Last weekend was The Coolest Race Against Cancer, an 8 & 24 hour race held in Cool, CA. My girlfriend and I signed up to race the 8 hour version as a coed team. I brought my Stumpjumper EVO 29er 1x10, and she brought her Ibis Mojo SL. We combined for 7 laps within 8 hours and won our category. We didn't ride a single lap on our own bikes
Thanks to the good folks at Ellsworth (Lorne, Phil? Rick, and Casey from Bicycle Medic), who arrived in town with a fleet of bikes and a killer RV, we demo'd the latest Ellsworth bikes for the whole race. For me, it was a great way to really test the bikes and feel the differences under real race conditions.
The Ellsworth compound:
I started out with a large Enlightenment 29'er carbon hardtail... a sleek and sexy steed that seemed to be begging for a hot lap:
This bike felt very fast, light and responsive. Even with a fair amount of traffic on the first quarter of the first lap, I threw down my fastest of what would be 4 laps on this 11 mile course, which included about 1,000' of climbing over a mixture of singletrack, double track and fire roads. I clocked about 49 minutes on my first lap. The Enlightenment is certainly a worthy XC racing weapon.
My GF then headed out on her lap, riding a carbon Evolve, while I went back to the Ellsworth compound to move my pedals and number plate over to a handsome, medium carbon Evolve. Phil(?) from Ellsworth put a setback seatpost on it, and even though it was a little small for me, it felt good (and light!) and ready to roll.
My GF's lap was about 70 minutes, so I felt suitably rested prior to heading out on my 2nd lap. Out of the gate, with no traffic this time, I felt like I was flying on this full suspension 29er. I hit little jumps for fun and took more aggressive lines on the few chunkier descents than I did on the Enlightenment. About 3/5ths of the way through each lap was a hearty 1 mile/400' climb. I locked out the front and back suspension and it felt very stiff and swift. Upon completing my lap, I was certain I had thrown down a faster time than I did on my first lap, but it turns out I went about 2 minutes slower. I can only chalk this up to not having 100% fresh legs. I really did feel faster.
My GF then surprised me by taking another lap on the Evolve. She's very "emotionally attached" to her Mojo, with her custom painted pink fork, so I thought she was for sure going to be riding it, but not today! Off she went, giving me about 80 minutes of resting, refueling and getting the next bike ready. Here she is enjoying the ride:
Next up was an XL Epiphany 275, a 650b trail bike that was slightly big for me, but was more than ready to rumble.
I've ridden thousands of miles on 26" wheels, and plenty of miles on 29" wheels, so I was looking forward to my first experience on 27.5" wheels. Heading out, on the slightly downhill singletrack, the Epiphany felt fast and comfortable. While the bikes I rode were getting progressively heavier, and my legs were getting progressively more tired, I felt energized by this stealth black machine. I ride an '08 Santa Cruz Nomad as my trail bike and Downieville race bike, and this Epiphany felt similar... but better. Lighter, tighter and more nimble, yet still plush. I had a really fun lap, still pushing it to see if I could put down a faster lap time. I flew through the downhill chunky sections and when it came time for the 1 mile climb, I was pleased to see I had a 3rd chain ring for the couple very steep sections (The Enlightenment and Evolve were set up as 2x drivetrains). By the time I got back to the finish area, I was only a couple minutes slower than my previous lap on the Evolve, which pleased me. Not bad for a bike I would categorize as an "all-day adventure ride" bike
While my GF went out for her third lap -- still on the Evolve! -- I had a choice to make... ride my 4th lap on my own bike, or one of the 3 Ellsworth options. I decided I had so much fun on the Epiphany 275, that if it was cool with Ellsworth, I'd take it out for another lap. They were more than cool about it, and 90 minutes of rest later, off I went... on more of a "fun lap"... snapping photos of friends and fellow racers on the course. Interestingly enough, even with a bunch of stopping to take photos, my 4th lap was only about 4 minutes slower than my previous lap.
Rolling by "Memory Mile", where photos of loved ones lost to cancer motivate racers to fight through their own pains during their 8 or 24 hour sufferfest.
My only knock on the Epiphany was the cable housing by the seat tube... as the rear suspension would compress, the cables would flex out to the sides and hit my inner thighs. A nit-picky complaint for sure, but easily remedied with rerouting the cables a bit (or using a zip tie).
I can't thank Ellsworth enough for generously letting us and many racers demo their bikes. Really nice, knowledgeable guys, and they also had lots of free beer for us!
If I had to chose just one Ellsworth bike based on these demos, the decision would be difficult as they all had their benefits and personalities. The Enlightenment would be a fantastic XC race bike for sure. The Epiphany would be a stellar, every day trail bike. The Evolve is a little bit of both, making it my choice if I could only have one (Of course, I'd want all three!)
Winners winners chicken dinners :-)
The race director enjoyed taking a lap on an Evolve as well!
Mtbr's 2016 Winter Biking GearReviews and Roundups
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Thread: Race demos - Thanks Ellsworth!