Specialized Epic World Cup: The Not A Hardtail Hardtail

Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup: The Not A Hardtail Hardtail

Written by Isaac Boyden, on March 01, 2024

Around four years ago, the question asked before many a XC mountain bike race was "should you ride a hardtail, or a 100mm full suspension bike?" At present, progressive, 120m dropper post-equipped XC mountain bikes are on the rise and currently reign supreme in the cross-country market segment. The trusted hardtail mountain bike has more or less been left behind. With 120mm of travel being the current go-to setup, the gap on a modern day XC course where you still might want a hardtail still needs to be filled. Enter the Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup: 110mm of front travel paired with a very unusual 75mm of rear travel.  


The S-Works Epic World Cup

The Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup is what a lot of people refer to as a “soft tail” or not quite a full-suspension bike, as the rear shock is not meant to compress or sit at sag normally. The rear 75mm of travel sits at 0% sag as opposed to most XC full suspension setups that sit at 18-25% sag. The rear shock was custom made by Rockshox with a negative and positive air chamber you can control separately. This lets you tune the rear shock to be as soft or as firm as your ride route or race course demands, similar to how the Rockshox Brain suspension on the standard Specialized Epic operates. Tuning the rear shock to your liking using the negative chamber, you can run this bike almost at "full squish", but you can also tune it in the opposite direction to give it hardtail-like “snappiness”.  

Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup

The Tech Specs 

The Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup that we're featuring here is the top-end, S-Works version in a size medium.

FRAME: Specialized Epic World Cup MD S-Works FACT 11 carbon 

FORK: Rockshox SID SL Ultimate 110mm w/Specialized Brain 

SHOCK: Rockshox WCID 75mm

REACH: 440mm 




STACK: 600mm 

WHEELBASE: 1150mm 

BAR: Roval Control SL Integrated 70mm/-12/760mm 

GRIPS: ODI F-Series Dread LOCK V2 

SEATPOST: Fox Transfer SL 100mm 

SADDLE: S-Works Power Saddle 

WHEELS: Roval Control SL 29mm INT, w/ Specialized FastTrak 2.35 F, Renegade Control 2.35 

CRANK: SRAM XX SL 170 w/ power meter 





BRAKES: SRAM Level Ultimate 2-piston 

ROTORS: SRAM Centerline X 160mm F/R 

Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup

Why This Vs A Hardtail Or Full Suspension? 

The reason for this bike is all dependent on where you ride, or your current fleet of bikes. The S-Works Epic World Cup would be the ideal bike for someone looking for an XC bike and who’s terrain around them has lots of fire road, long double-track climbs, or pretty casual single track. This would also be an ideal bike for the racer/rider looking to do things like Leadville, or the White Rim Trail. This would be a favorite for high school NICA-focused racers, as those courses tend to be on the smoother side, which is where this bike excels. 

If you already own a light-trail bike, or a longer travel XC-type bike, the S-Works Epic World Cup would compliment either one of them well as as bike to cover terrain that feels a bit slow on the "bigger" bikes. Smoother race courses and more moderate terrain is where this bike hits the mark. But why the Epic World Cup over a hardtail? If you only occasionally ride terrain that warrants rear suspension and the majority of what you ride is very tame, hardtails still work great. On the S-Works Epic World Cup however, any time the trail gets a little rougher or more technical, that little bit of rear suspension lets you tackle it with much more confidence. 

Ride Impressions 

In a word, Snappy. SO SNAPPY! The S-Works Epic World Cup is super fun, and easy to pump and whip around. Whatever effort you put into the bike, the bike returns the favor. It's easy to corner, and climbs like the dickens. The bike feels a lot more capable than the modest travel numbers would suggest. When you really need it, the rear end will compress and get you out of a rough or sticky situation. Out of the saddle sprints make the bike take off like a rocket, and doubling some rollers to become a gap jump doesn't feel too scary. While this almost sounds too good to be true, for some the Epic World Cup might just be the perfect XC bike. It still can't quite replace a 120mm XC race bike on more technical courses however. At the end of a full descent, you'll most likely feel significantly more rattled than you would on a 120mm travel XC bike, but this certainly doesn't mean the S-Works Epic World Cup can't do it! 

Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup at 9th and 9th

Are you thinking the Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup or another super fast XC rig might be the right bike for you? Let us know! Give us a call, swing by the shop or hit us up on the chat. We'd love to help you find the perfect go-fast bike for your needs. 


  • Hey Bob,
    The Specialized Epic World Cup would be a good option as a slightly comfier option then the One+. I will say though with how much frame technology has advanced in the last few years, I would recommend you to check out the Orbea Oiz too, even with the 120mm of suspension it still rides stiff with the lockout, and then opens up on the downhill. The World Cup is similar to the Oiz with the added travel, but you have to keep in mind that this is still a bike designed to be stiff race bike, emphasizing speed more than comfort.

    Joseph - Contender Bicycles on

  • Great review. I ride an Open One + (thank you, Ryan!!!), and love it on fire roads west of Grantsville, or on the smoother trails in PC (Apex, climbing, anyone?).
    But… as soft as I run my 27×2.1’s (14psi-ish?), it can still be harsh.
    Would this bike be a good, slightly more comfy model on the rockier terrain I experience in Tucson, AZ, my new home town?
    I’m tempted!

    Bob Read on

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