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Pro bikes, May 3, 2007

Liam Killeen's Team Specialized S-Works Epic Carbon

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Photo ©: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Light makes right

By James Huang

The new Specialized Phenom saddle
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Skipping the paint and omitting filler materials
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Killeen's drivetrain is a mixed bag
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Lighter is better,
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Specialized's new XC-specific wheels
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Skewers are by German company Carbon-Ti.
Photo ©: James Huang
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One could say that second-year Team Specialized rider Liam Killeen has a bit of a weight problem… at least as far as his bike is concerned. Like so many top-level mountain bike racers these days, Killeen races on a full-suspension machine for its bump absorption, fatigue, and traction benefits. However, he is under no false impression that those competitive performance advantages also carry with them a distinct disadvantage on the gram scale. While quite lightweight at approximately 2.3kg (5.07lb), Killeen's S-Works Epic Carbon still typically gives up 1kg (2.2lb) or more over competitors that opt for a hardtail on race day.

"The most important thing is trying to get the weight down," said Team Specialized mechanic Benno Welliet. "Other guys are riding a hardtail, and just to get close to them, we try everything to get the weight down. But it's also performing better because it's a full suspension bike."

As a result, nearly every possible resource was tapped to massage, tweak, and tune as many grams off as possible from the UK star's rig. Even the frame itself wasn't immune to the weight loss program: Killeen's custom Epic Carbon wears no paint at all (only decals) and also does without any cosmetic filler materials that normally grace production items. "A small company in Switzerland" also provides a custom 5g carbon fiber and aluminum seat clamp (with titanium bolt, naturally) to replace the stock aluminum unit.

The end result is a little rougher-looking than what you'd find on your showroom floor, but is "between 100 and 150g lighter", too, according to Welliet, and that doesn't even include the prototype forged magnesium shock components which lop off an additional 40g. Speaking of the shock, old habits still die hard: at just 66kg (145lb), Killeen runs a relatively firm 90psi out back and also sets the threshold adjustment at its firmest setting to ensure that the rear suspension only moves on bigger impacts.

Killeen also borrows Specialized's fully integrated FACT carbon crankset from its road lineup, along with a 110mm compact two-chainring spider. The two-piece carbon fiber setup rolls on large-diameter cartridge bearings that are pressed directly into the proprietary team-only oversized bottom bracket shell. While lighter than a conventional configuration, Welliet contends that it also makes the drivetrain noticeably more rigid.

Elsewhere, Killeen's component selection would likely drive most of us to verify that our health insurance coverage is up to snuff, including a full complement of exotic hardware made of titanium, aluminum, and even carbon fiber (!). Not surprisingly, many of the parts hail from Germany, including the 120g AX-Lightness seatpost (with a 16g custom sizing shim made by Welliet), Carbon-Ti quick-release skewers, Syntace Duraflite Carbon bar and Force 99 stem, and Magura Marta SL hydraulic disc brakeset.

The Marta SL brakes are already about the lightest available, but Killeen swaps the standard stainless steel rotors with coated aluminum ones from one of his favorite component suppliers, Stan Koziatek, of Stan's NoTubes fame. Last year, Koziatek also supplied the rising star with a set of his ultralight wheels, but Killeen was running Specialized's new Roval Contróle wheelset at the recently held Sea Otter Classic. Apparently he hasn't gained much weight in that arena, though, as Welliet claims the set weighs in at just 1340g (620g/720g front/rear).

Even as a verified weight weenie, Killeen still runs bar ends, and not even particularly light ones at that. His Titec Pluto Carbon bar ends weigh a relatively significant 110g a pair, but their ergonomic shape is apparently to his liking.

The end result is a race-ready full-suspension bike weighing just 9.45kg (20.8lb). Killeen nailed a respectable sixth place in the XC event at this year's Sea Otter Classic and a virus forced him to miss the first World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium, but his S-Works Epic will continue to improve nonetheless. Welliet is confident that they can duck under the 9kg mark at some point this season, courtesy of even-lighter wheels and other small improvements, and a full set of ceramic bearings is on tap for the rest of the World Cup season.


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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Images by Nic Sims/Specialized

Full specification

Frame: Custom Specialized S-Works Epic Carbon, FACT M10 carbon front triangle, Az1 construction, M5 aluminum rear triangle, sealed cartridge bearing pivots, 100mm travel, FACT carbon link
Rear shock: Specialized AFR w/ Flow Control valve
Fork: Pace RC39XC

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.73m (5' 8"); Weight: 66kg (145.5lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 365mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 444mm
Top tube length: 589mm (horizontal)
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 713mm
Saddle nose tip to C of bars: 580mm
C of front hub to top of bars: 665mm

Bottom bracket: Specialized integrated
Specialized FACT carbon, 175mm, 30/44T
Chain: KMC X-SL
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-7800-B
Rear derailleur: SRAM X.0 BlackBox, medium cage
Shift levers: SRAM X.0 twist shifters
Front brake: Magura Marta SL with Stan's 160mm coated aluminum rotor
Rear brake: Magura Marta SL with Stan's 140mm coated aluminum rotor
Brake levers: Magura Marta SL
Rear sprockets: SRAM PG-990, 11-32T


Wheelset: Specialized Roval Contróle converted with Stan's NoTubes kit
Tyres: Specialized S-Works Fast Trak SLK, 26 x 1.9"

Bars: Syntace Duraflite Carbon, 580mm
Stem: Syntace Force 99, 105mm x 6°
Headset: Cane Creek IS
Tape/grip: Ritchey WCS foam

Pedals: Crank Brothers Egg Beater Four Ti
Seat post: AX-Lightness with custom carbon fiber shim
Saddle: Specialized Phenom 143mm
Bottle cages: Specialized Rib Cage Pro
Other accessories: Full titanium, aluminum, and carbon fiber hardware kit

Total bike weight: 9.45kg (20.8lb)