Bicycle Review: Ellsworth Glimpse

26er Pro Reviews

American Boutique Brand Goes Global

Change Is In The Air

Whereas once the words “Made in Taiwan” were a red flag to be suspect of quality and the name Ellsworth was synonymous with “Made in the USA”, the 2010 Glimpse turns such traditions on their proverbial head. There is simply no denying the reality that Asian manufacturing processes have improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, often times with work-environments and product quality superior to that of anywhere else on the globe. Couple this to the fact that lower overhead means savings that can be passed down to the customer and Ellsworth’s decision to take things abroad becomes incredibly clear.

Going Global

Like all Ellsworth models, the Glimpse is actually born right here in the USA as its seamless aluminum tubeset is spec’ed and drawn in the States before being shipped off for welding and assembly at a factory in Taiwan. Brand purists drawn to the boutique ideal of everything being hand-built domestically needn’t fear any detectable changes in quality or construction with the Glimpse as test riders unaware of the model’s back story had no trouble believing this was but another of Ellsworth’s custom builds.

Specs

The Ellsworth Glimpse spec sheet reads pretty well with Fox suspension providing the terrain-leveling task (32 Float R fork & Float R shock). Aside from an Easton Monkey Lite XC bar and WTB saddle, the entire drivetrain/ cockpit controls (including brakes and levers) goes the way of the Shimano SLX group. Lastly Kenda Nevegals are the chosen tire wrapped on Ellsworth’s proprietary All Mountain hoops.

All told our medium test bike weighed in at 28.2 pounds with pedals (not included) and a bike identical to ours can be had for $3,298.95.

At a Glimpse

While 5-inches of suspension travel is certainly no longer big-hit territory, the Glimpse is one of those holdouts that treats its numbers big and meaty. Marketing guys would tell you in a heartbeat that this bike represents the definition of all-mountain and more conservative riders would know at a passing glance that this bike is intended to conquer rough terrain, high speed descents, and ugly rock gardens.

These realities are only strengthened in person thanks to beefy rocker arms working the brand’s patented Instant Center Tracking (ICT) linkage and a 69-degree headtube angle. If such evidence weren’t enough, the Ellsworth catalog slaps the Glimpse squarely between the cross-country category and big-hit section.

Climbing into the saddle reveals a firm chassis with a nice focused cockpit and a surprisingly rearward bias of the rider’s weight. Even still the reach to the bars is comfortable with none of the torture rack treatment one associates with a cross-country configuration.

The Ride

If asked to describe the Glimpse riding experience in a singe word, that word would be firm. A stout chassis coupled to a linkage that doesn’t over exaggerate terrain imperfections results in a bike that seems to like to pound across the trail rather than bounce through it. In case you suspect this to be a complaint, rest assured that thanks to a lack of pro-pedal option, this rigidity works to the bike’s advantage by turning pedal mashes into bursts of forward acceleration with minimal flex, squirming or bobbing.

Of course the downside is that we were never able to find the magic set up for small bump compliance. The reality about the ICT system is that it works almost too well in that it has a tendency to force the fork into double-duty. As such take your time with initial setup and don’t be afraid to delve into high rear-sag territory (we were running 25% on choppy trails).

Whereas small bump compliance isn’t remarkable, the bike’s ability to handle square edge lips, ugly ledges, g-outs, flat landings, and boulder hops is spot on. We found that any jolt rough enough to get the suspension moving past the first-inch of its travel was devoured before it could transmit harshness to the rider. What this means to most of us is prepare to find yourself seeking out the ugly lines! Half the fun of the Glimpse experience is deviating from the main line into the rough stuff. Additionally, since the bike thrives on gobbling up the nasties, it doesn’t take long to start feeling comfortable with picking up the pace even on unfamiliar terrain. We took our test bike up to one of the most exposed root laden trails we know of and found pushing the upper gears of the middle chain ring an absolute hoot.

The extreme rearward bias of the rider weight doesn’t do the Glimpse too many favors in the climbing department as a failure to consciously put some weight on the front wheel can result in wandering. However, traction is never a problem. On the flip side, high-speed descents are stellar. Just like when pushing big-gears on the flats, the Glimpse refuses to be tossed off line when the ground points downward. Stay seated, look far ahead, and trust in the chassis to take care of the rest.

Odds & Ends

The Shimano SLX drivetrain is a perfect spec for this bike’s intended application and don’t be afraid to lube up the cables even when new when it starts to feel a little stiff on the thumbs. Were it ours to keep, we would give serious consideration to swapping out the stem for something even shorter to compensate for the rearward seating position. Improved climbing prowess and slightly more confidence against wash-outs when flat-cornering would be welcome in exchange for a bit of the bike’s impressive downhill manners. Finally, be sure to take Ellsworth’s sizing chart seriously or head to your dealer and try one on for size before plunking down your cash. As with Fuji’s bikes, we found that the Glimpse tends to run on the large side of the sizing scale. In other words, this is no time to experiment with going up a frame size bigger than you’re used to.

