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Hi Mtbr, so I've just got a specialized epic expert 2013 with brain on fork and rear shock. I had a 2008 epic before with brain on rear shock. So my question is around the brain fade settings "firm" to "soft" and in particular when racing an unknown or varied terrain course.

As folks with brain shocks/folks know - on "firm" setting the shocks are near locked (and obviously open when drops are encountered etc) with a very efficient and more rigid bike feel - great for fire road climbing and when on "soft" the shocks are more open and with a plusher less efficient ride experienced - better for technical downhill secitons. I would almost describe these settings to be comparable to CTD settings - firm = C and soft = D and in any where inbetween = T. These settings obviously can not be changed on the fly (and I expect folks so say they are not supposed to be -that's the idea).

Now that's all great if the terrain ahead is known to be largely consistent and thus the appropriate settings can be applied before riding. Or if you have the option of stopping to tweak accordingly. However, if there is great variance in the terrain - e.g., fire road climb, smooth single track and long technical rock garden descent AND you do not have option of stopping and changing settings i.e., when racing...this becomes challenging. Ideally you want fully firm for fire road climbing and perhaps the single track...but from experience it's better to have the setting towards softer (esp fork) for a more manageable (and potentially) faster descent on long technical rock gardens.

I've ridden CTD set ups with ability to adapt to the environment on the fly - these make more sense for the given scenario above.

I expect to get an answer of "compromise, set it half way" but am I missing something here with these brain fade settings...the epic and brain are designed for racing - not stopping. FYI - i have the shock/fork set up correctly pressure/sag etc.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Cheers Austyn
 

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My previous bike was an Epic Comp Carbon 2013 with Brain. I had a similar conundrum as yourself and with some testing found that 3 clicks out from fully firm was a good setting for unknown terrain. It's stff enough not to compromise the climb and would release quickly enough so as not to feel to harsh when a drop was encountered. On trails I knew better, particularly ones with mostly a long climb to the top and then a full decent down, I found 1 click from firm for the climb and then switch to 2 clicks from full open for the decent working best for me.

Like you said yourself, the Brain technology is designed to "set and forget" for an XC race environment where the course terrain is generally known and practiced in advance of the race which should allow you to work out the right setting for that course.
The Epic is a pure XC machine and as such the Brain is there to allow you to error on the side of climbing performance while taking the harshness out of some of the rougher terrain features and drops. The best way to think of the Epic is that it is a full sus bike trying to mimic a hardtail whenever possible and it does this job very well.

Ultimately I decided it didn't suit the style of riding I do now and changed the bike to one with a CTD system which gives me more instant control over terrain adaption.

EDIT - just to clarify, my Epic had the Brain only in the rear but I would use the LSC on the fork in a similar way
 
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