We’ve had the Ellsworth Evolution for a few months now and have gotten to know it quite well. And that’s a good thing because it doesn’t come from the wave of new carbon full suspension 29ers with ultra-short chainstays and slacker head angles. Rather, it is a machine made with that familiar material called aluminum and a different approach to 29er geometry and suspension.
It is beautiful to look at with its swooping top tube and long and elegant swingarm. It flows well and is nicely complemented by Loaded Components touches. Something interesting though, is that not everyone likes the frame shape with that long swingarm. Those folks found the swingarm odd and more appropriate for a downhill bike.
On the geometry side, the chainstay is not that short at 18.2 inches and the head angle is on the steep side at 72 degrees. For comparison, the much ballyhooed Tallboy LTC measures in at 17.9 inches and 69.5 degrees respectively. But the good news with the Evolution is the combination actually works well. The bike steers quickly and it is a good climber that maintains traction on difficult climbs.
Climbing traction is really where this bike excels. The suspension is active and it stays active through all kinds of trail situations. Unlike a lot of designs that rely on chain tension to firm up the suspension during climbing, the Evolution lets the suspension work away during high pedaling efforts. The result is a wheel that stays on the ground and maintains traction through the trickiest climbs. There is no pedal kickback where the trail bumps and pedal output seem to fight each other as the suspension is restricted and freed from movement. At the same time, the suspension is allowed to fully stay active during the hardest efforts.
A downside of a very active suspension like this, is that the rider really needs stay seated during climbs. When out of the saddle, the rider can cause a bit of suspension bob as they rock up and down the bike during hard pedaling efforts. The rear shock can be switched of course, to provide a stable pedaling platform if it’s a long, steep climb. But this will detract from the strength of this system, so the rider must remember to open up the shock again.