the info I sent yo eddy for general consumption if interested
"what surprises me most about this bike is that its obviously blue! I'm guessing this is a re-spray as all other epics I've seen have always been black. Have you read the specialized 25th anniversary book? theres a good pic in there (also on mtb-catalogue.de) of the earlier steel lugged epic. I'd definately estimate the age of yours around the 88-89 era purely due to the under the chainstays U brake. in 1990 they were definately on the seatstays. the solid top eye seatstay lug is a dead give away that its an epic
If you ever wondered? the easiest way to visibly check between a steel lugged epic & the ti lugged ultimate (as in the pre 92 both models were all black, from 92-95 the ultimate had painted grey lugs) is purely down to the dropouts. the epic normally has a braze on above the dropout & the dropouts are much rounder. on the ultimate the dropout looks pure old skool merlin & are much more "squared off". Amusingly the exact same steel canti studs on the epic were also used on all the ti made ultimates (a magnet reveals the truth!)
from 88-92 only 2000 steel lugged epics were made in total & they've become exceptionally rare bikes! Although the merlin ti models are perhaps more well known & lusted after, despite being made in lesser numbers (1500 from 1990-95) going on my continuous searches I actually think the steel lugged epics are a lot rarer.. purely as I never see any! "
WTD- Shimano M980 XTR Rear Derailleur