Cape Epic: Ben Zwiehoff's Specialized S-Works Epic

Cape Epic: Ben Zwiehoff's Specialized S-Works Epic
(Image credit: Max Sullivan)

Bora-Hansgrohe’s Ben Zwiehoff was one of many leading riders at the year’s Absa Cape Epic who was riding Specialized.

The German road and mountain bike pro, selected the S-Works Epic as his bike of choice. A proven design, with significant updates only a year ago, the S-Works Epic eschews cable-actuated suspension control technology.

Whereas other pros use handlebar-triggered lock-out remotes to alternate between a robust pedaling platform and descending, Ben relied on Specialized’s Brain. The Specialized Brain system uses an inertia valve to differentiate between pedal forces and bumps on the trail. It sounds too good to be true but this technology has been available for almost 20 years and has proven to be effective. That means in the heat of a race, Ben doesn't need to think about his suspension. He can just stomp on the pedals and know he is going to get the best efficiency.

Smart suspension

To bring the Brain technology to S-Works Epic, Specialized has partnered with RockShox who has incorporated the Brain valving into its SID SL Ultimate and Ultimate Brain shock. The shock itself is proprietary to the Epic as it is integrated with the suspension linkage and includes routing to the Brain unit mounted on the rear drop-out.

Fewer handlebar cables mean fewer potential issues with rubbing, stretching or, in the worst-case scenario: cable ripping or snagging due to a crash.

Ben’s Cape Epic bike rolled on the latest Roval Control SL carbon wheels. At only 1,240g, these wheels are terrifically light yet feature a 29mm internal rim width, to provide a secure foundation for the tires.

Specialized has enhanced its tire offering in the last year and Ben’s choice for the Cape Epic was the Regengade front and rear, in a Grid casing, with a T5 rubber compound. 

Unlike some other Specialized riders at the Cape Epic, who combined a slightly grippier Fast Track up front, with the Renegade at the rear.

Shimano not SRAM

Most Specialized S-Works Epics are built with SRAM’s wireless AXS drivetrain and dropper post, but Ben is a Shimano rider. That meant he was using XTR components, featuring the best MTB groupset, brakes and pedals from the Japanese brand. It also means no wireless dropper post option, instead Ben opts to keep it traditional with a fixed carbon seatpost.

Although the S-Works Epic has a SWAT frame storage compartment, Ben preferred having his tools and spares more readily accessible. When a puncture or mechanical issue happens at the Cape Epic, riders want rapid access spares and tools. The solution was a storage box, with all the remedy parts and tools, mounted in the front triangle – along with two hydration bottle cages.

Lance Branquinho
Freelance writer

Lance Branquinho is a Namibian-born journalist who graduated to mountain biking after injuries curtailed his trail running. He has a weakness for British steel hardtails, especially those which only run a single gear. As well as Bike Perfect, Lance has written for, and Cycling News.