Out Of the Box: Ellsworth Evolve C 29″er- b y Grannygear
I have only been on one Ellsworth bike before, and that was a brief stint around the Demo Days XC course at Interbike. Hardly a thorough review. And my impression was not all that favorable. Still, Ellsworth has a loyal following, the bikes are not cheap, and they are still in business so something must be going on here. So it was with no small amount of anticipation that met the big box that contained the Ellsworth Evolve C 29″er.
Here is what Ellsworth has to say from their website:
Improving one of the best-selling bikes of all time is a tough act to follow. But that is exactly what we set out to do, and it came up spades. A reasonable person would ask why and how? Our answer – take that same great bike and make it lighter, stiffer, add a tuned suspension in 100 or 120mm options, 29” wheels, improve the tube shapes and a complete graphics overhaul. That’s what you get in the 2013 Evolve Carbon 29er.
From the world’s finest carbon materials and leading edge layup process to the fast rolling 29’’ wheels, the full suspension Evolve is the highest level of cross country rig ever built. Mated perfectly with a Fox Kashima® tuned suspension, our highly refined, fully active platform provides climbing, cornering and descending traction that is the legendary trademark of Ellsworth. One look at the Evolve and you know it’s a piece of performance art. The low stand over height frame features beautiful swooping tubes made possible with Force Vector Anisotropic Design™ and accentuated with new super clean graphics that are all business. Look fast, be faster with the 2013 Carbon Evolve.
Getting the Evolve out of the box showed a striking looking bike. I have never considered the look of that suspension design to be all that tidy, but this is a good looking bike to my eye. The lines formed into the carbon and the graphics meet in the middle and it is a sexy looking beasty. In fact, it inspired the ‘film noir’ approach in the detail pics. Want color? Too bad. Artistic temperament you understand.
The frame is a carbon front end and carbon seat stays featuring the Force Vector Anisotropic Design™. I have no idea what anisotropic means but putting force and vector in one sentence is totally sci-fi cool. Darth Vader would ride this bike, pretty sure. The chain stays are alloy and there looks to be plenty of room for a good size tire like the ones on there now. There is TONS and tons of stand over on this LG size bike but the 25″ estimated top tube is nicely long. Folks that like their bikes more ‘compressed’ might consider stepping down a frame size from the norm, especially with that dropped top tube. There is one bottle cage on the underside of the down tube right where I pretty much cannot reach it while riding, but at least it has one and where else would it go anyway?
it is interesting to see a Fox rear CTD shock on this bike as the last time I saw an Ellsworth, it had a simple shock with no adjustable compression settings, only rebound. That followed the philosophy of Tony Ellsworth regarding the ICT (Instant Center Tracking) rear suspension and its disregard for any user adjustable aggressive platform in the shock. We will need to ask about this to see if it is a shift in philosophy or a result of industry changes. This bike is set up with 120mm front and rear (you can get it with 100mm F/R) and the Fox Kashima coated 34 fork ought to keep things pointed dead ahead. That fork comes with a bit of a weight hit over a slimmer Fox 32, but the extra stiffness might be worth it to the larger rider.
The wheels are Ellsworth XC in-house hoops and have the new Kenda Honey Badger Pro 2.2 tires (tubeless ready) but the bike has tubes installed at this point. I could not find any published weights for the wheels but the rims look seriously wide and the straight pull spokes and hubs look ready to go. The tires are darn plump for a 2.2 size and I know that talking to Kenda at Sea Otter gave us the impression that this tire has large volume for its size rating. The knobs are wide spaced, ramped, not too big and the side rows have good support. I am betting that this is a good hard pack tire for So Cal conditions and we have a set in Guitar Ted’s hands as well, so look for more about the Honey Badger.
The rest of the bike is pretty much XT 2×10 (Shadow Plus rear der) with a 22/36 front crank and 180F/160R rotors. Solid parts. Carbon Easton bars and an FSA stem, Thomson seat post, and WTB saddle round out the cockpit contact points. Oddly, at least in my mind, is the rather narrow width of the bar at 685mm and there is no dropper post, something there is internal routing for but was not in the build. The 27.2mm seat post diameter might be part of this, as I am pretty sure the selection of that size in on-the-fly adjustable seat posts is slim.
On the fish scale of truth and justice, the size LG stock bike with NO PEDALS and one water bottle cage weighed 28lb/14oz – 13.09kg. That is pretty much in 130mm trail bike category by my reckoning or perhaps the 100mm/120mm zone with lesser parts. For instance, taking a couple other bikes off the garage hook, both with no pedals and one WB cage, the 120mm/110mm travel 2 year old Camber Expert (half carbon) with dropper post and pretty big tires (mostly XO drivetrain) is 27lb/1oz – 12.26kg. The FSR all aluminum chassis with a 140mm Magura fork, dropper post, etc is 30lbs – 13.6kg. So we are kind of in the middle here.
As well, the numbers from the geometry chart stand boldly in the face of the current trends for 29″er FS trail bikes. Heck, even 29 FS XC bikes. Long in back, steep in front, long in the top tube….not the norm. What is Ellsworth trying to do here?
Stay tuned as we get the maker of this bike on the phone to see what is up with the design and intent of the Evolve, get the bike on trail, and dive deeply into stuff like Instant Center tracking, that Anisotropic deal, and what is up with those Sex Pins? I wonder if my wife knows?
Note: Ellsworth Bikes sent the Evolve over to Twenty Nine Inches at no charge for test and review. We are not being charged nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.