Conclusion

The Ellsworth Glimpse has a lot going for it if your rides tend to take you into speeds that start to unsettle lesser trail bikes. Sure it could be pressed into duty as a hard-pack singletrack cruiser but the rigidity of the chassis and particularly the ICT linkage aren’t fully revealed until the going gets rough or the speeds start increasing. Concerns that this model can’t boast being hand-built in the USA are moot thanks to impeccable quality assurance and the fact that this particular bike comes in at a cost of roughly half that of its catalog-mates is proof that change can be good.

This review has been brought to you by Mountain Bike Tales Digital Magazine.

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  • Out-Sourced says:

    It’s apparent that the new marketing term for outsourcing to Taiwan or China is “Going Global”. Good to see another American firm selling their soul for the all mighty bottom line.

  • Tim says:

    The sad part about it is that Ellsworth has just invested huge amounts of money into making sure that their manufacturing facility is “green”, and they start making frames in a country where there’s very little if any regulations on industrial waste, power consumption, or working conditions. I just bought an Ellsworth, and it makes me sick to know that a bike I paid almost $6K for will now share the same name as a Taiwan bike. I just sold my last Taiwan bike for the very reason that it was not made in the US. I ride a Lynskey road bike, Dean hardtail, a Mint 29er (made in Tempe, AZ), and an Ellsworth. The fact that every bike I own was made in the US was a source of pride for me. Even though mine was made in the US, it makes me sad to know that Ellsworth chose to go this route. If I’d known, I would have saved some cash and bought an Ibis Mojo…..shit shit shit.

  • Tim says:

    \We like to think we are part of the solution, and not part of the PROBLEM\….well Tony, you just become part of the problem. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

  • jp says:

    We did this to ourselves, you all are guilty of not buying american stuff and slowly killing american production. At least it’s still designed and the tubes are made in the US, that’s better than most. I have a feeling Ellsworth will still be making plenty of bikes in america, seeing as this is a new model and all. Tim: I don’t even know what to say, the fact you listed all your bikes in a comment says it all. You rule!

  • Erik says:

    The quality can only go up now that they’re made in Taiwan; USA made Ellsworth bikes are junk and everyone knows it. From the paper thin down tubes to poorly designed drop outs on the Specialist model; I don’t know of anyone who considers the Ellsworth brand a good buy. It’s rather unfortunate, because at one time Tony knew how to make great bikes. I’ll stick with my Specialized because I know they’re designed well, tested like crazy and hold up to daily punishment.

  • Ryan says:

    How cost effective/green is it to work with the tubes here in the states, then ship them overseas to be welded, and then shipped back to the states as a complete bike. If production is so expensive here/so cheap over there that that is actually accomplished at savings, then we are all doomed. Not to mention the carbon footprint of each frame crossing the ocean twice!!!!!!!!

  • A says:

    We’re all going to die anyway so who fkn cares?

  • dopepedaler says:

    What are you patriots are talking about? This is all VERY American.

    Go to a foreign country…exploit their population for cheap labor…sell those goods for profit…feign altruistic motives…swan dive into gigantic pool of cash.

  • singletracker72 says:

    They made this bike for those of you that can’t afford or are just plain to cheap to buy a U.S.A made bike … They still make top quality bikes in the US in a very very GREEN facility… Unfortunately its just imposable to make a lo cost hi quality bike here in the States it just costs to much …

  • Pablo Mac says:

    “Concerns that this model can’t boast being hand-built in the USA are moot… ”

    I love my Handmade in the USA Cannondale Prophet more every day.

  • hamncheez says:

    Globalization is a great thing! it is free trade! why do people hate outsourcing so much?

  • Mete Pack says:

    You guys know that shipping is one of the dirtiest environmental events that happens right? It exceeds cars for pollution. Those ships run on bunker crude with so much sulphur and tar in it, that if it is not heated, you can walk on it! Buy from your own continent for the environmental win… or less of a loss.

  • Mark says:

    “quality has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years”, hello, the quality of bikes built in Taiwan has surpassed US bike manufacturing for a decade! The list of high end products including bikes coming out of Asia provides testament to the only decision made available to Tony, go global. Cervelo, Specialized, Colnago, you name it… these top brands are all made in Asia and cost a pretty penny. People that believe quality is shite have been hybernating or are not your bike afficionados.

  • k says:

    I agree with Mark.

