Note:  These are not reviews but are simple ride impressions based on the demo tech set-up.  All bikes were ridden on the same 15 minute loop to keep things even-steven.  I focused this Demo Day event on 130mm-ish 29″er Trail bikes from smaller companies and added one ringer from one of the big guys in the biz.

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ellsworth evolution sst.2

c_g recently was pretty impressed by the looks of the Ellsworth Evolution at Eurobike and he commented on that here.  And now I found myself pedaling out to the trails of Bootleg Canyon on an anodized silver Ellsworth Evolution sst.2, headed to some of the rougher sections of the XC course.

Ellsworth has this to say about the Evolution from the website:

The ICT bred Evolution 29″er boasts 120mm of fully active travel. From obliterating the local XC loops to tackling the all day epics, this bike does it all. Combine the Evolution sst.2 frame with a set of fast rolling 29″ wheels and you have a machine that can take you further than you ever thought possible. Go ahead and get lost on the new Evolution sst.2 the legendary Ellsworth quality and performance will get you home.

Now there is a bit of a disconnect here in that on the same page on the website it says the bike has 120mm of travel and 5″ of travel.  However, out at Demo Days I was told it was a 130mm/130mm bike.

Out onto the paved path to the trail head the Ellsworth pedals very well and I left the shock open to see what it would do.  I can see some twist in the system when I get on it while looking down at the back section of the bike and when I stop and grab the saddle and top of the rear wheel and twist, there is quite a lot of wiggle there.  Some of it was coming from the house brand Ellsworth wheel with a standard 9mm quick release rear axle, but some of it was the rest of the frame and linkages.

Standing on the short and smooth dirt hill to the trail head, the bike was decently snappy and the suspension did not do anything ugly.  Not bad at all.  I ran the rear shock full open all the time with no Pro Pedal, etc.  The first few turns of the dirt showed a rear wheel that stayed hooked up and tracked well and a front end that steered like an XC bike.  I try to ride bikes with no preconceived notions but I had heard that the Ellsworth philosophy tends to a steeper head tube angle.  That was evident here and in the quick “high-G” dips and drops of the Bootleg course, it took some attention to stay on top of the Evolution.  I ran down the moonscape of trail #3 and although the ICT back end was working very well and the bike had quite enough travel, I was not all that pleased with the nervous feel at the tiller.  However, when the trail was smoother and flowy, it was very agile and would have been even more so but for the longish back end.

The Evolution sst.2 seems a bit out of step with the modern 29″er trail bike at the 120mm/130mm end of things.  The 18.2 CS length and the claimed 72° head tube angle never felt balanced to me.  Add in a lack of rear chassis stiffness compared to the other bikes I rode and it seems like a bike that was not in sync with itself…is it a quick handling XC bike with a lot of travel held in reserve or is it a longer travel trail bike that demands a skilled rider to get the best the quick handling has to offer?

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