Shock Therapy

Specialized Epic and Santa Cruz Blur

    Photo: Michael Darter

SPECIALIZED EPIC

Full marks here for honesty. As billed, the Epic really does climb like a hardtail and descend like a downhill thoroughbred. Credit the new Fox Brain rear shock—it elegantly employs an inertia valve (a decades-old innovation used to help stabilize cars) attached to the rear triangle, which dynamically engages 3.5 inches of travel to compensate for the forces pummeling your rear wheel. The Brain greets rocks by automatically opening its spring-loaded lockout valve while ignoring horizontal input from the pedals. The catch? It takes a second for the Brain to read the trail and stiffen up on level terrain, and when locked out, it ignores smaller bumps and can kick in unpredictably. Still, the 29-pound, one-ounce Epic is a brilliant pick for the efficiency-minded cross-country racer. $2,060. Where to find it: Specialized, 408-779-6229, www.specialized.com

SANTA CRUZ BLUR

The virtual pivot point is an old solution to the problem of wasted pedaling energy; fortunately for all, it was rescued from the engineering trash heap and reimagined here in the best all-mountain suspension rig we've straddled in years. The 24-pound, five-ounce Blur soaks up small bumps without bobbing, even in hard out-of-the-saddle climbing, and its 4.5 inches of rear travel don't so much absorb impacts as obliterate them. Shimano's new XTR parts improve on their former incarnation with stiffer hollow-forged cranks and some of the best disc brakes made. If four grand is a bit too much, complete Blurs start at $2,306. $4,035 as tested. Where to find it: Santa Cruz, 831-459-7560, www.santacruzmtb.com

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