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 Specialized's New Full Suspension Technology
Press Release and White Paper by Specialized

June 20, 2002


Forget everything you thought you knew about bicycle suspension. Because unlike every other suspension design in cycling history, our new Epic knows what terrain you're riding on. And responds appropriately. The secret's in The Brain. On smooth ground, Brain technology keeps your Epic hardtail-firm. And hardtail-efficient. But when the going gets bumpy, Brain knows that too. And instantly delivers the fully active/fully independent benefits of FSR suspension. Epic bikes have an FSR suspension system that's completely locked out until bump forces are detected, but so sensitive it can "read" less than 1G of input. Then the shock responds instantly. Once activated, the Epic's FSR suspension is fully active and independent...and remains that way until the terrain becomes smooth, the inertia valve closes, and the shock is locked out again. It's that simple. And that effective. 

FSR: The Next Generation
Specialized engineers began working with suspension guru Horst Leitner more than a decade ago to create the technological breakthrough that became the patented FSR four-bar linkage suspension system. Since that time, FSR has become the most successful system in bicycle suspension history...so much so that more than a dozen of our competitors now license it for use on their own bikes.  About the only disadvantage to FSR was that the system sometimes responded when you didn't want it to...specifically when pedaling out of the saddle on smooth surfaces. 

An Epic Achievement
That's where Brain technology comes in. On smooth terrain, Brain locks the suspension out so the Epic is unaffected by rider input. But the same system instantly becomes fully active/fully independent in response to bumps and dips, delivering the full benefits of FSR suspension. Epic bikes, FSR suspension, Brain technology. Mountain Bike Action calls it "a very big moment in the history of the mountain bike." And they ought to know. 

Inside the Brain
How does the Epic work? Very well, thank you. But the secret's in the Brain. Brain technology consists of an inertia valve mounted inside a near-vertical cylinder near the Epic's rear axle. The inertia valve controls the shock's ability to compress; the result is a system that responds to terrain input (bumps and dips), but not to rider input (you, pedaling the bike) until the going gets bumpy.  

The technology works because forces from the ground activate the inertia valve inside the Brain, which opens and allows the shock to compress in response to the bump. The rebound circuit is left open. With purely negative input (a dip without an accompanying bump, like a pothole in an otherwise smooth road), the shock moves in response to gravity, taking up sag initially put into the system by the rider's weight and allowing the rear wheel to track with the dip. Brain technology literally ignores rider input but detects bumps, allowing the suspension to engage whenever it's needed. 

Epic bikes with Brain technology. Patented suspension technology that knows. Available exclusively at select Specialized Dealers, Summer 2003.  

Want more? 
For EPIC streaming video, go to www.specialized.com

‘03 Specialized Epic Fact Sheet

  1. About the Epic Bike
  • Development of what would become the Epic began in 1998 at Specialized and was dubbed "The Holy Grail".
  • Goal was to develop a bike that
  • Delivered the fully active/fully independent benefits of FSR rear suspension.
  • Took "the next step" in FSR design by
  • becoming active only when the terrain demanded it.
  • Remained hardtail-firm on smooth surfaces where suspension wasn’t needed.
  • Carried no weight penalty.
  • Once the initial design concept was completed, Fox Racing Shox was selected as the manufacturer of choice
  • Bob Fox’ personal project for 3+ years.
  • Bob developed the internal shock technology that makes Epic’s "Holy Grail" performance possible.
  1. About The Brain-Equipped Shock
  • How Brain Technology Works.
  • The Brain is not the shock. The Brain is not the valve. Brain technology consists of an inertial valve mounted in a separate cylinder near the rear wheel axle so it can detect wheel motion.
  • The inertial valve controls a shock’s ability to compress.
  • The result is an FSR suspension system that only moves when you want it to.
  • fully locked-out on smooth terrain.
  • fully active/fully independent on bumpy terrain, delivering all the benefits of our patented FSR four-bar linkage.
  • The technology works because bump forces from the ground activate the inertia valve inside the Brain, allowing the shock to move in response to the bump. Brain technology literally detects the bump force; the inertial valve opens the shock in response.
  • The system is locked out until bump forces from the ground are detected.
  • The system is sensitive: the Brain detects and responds to less than 1G bump force.
  • The shock responds instantly. Once activated, the FSR system is fully active and independent, and remains that way until the terrain becomes smooth again, when the inertia valve closes and the shock is locked out.
  • Brain Technology Development
  • Under development for 4 years.
  • Specialized concept.
  • Brain technology is protected by Specialized patents.
  • Production of the shock is done in partnership with Fox.
  • Bob Fox personally developed many of the inertia valve refinements for the Brain mechanism.
  • Fox has additional patents pending on the valving.
  • More Brain/Shock Technical Features
  • The Brain-enabled shock floats on spherical bearings (ball joints) to allow for up/down and side-to-side movement. No side loads are transmitted to the shock.
  • The inertia valve must be located near the rear axle so the Brain can respond instantly to bump forces, but not at all to rider forces.
  • The shock is factory-tuned for correct input sensitivity. Available adjustments include redound damping and air spring.
  • Recommended air pressure for rider weights/terrain are printed on the shock body.

Epic/S-Works FSR Frame Features

  • Full cartridge bearing pivots.

  • All-new seatstay and chainstay yoke forgings and shock link deliver our stiffest XC rear triangle/BB to date.

  • Open-front triangle for easy portage, better front end stiffness, and full water bottle mounts.

