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Pro bike: Christopher Blevins' Specialized Epic S-Works

Christopher Blevins S-Works Epic race bike, post-wash, at Specialized African HQ, in Stellenbosch
(Image credit: Ray Cox Photo)

Christopher Blevins might be one of the rising cross-country mountain biking stars of America but the 2022 Cape Epic represented a test like no other for him.

Blevins admitted that it was the most demanding event he had ever ridden. Paired as a powerful partner to defending champion, South Africa's Matt Beers, Blevins rode with great intensity and style, over the eight day event.

The bike that carried Blevins to a third-place finish, was a Specialized's S-Works Epic. Without exhausting our puns: the Epic frame has an epic track record at the Cape Epic. It carried Christoph Sauser to no fewer than five overall wins and continues to be a favorite bike among many amateur Cape Epic riders.

Blevins was on a full-spec S-Works Epic, featuring Specialized's very best FACT 12M carbon-fibre.

Christopher Blevins bike

Two-piston brakes remain the default for Cape Epic pro riders. With Blevins pulling the deceleration levers on SRAM’s Level Ultimates (Image credit: Ray Cox Photo)

No handlebar lockout required 

When you are near your power threshold for most of a race, thinking about locking and unlocking suspension, isn't top of mind. 

Specialized has been a believer in autonomous damper-internal lockouts, for many years – instead of remote cable actuation or electronic suspension technology.

For a rider like Blevins, who was deep in his pain cave during the Epic, not having to think about thumbing a suspension lock-out switch has value. 

Like all Specialized S-Work Epics, the Blevins bike features a RockShox SID SL Ultimate Brain fork and RX XC Tune Specialized Brain rear shock. Both operated on a ‘set-and-forget’ principle, reading terrain and sensing when to run open or closed.

Christopher Blevins bike

The Cape Epic is brutal on tires. And Blevins had this little box of tricks, to counter any puncture (Image credit: Ray Cox Photo)

A Renegade tire choice 

The factory S-Works Epic build rolls on Fast Trak tires but Blevins preferred something else from the Specialized tire inventory for Cape Epic. Desiring the lowest possible rolling resistance, Blevins opted for Renegade Control tires, front and rear, in the T5 compound.

Some riders suffered terrible tire issues at the 2022 Cape Epic (most notably Nino Schurter), but Blevins was prepared for any eventuality. The American Specialized rider had rapid access to tubes, a tire lever and a primed CO2 inflation canister, using an external storage box located between his S-Works Epic's two bottle cages.

Christopher Blevins bike

Not many riders would be confident of pushing a 38t front ring, for the Cape Epic. Note the MRP minimalist chainguide, too (Image credit: Ray Cox Photo)

Pushing a big blade 

One of the build components that illustrate the chasm between a rider such as Blevins, and most weekend warriors, is his chainring size. A massive 38T ring turns the AXS wireless drivetrain, which features the latest Quarq DZero XX1, regarded as one of the best MTB power meters.  

Most riders might not have a Blevins' spec S-Work Epic within their bike budget, but pedal choice is an area where you can go 'pro', without spending too much. For the Cape Epic, as with his XCO races, Christopher Blevins was on HT pedals.

And what about some build kit aesthetic? Well, bolts with an oil-slick finish, provide a perfect contrast to the bike's, Olympics-inspired colorway.

Tech Specs: Christopher Blevins' Specialized Epic S-Works

  • Frame: Specialized S-Works Epic FACT 12m Carbon
  • Fork: RockShox SID SL Ultimate Brain
  • Shock: RockShox-Specialized Brain
  • Handlebar: S-Works Carbon XC
  • Stem: S-Works SL
  • Grips: Specialized Trail Grips
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS, CeramicSpeed Pulley Wheels
  • Brakes: SRAM Level Ultimate
  • Pedals: HT
  • Dropper post: RockShox AXS Reverb
  • Wheels: Roval Control SL,
  • Tires: Specialized Renegade Control 
Lance Branquinho is a Namibian-born media professional who graduated to mountain biking after injuries curtailed his fascination with trail running. He has a weakness for British steel hardtails, especially those which only run a single gear. Rides: Morewood Kwela Cotic Simple 26 Pyga 160mm aluminium prototype