Some may find it odd that my mountain bike is worth twice as much as my car, but for those of you who have fallen in love with a passion-or who have seen my car-this may not seem all that crazy. Ever since last October's Interbike Trade show, I've had my eye on a new ride and in particular a sultry, anodized, big-wheeled, fully suspended, plush offering from Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles.
Through the shop I used to work at, i was able to pick up my smoke anodized Ellsworth Evolve 4 inch full suspension 29'er frame just days after ordering it! That night Racer and I ordered pepperoni and cheese pizza, and settled in for the long haul as we built it up using the parts from the Gary Fisher Supercaliber 29'er I rode last season. Parts spec includes a Rock Shox Reba fork; Fox RP23 shock; Sram X9 shifters, derailleurs, and pg-950 cassette; Bontrager cranks, bars, seatpost, stem, grips, Mustang rims, and Jones XR tires; Avid Juicy 5 disks; SLR saddle; Singletrack Solutions bar ends; Crank Brothers Candy C pedals; and handbuilt (by me!) DT Swiss 240 hubs, Supercomp spokes, and aluminum (4 red) nipples, all with Stan's goo. Entire bike weight is 28.1 pounds.
It's been hard to find adequate weather to ride in since it's been Utah's stormiest winter in 5 years, but I got a break in the weather and rode some road and low valley dirt trails. The first thing I noticed (after the gorgeous finish of the anodization) was how solid the suspension and linkage felt. My previous ride was an inch less suspension travel and much lighter but the tradeoff came in lateral rigidity. The Evolve cornered and soaked up power turns without the rear end shudder I've noticed (albeit I'm no lightweight at a 185 pound race weight). The extra inch of rear travel as well and it just felt extremely balanced with the 4 inch Reba up front, and I felt balanced in the cockpit. The frame finish is a work of art, the welds are tight and even, the tubes are thick and the worries of Ellsworth frame failure are a thing of the past with large gussets on the down, top, and seat tubes. Pedaling with the Evolve was greatly affected by the Fox RP23 rear shock. In the Propedal setting the frame pedaled near hardtail efficient while seated but soaked up bumps encountered while climbing. In the open setting, the shock and suspension felt '64 Impala plush and soaked up the small drops and bumps I threw at it like it was Bounty. My initial impressions are that it is easily the best feeling frame I have ever ridden, and it had better be with what it cost!
The only real concerns I have are cornering and weight. I haven't had enough time on the bike to determine how well it corners in fast, tight, twisty, singletrack; which is what I'm most used to riding in the Utah Wasatch trails. Initially it felt really balanced so I don't imagine it will have any issues in this area. The other concern is it's portly weight. I'd like to drop a few pounds on the overall bike weight and, with already light wheels, this will take some creative choices. New brakes, cranks, cassette, and tires this should get me close to that goal. Mostly I just want the snow to melt, the temperature to rise, or me to grow more body hair so I can get out and ride more!
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