Replacing the Brain with AI and algorithms? That’s right. At least as it relates to the 2024 Specialized Epic 8, which relies on the newly introduced electronic RockShox Flight Attendant suspension. We hit the trails with Peter Sagan and Martín Vidaurre in Chile to put Specialized’s latest cross-country bike through its paces.

Specialized S-Works Epic 8 | 120/120 mm (f/r) | 10.66 kg in size L | € 14,500 | Manufacturer’s website

What kind of speed do you enjoy most? Fast trail rides? cross-country world cups? Or marathon races? Or preferably a mix of everything? Just like Formula 1, NASCAR, and rally have entirely different demands, the requirements for modern XC bikes are incredibly broad. Or would you ride the exact same setup at the Cape Epic, a marathon, XCO, and a short track? Probably not. Besides that, cross-country racing itself is changing – the bikes and the riders are becoming increasingly capable. Nowadays, it’s no longer just about athletic performance, and some XC riders could give the average trail rider on an enduro bike a run for their money. This is reflected in the Specialized Epic range, giving you a choice of four different models. Three full-suspension models, the Epic World Cup, Epic 8, and Epic 8 EVO, and the Epic hardtail. After introducing the new Epic World Cup model last year, Specialized now present the Epic 8 and Epic 8 EVO. Eight? That’s right – to clearly distinguish the previous year’s models, the latest generation, which is the 8th, is referred to as the Epic 8.

Epic EVO or Epic? ENDURO founder Robin with cycling rock star Peter Sagan – read the full story in our sister magazine GRAN FONDO.

To meet the requirements of modern cross-country bikes, both models have become significantly more capable. The Epic 8 EVO is almost encroaching on Stumpjumper territory. Both the Epic 8 and the Epic 8 EVO rely on an identical frame, which offers 120 mm of travel, paired with a 120 mm fork on the 10.7 kg Epic 8, and a 130 mm fork on the 12.1 kg Epic 8 EVO. We found out how the € 14,500 Epic 8 performs against the clock on the steep trails of the Chilean Pacific coast. We also tested the Specialized Epic 8 EVO, of course – you can find the writeup here.

No Brain, but still clever? What’s new on the 2024 Specialized Epic 8?

The new Specialized Epic 8 introduces one of the biggest changes in the history of the Epic: bye-bye Brain. But that’s not to say it’s no longer smart because the Epic 8 is anything but dumb. The new RockShox Flight Attendant suspension opens up completely new possibilities. However, only (!) the flagship S-Works model comes specced with the high-end electronic suspension, while the more affordable models have to make do with conventional damping. The 2024 Specialized Epic 8 is and will remain a cross-country bike designed for racing. However, the 8th generation focuses even more on downhill performance. A more capable bike doesn’t just reduce risk of crashing on the descents but also gives riders the chance to relax a little more as they descend, conserving their energy to attack on the climbs that follow. According to Specialized, the new Epic 8 is said to absorb 12% more bumps while being 20% more pedal efficient than the old Epic EVO. The latter has a very similar geometry to the new Epic 8, and was the bike that the Specialized team riders used most often at the races, but as we found out in our downcountry test, it’s also one of the slightly less efficient climbers in open mode.

The new brain of the 2024 Specialized Epic 8 is digital and sits on top of the fork crown.
The rear end of the Epic 8 is designed to be more comfortable while also being more efficient.

Of course, the design of the 2024 Specialized Epic 8 takes weight savings into account, but it wasn’t the top priority. In this case, features like the new, progressive geometry, durability, and the integrated storage compartment in the down tube, which Specialized call the SWAT box, took precedence. The SWAT box isn’t anything new because we’ve seen it on various other models. However, the 2024 Specialized Epic 8 is the first XC bike with a feature like this. This makes the bike particularly exciting for those who don’t want to use its efficiency for racing but for long tours. You can easily store your snacks, tools and other trail essentials in the down tube. Nevertheless, by refining the details, Specialized claim that the S-Works model has become 76 g lighter. The S-Works frame is still made of the well-known 12M carbon, just like the old Epic S-Works. The layout is said to be almost identical across all frame sizes, but with different tube shapes, which have been adapted to the different weights of the different rider sizes. The yoke is now made of carbon and the shock mount on the top tube is made using a novel process, which further reduces weight.

The beautiful carbon yoke helps to keep the weight down of the Epic 8.
Thanks to the many wireless controls, the cockpit of the bike is super clean.

