All good things come in twos. That’s why Specialized present the new Epic 8 XC race bike together with the Epic 8 EVO, which is based on the same frame but with a longer travel fork, more robust components, and different suspension. Can this concept work? And why do we still prefer the thoroughbred Epic 8?

Specialized Epic 8 EVO Pro | 130/120 mm (f/r) | 12.1 kg in size L | € 9,000 | Manufacturer’s website

Last year, the Specialized Epic EVO was the bike of choice for most Specialized XC team riders in World Cup races. To better cope with the increasingly demanding cross-country tracks, both the Epic 8 and the Epic 8 EVO have been made significantly more capable, with the EVO variant now specced with a 130 mm fork, paired with 120 mm travel at the rear. The Pro model on test weighs 12.1 kg, and can be yours for € 9,000. This is also the flagship model because there is no S-Works version of the new Specialized Epic 8 EVO, your only other option being the Comp model.

The new Specialized Epic 8 EVO in detail

Since both bikes share the same frame, there are a lot of similarities between the Specialized Epic 8 and the Epic 8 EVO. However, the EVO has 10 mm more travel up front and dispenses with the electronically controlled RockShox Flight Attendant suspension, getting specced with FOX dampers instead. The fact that it’s clearly more downhill oriented is also evident from the excellent GRIP2 damper in the fork, which performs brilliantly on the trail, though with a slight weight penalty. Specialized opted against remote lockout lever on the handlebar. It’s too bad there is no Magic Middle mode on the Epic 8 EVO, like on the Epic 8. The tire combination of a Specialized Purgatory up front and Ground Control at the rear, both with the more robust GRID casing and softer rubber compound, are further indicative of its gravity orientation. To remove any doubt about this, Specialized spec the bike with SRAM CODE Silver Stealth brakes, paired with a large 200 mm rotor at the front and 180 mm version at the rear. It certainly doesn’t lack braking power! This is topped off with a wireless SRAM X0 Eagle AXS Transmission groupset, and carbon Roval Control wheels.

The high-performance fork…
… and grippier, more robust tires clearly put the Epic EVO’S focus on the descents.
You won’t find a remote lockout for the suspension here.
The integrated storage compartment in the down tube is incredibly convenient.

Just like the 2024 Specialized Epic 8, the Epic 8 EVO now comes with a SWAT storage compartment in the down tube. But even though the two bikes rely on the same frame, they differ in some important respects. In particular, the front end of the Epic 8 EVO is about 4.5 cm taller than the Epic 8, which is due to the longer fork and the two-piece cockpit. Moreover, the Epic 8 EVO comes with the flip chip in the Low position standard, whereas the Epic 8 ships in the High setting. Both models are available in five frame sizes ranging from XS to XL.

Helmet FOX Speedframe | Glasses Oakley Sutro | Jersey Pas Normal Studios Men’s Escapism Technical LS T-shirt | Shoes Specialized S-Works Recon Mountain Bike Shoes

The new Specialized Epic 8 EVO on test – More travel = more fun?

As expected, the riding position on the 2024 Specialized Epic 8 EVO is significantly more upright than its race-oriented brother. This makes it more comfortable on long days in the saddle, and it immediately feels less racy as you swing your leg over the saddle. Only the shock tune doesn’t quite fall in line with this. Instead of a three-stage lockout, the new Epic 8 EVO only has a much firmer Open – not Wide Open like the Epic 8 – or Closed mode. There is no Magic Middle setting. Yes, Open mode hardly bobs and is very efficient, but it’s not as sensitive on the trail, occasionally even feeling like it wants to buck you out of the saddle. On long and rough gravel roads, we would have preferred plushier suspension for a more comfortable ride (or simply the Epic 8 with RockShox Flight Attendant). Not even the beautiful Chilean landscape with a view of the Pacific Ocean could distract us from that! For a trail bike like the Epic 8 EVO, we would have liked a Wide Open and a Magic Middle mode like the Epic 8. We hardly see any need for the fully locked-out mode. The Epic 8 EVO isn’t the kind of bike that you would want to sprint – there’s no way it could keep up with the significantly more lively Epic 8 S-Works anyway.

When heading downhill, the handling of the Specialized Epic 8 EVO feels precise and agile, quickly making you feel at home. Compared to the Epic 8, the taller front end and longer travel fork are noticeably more confidence inspiring, especially through rock gardens or whenever things get steep and rough. Thanks to the more aggressive and robust tires, you’ve got considerably more grip and braking traction. Of course, this comes at the expense of the bike’s liveliness and acceleration. The Epic 8 clearly sets the bar in this respect. Unfortunately, the rear suspension couldn’t quite convince us on the descents either. We find Open mode is too firm for a trail bike where pedalling efficiency isn’t the top priority, and even though it provides significantly more grip and control on the trail than the Epic 8, it still feels rather harsh compared to other trail bikes.

Specialized Epic 8 S-Works or Epic 8 EVO?

We thought the 2024 Specialized Epic 8 EVO would be our favourite, but if we had a choice, we’d take the Epic 8 S-Works! Not just because it is more expensive, but because it comes much closer to our definition of a fast, fun bike, and it’s also very capable. It’s got adaptive suspension, too, and it’s significantly livelier and quicker to accelerate. On the Epic 8, you feel like you’re on a race bike, while on the Epic 8 EVO you’re stuck between two worlds: Open mode that’s too firm for a trail bike, and the lockout that’s unnecessary. We would have preferred a happy medium setting instead. But hey, with a different shock or suspension tune, the world will look completely different. For our home trails in Stuttgart, the Epic 8 S-Works is our bike of choice!

Our conclusion on the 2024 Specialized Epic 8 EVO

The 2024 Specialized Epic 8 EVO is neither here nor there. It features the same clean and elegant frame as the Epic 8, with a convenient storage compartment in the down tube, and paired with a capable GRIP2 fork – a rarity on short-travel bikes. Due to the firm shock tune, however, it lacks comfort on flat terrain and sensitivity on the descents. Even though it’s much more confidence inspiring than the Epic 8, it doesn’t quite live up to its ambitions of a nimble trail bike.


  • more confidence inspiring than the Epic 8
  • short-travel bike with an integrated storage compartment


  • shock tune
  • lack of comfort on rough gravel roads

For more information, visit the Specialized website.

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Words: Simon Kohler, Robin Schmitt Photos: Etienne Schoemann, Robin Schmitt