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Ellsworth Demo Day – A 29er Review

Posted by thefixbikes on June 1, 2011

Big thanks to Ryan and Ellsworth Bikes for stopping by Betasso and bringing a fleet of demo rigs for our riding enjoyment.  I was stoked because this gave me a chance to test ride a couple of their 29ers in addition to an Epiphany.  Over the past few years the hype has continued to build about the big wheel 29er XC mountain bikes.  I had to check it out for myself.  Several articles have been written on the 29er subject and some speed and power tests show promising results.  Yet, I still wonder how much fun is it between my legs?

I have a bunch of friends racing 29ers and they absolutely love them.  I’ve resisted the 29er movement because of a lack of tire, fork, and wheel choices.  Now, there are many options across the board and 29ers are here to stay.

First I demoed the Ellsworth Evolve, a full suspension 29er 100mm XC trail bike.  The suspension design of Ellsworth felt supple and smooth as the bike gave me the sense I was riding a bike with much more travel.  The big wheels also could be part of this feeling as they do rollover rocks and roots with ease.  The front end felt heavier than I’m used to and the uphill acceleration was a bit sluggish.

Each lap I felt more confident and began to see the benefits of a 29er.  It rolls super smoothly and flies over technical sections both uphill and down without requiring work from the rider.  It did feel heavier uphill.  When I tried the Ellsworth Evolution, the 120mm 29er, it felt like a lot of travel for the Betasso loop trail.  Small features on the trail that used to be fun to jump off of and whip around were not the same.  I guess I would have to find other features that make the loop more exciting on a 29er.

The Ellsworth Epiphany, their 140mm trail bike, was super fun descending the Canyon Link trail although the ProPedal lockout wasn’t enough to eliminate the bob on the climb back up the hill.  This is their tried and true performer so it’s expected to ride well.

In the end, I’m still curious about the 29er and think I need more time riding one.  I’m not completely sold on them.  I like that they’re performing well and finally won a World Cup XC race as well as getting a ton of US national attention.  As an XC rider, I still struggle with its weight and handling.  Basically, my discovery is this: If you want to roll your bike over obstacles, the 29er may be for you.  If you like to place your bike and have control as you maneuver through obstacles, the 26” hooped bikes are still your best bet.

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