10 January 2010

Epic, I'm Specialized

For MTB, I'm sticking to Horst-Link designed suspension. All by suspension bikes were and are using Horst-Link design. So, does my new Specialized Epic.



Here are some reviews on my new steed:

Technical Fact Sheet (with some comments):

Frame and suspension:
Frame (new) : Specialized Epic, M5 Manipulated Alloy, M-size.
Rear shock (new) : Specialized AFR shock, BRAIN inertia valve with BRAIN fade and rebound adjustable, 100mm rear travel.
Fork (new) : Fox F100 FIT RLC, 100mm front travel (blink, blink..)

Side notes: All photos are with my old Rockshox Reba TEAM.

Cockpit:
Headset (transfer) : Chris King 1-1/8”.
Stem (salvaged from my store) : Tioga 60mm, 25.4mm clamp (this is heavy.. 200 grams!).
Handlebars (transfer): Syntace Carbon XC Low Riser, 25.4mm.
Grips : Some cheap but rubbery lock-on grips, really grippy (I replace it every 6 months due to its fast wear).
Saddle (new) : Selle Italia Shiver Gel-Flow (slightly heavy, but super comfortable)
Seatpost (new) : OTA 30.9mm, grey (look exactly like Thompson’s seatpost, yet lighter).
Seat clamp (new): Specialized QR, 34.9mm, black.

Brakes:
Front brake (transfer): Shimano XT, with Servo Wave & Free Stroke features.
Rear brake (transfer): Shimano XT, with Servo Wave & Free Stroke features.
Front rotor (transfer) : Hayes 6”.
Rear rotor (new) : Quad 6”.

Drive-train:
Front derailleur (new): Shimano XT, DMD, top swing, dual pull (I work with 2x9 only).
Rear derailleur (transfer): 2007 SRAM X-9, long cage (I need to change these soon…).
Front shifters (transfer) : 2007 SRAM X-9, 3-speed trigger (But, I work with 2x9 only).
Rear shifters (transfer) : 2007 SRAM X-9, 9-speed trigger.
Cassette (transfer): 2009 Shimano XTR, 9-speed (11-34T).
Crankset (transfer): Truvativ Stylo, 175mm, with 2-chainring (36/24T).
Chain (transfer) : Shimano XTR, with KMC bra-link.
Pedals (transfer) : Crank Brothers Candy SL (will be Candy 4Ti in near future)

Wheelset:
Front rim (transfer) : Stan’s No Tubes ZTR Olympic.
Rear rim (transfer) : Stan’s No Tubes ZTR Olympic.
Front hub (transfer) : WTB LaserDisc Lite, 9mm.
Rear hub (transfer) : WTB Laser Disc Lite, 9mm.
Spokes (transfer) : DT Swiss 2.0mm/1.8mm double-butted 1.8mm stainless, all black colour spokes except for and 2 silver colour spokes in between the air tube valve, with brass nipples.
Front QR (transfer) : OTA 9mm (Aluminium body, stainless steel shaft)
Rear QR (transfer) : OTA 9mm (Aluminium body, stainless steel shaft), with aluminium drop-out guard.

Side notes: All photos are with my old XC717 wheelset.

Ground contact:
Front Tire (transfer) : Kenda Nevegal, 1.95”, DTC.
Rear Tire (new) : Kenda Dred Tread, 1.8”, DTC (I love this tyre…!)
Front inner tubes (new) : Maxxis Flyweight 1.75”/2.15” (really light, less than 100 grams)
Rear inner tubes (transfer) : Cheng Shin 1.75”/2.25” (heavy at 175 grams, but never has problem with it for more than a year now & still counting)
Front rim tapes (new) : Maxxis Flyweight tape.
Rear rim tapes (transfer) : 17mm masking tape (wrapped twice).

Weight (with pedals, Cat Eye Wireless Meter, sensor & magnet, a bear bell & an old aluminium water bottle cage):
25.9 lbs (at Jimmy’s scale)
25.1 lbs (at Boon Foo’s scale)
25.2 lbs (at KSH Taman Tun’s scale)

My previous KHS XC904R weighted at 27 lbs.

Performance:

Cornering:
I’m talking about descending switchback first, and the Epic steers quickly but with good measure of predictability, so that I don’t go overboard.

On uphill switchback, the steering is mutually fast, so I need to step on the pedal as quick as I’m turning. This is where the BRAIN shines, as it resists pedal hammering to bring me forward; it just feels easier. On my other bike, even with Pro-Pedal is ON position, the rear suspension will be compressed first (little bit, but you can still feel it) before it carries you forward; so you lose time, distance and more importantly it feels harder.

On a singletrack, I’m very sure of the front fork and short stem tracking ability.

Side notes: I also chose the Medium size frame, to give me more knee-to-handle bar clearance during full cornering. Some people questioned my judgement, but it feels right during the tight cornering.

