Tuning a Specialized Brain for braaap


How will i find the sweet spot for an Epic EVO Brain for pump or trail?


Hey Peter,

Thanks for writing.

Most nerds out there think of Specialized’s Brain as a pedaling platform. The inertia valve resists pedal bob but responds to bumps. You get a ride that pedals like a hardtail but absorbs violence like a suspension bike. Pretty brilliant — and used for many XC victories.

I think of the Brain as a pumping platform. The Brain resists pumping input but responds to bumps. You get a ride that pumps like a hardtail but absorbs violence like a suspension bike. Pretty brilliant — and perfect for shredding all kinds of terrain.

FIRM WHEN YOU WANT IT: Brain-equipped 2008 Stumpy Pro Carbon on the pump track in Lyons, CO. As I recall, I ran this bike a bit firmer than middle.

Learn more about Brains in general and the Epic EVO in particular: Brains for braaap.

When I first ride a Brain shock and/or fork, I roll around the parking lot with light hands and heavy feet, then I push down with my feet. I do not bounce up and down; I keep my torso anchored in space and try to crush the bottom bracket into the earth. I look for a setting that resists medium pressure but that I can blow through with an aggressive push.

This setting will let me pump smooth ground with insane efficiency. When I get into the rocks, the suspension opens up. When I need to hop or jump over something, I can push through the threshold, find the ground and get great pop.

From there I’ll find tune on the trail. My goal is a bike that seamlessly transitions from BMX mode to DH mode. I like as little platform as it takes to keep the bike stable when pumping smooth rollers. Our settings will be different, because “moderate” is so relative.

I suppose you can use a firmer setting for pump tracks and a softer setting for trail, but I believe in finding a good overall setting and riding it everywhere. This helps you learn the machine, and it prevents the ol’ travel somewhere special, lock out for the huge climb, suck on the DH then realized you did this once-in-a-lifetime descent in lockout mode. The Brain lets you “set it and forget it” with an unmatched level of versatility.

PLUSH WHEN YOU WANT IT: Brain-equipped 2008 Stumpy Pro Carbon on a DH trail at Keystone, CO.

If you want to get Pro, you can bracket your settings. Check out Fox ProPedal and suspension bracketing.

Pin it!

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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7 replies
  1. Allen says:

    Do other suspension systems that are considered to have good pedaling platforms (ie DW-link) have the same benefits when it comes to pump, or is it the specific platform of the brain and similar shock-based platforms, rather than anti-squat suspension design that creates the pumping platform?

  2. Rob Pickels says:

    Something to consider is that with “anti-squat” designs, they are effectively trying to reduce the effect of chain tension on the workings of the suspension and vice versa. As far as I know there is no specific advantage from a DW-link type suspension for pumping (not to say they don’t pump well, just not an inherent design feature). You can probably get a similar effect to the brain by using a platform valving on your suspension. The benefit of the brain is that its like having a third hand that constantly adjusts your platform damping for you, real time, on the trail.

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    Rob, nice. Thanks for jumping in.

    DW-Links are firm under pedaling, but not under pumping. If you want your bike to pedal firm but coast plush, they’re very good.

    If you want your bike to pump firm, you need to stiffen the suspension or add some kind of low-speed compression platform. As Rob says, the Brain adjusts your platform on the fly.

    On my Stumpy 29 S-EVO, I run the shock’s ProPedal in the middle position and the fork’s low speed compression at 5 out of eight clicks. This feels good in most places.

  4. Allen says:

    Thanks for the info, fellas. I just got a Mojo HD. Apparently you can get a volume reducer from Fox to make the rear more progressive. I’m going to give it some more time, but might go that route down the road.

    Lee – this is my first bike with compression settings. I was wondering if low-speed compression would help stiffen for pump, but then wondered if the pumping force might be more than the low-speed compression was intended for. But I’ll try it out! Gonna have to do a lot of experimenting

  5. leelikesbikes says:

    Allen, I love this can of worms you’ve opened.

    From my experience, low speed compression will be firm enough for mellow pump, but when you add power you’ll blow right through the ProPedal.

    I need to ask my genius buddy at Fox about this. …

  6. Peter says:

    Thank you Lee for taking up my question and giving such a detailed answer. I really appreciate that 🙂 I was busy with business trips, but finally got back to the pump track again :-D.

    I tried to learn from your ideas and found that when using a setting of one or two clicks from firm I will blow through the shock when going through the high banked curve (hope that makes sense in english :-)) On the opposite side a setting close to full open did not let me pump very much and nearly all power put down seemed lost.

    Earlier on the trails I was using a brain setting between two clicks from firm up to 7 clicks (that’s the middle setting for my brain). All those settings work on the trail, while the ones more to the open side (7 clicks) make it easier when I encounter many ruts we have here. I then mostly settled at 4 clicks from firm being a pretty good compromise for “overall” riding (including trying to learn wheelie and manualing). Now on the pump track I found that 4 clicks from firm will work so so, but I will still loose some energy. At the moment I’m mostly experimenting with a setting of 3 which seems to be pretty the sweet spot as a good compromise for pump track and still working fine on the trails. I like the idea to find a standard setting for the brain and to learn to use that normally. I still could open the brain for a more “downhill”-like descent, but that will not be neccessary.

    I really love the brain on my 26 Epic (Size L for my size of 1.82 m — too bad the agile 26 Epic is not available any longer).

    For the front suspension I found I can use damping setting (blue knob) if I’m on the pump track. This helps also a bit — and in contrast to the brain setting I can change that during the ride, so I began to use that on the pump trak (only).

    P.S.: Your books, especially “Mastering…” and “Teaching” are great 🙂 For the future I would also like to be able to buy some additional videos, as I will not be able to participate in a clinic from you (I’m from germany).


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