Adventure Nomad

Adventure Nomad

Monday, March 16, 2015

Specialized Epic vs. Epic WC

This is a discussion on the Specialized S-Works Epic vs. the S-Works Epic World Cup, and maybe help you to decide which one is right for you.  I'll be comparing older models and not the current 2015 bikes, but you might find the information still relevant.

My 2012 S-Works Epic is the best bike I have ever ridden (it's the bike that won Olympic gold in 2012), but it was heavily used, and I needed to replace the bike in 2015.  In 2014, Specialized split the Epic model into two sub-categories to fit different rider needs:  The normal Epic for marathon riding, and the WC (World Cup) for fast XCO type courses.  The WC is stiffer, has slightly less suspension travel (95mm vs. 100mm) and is strictly a 1x drivetrain as it does not have a mount to attach a front derailleur.I got a deal on a 2014 Epic WC and went with that.  The 2015 Epic WC hasn't changed much from the 2014 model that I ride, but the 2015 regular Epic has some pretty significant changes from the 2012 model that I rode, including a new upside down fork, 2x11 drivetrain and the addition of a dropper seatpost.
The late Burry Stander signing my 2012 Epic frame
The frame for the 2014/15 Epics saw a significant change from the 2012/13 models to intergrate what Specialized called SWAT (Storage water air tools) into the frame.  I really like this, especially the ability to hold 2 full sized water bottles, even on a size Small frame.  But in order to do this, they had to make some geometry changes.  My Specialized bike fit, (courtesy of Specialized Asia Pacific), saw me on a size Small 2014 frame, with a longer stem and offset seatpost, compared to my 2012 Medium frame Epic with a shorter stem and a non-offset seatpost.  The weight of my Size M 2012 Epic, with some tweaking was 10.0kg (without pedals).  My size S 2014 Epic WC weighs 9.6kg (without SWAT kit, without pedals).  Note:  My WC is modified with the 2013 S-Works crankset to enable me to fit a 30T  (or 28T) chainring. 

Specialized Asia Pacific's VJ Varada dialing in the fit on my 2014 Epic WC
I crashed my Epic WC the first time I rode it, as a result of an improper suspension setup and an over enthusiastic rider ;)  The 5mm difference in suspension travel between the WC and regular Epic doesn't sound like a lot, but you can really feel the difference in drops and rock gardens.  It is a much firmer feel, and combined with the quicker steering geometry of the WC, I find myself slower than my old Epic going down drops.  The WC shines if I'm blasting through twisty singletrack.  Compared to the regular Epic, I can feel better acceleration and power transfer from its shorter, thicker chainstays.  Its a flickable bike that favors an aggressive riding style.  The WC is built like a fighter jet.  It wants to turn.  Pressure on the handlebars or lean, and it will turn.  This is a bike that needs constant attention, and on days when I'm not riding well or had too much to drink the night before, I'll find it twitchy.   It's not really the bike for long days when you want to put the bike into auto-pilot and cruise.  
Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup 2014
I like to think of my regular Epic as a bomber jet.  It is stable, forgiving, confidence inspiring.  It is a bike that wants to go straight when something deflects it off course.  At the top of something gnarly, and I find my vision closing in on my front tire, I can trust my regular Epic to get get me out of trouble.  Yes, it is slower turning, and slower to accelerate, and if I'm racing on an XCO type course where I'm only riding for about an hour and a half, and every second matters, I would prefer to take my WC over the regular Epic.  
Specialized S-Works Epic 2012
The bottom line is that for most of my riding, I prefer the regular Epic.  The Specialized Epic for 2015 sees some very exciting changes, and look awesome.  Hopefully, I'll get to ride one over the next couple of weeks, and I'll update this post if I have anything to add.

Update Mar 19:  I got a chance to ride a 2015 S-Works Epic today.  Everything I said about my 2012 remains true with the 2015 version, except the 2015 is even more stable, and stiffer.  I don't know what it weighs, but it is surprisingly light, considering it has a dropper post, 2x11drivetrain and RS-1 fork.  


Sam Worth said...

Hey Ken!

Awesome blog. I was referred to you (and your blog) by a friend who's been following it for years. I'm from the US and travelling through Singapore at the moment, where I am trying to find a bicycle to ride through SE Asia to the Himalayas. Couldn't find your email anywhere, so I'm posting this as a comment... hopefully it gets to you. Anyways, I'm pretty sure you are the single best person to talk to in Singapore/the world about any advice/tips on my journey. Any recommendation about where to find a cheap but good used bike around Singapore? /Would you be free to get a drink in the next few days and talk the Himalayas? Probably not a good idea to post email here, but screw it, I'd love to meet you. Shoot me an email at if you get this! Hope we can be in touch.



R.C said...

I noticed you switched from medium size frame to small, what is your height? I'm 170 cm and pretty sure I need the medium size for epic wc. What's your suggestion about it?

Kenneth Koh said...

