Whether you’re interested in buying a Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp, came across a local used one, or just want to know about different hardtails, this article goes over what this series is all about.
If you’re looking for an in-depth review of a specific year of the Epic Hardtail Comp, this article isn’t for you. I discuss my experience with its XC pedigree and ride characteristics.
The version I owned was the 2018 Epic Hardtail Comp. For this article I had a look at he specs of the current iteration, the 2021 Epic: the series is still a hardcore XC machine. The biggest frame difference from the 2018 I owned is a longer reach and shorter stem. Other than that, the current frame is pretty similar.
The following is my experience with this bike, to help give you an idea of what to expect from the Epic series. Although I prefer downhills, this XC bike was definitely a guilty pleasure! Although I’m used to enduro bikes and aggressive hardtails, it was a cool feeling rocketing uphill on this bike.
Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp
Why I Bought a Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp
I bought this bike for something to do after a gnarly kiteboarding crash a week into a 6 week trip in the Baja. It was one of two XL bikes available in Mexico at the time! The other being a Santa Cruz Chameleon.
A mis-timed kiteboarding jump rocketed me into the Sea of Cortez, horizontally from 20 ft up, completely stretched out, leaving me with several subluxed ribs. After a couple days of drowning my sorrows with Pacificos, watching everyone else having fun on the water, I realized I needed something else to do. I couldn’t wear a harness, but I could ride a bike.
I took a trip into the local bike shop, Rancho Cacachilas. They told me that in all of Mexico, there were only two XL mountain bikes they could bring in for me: a Santa Cruz Chameleon, or Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp. Since the trails in the town were XC, and because an XC bike would be a whole new adventure, I went with the Epic Comp.
A week later it arrived in town, and I was out ripping lines between cacti trying not to re-injure my ribs. I had way more fun than I expected from a pure cross country bike.
How the Specialized Epic Comp Rides
This bike is full-on XC. The steep head tube, short travel, light tires, short wheelbase are all meant to rip uphill and take it easy on the downs. This bike did not come with a dropper, and neither does the 2021 version. All XC and full climb!
The biggest difference between an XC bike like this, and one with slacker geo, is the extremely responsive steering. If you have ridden other bikes before, especially if they are trail or enduro bikes, this bike (and any XC bike) will feel twitchy and unforgiving on the downs.
But on the ups is where this bike shines. With your weight more centred in the bike, and the shorter travel along with shorter wheelbase, much more of your energy is transferred to forward momentum. Since your body is more forwards, your front wheel is way less likely to lift and you have much more positive control on steep and technical sections. The carbon frame, narrow rims, and light casing tires all reduce the amount of bike you have to move, making a noticeable difference to your agility and efficiency.
One thing to note about this bike, especially if you’re a Sasquatch Mountain Biker, is that the brakes and suspension are small and light. This means the bike will struggle to handle your weight, especially at speed! This will be obvious to seasoned bikers, but something to note for readers who don’t know about XC bikes.
The hardcore XC geo (and lack of dropper) naturally limits the amount of speed you can carry, but you definitely have to be much more diligent about braking. My Epic Comp came with SRAM Level TL brakes on 160/ 180 mm rotors — a far cry from my usual XT brakes on 180/ 203 rotors! I did blow off the trail on more than one occasion while I adjusted. Luckily I managed to avoided the cacti.
A big eye opener was when I brought it back home and hit up the local Blue trails. I actually broke some of my previous records from my full suspension enduro bike! I chalked it up to way tighter lines: without suspension bogging down and recovering, I was able to maintain razor sharp lines through all corners. And because the cross country geometry transfers power so efficiently, I could rocket out of corners as soon as I put the foot down.
This responsiveness was one of the many reasons I later swapped my enduro full suspension for my current aggressive hardtail: the Rocky Mountain Growler.
Is the Specialized Epic Comp Hardtail for You?
Weaving around cacti in beautiful Baja Mexico.
This bike is absolutely best suited for either XC folk, or bikers who want to try something different and add an extremely capable XC bike to their quiver.
I would not recommend this bike to newbies. The twitchy, unforgiving nature is a major hindrance to downhill control and gravity-assisted fun. If you have never mountain biked, you likely won’t notice much of a difference right away. But, if you hop on a friend’s trail bike and back on this one, you will notice a difference!
That being said, if the trails around your home are flat, then a bike like this may be more efficient and simpler to roll around on. But if you’re looking to progress in the sport of mountain biking, the Epic Comp (and many other XC bikes) will limit you as they are unforgiving on downhill sections.
If you want to share anything from your Epic Comp, or XC, experience with other readers, please feel free to comment below!
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