The rear brake hose is routed into the frame via the headset, using the same in-house system as the Epic World Cup. The internal cable routing on the more affordable models, however, relies on classic cable ports just behind the head tube. Thanks to the electronic Flight Attendant suspension on the flagship model, there are no other cables required. The lower-end models, on the other hand, are specced with analogue RockShox suspension, which relies on cables for the remote lockout function. Although the analogue suspension is also specially tuned for the bike, it’s a clear step back from previous generation models, where all but the most affordable model were equipped with forks and shocks that featured Specialized’s Brain Technology. That means you’ll have to use your own brain again to open or close the suspension with the twist grip if necessary. While this usually isn’t a big deal, it’s an additional burden when racing. Moreover, the system closes or opens both the fork and shock simultaneously, and the additional cables clutter the cockpit – lose-lose! We go into detail about how the electronic suspension of the S-Works model works below.

The different 2024 Specialized Epic 8 models

As usual, the new Specialized Epic 8 is available in four models: S-Works, Pro, Expert, and Comp. The price of the Comp model starts at € 5,200. This includes RockShox Select suspension, a SRAM GX drivetrain, and aluminium Roval wheels. With the € 7,500 Expert model, you get RockShox Select+ suspension, a wireless SRAM GX Transmission drivetrain, and carbon Roval wheels. The € 9,500 Pro model features top-end RockShox Ultimate suspension, a wireless X0 Transmission drivetrain, and the same carbon Roval wheels as the Expert model, topped off with a carbon S-Works handlebar. The flagship S-Works model on test only comes specced with the best of the best: a SRAM XX SL Transmission groupset, carbon Roval SL wheels, monocoque carbon cockpit from Roval, and, of course, RockShox Ultimate Flight Attendant suspension. At € 14,500, it’s priced accordingly. And beware: the € 6,500 S-Works frame set includes a shock and fork, but not in the Flight Attendant versions.

Specialized Epic 8 Expert | € 7.500
Specialized Epic 8 Pro | € 9.500

Specialized S-Works Epic 8

€ 14,500


Fork RockShox SID Ultimate Flight Attendant 120 mm
Rear Shock RockShox SIDLuxe Ultimate Flight Attendant 120 mm
Seatpost RockShox Reverb AXS 150 mm
Brakes SRAM Level Silver Stealth 180/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM XX Eagle AXS Transmission 1x12
Stem Roval Control SL onepiece 50 mm
Handlebar Roval Control SL onepiece 750 mm
Wheelset Roval Control SL Carbon 29"
Tires Specialized Fast Trak, T7, Control/Specialized Renegade, T5, Control 2.35"/2.35"

Technical Data

Size XS S M L XL
Weight 10.66 kg

Specific Features

Flight Attendant suspension
storage compartment
flip chip

Speed and style? How XC racing is changing

There’s no doubt that cross-country has changed a lot in recent years. However, while many talk about the increasingly demanding tracks, we learned that this isn’t actually the case in our interview with Peter Sagan and Martín Vidaurre. You can read all about it, and what true champions are made of in our sister magazine GRAN FONDO.

The Epic has been Specialized’s dedicated XC race bike for almost 20 years. To offer a suitable bike for all tracks and rider types, Specialized now have three full-suspension Epic models on offer: the Epic World Cup for maximum efficiency, the new Epic 8 for high efficiency with added comfort for longer tracks, and the Epic 8 EVO for those who love speed but aren’t that interested in racing.

Something for everyone: Epic World Cup, Epic 8, and Epic 8 EVO.

How does the RockShox Flight Attendant suspension on the new Specialized Epic 8 work?

With the 2024 Epic 8, Specialized enter the digital age with computers and algorithms, bidding their Brain farewell. Or at least the Brain Technology that was attached to the suspension of previous iterations. With the Brain, you had an inertia valve at the bottom of the fork, which only allowed oil flow – and thus movement in the fork – if it was opened by an impact from below. When the fork was compressed from above, the valve remained closed.

With the new Flight Attendant suspension of the 2024 Specialized Epic 8, a mini-computer on the fork relies on a bunch of sensors to evaluate the riding situation, and selects one of three damping modes accordingly. In Wide Open mode, the suspension is fully open, offering maximum sensitivity and traction. With Sprint-on-Lock mode, the shock and fork are locked out for maximum efficiency, and the Magic Middle mode is an intermediate setting between the two, offering a lot of support off the top while remaining sensitive in the middle for more control in high-speed situations. The more affordable Epic 8 models have the same three modes, though without Flight Attendant suspension, meaning you must select them manually with the twist grip remote.

You can tune the suspension in the SRAM AXS app.
You’ll be familiar with the bias setting from the previous Flight Attendant system.

The bias setting, which you’ll be familiar with from the previous Flight Attendant system, can be set in five levels from -2 to +2. In the positive bias scenario, the suspension tends to the lockout mode, which prioritises climbing efficiency. This means that the suspension is locked out more often to save energy and make your pedalling more efficient. The setting of the fork and shock always remains the same, even in the 0 position. In contrast, the negative bias setting tends to leave the suspension open, placing the emphasis on downhill performance. The suspension never locks out completely in this setting, only varying between Wide Open and Magic Middle. The fork also stays open more often than the shock to ensure optimal traction and a smooth descent. With a bias of -2, the fork always remains open, which maximises downhill performance but limits climbing efficiency.