  • Low standover height (our lowest in an FSR ever!).
  • True size small available.
  • Two Women’s sizes.
  • Top tube positioned low to support loads from rear suspension. Epic frame format and lower shock position reduces center of gravity and improves handling.
  • Frame Materials
  • S-Works uses M5 ORE tubeset.
  • Epic uses M4 ORE tubeset
  • S-Works frame has Ti and aluminum hardware with a lighter (more manipulation) M5 tubeset.
  • Clean downtube cable routing for derailleur.
  • New frame geometry with longer top tube and slightly higher BB compared to the ‘02 FSRxc.
  • Frame and shock weight comparable to class-leading light ‘02 FSRxc (5.5lbs w/shock).
  1. Family Features
  • S-Works.
  • Five Epic models including disc and non-disc versions.
  1. Q&A:
    1. About Epic
    2. Q: What is the positioning/experience of the Epic family?

      A: Epic is a family of bikes created to fulfill a cross country competition experience with a design and technology that is so revolutionary it redefines what a cross country bike is and what it can do.

      Q: What is the positioning/experience of the Stumpjumper Family?

      A: Stumpjumpers, as always, are a family of "out of the box race ready" mountain bikes. No change in the experience they are intended to fulfill, just better Stumpjumpers than we've ever made.

      Q: If Epic is cross country competition, why isn't it a Stumpjumper?

      Because Brain technology so radically redefines what a cross country bike is, it demanded its own family. It's just that revolutionary.

      Q: Why is the Epic family called Epic when it's designed for cross country competition and you have used the term "Epic Ride" to describe the experience Enduros are for?

      A: We chose the name "Epic" for the Epic family because it perfectly describes how significant these bikes for our sport. to quote Webster's an Epic is "...historic, grand...dealing with or characterized by events of historical or legendary importance." We feel that's exactly the magnitude of these bikes, so we believe the name is a perfect fit.

    3. About Brain Technology

    Q: Who owns Brain technology? What role did Fox have in its development?

    A: Brain technology was conceived at Specialized, developed at Specialized, and is patented by Specialized. Fox developed many of the inertia valve refinements that make the Brain-equipped shock work so well. The shocks are fabricated by Fox from Specialized technology.

    Q: What are the benefits of Brain technology to the rider?

    A: Hardtail-firm on smooth surfaces, full FSR benefits on bumpy surfaces, no weight penalty.

    Relative to other full suspension frames, the Epic design offers a lower center of gravity and improved rear triangle stiffness. Other benefits include lower standover height, better placement for bottle mounts, and cleaner cable routing.

    Q: Why doesn’t Brain technology add weight to the shock assembly?

    A: The entire Epic frame format is designed around the Brain-equipped shock. Weight of the Brain/inertia valve assembly is offset by weight savings throughout the Epic frame, especially in the rear triangle and seat tube interface, keeping the weight of an Epic-format frame with shock to just 5.5 lbs. That’s the same as an FSRxc frame and shock, which is already the lightest in its class.

    Q: How does Brain technology compare with other suspension designs that claim to isolate pedaling forces from wheel forces?

    A: It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Brain technology is activated by terrain, other designs are activated by pedaling input.

    These designs use the chain force inherent in non-FSR suspension to top-out a shock under pedaling load. The result is a suspension that’s unresponsive to bumps until you stop pedaling. In contrast, Brain technology locks out the entire suspension until it detects a bump; then the whole system immediately becomes fully active and fully independent, delivering the full FSR benefits of comfort, control, and efficiency.

    Q: Are there any drawbacks to Brain technology?

    A: It ain’t cheap. Specialized is still working out final retail pricing, but Brain technology will definitely carry a price premium.

    Q: When will S-Works and Epic bikes with Brain technology be available to consumers?

    A: A limited number of S-Works frames are in production now and expected to be in selected S-Works dealers by midsummer. Larger quantities and complete Epic bikes are expected by late summer and will be available to all Specialized dealers.

    Q: Will Brain-equipped shocks be available as an aftermarket or retrofit item?

    A: No. To deliver the full benefits of Brain technology, the inertial valve mechanism needs to be integrated both into the shock assembly and the Epic frame format. It also needs to be implemented on a four-bar FSR platform to prevent brake and pedal forces from interacting with the inertia valve mechanism and inhibiting system performance.

    Q: Does Specialized plan to license its Brain technology, as it has with other patented designs such as FSR?

    A: We don’t know. At this point we have no plans to do so.

    Q: Will Fox make Brain technology for bike other manufacturers?

    A: No. Brain technology is owned by Specialized.

    Q: Will other companies be able to deliver suspension performance comparable to Brain technology?

    A: Inertia valves have been around since 1918, so it’s difficult to say. But for another manufacturer to create a system with comparable performance benefits, they would first have to work around Specialized patents covering both the FSR four-bar linkage and Brain technology.

    Specialized has been working on FSR technology since 1992 and, with Fox, on Brain technology since 1998.

Closing Thoughts

"Of all the things we’ve ever done as a company—from the first Stumpjumper mountain bike to FSR suspension and Body Geometry medical technology, this is the technological achievement I’m most proud of…and the one that delivers the most benefit to us as riders."

—Mike Sinyard, Founder and President, Specialized Bicycles

"When Specialized first came to us with this project, we immediately recognized—and were excited by—the promised rider benefits. What we did not realize was how difficult the engineering challenges would be. Although basic inertia valve concepts have been around for over 80 years, it took the Fox engineering team more than 3 years to invent and perfect the revolutionary technology that makes this shock work so well on the new Epic. There is no other accomplishment in Fox’s 27-year history that I am more proud of."

--- Bob Fox, President, Fox Racing Shox

"I have been riding and racing full suspension bikes for ten years, and the Epic takes a giant leap in cross-country full-suspension performance. Simply put, it's rigid when the terrain is smooth...and fully active when the terrain is rough. No compromises necessary."

--Ned Overend
World XC Mountain Bike Champion
Xterra World Champion
6-Time NORBA National Champion



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