The 2020 Specialized S-Works Epic HT Goes Ultra-Lightweight

Brand spanking new for 2020, the Specialized Epic HT (that’s the ‘Hardtail’ one) has been fully redesigned from the rubber-up. The 2020 Specialized Epic HT receives a new carbon fibre frame, modernised geometry, and a series of refinements that aim to make this not only the lightest XC mountain bike that the Californian brand has ever made, but also one of the most comfortable and capable too.

Err, How Light?!

We mean light. As in, super, ultra, mega, stupendously light. Specialized claims the new S-Works Epic HT weighs just 775 grams, give or take half a Mars bar. That is ridonculously light, and over 10% more feathery than the already-svelte 2019 Specialized S-Works Epic HT frame (which wasn’t exactly porky itself at 845g).

Now if we’re being pedantic, it isn’t strictly the lightest frame on the market. That’s because while Specialized does include the derailleur hanger, it doesn’t include the axle (32g) or the seat collar (13g) in the claimed frame weight. Those bring it up to 820g for a Medium frame that’s ready to ride.

2020 specialized epic ht hardtail s-works
Specialized says this is the lightest production mountain bike frame on the market. All 775g of it. Yikes!

For reference, UNNO’s Spanish-made Aora frame is claimed to weigh 790g including hardware. However, it’s important to note that UNNO only makes the Aora in the one frame size. And it only makes 50 of them a year. Oh, and they cost over $6,500 AUD per frame… That isn’t far off double the price of the S-Works Epic HT frame, which is made in vastly greater quantities over four frame sizes, so we’re ok with Specialized claiming this is the lightest production frame in the world. It certainly is when you compare it to the Open ONE+ (869g), Scott Scale RC (879g), the Canyon Exceed CF SLX (870g), Focus Raven (889g), and the Cannondale F-Si (900g).

Speaking of frame weight, it’s worth noting that there will actually be two Epic HT frames for 2020. There’s the aforementioned S-Works frame (made from FACT 12m carbon fibre), and then a standard carbon frame (made with FACT 11m carbon fibre). Both frames share exactly the same shape and geometry, but the FACT 11m version comes in 140g heavier at 915g, which is still bloody light for a mountain bike frame. This cheaper frame is used on all the other models without the S-Works label.

2020 specialized epic ht hardtail s-works
The weight is impressive, but the Epic has some much bigger changes elsewhere to make it more comfortable and capable too.

Not Just A Welterweight

Although the sub-800g frame weight is the headline-grabber, there’s actually a lot of interesting stuff going on elsewhere with the new frame to make it a faster bike down the mountain too.

Most noteworthy is the improved geometry, which sees the head angle slackening out to 68.5° and the reach increasing around 12-14mm per size. Specialized has matched the longer top tube lengths by fitting shorter 60-75mm stems across the size range.

2020 Specialized Epic HT Geometry.

Additionally, the Specialized Epic HT follows in the footsteps of the current Epic FSR by moving to a reduced-offset fork. For models with RockShox forks, that’s a 42mm offset, while Fox models get a 44mm offset. Along with the slacker head angle, the new Epic gets a much greater amount of trail, which should make the steering a lot more stable on the descents.

Those are some pretty progressive geometry numbers for an XC hardtail, which shows that Specialized is keeping a close eye on modern World Cup XCO racing, where the highly technical tracks are putting greater demands on the riders and their equipment.

2020 specialized epic ht hardtail s-works
A slacker head angle and reduced-offset fork should deliver more confidence when bombing the descents.

Bigger Is Better

Specialized has also increased the seat tube diameter from 27.2mm to 30.9mm, which gives you a tonne more options for fitting a dropper post. According to Spesh, the new frame is just as compliant as the old one though. The engineers say this has been achieved by utilising a curved seat tube, which flexes back and fourth like a leaf spring. The seat stays are also significantly slimmer too, and that’s to help filter out trail buzz more effectively.

Helping further again is the increased tyre clearance. Despite the back end staying short at 430mm long, Specialized has worked in enough clearance to fit up to a 2.4in rear tyre. The stock bikes will come with 2.3in Specialized Fast Trak tyres, but there’s more room if you wanted to go a little burlier on the build kit.

2020 specialized epic ht hardtail s-works
See the curve in the seat tube? That acts like a leaf spring to increase compliance at the saddle – even when running a dropper post.

See Ya Later Press-Fit BB!

Oh, did we mention the Epic HT now has a threaded bottom bracket? That’s right folks, Specialized has ditched the press-fit BB! In a trend we’ve seen from the Californian brand over the past couple of years, the Epic joins the Stumpjumper, Enduro, Epic FSR and Fuse in moving to a good ol’ fashioned threaded BB.

According to Specialized’s engineers, they were actually able to make the bottom bracket junction lighter than the previous PF30 system used on the old frame. During the layup process, two alloy rings are moulded into the frame’s carbon BB shell. Once the frame has been cured, the alloy rings are tapped to ensure proper alignment for the threaded BB cups. The rest of the BB shell is hollow with no need for moulded-in tube, so there’s plenty of clearance for the internal derailleur, brake and dropper lines to route past the crank axle.

2020 specialized epic ht
The smooth tapered head tube uses drop-in bearings to cut down on weight.

What Models Will We See In Australia?

Globally, Specialized will be offering several different complete Epics, but only one of those will be coming to Oz. That model is the 2020 Specialized Epic HT Comp, which is available to buy as of right now. For $3,900, you’ll get the 915g FACT 11m carbon fibre frameset, a RockShox Reba fork, tubeless ready Roval Control wheelset, and SRAM NX Eagle 1×12 shifting.

For those who want to build up their own bonafide superbike, Specialized will be bringing the S-Works Epic HT frame into Australia. And how much for the lightest production MTB frame on the market? A cool $3,700 will get you those bragging rights.

Still, we reckon that’ll have a lot of potential customers thinking long and hard about how much 140 grams are really worth to them…

2020 specialized epic ht hardtail s-works
Sadly we won’t be seeing the full-noise complete S-Works bike in Australia. It’ll be a frame-only for those who want the S-Works label.

For more information on the new 2020 Specialized Epic HT, head over to the Specialized website. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you think of this uber-light race hardtail. Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

2020 Specialized S-Works Epic HT Features

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