Descending:
Remember, this is a cross-country machine. So riding in series of trails in Bukit Kiara, with some serious drops (rock drops, tree trunk drops and technical downhills), I need to slow down before I approach them. I then let go of the brake as soon as the descending starts, and just feather the front brake or rear brake when necessary. Somehow, this cross-country machine gobble up rocks, roots and surface chatter with confidence. The small bump sensitivity of the AFR shock and Fox FIT RLC keep the bike on the trail surface nearly all the time. When the wheels take off the ground, the shock and fork open up responsively to ensure controlled landing. I also feel that this is the time that BRAIN is working full time to respond to the bumps.

Additionally, this is also the time that I’m satisfied with the choice of Medium-size frame, as the top-tube length is very inviting for technical descents.

Climbing:
The suspension works so well on reasonably smooth surface uphill climb because the Brain ensures that there is no bob. I really feel like riding a hardtail and it is a joy to crank-up the gear & standing up.

On technical climb (rocky, rooty, sketchy soil or undulating surface), the suspension also gives a lot of traction and opens up nicely. However, it also depends on how I setup the BRAIN Fade. If I set it up between zero to 2 clicks (from FIRM), it will behave like a hardtail, so you need that extra effort to go over obstacles and it can be harsh. From 3 clicks to 5 clicks (from FIRM), it will react to obstacles, but you need to go at certain speed from Brain to open up. So after 15 rides at various places, finally I settled at 2 settings. One for Bukit Kiara trail riding (which is super technical) at 8 clicks (from FIRM), and the other one at hash (which is more like hammering i.e. racing) at 3 clicks (from FIRM).

The BRAIN is the critical factor that isolated my KHS XC604 (with Fox RP3) in terms of climbing ability. The BRAIN makes every pedal uphill easier and more efficient than before.

Another important thing is geometry. The Epic has the same geometry as my previous KHS XC904R or my current KHS XC604. The head angle is 70 degrees and the seat angle is 73 degrees. Both my KHSes are agile climbers; the Epic with BRAIN exceeded my expectations.

Pedalling:
From my testing, the Epic equipped with AFR BRAIN shock, resists all pedal feedbacks up to 6 clicks (from FIRM setting) either during sitting or standing. As described earlier, I have 2 settings; one at 3 clicks and the other at 8 clicks.

At 3 clicks, the pedalling feel is super firm and it only equates to my old, old GIANT XTC (with carbon rear ends) pedalling feeling, either sitting or standing. Do I have to describe more?

At 8 clicks, it depends on two distinct situations. If I pedal hard during sitting, there is no bob and I feel the suspension is as hard as at 3 clicks. However, if I’m standing, the suspension will move very slightly.

Side notes: I tried the BRAIN setting to full open, and it behaves the same as my RP3 (on full open) on my KHS XC604. At RP3 (on Pro-Pedal ON) my KHS XC604 will move either I pedal hard during sitting or during standing. It is even worse during standing.

Since the cockpit is generous, the transition between sitting and standing positions is easy and very inviting. It makes pedalling feel snappy when I need to put the power down. As a result, I’m very happy with my 36/24T front chainrings combination with 11-34T cassette. I’m thinking of 38/24T front chainrings now.

The good stuffs:
I’m extremely happy with my choice of Medium-size frame as I can reap the benefits especially during switchbacks and downhill sections.

In short, the BRAIN AFR shock works!

The bad stuffs:
Specialized draws the cables under the down tube (front triangle), thus in soft soil or muddy conditions it suffers from soil/mud sticking easily to the under carriage. Dear Specialized, not matter what are your excuses, it just plain bad design.


[View from the back, with my previous XC717 wheelset]


[The cockpit]


[Syntace Vector Carbon handlebar]


[Downtube...]


[M5 Specialized's alloy & DMD Shimano XT front derailler]


[Horst-Link pivot & my trusted and old X9 rear derailler]


[The tiny swing link]


[Foreground - The Specialized AFR shock. Background - Old Nevegal was replaced by Dred Tread]


[The BRAIN]


[The BRAIN Fade adjustment dial (trail tune) & Shimano XT caliper]


4 comments:

msh group said...

thanks

Joe said...

Wow, your bike is really light. I got mine to 25.8 lbs, but the Conti tubes are really useless. You can't even look at thorns, the tyre will get a puncture.

umar @ wan said...

Joe, your 6" Maverick is by far the lighter steed if we take suspension travel as reference.

Yeap, the Conti tubes can be useless. My spares tube is always Cheng Shin bcoz they are reliable. But the best tubes I used was the Geax, they were as light as Maxxis Flyweight but a lot more reliable.

For my Epic, I'm still borrowing wheelset from my KHS XC604. I'm trying to build a new wheelset using Olympic, DT Swiss Revolution and probably Hope hubs. I will aslo be using new CB Candy 4Ti next week, and that should shed about 120 gms... huhu.. ;)

umar @ wan said...

I need to update the photos..!