Dirt Rag Magazine

First look: 2014 Specialized XC race bikes

By Mike Cushionbury

Specialized’s annual Global Press Launch has morphed into the must-attend event of the year for cycling media worldwide. Besides an in-depth look at what’s on tap for the coming year, the extravaganza is jam packed with epic riding each and every day as well as with opportunities for one-on-one discussions with key Specialized employees before, during and after the rides. This year the festivities began with three days in Durango, Colo., for a small and exclusive look at the new cross-country specific offerings. The next four days were in Copper Mountain, Colo., for the larger Global Product Launch “tradeshow” and bike demo.

During his kickoff speech, company owner and founder Mike Sinyard made a few things clear to all those in attendance: “I started this company 40 years ago and it’s been a great journey. One of the things I’m most proud of is the team of people we all work with. A team that drives to be the best,” he said. “Specialized is a private company and that’s important because I can answer the dreams of what people want without answering to anyone. For us, our boss is the rider and that’s pretty powerful.”

He also hinted about something special in the fall of this year. “One thing we’re working on for an October announcement is for the kids and we feel it can change the world. It’s something we’re really excited about. Our mission is to get more people on bikes. More kids…and more women.”

As for now, here’s a look at some major mountain bike changes coming in 2014. Our first dispatch focuses on cross-country and the cool new SWAT system. The second installment will be trail and gravity oriented. And maybe there will even be a fat bike…

Epic

According to Sam Benedict, Specialized’s mountain bike product manager, Specialized assembled the largest dedicated team ever to create the new Epic line. “Fifteen people and two years of development to put this bike together,” he said. “Two types of cross-country riders have emerged and one is endurance riders who want comfort, stability, efficiency and water storage. We wanted to really focus on water storage and repair item storage and really address the needs of those who refuse to wear a pack.“

As a result the all new FACT 11 carbon Epic frame shares a similar silhouette as the current model but it now has room for two water bottles as well as the new SWAT (storage, water, air, tools) box that houses one tube, a Co2/valve assembly and a custom tire lever. “It took a lot of work to configure it, the shock had to be raised and slightly hidden in the top tube so standover height could remain the same,” Benedict said.

New features include a tapered head tube, in-molded headset, a 27.2mm seatpost to help lower weight, PF30 bottom bracket and internal cable routing where cutouts in the frame use a single bolt to hold the “scoops” in place with a large exit port. The scoops can be changed to alter cable routing—accommodating anywhere from one to four cables. A foam “churro” inside frame goes the length of the cable to eliminate rattling. The 100mm travel Epic line is topped with the $10,500 S-Works, which has a Shimano XTR 2×10 drivetrain, Magura MT8 disc brakes and hookless Roval Control SL Carbon 29 wheels. Lower price point Marathon ($7,250) and Expert ($6,750) models round out the carbon line while the Epic Comp M5 Alloy retains the same frame design, BRAIN shock and SWAT capability while shaving an entire pound off its overall weight compared to the current model.

Epic World Cup

Specialized was the first company to win a World Championship and Olympic gold with full-suspension. For next year the line gets a whole new category called Epic World Cup—a dedicated cross-country race bike that weighs just 19.64lbs. in a size large. It’s designed to satisfy that second type of rider, the short course racer who wants stiffness, light weight, pedal efficiency and aggressive geometry. The front and rear suspension drops down to 95mm, the headtube is half a degree steeper thanks to the shock having a shorter eye-to-eye measurement and the bottom bracket is also slightly higher. The frame is specific to a single front ring with no option of adding a double ring crank or front derailleur (Specialized has special tooling to completely eliminate the mount from the frame during production).

Because there’s no front derailleur to work around, the chainstays are 8mm shorter than the standard Epic and the driveside stay is massively oversized at the bottom bracket junction. The $10,500 S-Works Epic WC with a FACT IS 11m full carbon frame features a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, Specialized FACT OSBB with PF30 bearings, a carbon crankset with a one-piece spider/arm combo and hookless Roval Control SL 29 carbon wheels. The Expert WC ($6,750) gets a FACT IS 10m carbon frame with M5 stays, SRAM XO1 drivetrain and Roval Control Carbon wheels. Next week’s National Championship cross-country event will see factory racer Todd Wells debut the new Epic World Cup in competition. Both the Epic and Epic WC framesets are available for $5,500.

