From the looks of things, the frame stays virtually unchanged from the 2011 model, though the rider said there were some minor tweaks to the layup. The big changes come with the spec, particularly the suspension. Up front, Specialized wasted no time in getting together with Rockshox to develop a SID 29er fork with their BRAIN internals. In the back, their FutureShock, made by Fox, gets the Kashima treatment. From there, this bike was built up with some of WD’s personally goodies, like gold Industry Nine hubs and spokes with Specialized’s carbon fiber rims, so what you’re seeing here isn’t what’s likely to show up on your showroom floor, but the frame and suspension most likely will.
More pics behind the break…
Specialized’s BRAIN Fade puts the rebound at the top (red knob on crown) and “compression” controls on the bottom to control the amount of effort required to break open the inertia valve. Given that Specialized and Rockshox already have partnered on a 29er fork that gets a FACT carbon crown, I’m guessing this one is the same (It looks the same but has no markings). It’s definitely tapered, though. It’s worth mentioning that this one uses the standard 9mm QR, which seems like an odd choice given the availability of a 15mm thru-axle for the 2012 SID 29er, especially since the rear end uses their custom 12×142 rear axle. It’s lighter, but still…
Visually, the only obvious change from the 2011 spec is the Kashima coating, which is getting expanded OEM placement for 2012. That said, there could be internal tune changes. Talking to the rider, the point of sending this bike over to the East Coast is to test the bike with more rapid-fire compressions and bumps than what’s found on a lot of western trails, something Wilkesboro’s Dark Mountain trail provides aplenty with closely spaced roots and rocks on both the climbs and descents.
The wheels are built up by nearby Industry Nine with Specialized’s carbon fiber rims. With a claimed weight around 21.3lbs for the 2011 Epic S-Works 29er, I’m guessing this bad boy could end up just about 20lbs for the top of the line model when they’re officially unveiled later this summer. Of course, the current top of the line model also carries a $9,900 MSRP, so there’s a chance it’ll top $10K, too. Note the prototype Fast Track tires, too.
I’m guessing the fork will end up with color-matched graphics, too.
UPDATE FROM INDUSTRY NINE: The wheels use their standard 12×142 rear axle option, which will work with any Specialized or other 12×142 axle bike, the special marketing/branding for the Specialized system refers to their hub/axle that will only work on their bikes. And if you’re hoping to get a set built up on those carbon rims, forget it. They’re not ever going to offer it, and that comes straight from the source.