    I’ve been living here in Taiwan for 8 years and I know Tony. Quality product coming out of Asia is actually one of the reasons that he’s made the switch. I know it took a long time for him to be convinced that that the quality was good enough and stable enough.

    I don’t actually agree with his physics model for ICT, but I will say that it goes to show that he has his own bottom line and when he believes in quality, he’s not going to let anyone push him around on that bottom line.

    The quality will stay high. Hand made product always has greater fluctuations in quality than machine made, but that just means that you have to have better QC. In speaking with Tony last March at a bike show, I talked to him as a fan of his bikes (since I work in a different area of the industry than MTB) and he was just excited to talk about his bikes from the POV of a rider. I got no feeling that he was peddling to the dollar. I did get that feeling when talking to the Cane Creek and Marzocchi folks.

  • Steve says:

    A made in Taiwan 28# $3,298.95 bike with SLX just does not interest me. I was about to buy an Evolve but now I’ll have to re-evaluate that decision. I think someone at Ellsworth forgot what was important to other people about Ellsworth. Made in America does mean something to some. Who else makes a FS 29er and has all of their production in the US?

  • Dave says:

    I think an example that illustrates this point very clearly is a comparison between Ellsworth and Ventana as the two companies have evolved over that last 10 or more years. I remember back in 2000 when i was looking to ditch my hardtail and go to a FS frame. It came down to the Ventana Marble Peak FS vs the Ellsworth Truth for me. Just like the frames the 2 companies were very similar at that point, small production, high quality, planted here in the US. In the time since they have both been very successful. I’ll define success differently in their two cases however. Sherwood at Ventana has been able to enjoy continuing to do what he has always been doing, building very nice bikes, be it a small number of them. Ellsworth on the other hand has also continued to build very nice bikes and has ramped up to much higher production. They also have become a much bigger company than Ventana. The reality of this situation brings with it both blessings and curses. If you want to be mad at someone go after WalMart. Ellsworth is just doing what they have to to survive in today’s work as a mid size company. The real problem here lies with the American consumer and with the labor union that has convinced us $25 and hour is a reasonable pay for line labor.

    All this said I like Ellsworth as a company and they make great stuff. One of my regular riding buddies has an Epiphany I ride all the time and it’s a sweet bike. For my money though I want something built by a person, not a company. This is all easy talk, but real hard to live by, i try my best but I have to admit the coffee mug I’m drinking out of right now was certainly not made locally…

  • hehe says:

    As soon as I saw the headtube gussets in the Bike magazine ad I knew this was made in the same factory as my old Azonic. Its probably a rebadged Azonic Propulsion/Xtension whatever with a tweaked chainstay to meet the ICT patent needs.

  • bikermark says:

    This offshoring has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why can’t we mass produce bikes in the US? Because the manufacturing capacity and know-how has all moved to Taiwan. Manufactures don’t choose to move manufacturing to Taiwan because of quality; they do so because they want to enhance profit margins, and now the quality in Taiwan is good enough that Trek or Colnago can manufacture a $3k bike there and people won’t complain too hard.

    All the high end stuff still gets built in the home country. Cannondale has kept its Hi-Mod frame production in the US. Trek still builds the top tier Madones here. Colnago keeps its high end production in Italy.

    Too bad we don’t have that production know-how here: all those new bike share programs are being delayed because there are supply problems.

  • CWG TeamSantaFe.org says:

    RE: going global, no comment

    RE: Ellsworth design and performance
    Just back from Breck Epic riding an all XTR Evolve 29′er. The bike may not be the lightest bike on the block but neither am I tipping the scale at 200lb. The ride is solid as a rock, takes the rough XC of the CO alpine. Going down I roll over anything without hesitation. Going up it is the best traction climbing bike I’ve ever been on (which is part of the reason I like the ride so much). The Evolve is an awesome frame for design, build and performance and the person that chose to bash Ellsworth for ‘quality’ (Erik Aug 12) must be living in a cave. If nothing else, they have a reputation for quality.

  • Randy Rivera says:

    Amen to the Evolve!

  • joe says:

    @Tim, all your Frames may be built here in the US, but I think it’s nearly impossible to build a bike with entirely Made in the USA components. Most of the boutique US drive train companies came and went in the 90′s, not to mention your clothing, and 90% of the consumer goods in your home are probably made over seas and many in sweat shops. Something to think about before you start getting all upset that your Ellsworth shares the same brand as a Made in Taiwan frameset.

  • jim says:

    Is that fact that it is made in another country so bad?

  • FSR = Foolish Sellout Retards says:

    The quality of bikes built in Taiwan has surpassed US bike manufacturing for a decade?

    Bah!

    Cannondale just left the building, which truly sucks, and Santa Cruz left a few years ago, but as long as Intense, Turner, and Foes are still here, that’s where my money will go.

    Period.

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