Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup: Knapp’s New Light Bike (Lots of Pics!)

James Knott and Chris Knapp

Chris Knapp and James Knott attend the 2013 OMBC awards ceremony at Mohican Adventures in Loudonville, Ohio. We won’t be in the same age group next year, so I can finally root for him to do a good job. We’ll see if his sweet new bike carries him over the finish line any faster.

My last post was a heart-warming story about a father and son who were short on funds and had to be creative and work together to come up with a great mountain bike (Read Cheapskate: Father/Son MTB Bike Build Project).  This story is also about acquiring a bike, but it’s not about trading forks and scrounging for used parts.  This bike is a luxurious, freakin’-awesome, carbon-fiber Specialized Epic that will make you drool with envy.

I first met Chris Knapp when I finished behind him at an OMBC race (Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series) a few years back.  We were both racing at about the same level.  I was a little tubby and he was rail thin.  We were like the Laurel and Hardy of the Sport Veteran category.  For the next several years, we finished most races within 1 or 2 places of each other.  Sometimes he would win and other times I was the victor.  He was my racing nemesis, but he was also becoming a friend.  I enjoyed seeing him at the races throughout the summer.

Chris had great attendance at the races and was obviously very dedicated to the sport.  He is an awesome bike mechanic (as well as car mechanic and boat builder).  He was always riding on a very capable used bike that he had pieced together from various sources and assembled himself.  I always admired his ability to maintain his bike and come up with mechanical solutions on the fly.

After many years of riding though, Chris was ready for his dream bike.  He just bought a Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup with 29 inch tires and a sweet 1×11 drivetrain.  It might be worth more than my car.  

If you are a serious XC mountain biker, then this bike is worth taking a look at.  At the very least, it makes for some great bike porn.

I’ll let Chris tell you more about the newest bike in his quiver:

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup

Behold: The Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup
Photos by Chris Knapp

Why did you choose this bike?

I’ve been riding a Specialized Epic for a season now, and have really loved it. Front suspensions don’t change much from bike to bike but there are certainly real differences when it comes to rear suspension systems.  Who can say if this design is the best of all suspension designs, but I have really liked it so far. The down side to most full suspension bikes can be the weight penalty, and quite frankly I had been getting tired of paying that penalty.  I felt that for a lightweight rider such as myself, every pound of bike matters even more.

Rear suspension on the Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup

For part of last season (mostly because of front fork issues) I tried going back to a hardtail for a few races and while I really enjoyed having a very light bike again it really beat me up. I’ve also gotten used to the back end staying put when doing rough and technical terrain.

I could also be getting soft as I get older.  Whatever the case may be I decided I wanted to stick to full suspension.

Another thing I’ve really wanted to adopt was some sort of 1X set up. I like the idea of a simplified more bomb proof drive train. Now that Sram has come out with a slightly cheaper version of their XX1 system it has allowed manufacturers to bring down the prices of some 1 x 11 bikes.  Buying the different groups (XX1 vs XO1) alone apparently doesn’t really save a ton of money but some news articles have indicated that Sram is offering better pricing to bike manufacturers when they choose to spec a bike with XO1.  Considering all my desires in a new bike (epic rear suspension, lighter weight, and 1 x 11), the new Epic World Cup seemed perfect.

SRAM 1x11 drivetrain on the Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup

SRAM 1×11 drivetrain on the Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup

Why was it time for an upgrade?

Rear cassette and derailleur on the Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup

Rear cassette and derailleur on the Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup

The above explains most of my reasons for upgrading, but it might be harder to explain why now as opposed to any other time.  If we are all honest with ourselves, who doesn’t want to upgrade their bikes and/or components?  I think this past season I’ve finally come to the realization that while I hate the weight penalty of a full suspension bike I just can’t go fully back to a hard tail as it just beats me up too much (yeah I’m a wuss). When it comes to road bikes the options out there aren’t nearly as numerous as the mtn bike world. I’ve always wanted to buy myself a really nice bike, but with so many options (wheel size, suspension setup, gearing style, etc) I’ve been reluctant to pull the trigger on something expensive that I end up not liking.  It seems like I’ve finally after all these years discovered enough about myself as a rider to know what I need/want in a bike pretty accurately.

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup

What was your motivation?

Rear end of the Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup

Nice butt!

