I handed off the short term test bike from Ellsworth to JeffJ to see what his Clyde-ish persona would feel about the black and white, carbon creation that I had been thrashing about a bit. Here are his thoughts. grannygear
It’s A Wrap: Ellsworth Evolve C- by JeffJ
I recently spent some time with a 120mm travel version of the Ellsworth Evolve C (Evolve Carbon), and have some thoughts to share. I helped assemble the bike when it arrived at Planet Grannygear, and was hoping for a chance to give it a whirl.
It was a large size frame, but it is on the rangy side in my humble opinion, and the fit was not altogether out of spec for me after installing a slightly longer stem than the one Grannygear was using. I found the stock lock-on grips to be on the small side for my sasquatch-style meat hooks and replaced them for my test time with something that left a tad less annular space between hand and grip. And, for my taste, I would have preferred a wider handlebar for the Evolve, or any other 120mm travel bike.
Here on our local trails, we generally have to climb before we descend, so climbing is what I’ll get to first. Grannygear had taken the initiative to call Ellsworth, and received some good feedback regarding the recommended suspension settings, and once the sag was set at around 30% (which is where I generally like it on many bikes), I really didn’t need to fiddle with it other than to set the rebound to my liking.
I found the Evolve C to be about average in weight, but it pedaled on the light side and didn’t bob much while climbing, especially considering it’s got 120mm of rear travel. I mashed, the Evolve Carbon moved forward, sans monkey motion, as it should. An XT drivetrain is always a welcome sight, and the drivetrain performance on the Evolve C is as it should be. Everything works, and works well. Nothing remarkable so far, but no negatives either.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I climb so that I can descend. When I describe a ride, the first thing I talk about is the descent. This where the Ellsworth makes a departure from ‘normal’. If I had to pick one word to describe the travel on the Evolve, that word would be ‘bottomless’. Bottomless is better than plush. Plush can still have a noticeable bottom, and plush can wallow and take a while to settle after a hit or a g-out. There is enough feedback that I still felt connected to the trail, but the degree to which the hits were absorbed set a new benchmark for me. So, ‘smooth’ would be my next descriptor to add to ‘bottomless’. It feels like there could be more than 120mmm of rear travel on this bike, but I think it’s more important that the quality of the travel present is sublime. The rest of the descending traits were relatively unremarkable, but they were very good. The Evolve C is balanced when the tires leave the ground, neutral steering, and all around well mannered.
Up front, resides a Fox 34. A solid choice for a bike that can smooth out a trail like this Evolve C does. I can’t say that the Fox 34 is an ‘Oh My God,-I-can’t-believe-how-precise-this-fork-is’ type fork, but I do find them very good. Not particularly plush, ‘bottomless’, or torsionally rigid and you do have to take the time to find your optimum pressure setting with the air spring to find the ‘sweet-enough’ spot where you use >90% of the travel. For me, I find I like the sag at around 30% to 32%, and I always pay attention to my position on the bike, and especially the front/rear weight bias when applying the brakes. Not that this is unique to this bike or fork, quite the opposite. The Fox 34 worked well with the rear suspension of the Evolve C in that I never felt the front and rear working against each other.
The Kenda Honey Badger tires that came on the Evolve we received were excellent. I imagine the wide-ish Ellsworth branded rims were partly responsible for them plumping up nicely. I hadn’t yet tried them, but they now have a spot on my list of preferred tires for SoCal trail work.
I would have liked to keep the Evolve Carbon for a while longer, as the bike did develop some ‘creaks’, and Ellsworth needed to get the bike back (I assume, in time to be prepped for Interbike). To be fair, I didn’t have time to try to isolate and remedy the noises, but I have no reason to believe they could not be squelched.
If I were to recommend one upgrade (although a Thomson seatpost is not a negative), it would be a dropper post, as the Evolve is a very capable trail steed, and if I owned one, I would be riding it on more than just your average XC trails.
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.