170cm is my height. Top tube lengths went a bit longer from the 2012/13 Epic frames to the 2014/15 SWAT frames. I tried both Small and Medium Epic frames and preferred Medium BOTH cases, however, I had a bike fit done and the Specialized bike fit guru put me on a Small. I struggled with the smaller frame for months. I suspected it was the cause of the twitchyness I was experiencing with the World Cup. Now, I am more comfortable on my Small and agree with the fit. Personally, I feel I could ride either size. I could ride a Medium with a shorter stem and it will feel more stable, the Small with a longer stem will be more nimble.

R.C said...

Thanks Kenneth,
I've ordered the 2016 Elite WC in medium size with a shorter stem.
I'll update you with how it feels following a few weeks of riding.


R.C said...

After 4 weeks with the Epic it is truly worth every compliment, thanks for the review.

Kenneth Koh said...

Glad to hear it! It really is an awesome bike!

Jeremy Gutsell said...

Not sure if you'll get this but I am looking at purchasing a 2nd hand 2012 Epic for a multi day event. I notice that you really enjoyed your 2012 bike so thought I'd ask your opinion on a couple of items. I understand that the 2013 version introduced the autosag feature of the rear shock and this has been continued on later versions. Is the lack of the autosag feature on the 2012 version a reason to look at a later version, i.e. does it make a big difference?

Comments on other sites have stated that the brain on later versions is much better than the 2012. Are you able to comment on the differences you've noticed?

Thanks for your time. Cheers.

Kenneth Koh said...

Hi Jeremy,

I still ride my 2012 Epic, although with the exception of the front triangle, rims, brake calipers and crankset, every part has been changed due to wear and tear. This includes the fork, rear shock, chain stay, spokes, handlebar, seatpost, bearings, etc... I would caution against buying a 2nd hand bike that old unless you knew the history. Having said that, I have the 2014 with autosag feature and other than testing that out, have never used it. I didn't find the autosag results to be accurate or repeatable, so I don't use it. To answer the first part of your question, the autosag feature makes no difference.

To answer the second part of your question, yes, the new version of the brain does make a huge difference. It's lighter and much more responsive. I set the brain of my 2012 close to the middle for trail riding, and I tweak it firmer for racing. At the firmer settings, it feels harsh, and there's no way I would ride it like that all the time. With the 2014, I just set it to Full Firm, and use it like that every ride. It feels stiffer with less pedal bob, but reacts quicker and feels more plush than my 2012 when I hit a bump. Hope that helps!

Rik said...

I am looking at a carbon comp epic wC 2016 on clearance, but it would be my only bike. I like to ride and climb, not race but I do like to go fast. But I need a bike to handle some rougher stuff too, not racing but just grade4+ trail and mountain riding.
Do you think the epic would be a good choice - or something with more travel?

Kenneth Koh said...

Hi Rik,
The Epic likes to go fast, and it likes to climb. The World Cup version also likes twisty singletrack, and the regular Epic likes straight long runs. I have both and I prefer the faster turning World Cup to the regular Epic now. The two Epics are my only bikes, and although I hardly race these days, I treat every ride with my buddies as a race! Having said that, you will need to slow down through big drops and rock gardens that a bigger travel bike is better equipped to handle. I don't mind the trade off. I've tried bigger travel bikes and they are just too heavy and sluggish for me. If you get a chance to ride the bikes, compare the XC oriented Epic to the trail oriented Stumpjumper FSR and see which one you prefer.

stephan redelinghuys said...

Hi Kenneth, thank you for your insightfull blog. After i read your comments a couple of months ago, i got an oppertunity to buy a 2014 S-Works Epic WC Burry Stander Ltd. Edition via my LBS from one of their esteemed clients. This chap is mainly a Roady and was uncomfortable on the bike thus hardly ever rode it. (I had a Scott Spark 940) The weight saving is 3kg! I love my WC. It is so much more responsive, stiff and light. I did a 62km XC race last month and had PR's on all my climbs compared to my previous Scott Spark times. So i am really happy with my new steed. The brain shock do feel weird at first but i got use to it very quickly. I will never buy any other bike again.
Regards Stephan Redelinghuys Cape Town RSA.

Kenneth Koh said...

Thanks Stephan, thanks for your kind words. Times change, and as I find myself riding the WC more and more, I'm discovering that I prefer it over the regular Epic. Where I once described it as 'twitchy', I would now describe the steering response as 'instinctive' and I find my regular Epic to be 'sluggish'.

stephan redelinghuys said...

Abselutely, i love the stiffness in the frame. When i lean left... it's already turning left! I also like the feeling of a hardtail untill the first bump, then it's a softail. I ride full lock or one click down on the shock and half open in front. I have lots to learn about my bike, every ride something new. I also like to do my own maint (bleed brakes, BB and bearing swops, cabling, groupset update) the pivots and shock maint i give to the pro's. Just for interest: i swoped to a 44T Oneup on my 10-42 SRAM cassett ... really worth the bucks and also now fitted a Absalute Black 30T 104BCD Oval NW Chainring for those though climbs we have untill my fitness improves for a 32T. There is about 5mm clearance on chainstay in the 10T gear.
If anyone need photo's please email me. Once again.. nice meeting you all and thanks for the info.

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