Well Sarah (my girlfriend) bought a new Giant Lust near the end of last season, and I really couldn’t go on with her having a nicer bike than me.  I’m kidding of course. My motivation has mostly come from the fact that I can.  There have been several life changes since last season that has allowed me to finally buy myself a pretty nice bike.  In the past it’s always been a matter of piecing something together, or building up a new frame with components from an old bike.  This really is the first brand new complete bike I’ve ever purchased.

How do the features of the bike lend themselves to your type of riding?

First and foremost the weight.  I like being able to throw the bike around when needed.  Since I’m a pretty lightweight rider it quickly becomes more and more difficult for me to do as the weight of the bike goes up.  Another thing is the lack of any sort of remotes on the bike. I’m a set it and forget type of guy when riding.  I don’t want a dropper post, and I don’t want handlebar levers to change the settings on my suspension.

Internal Cable Routing on the Specialized_Epic_Expert_Carbon_World_Cup_11

Full internal shift/brake cable routing.

What modifications did you make and why?

The other end of the full internal shift/brake routing.

The other end of the full internal shift/brake cable routing.

After spending this much on a bike, there isn’t much left for modifactions.  Fortunately there really isn’t much need either.  I have some carbon bars already that I’ll likely upgrade to. If I find that the 32 tooth front ring doesn’t work for me then I’ll change that out and likely use something from Race Face. Going up in size has many options, but going down I’m limited to 30t.  Down the road though there is a chance that I’ll swap to the 11 speed XTR set up when it becomes available.  I’m really a much bigger fan of Shimano than I am with Sram when it comes to mountain groups. I’m also somewhat finicky (sp) about my brakes.  I like powerful brakes that modulate well.  This bike comes with the Magura MTS but if they don’t work as well as I like I’ll look into upgrading to the MT8.  I have been a big fan of Magura brakes for many years.  The Marta SL’s on my old Klein Palomino are still my favorite to this day.  Even though they’re not made anymore I may look into hunting down a set of those.

Magura brakes and Sram X0 shifting

Will the new bike make you faster?

This is an age old question in the cycling world. Comparing apples to apples and everything else being equal (which it almost always isn’t) this bike should make me faster simply because it’s at least 8 pounds lighter than my prior Epic.  There are of course so many other factors to consider.  The next biggest one, is of course, my fitness. Time will tell with that one.

Specialized Phenom saddle

Specialized Phenom saddle

Suspension travel is down front and rear by 5mm on this model and it’s also valved to be more race oriented.  As we go to lighter and lighter bikes in general we are often forced to to reduce or eliminate suspension travel.  The very lightest mtn bikes out there are likely fully rigid ones.  While in theory they should be pretty fast if we’re based solely on weight, the lack of suspension however can certainly at times be a hinderance on speed as well as fatigue on the body.  You certainly may disagree with points I make, but in the end there really are lot of trade offs in this sport, so you just need to go with what works best for you and buy the best stuff you are comfortable paying for.  Does money buy speed?  To a small degree yes, but not always.  In the end it’s your own hard work which I fully expect to gain me more speed than the bike itself.

How will it add to your enjoyment of mountain biking?

Well going faster is more fun, right?  Of course that’s not all there is to it, but it’s certainly a true statement.  I feel this bike will truly be a joy to ride and will work very well for me.  I expect that I’ll be able to ride without having to think too much about the bike and be able to simply enjoy the ride for what it is.  Technology has come a long long way since I started mountain bike many years ago. My first real mountain bike was a Cannondale M-800 also known as “The Beast of the East”.  Back then it was an unforgiving stiff frame, cantilever brakes that took every bit of strength from my scrawny arms to scrub speed, and 26″ tires pumped up to 40psi as to avoid any chances of a pinch flat. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun stuff but you certainly had to concentrate on more things to keep things upright back then.

It will be interesting to see if Chris is willing to let this bike get muddy.  If you liked this post, then please subscribe to Quickdirt in the right column to receive instant updates when new articles are posted.  We are also shreddin’ singletrack on Facebook and Twitter, so follow our tracks there too!  What do you think of Chris’ bike?  Let us know in the comment section.  What kind of bike have you been drooling over?

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More Photos

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup - front axle

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup - rear disc brake

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup - Brain decal

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup - rear suspension control

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup - shift lever

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup - rear derailleur

Specialized Epic Expert Carbon World Cup - front logo

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