Skip to content

This Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup Is My Perfect Leadville Bike

Hardtails rule on the long and brutal climbs of the Leadville Trail 100 MTB. But some of the terrain is rough enough that having rear suspension can help you stay fresher and more comfortable over the 100 mile race distance. So is the 75mm travel Epic World Cup the perfect compromise?

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Bikes

One of my major race targets this year is the Leadville Trail 100 MTB. I want to do well, and I care about my equipment, so of course, I’ve been keeping an eye on all the incoming mountain bikes just in case the perfect race rig comes through our doors. I got super excited when we listed this 2023 Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup. To me, it’s the ideal XC race bike for smoother, less technical courses. 

This bike promises to combine hardtail efficiency with full-suspension capability and comfort. After a short bounce around the test track, I imagined myself effortlessly zipping up the legendary Columbine climb. Of course, in reality, I’ll be crawling at a snail’s pace (or walking) and wishing I were dead, but any bike that has the potential to reduce my suffering has my interest. 

[button]Shop Mountain Bikes[/button]

A New Kind of XC Bike

S-Works Epic World CupIf you’re not familiar with the specs of the Epic World Cup, here are the highlights:
  • 75mm rear travel
  • 110mm SID SL BRAIN fork
  • 66.5-degree head angle
  • Longer reach - 440mm (M) / 465mm (L)
  • Hardtail-like torsional rigidity and BB stiffness
  • Independently adjustable positive and negative air springs
  • Lightweight - this Large with a Reverb AXS is 22 lbs 12 oz

The extra-short-travel Epic World Cup is fairly unique in the mountain bike space. The Olympic Gold-winning Trek Supercaliber is the only other bike like it. In fact, the Supercaliber was the original. It does seem like Specialized developed the Epic World Cup as a reaction to the Supercaliber’s success. 

Specialized Epic World Cup rear shockLike the Supercaliber’s IsoStrut system, the Epic World Cup uses a single-pivot rear suspension with flex stays. The SID Deluxe WCID shock has a very beefy stanchion that has been integrated into the structure of the top tube to make the frame torsionally stiffer. 

When you stomp on the pedals on a climb or during a sprint, the bike possesses the stiffness and responsiveness of a hardtail. Unlike a hardtail though, if you hit a bump, there’s a bit of rear suspension that will take the edge off and keep your momentum moving forward. 


Is the “No Gulp” the Ticket for Leadville?

The way the SID Deluxe WCID works is interesting. It uses independently adjustable positive and negative air springs. You pump up the positive air spring like a normal shock, then you open a bleed valve to set the negative air spring and thus your sag and how firm the suspension feels. 

Epic World Cup

You press a small hex wrench into the bleed valve to set the negative air spring.

You can open the bleed valve with the shock fully extended, fully compressed, or somewhere in between. Specialized calls this the “Gulp” setting. It’s infinitely tuneable, but to keep things simple, there are 3 main settings:

  • No Gulp: “Firm” setting with 0% sag for an efficient hardtail-like feel
  • Half Gulp: “Medium” setting with 5% sag for a balance of efficiency and comfort
  • Full Gulp: “Active” setting with 10% sag for more comfort

In the No Gulp setting, the Epic World Cup does feel just like a hardtail. What’s interesting is that I think it feels and rides more like a hardtail than the Supercaliber does. The Supercaliber’s IsoStrut rear shock works a lot more like a traditional shock. It stays relatively active and you have to use the remote lockout to get that stiff and efficient hardtail-like feel. The Epic World Cup, however, has no lockout, yet it still feels stiffer and more hardtail-like to me, which is an impressive feat. 

Specialized epic World Cup Brain fork

At the front, the World Cup uses an updated BRAIN fork that's still efficient, but supposedly much more comfortable. 

The Epic World Cup’s stiffness and efficiency are massively beneficial on smoother terrain and climbs, but if there is a rock, root, or bump in your way, you also don’t have to slow down. When you hit something, the rear end reacts instantly and opens up to absorb it. It’s essentially like riding a hardtail with a trump card. 

At Leadville, the terrain isn’t very technical and the climbs are notoriously long and difficult. Many racers choose hardtails to reduce weight and maximize efficiency. However, the roads do get quite rough and the race is long and exhausting, so having the extra cushion rear-suspension provides can help you stay more comfortable, so you stay fresher and can go faster. The Epic World seems like the ideal choice for the Leadville course or any fast and smooth XC course. 

Not For Me, This Time At Least

Specialized Epic World Cup paint

One thing Specialized always does really well is paint. The frame and color-matched fork look amazing in person. 

[product-block handle="7762459558080-specialized-s-works-epic-world-cup-mountain-bike-2023-large"/]

Specialized thinks the Epic World Cup is so good that it’s planning to kill off the high-end versions of its popular Epic Hardtail. So now, the Epic World Cup is its preferred option for any course where the new and updated 120mm Epic 8 would be overkill. 

I expect that all of the Specialized athletes will be running the Epic World Cup at Leadville this year. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of amateurs on it as well. When SRAM Transmission was released last year, we were shocked at how many Transmission-equipped bikes we saw in the start corrals. Competitive age-group racers love snapping up the latest tech to gain an edge. 

Specialized Epic World Cup headset cable routingMaybe I dodged a bullet with that headset cable routing...

Unfortunately, I won’t be riding this particular bike at Leadville, or ever. I spent a few hours waffling about whether I really needed it. Then began writing a lengthy speech to convince my wife that it would be a good purchase. In that time, someone else swooped in and bought it. It literally lasted less than a day on the website before it sold for $7,319.99. Holy crap. 

[button]Shop Mountain Bikes[/button]