BRAIN 

Redesigned for 2014, the AutoSag-equipped BRAIN shock has a new shim stack, improved tuning and lower threshold to retain the active reaction of the FSR suspension design without bob from pedaling. It has the same mini damper BRAIN reservoir—only now 30-percent smaller—and a Kevlar hose that sheds 25 grams. There’s also a more limited range of adjustment—five clicks—to make it easier for the consumer to dial in. Specialized also eliminated the most open settings on the shock.

“It’s a delicate balance to get the fork and shock matched so we knew the range we wanted to be in so it’s now easier to match the shock and the fork,” Benedict said.

The Epic also gets the concentric pivot link off the current aluminum Camber along with a new shock block developed for the 2011 Stumpjumper FSR. This redesign along with a wider seat tube contributes to vastly improved center stiffness you can feel on the trail. 

RockShox SID World Cup 29 Inertia Valve fork

Like last year, the RockShox SID World Cup 29 Brain fork with inertia valve damper has a Solo Air spring but finally, in 2014, it gets a 15mm thru-axle.

Stumpjumper hardtail

The $7,800 S-Works Stumpjumper hardtail is made from all-new FACT IS 11m carbon and features the full SWAT kit, internal cable routing, PF30 bottom bracket, and 142×12 rear dropouts. The fame is a feathery 1,050 grams and geometry changes include chainstays that are 5mm shorter, a 6mm higer bottom bracket and a half a degree slacker head tube for Expert models and up. They did this, according to Benedict, to modernize the bike and and make it handle better in corners. The Stumpjumper also gets the World Cup treatment for the same price with a dedicated, single chaninring XX1 version. Both the Epic and Stumpjumper World Cup can accept the SWAT package if you want to add one on. Frame only is $3,400. The Stumpy Alloy and Comp Carbon frames remain unchanged from last year.

SWAT (storage, water, air tools)

Engineers at Specialized took a lengthy look at long distance events and what Epic riders were doing. Namely using duct tape to strap all sorts of repair items to their frames. “The Epic is a beautiful, $10,000 bike so why would you tape stuff to it?” Benedict asked.

To solve this Specialized developed a custom plastic box (which took as long to develop as the frame) that connects to the bottom of the downtube bottle cage and is anchored via a third downtube mount. It can hold a 29er tube, one 25g CO2 w/ custom head and custom tire levers. Epic and Stumpjumper S-Works, Marathon and Expert’s come stock with SWAT while the World Cup models are designed to accept SWAT aftermarket units for a price of $150 for the box, cage and accessories. SWAT also includes a special $25 headset top cap that houses a mini chain tool and one spare chain quick link. The entire kit filled with spares only adds about a pound to the bike.

Talk about a hidden gem. Stored above the shock mount and inside the frame is this small SWAT Allen set with enough sizes to perform basic trailside adjustments. Stumpjumper hardtails (and the aluminum Epic) have their SWAT Allen set connected to the bottom of the seat tube bottle cage. This accessory can be mounted on any brand of bike.

The complete kit installed and ready to roll

S-Works crankset

An all-new S-Works crank has a full carbon integrated spider with 104mm spacing that’s lighter and stiffer overall. Mechanics will applaud the fact that the new crank now uses just an 8mm Allen key for easy removal.

Crave (not Carve)

It’s not a new model, just a name change. Due to copyright issues the Carve is now the Crave, Specialized’s race-ready, entry-level aluminum bike. It has M4 tubing throughout with a wider bottom bracket to increase torsional stiffness. There’s also better standover height, larger chainstays for improved acceleration and the chassis has been streamlined to 1,580 grams for a size 19. That’s 12-percent lighter than last year with a claimed 12.5-percent more compliance.

The Crave has a neutral XC race geometry, a 100mm travel fork with a slightly higher bar position, longer wheelbase and more compliance compared to the Stumpjumper HT Comp (which clocks in with a 95mm travel fork and World Cup geometry.) The Crave is designed for newer riders with input from National High School League racers. Prices range from $1,300 to $2,000.

That’s all for now. Check back soon for more from Colorado!
 

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