Specialized Epic 8 vs Epic 8 Evo – two brilliant new bikes, but which short travel ripper is the right one for you?

Specialized Epic 8 and Epic 8 Evo
Choose your weapon – Epic 8 or Epic 8 Evo? (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

The new Specialized Epic 8 and Epic 8 Evo uses the same frame design with the same features and are already some of the best XC/trail mountain bikes around. The build kits and shock options fitted to each family of bikes make them ride very differently though. So are you Team Epic XC or Team Epic Rowdy Rally? Let’s dig into the details to find out.

Same difference

From Pro level downwards, both Epic 8 and Epic 8 Evo use exactly the same frame. That's Specialized’s own 11M carbon fiber blend with alloy linkages, steel pivot bolts and a conventional paint job. Depending on which shock is used, that puts complete framsets with all hardware and rear axle etc. between around 1,950g and 2,100g. Not the lightest XC option around but impressive considering that includes 75g of rubber armor, the SWAT 4.0 hatch with reinforcement for downtube internal storage, a steering lock block and a longer, stronger frame overall. 

If you want to go properly light, the Epic is also available in S-Works complete bike and frame and fork options. This frame uses a 12M carbon blend, carbon fiber shock yoke and titanium bolts to drop weight to 1,795g for a medium with conventional SIDLuxe shock.

The S-Works complete bike comes with a Flight Attendant version of that shock though – which adds 100g but also a whole extra level of sentient automated suspension performance.

Rider charging on Specialized S-Works Epic 8

if ground attack is your primary mission the Epic 8 still absolutely hauls (Image credit: Specialized)

Shape shifts

While both bikes use the same 45mm stroke, 190mm shock size to give 120mm of rear wheel travel, but the forks split the Epics into distinct camps.

Epic 8 Evos get 130mm forks which give a 65.9 or 65.4 degree head angle – depending on how you arrange the eccentric flip-chip in the shock driver yoke. This lifts the bottom bracket to 330 or 336mm and relaxes the effective angle of the kinked seat tube to 75.1 degrees. Reach is 465/470mm on a large depending on shock position

Epic 8s get 120mm forks giving a 65.9 or 66.4 degree head angle with 328 to 333mm bottom bracket height, 475/480mm reach on a large and a 75.5 degree effective seat angle. All Epic 8 models also get a lightweight SID fork and SIDLuxe shock with remote lockout controls, while Epic 8 Evo bikes get heavier Fox 34 forks and Float EVOL rear shocks with manual compression adjustment.

Man doing an air on the Epic 8 Evo

If you mix steezy with speedy like Epic 8 design team lead Brian Gordon then Evo is the wingman who won't let you down (Image credit: Specialized)

Spec splits

Key characterisation components like tires and brakes knock a wedge into the suspension split and pry it wider. As you’d expect, Epic 8 bikes are shod with Specialized’s light and rapid Fast Trak and Renegade race rubber and stopped with SRAM Level brakes. Epic 8 Evos are glued down with Purgatory T9 soft compound trail treads and stopped with Code enduro brakes. That makes Epic 8 Evo a kilo heavier than the Epic 8 at each spec level.

Both Epic 8 and Epic 8 Evo come with dropper posts as standard and the geometry of the Epic 8 is still progressive enough to let you rip on technical trails. Unlike previous versions, the Epic 8 Evo is a true lightweight trail brawler with the front end stiffness and strength to match – not just an XC bike in combat cosplay.

Specialized Epic World Cup S-Works bike

The stripped down World Cup sprint bike now makes more sense in the Epic ecosystem  (Image credit: Specialized)

So what does that mean?

If you’ve always been drawn to the Epic Evo as ‘your sort of bike’ in a ‘racer who wears baggies and a peaked helmet’ fashion, it’s now a lot more of a properly send the sketchy stuff in kneepads vibe. Instead, you should now be looking at the Epic 8 which might look like a racer but is seriously trail-capable and fun to rally outside the tapes. The bump up to 120mm travel with internal storage and welterweight rather than paper-thin tire choices all give it more utility and survivability as a daily driver not just a race special.

However, if you dress like a roadie when riding dirt and were just about to pull the trigger on the classic Brain-equipped Epic that’s been Specialized’s cross-country centerpiece for the past two decades, you should probably look at the hyper focussed Epic World Cup bikes. If you missed their arrival last year, they feature 75mm of zero sag suspension and a similarly zero-tolerance attitude to cruising or comfort. This potentially makes them the ultimate sprint/short track choice. However, unless weight is an actual obsession rather than something you think about objectively, the more efficient pedaling and far better speed sustain of the new Epic 8 would make that our go-to speed choice for anything between gravel and gravity days.

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert

The new Epic 8 Evo muscles right into the Stumpjumper's manor with a more purposeful, peppy performance and lower weight too (Image credit: Specialized)

Stumpy gets stumped?

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the Epic 8 Evo now pushes a fair way into the wheelhouse of the existing Stumpjumper. This has 140mm of travel and 130mm of rear wheel travel with a similar flex stay layout to the Epic 8 Evo. It has much lower anti-squat values and a more damped frame feel though, so it doesn’t feel anywhere near as peppy under power. The 130mm of travel comes from the same size of shock as the Epic 8 Evo pumps 120mm out of – and the Stumpy's shock feels overworked as a result.

The Stumpjumper's front fork is still a Fox 34, rather than the sturdier 36, so while it’s heavier and less agile, it feels at best on par with, if not being dropped by, the new shorter travel bike in rowdy situations. Given that it’s the fiftieth birthday year of Specialized and they haven’t updated the Stumpjumper frame since 2020, I’d be very surprised if this holder of their original mountain bike name didn’t get a significant refresh in the next few months.

If you want to go deeper, we've got full reviews of the Specialized S-Works Epic 8 and Epic 8 Evo Pro to dive into.

Guy Kesteven

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg