Ellsworth Evolve C 29″er: Mid Term- by Grannygear

Ellsworth evolve c 29er

This review period will be a bit compressed due to limitations on the time we can have our hands on the Ellsworth Evolve C, but I am willing to go out on a carbon fiber reinforced limb and discuss my thoughts in this mid-term, having come to a good understanding of the bike, it’s design intent, and it’s performance so far.  JeffJ is wringing it out now and he will wrap things up, adding the ‘big guys’ findings.  For the post leading up to this point, click here for the OOB.

It took me about two or three rides to get the shock settings where I wanted them while I waited for a call from Tony Ellsworth so we could discuss the Evolve.  I was curious about, in this day and age of 29″ers, the unique geometry that seems out of step to today’s dance music.  As well, I wanted to understand the ICT suspension set-up and design, so I did not short the bike in the brief test period.

What was interesting to me was that after a couple of rides where I was forming opinions that, except for a couple of minor points, would stay with me all the way though my time on the Evolve, I would spend some time on the phone with the creator and company head, Tony Ellsworth, as we went over his vision for the Evolve C 29″er FS.  I am going to note some impressions, then paraphrase what Tony said the bike should ‘be’ and ‘do’ and contrast and compare to see if he got his wishes.

  • GG -The bike feels to me like a longer travel XC bike, which stands out against something like the Yeti SB95c which has a much more trail bike feel to it.  The narrow handlebar and steeper 71° (measured, static) head tube angle give you an ‘over the front wheel, elbows in’ posture much like a typical racing hard tail.  Tony says:  This bike is designed to be a longer travel, XC feeling bike.  
  • GG – The ICT rear end is dead neutral.  I cannot sniff out any anti-squat, pedal bob, etc.  It just does not really care about all that, yet it still is supple enough to move easily.  Tony says:  The ICT does not respond to pedal inputs i.e., pedal bob, etc.  It will remain neutral.
  • GG – The long chain stays are not in fashion now, but they provide a lot of stability on fast trails and let you climb seated without having to fight the front end for balance or lifting, etc.  Tony says:  The long chain stays give you a lot of stability and let you climb like crazy in the saddle without fighting the front end.
I could go on, but it was refreshing that Ellsworth had a plan and a certain result in mind and, during our conversation, much of what I had discovered while riding had been confirmed by Tony without any prompting on my part.  That was refreshing.  The tricky part is, while they might have succeeded in hitting certain goals, does the bike as a whole come together?  Does it become more than the sum of its parts?  Does it, when it gets on stage, sing a clear note?  Well, yes and no.
The good:
  • The ICT rear end might be, well, it is, really, one of the best if not the best tracking, ‘feeling’, smooth upon landing, all around bump eating assembly of bars and pivots I have been on in recent memory.  It really is good in that sense.  You feel very connected.  It feels good climbing in the saddle and I used the Trail setting of the Fox CTD shock to keep what I call “Rise and Fall”, that being the suspension motion induced by your bodies’ weight on the bike as you cycle along, to a minimum.  I also left it in Trail mode if I was just overall XC riding and ran it open when things got faster or rougher.
  • I was very, very surprised how well I could turn a corner on that Evolve.  On the similar (geometry-wise) Giant Anthem X, I could feel the back end behind me on sharp turns like a long bed pickup, but the Evolve was very, well… here is that word again…agile.  Turn-in is quick as you might expect and at speed on smoother courses, the bike just flat out hauls the mail with the long back end keeping things from feeling nervous, even when it gets bumpy.
  • The wheels seemed to be solid and the Kenda Honey Badger tires were trustworthy beasties.  That seems to be a very, very good tire for So Cal conditions although I would have liked to run them on a bike I was more familiar with just to compare a bit better.
  • Seated climbing is very good.  I took it to a nearby trail that is mostly rocky ruts, ledges, and broken, stony rubble.  The hour long climb is a good place to see how a bike deals with a plodding, technical climb.  The long rear center on the Evolve allowed me to stay more back in the saddle rather than hovering my softer parts over the nose of the saddle.  The steep front end gave me nothing but accurate steering and balance at what was barely walking speeds.
Ellsworth evolve c 29er
The less than good:
  • Despite the whiz-bang marketing terms that Ellsworth pins on this bike in the ad-copy, this is not the stiffest chassis in the 120mm pool of sharks.  The front seems quite good, but the back less so.  Get into a gear where you can lay down some torque, stand up and pedal hard while looking back at the rear end and you will see some twisting going on.  To be fair, it is actually only slightly worse than my 2 year old Specialized Camber in this regard. (Not a stunningly stiff bike in itself, now much improved in the newer models.) However, what has happened is that bikes like the Yeti SB95c and the Ibis Ripley, what with those short little eccentric pivot setups, have raised the bar in this area.  Can I feel this on trail?  Maybe.  I know climbing slowly up rutted trails can sometimes leave you with the impression that both wheels are not tracking in-line.  But did I think it spoiled the bike?  No.
  • Acceleration was leisurely.  I mean, it is a 29 pound bike.  Just rolling down the road it feels fine but where it fell short for me was when I called for speed when exiting a corner on trail.  It just felt lazy like the energy was going somewhere else.  I also grabbed the front wheel and weighed it just to see how it compared to the Camber I know pretty well.  The Camber’s Dt Swiss XM 1501 front wheel and Specialized 2.3 Butcher tire running tubeless, hardly race wheels, was 3lbs 15oz/1785g.  The Ellsworth front wheel, with a tube in there, was 4lbs 10oz/2098g.  Nothing is a joy killer on a 29″er like wheel weight.  Was that all of what I was feeling…bike weight and rotating weight?  Not sure.
  • Back on the rough, busted up old wagon road, I had to descend it after the climb up.  This trail feels really good on a 130+” travel 29″er with a slacker front end.  It is just a series of oddly angled rock outcroppings and ruts interspersed with smooth, fast, sandy corners.  In the chop, the Evolve felt out of place.  There the steeper front end was a bit less than ideal, although if I just relaxed, leaned back on the very competent ICT back end and trusted the bike, it got me through but it was not fun.  On the swoopy, fast sections in between the chop, even with some small drops in there, the bike was super.  It was a mixed bag.
  • No dropper post.  ‘Nuff said.

So overall the bike left me very impressed with the performance in some areas and as long as the trail was not too steep or rough, it was a blur. (Apologies to Santa Cruz Bikes)  The handling has a certain flavor to it.  Quick turning with great tracking and stability is a nice combo, and the only time I felt off balance was on that one descent.  If I lived where the trails tended to rough and steep the Evolve is not what I would grab for a trail bike.  If, however, the terrain is less than that, and carving fast turns and staying hooked up on rapidly changing trail surfaces was a priority, (actually a very So Cal environment), the Evolve was a hoot to ride and the ICT was a lot of that.

It needs a diet to be a ‘funner’ bike.  I wonder if that would perk up the lackadaisical feeling I got trying to jump hard out of turns?  It needs a dropper post to make use of all the travel.  120mm makes you try stuff and push it a bit and I hated having to stop and lower the saddle by hand.  It could be stiffer, but most bikes could be.  Not a deal breaker unless you are a large and powerful rider, then maybe it is and something like the Turner Sultan is more in line there.

Next up is JeffJ.  He was smiling a lot last I saw him on the Ellsworth Evolve C.  Gotta’ dig the jersey.

Ellsworth evolve c 29er

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.