What’s new on the Flight Attendant suspension of the 2024 Specialized Epic 8 compared to the predecessors of the system on trail and enduro bikes is that it’s now also connected to the power meter in the cranks, thus enabling the Adaptive Ride Dynamics feature. The system uses an algorithm to learn how you ride and then calculates four individual power zones to adjust the suspension accordingly: the Sprint Zone, as well as High, Medium, and Low power zones.

Sprint-Zone: When your power level reaches the sprint zone, the system will select the Sprint-on-Lock position on the shock and fork. This gives you maximum efficiency for the finish-line sprint. Or, of course, on the home-stretch sprint against your buddies.

High power zone: When your output enters the High power zone, the Adaptive Ride Dynamics adjusts the suspension to allow for more efficient performance. This means that the suspension is firmed up to ensure precise handling at high speeds and with aggressive riding.

Medium power zone: As soon as your output drops to the medium power zone, the system ensures a balance between comfort and efficiency. The suspension is calibrated to provide a comfortable ride without compromising on performance.

Low power zone: In your low power zone, when you ride more relaxed, the Adaptive Ride Dynamics tends to be more comfortable. The suspension is softened to gently absorb bumps and ensure a comfortable ride.

With the Active Ride Dynamic feature, the suspension is adjusted even more precisely to the riding situation.
You can also adjust the bias quickly and easily on the fork.

In addition to adjusting the suspension, Adaptive Ride Dynamics uses different colours on the fork to indicate which power zone you are currently in to provide intuitive feedback while riding. If you still want to intervene despite all the smart algorithms, you can use the Override function via the left AXS Pod, which, as the name suggests, overrides the auto function for a short time and switches to a predefined Override setup. What you should note, however, is that you can’t adjust the compression on XC Flight Attendant suspension, like you could on older Flight Attendant forks. All adjustments can be made via the AXS app. Since the settings depend on your personal power zones and the incline, they will also behave differently depending on the rider and trail.

Helmet Specialized Prevail 3 | Glasses Oakley Sutro | Jacket Specialized Trail MTB | Pants Specialized | Shoes Specialized S-Works Recon Mountain Bike Shoes

The geometry of the 2024 Specialized Epic 8

The geometry of the new Specialized Epic 8 has become significantly longer and slightly slacker, with a head angle of 66.4° in the High setting, which is trail bike territory. With a reach of 475 mm in size L, it’s very progressive for an XC bike, on par with many modern trail bikes.

With the help of a flip chip, you can adjust the geometry of the Specialized Epic 8.
L for long? The geometry of the Epic 8 is very progressive.

As on the previous iteration, a flip chip in the shock yoke allows you to adjust the angles by 0.5° and drop the BB by 5 mm. By default, the bike comes in the High setting, which is how we rode it most of the time. What’s particularly striking is that the bottom bracket drop changes with the frame size. Specifically, the drop in frame size S is 47 mm, gradually reducing to 37 mm in sizes L/XL. Despite these size specific adaptations, the chainstay length remains unchanged at 435 mm across all sizes.

Size XS S M L XL
Top tube 535 mm 569 mm 605 mm 633 mm 662 mm
Seat tube 370 mm 390 mm 410 mm 450 mm 500 mm
Head tube 92 mm 92 mm 95 mm 110 mm 130 mm
Head angle 65.9° 65.9° 65.9° 65.9° 65.9°
Seat angle 76.5° 76° 75.5° 75.5° 75.5°
Chainstay 435 mm 435 mm 435 mm 435 mm 435 mm
BB Drop 47 mm 41 mm 39 mm 37 mm 37 mm
Wheelbase 1,117 mm 1,147 mm 1,179 mm 1,210 mm 1,243 mm
Reach 390 mm 420 mm 450 mm 475 mm 500 mm
Stack 603 mm 597 mm 698 mm 610 mm 628 mm

The new Specialized Epic 8 on test – What is the expensive Flight Attendant capable of?

The big question with the Specialized Epic 8 is, are algorithms better than brains? Is Flight Attendant better than Brain Technology? In short: Yes! In our review of Flight Attendant suspension on trail and enduro bikes, we said that it makes the most sense on long-travel bikes, but we must admit that we were wrong. Sorry! The electronic suspension makes perfect sense on an XC bike! The new Epic 8 S-Works proves that it caters to a wide variety of riding styles, from marathon to technical XC races and long trail tours; RockShox Flight Attendant makes the Epic 8 incredibly versatile! But let’s get into the details.

