clearance?
5) The warranty replacement XX WC brakes have been faultless. I bled them during my annual service and have not touched them since. This is what they should have been from the start. I understand that there was a design fault in the WC brakes due to the use of magnesium - my wife's XX's and son's CR's have been stellar.
6) Ceramic grease is Pedros
7) The Renegades were great I just prefer the Crossmark UST for summer due to the stronger casing. I've ripped the sidewall of a renegade a long way from home. They would be my #1 race tire for dry conditions. I'm now running a Ralph on the front which I like a lot. Very light as it is the non-UST model which I'm running UST.
8) Just replaced 4 spokes on the rear wheel. 1 spoke broke and I noticed a bit of damage to the others. I must have dropped a chain and forgotten about it.
9) I'm now using the Stans rim strips which seem OK.
Interesting you say this. I woke up at 2am yesterday thinking "I bet it's the frigging valve core".
Originally Posted by tommyturbo
And no I didn't check that :-(((
I'm sorry that you lost sleep over it, but it's worth checking the valve core for tightness I've had the negative air valve core loosen as well. I hope that you are lucky, and a loose valve core is the root of your problem.
On another subject, I gave up on the standard bottom brackets. I am using a C-Bear ceramic BB with alloy cups. So far, so good, and it has a two year guarantee.
2011 S-Works Epic 29er – 24 Month Report
Was it the rear derailleur gear inner that failed? My SRAM X0 10 speed rear derailleur has a nasty habit of fraying the inner gear cable (another one today) and I was wondering if going to a SRAM XX rear derailleur might stop it happening.
Originally Posted by skiwi
It's not an isolated occurrence either.
Anyone else going through lots of rear der cables?
Yes, the rear cable (inner) just as it entered the cam with the grove for the cable
Originally Posted by WR304
I can only assume the the constant movement of the cable into the cam "landing" created crush stresses and failure. As I replace cables every year, not a biggie, and the first that I have seen on my bike. My current cable is fine after 6 months.
Interestingly this failure occurred literally on the last ride of a 2 week MTB trek in the South Island high country, and it was the one thing I had not thought of with regards to spares. On my next trip I will have a spare derailleur cable in the kit!
2011 S-Works Epic 29er – 24 Month Report
Thanks. That's the same problem as on mine, although I caught it before too many strands had broken this time.
I can't remember ever having broken a gear cable before SRAM 10 speed. Now it's a regular thing...
I made a modification last time I replaced the cable and used a cable guide integrated to the ferrule.
Originally Posted by WR304
Probably won't make any difference, but who knows?
Ooops, missed your question, hidden in your response. No, I've not had any contact with the RHS crank and chainstay, as you've experienced. Just the early wear (and noise) from the BB due to water ingress.
Originally Posted by skiwi
Great writeup skiwi! Thanks for keeping us posted!
I've just had my 2011 frame replaced due to the brain hose gouging a divot out of the seat tube. I knew this was going to be a problem and tried to pull it away using a zip tie but when they took the rear triangle off for a suspension service recently there it was, a nice nickel (or slightly larger) size divot.
It was replaced with a 2012 model as far as I can tell as it's got the kashima coated shock but no auto sag.
I'm sure you've put far more miles on your bike than I have mine. Put a new chain on but the cassette and rings (XX swap here as well) are still original.
Haven't had a chance to ride it yet though as I'm recovering from a mild knee surgery (scope to clean up a torn meniscus and some pretty rough looking cartilage). So it's easy spins on the road bike for now.
I'll have to read your 12 month report too.
Edit: Oh yeah, I had my brakes replaced under warranty as well. No issues yet here either with the new WC versions. I've also torn holes in the Renegades (both SW and Control versions) and am now running a Racing Ralph tubeless version in the rear (thick casing) and a Rocket Ron non-tubeless version in the front. Both are set up tubeless.
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