’ 86, and that was the year I probably made
about 35k in all, which was similar to my
salary as a car mechanic.
MBA: If you had to pick one particular
bike as your favorite, which one would
it be? A World Championship winner?
One that’s in the Hall of Fame? Or simply whichever one you’re riding at the
Ned: I’m having more fun on the new
bikes, so I would have to say the current
Epic is my all-around favorite. With the
growth of enduro racing, places seem to
be building more technical trails. That’s the
case in Durango, and we now have some
great trails for 6-inch bikes with slacker
angles like the Stumpjumper and Enduro.
MBA: When we tested the Specialized
Epic a few years ago, we said, “This is the
best mountain bike we’ve ever ridden.”
Would you agree with that statement?
Ned: Yes, it’s the best XC bike I’ve ridden. The current Epic loves to be ridden
fast. Of course, it’s not as forgiving as a
Camber or a Stumpjumper on steep, rough
descents. It’s more like an F1 car, where
you have to pay attention to the trail. It’s
wicked fast on a variety of terrain, though.
The addition of the XCP dropper seatpost
this year definitely makes it more comfortable on the rocky drops, and the 29-inch
wheels help as well.
MBA: How has the Epic evolved over the
Ned: I started racing on full-suspension
bikes exclusively in ’ 97 and won the Xterra
Worlds on the FSR XC in ’ 98 and ’ 99.
The suspension wasn’t efficient enough
for the World Cup circuit, since we didn’t
have time to be flipping switches to lock
out a shock in a World Cup race. So,
Mike McAndrews came up with the idea
of the inertia “Brain” shock. In 2003, the
first-generation Epic was crude by today’s
Still “The Captain”: Ned rides the most current version of the Specialized Epic,
complete with 29er wheels and a RockShox RS-1 fork. He can still put riders half
his age in the pain cave.
Cactus Cup, early 1990’s: Ned’s
rainbow stripes on his sleeves showed
his UCI World Champion status.
the art for a full-suspension XC racing bike.
We have worked at improving it every
year—with carbon, 29-inch wheels and
bringing the weight down—but especially
improving the function of the shock and the
suspension kinematics. It has won several
World XC and marathon titles.
MBA: Has sticking with a consistent
sponsor helped with your impressively
Ned: Yes, clearly my relationship with
Specialized has worked well over the
years. From 1988 until 1996 I was primarily focused on racing, chasing the
NORBA Nationals, World Cups and World
Championships. After ’ 96 I became a
regular employee contributing to sports
marketing, product development and public
relations. I continued to race a variety of
events as it related to product and PR and
just events I hadn’t had the time to do while
chasing the World Cup.
Another thing that has helped me is the
variety of product that Specialized produces
and how there is a culture to constantly
strive to improve it. I am passionate about
all kinds of bikes: mountain bikes, XC, trailbikes, fat bikes, etc, but also cyclocross,
gravel and road bikes too. Having so much
different product to get excited about has
helped keep me motivated.
MBA: Who were the key people along
the way who helped you with your riding
and racing success?