We rode the 2024 Specialized Epic 8 on a variety of terrain, from high-speed trails to the steep slopes on the Pacific coast, challenging tech sections, and flowing jump lines in the bike park. You feel comfortably integrated with the bike from the get-go. At first, long-time XC riders might be surprised by how much bike they’ve got underneath them. But don’t let this fool you: the performance-oriented riding position, underlined by the one-piece cockpit, results in explosive feeling acceleration yet confidence-inspiring handling. Compared to the new Epic 8 EVO, the front end is about 4.5 cm lower, which ensures a much more efficient riding position despite being based on the same frame.

It quickly dawns on us that the new Epic 8 has many faces. The Flight Attendant suspension caters to a wide range of use cases, and has a significant influence on the bike’s handling. From a stiff hardtail feeling to a plush sofa experience – as far as this is possible with 120 mm travel. The new Specialized Epic 8 adapts to the demands of the terrain. And the open mode is called Wide Open for a reason. Since no volume spacers are installed in the shock and fork, it uses the available travel more readily, which ensures a more comfortable ride.

The Specialized Epic feels efficient on the climbs, yet pleasant and rather comfortable, always keeping enough weight on the front wheel. The sensitivity of the rear suspension allows the bike to roll over obstacles smoothly, while offering significantly faster acceleration and liveliness compared to the new Epic 8 EVO. On flat terrain, the Wide Open mode really is wide open and generates ample comfort, especially on corrugated gravel roads. It’s a level of comfort that the Epic 8 EVO can’t match due to a different shock tune. On hilly and technical terrain, we prefer a more positive bias on the RockShox Flight Attendant suspension, which causes the suspension to lock out more often. This prevents the suspension from remaining open too long and bobbing as a result, cycling through its 120 mm travel too easily. You’ve got plenty of support when sprinting thanks to the feedback provided by the power meter, while the LED indicator on the fork crown shows the current power zone – cool!

On the descents, the first word that comes to mind is confidence. The trail-oriented geometry of the new Specialized Epic 8 is clearly noticeable in these situations. It encourages you to stay off the brakes, and it’s impressively composed for a cross-country bike with 120 mm travel, even through the occasional rock gardens. In direct comparison to the EVO, however, the lower front end and the flimsier tires come at the cost of its descending prowess, so you must back off slightly and choose your line a little more carefully. Otherwise, this might happen… ;).

You can also have fun aboard the Epic 8 on flowing bike park routes…
… as you can see from Robin’s grin, who is being chased by the Chilean national hero Martín Vidaurre.

Contrary to expectations, the bias setting of +2 on the Flight Attendant suspension was our favourite in the OMZ bike park in Las Matanzas, although this actually locks the suspension out more often for more efficiency. However, on flowing trails with berms, jumps, and a few roots, this setting allows you to generate a lot of speed by pumping the bike through compressions and berms, while the suspension remains predictable and defined. It doesn’t feel like you’re unnecessarily wasting energy. The Specialized Epic 8 also jumps better in this setting, provided you can cope with the direct feedback and handling! In this setting, the bike is less likely to use its full travel because it is less likely to be in Wide Open mode. To reiterate: open is open, no matter in which bias setting, it’s only the extent that you spend in the respective setting that changes. And with bias +2, the suspension only opens when there are big hits, which means that you spend a lot more time in the Magic Middle mode on fast, flowing trails.

Who is the 2024 Specialized Epic 8 for?

The Specialized Epic is not just a new XC race weapon, but an incredibly versatile cross-country bike that can perform both on and off the race track. Thanks to a storage compartment in the down tube, and situation-dependent damping thanks to the RockShox Flight Attendant suspension, it caters to a wide range of use cases for riders who value efficiency and light weight, and just like having fun. Whether that’s in a race, a quick post-work ride, or party laps on a flow trail. For those who want an efficient and lively bike, the Epic 8 is a good but correspondingly expensive choice, be it for KOM hunts or fast descents. It’s a shame that the more affordable Epic models have lost their smarts, having to make do without either the old Brain or the new (and better) Flight Attendant, resorting to an old-school twist grip and your own forethought instead.

Our conclusion on the 2024 Specialized Epic 8

With the new Specialized Epic 8 S-Works, the Californian brand present their most versatile XC bike to date! Unfortunately, this only applies to the premium model with Flight Attendant suspension because the more affordable models have clearly regressed, despite the more progressive geometry and SWAT storage compartment. No matter what kind of speed you love, the new Specialized Epic S-Works delivers – on the race track, in pursuit of the fastest time, or simply in pursuit of a good time!


  • capable on the descents, yet highly efficient
  • Flight Attendant significantly increases its versatility
  • racy character with the convenience of an integrated storage compartment


  • more affordable models don’t come with RockShox Flight Attendant

For more information, visit the Specialized website.

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