Ellsworth Evolve

Pro Reviews


Price: $2195
Frame Weight: 6.06 lbs
Bike weight (as tested): 28.72 lbs
BB height (measured): 13.31 inches
Wheelbase (measured): 43.50 inches
Rear shock: Fox Float R
Rear travel: 4″

Effective Top Tube Stand Over BB Height
Seat Tube Angle Head Tube Angle Head Tube Length
18 24.0 22.83 13.7 73.5 72.0 4.00 18
20 24.7 29 13.7 73.5 72.0 4.75 18


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Reviews of the Ellsworth Evolve:

Rider/Reviewer: Francis Cebedo


  • great build quality
  • ample top tube clearance
  • custom tuned rear shock
  • the most active suspension in the group
  • the rear wheel seems firmly planted on the ground through all conditions
  • low center of gravity
  • ideal 72 degree head angle


  • paint scheme is controversial
  • climbing out of saddle induces pedal bob

Testing Notes:

This is perhaps the most interesting ride of the lot. The central point of all the attention is the steep head angle. 73 degrees when mated with a 100mm fork. Mind you 26-inch riders that big wheeled tires are really best when steepened just a bit (usually 1 degree). What results is an extremely quick and agile, short wheelbase bike.

Our Ellsworth Evolve frame was a pre-production model and we noticed a couple of issues. First, the Reba compression knob hit the downtube of the frame. Second, the tire seemed to bottom out into the frame during hard hits. The rear tire we used was a WTB Nanoraptor. We were assured that both issues will be fixed in full production versions.

Overall Impressions:

The Ellsworth Evolve is the smoothest riding bike in the group. The rear suspension is very active as the tire tracks the ground very well. One can easily notice the long suspension arm moving even on slight trail bumps.

The rear shock on the bike is a non-stable platform Fox Float shock that is specially tuned for Ellsworth. It seems to be a great match for the bike. Despite the very active suspension, the bike pedals quite well. The Evolve gives the appearance that it’s slow since the tire is always on the ground, but it goes forward very nicely – especially in rough terrain. When climbing out of saddle however, the pedal induced bob is noticeable.

Top tube clearance is awesome. The top tube is low to the ground and this seems to result in a bike with a low center of gravity. The bike is very flickable when carving through singletrack. With all the pivots, construction is impeccable with ball bearings on the pivots and there is no traceable sign of lateral flex.

Hitting steep downhills and big log piles, the bike was confidence inspiring. This bike was easy to ride fast on the tough descents as well as the twisty ones.

So what we have here seems to be a very well balanced bike. The Evolve seems to do everything well and it looks good doing it.

Rider/Reviewer: Karl Etzel

Overall Impression:

Unlike the other bikes I tested, I was able to spend two weeks and several rides on this bike. Thus my review for this bike will be more detailed.

This was my first real 29er experience as this was the bike I picked up the week before the shootout day. I was very pleasantly surprised. This bike begs to be hopped around, played on, and pedal actuation was minimal so you don’t feel confined to the saddle if you don’t want to be. I’m pretty sensitive about pedal efficiency and a bike that robs my energy is a non-starter. I actually rode up a long road climb (Bernal, on my way to Santa Teresa) honking it in the big chainring and the bobbing was imperceptible. I noticed a little bit in the middle ring but still, very minor. ICT design was confirmed in my book. I did not like the paint.

Lots of standover. Very good thing. Enables more riders to size the bike based on TT length not the frame size. Wide bars, expect that this contributed to the quick feel. Did not feel like I expected a 29er to feel.

Smart shock selection. I’ve always been a fan of using a fully active shock with a Horst link bike and am glad the Ellsworth foregoes the stable platform option. Might as well get the benefit of the linkage design. LARGE rocker arm is both confidence inspiring and beefy looking. However there was one rub, I was actually able to bottom this shock out, which is rare for my size/riding style. I double checked the sag, and at about 5 mm it was right on. I suspect that the long swingarm of the 29″ design gives more leverage to compress the shock. This may point to a need for a more progressive shock design that will stiffen up more as the shock compresses. A friend hopped on the bike for a parking lot spin and was surprised by his ability to bottom it out as well on some small hits. I would be interested in hearing others’ experience in this regard.

Small bump compliance of the rear end was excellent on rock strewn climbs. The ability of the bike to roll over rocks was excellent, both due to wheel size and suspension. Of course the catch is that with the bike weighing so much, it needs to roll well ‘cuz hopping a 29 lb bike up over stuff while going uphill gets tiring.

Uphill switchbacks – I continued to be impressed by the bike’s behavior and ability to get it around the corners. Where I noticed the downside of the mass was on a few high speed corners where those large wheels get spun up and you have to work them around. As an example on the scale the front wheel was 2010 grams while my racing 26″ (a Ritchey WCS with ZED Race tire) was 1740. That is over ½ lb extra rotating weight. Some of this is surely due to the tire selection but you get the point.

Mud clearance on the front and rear end was poor. I suspect they were doing everything they could to keep weight down and not blow out the rear triangle and this was something they had to bargain away. It would be interesting to compare the detailed measurement on the Evolve to a Truth or Epiphany and see whether Ellsworth had to give something up in this arena for the 29″ format.

28.7 lbs on the scale with pedals. Not an ultralight component build but not heavy either – and the I9 wheels are pretty light. Confirmed my weight anxieties about 29ers.

Rider/Reviewer: Ty Brookhart


  • Predictable
  • Great Descending
  • Engineer’s Dream
  • Solid construction
  • Stable


  • Pedal bob
  • Acceleration

Overall Impression:

I thought long and hard about how I would describe the ride of this bike to differentiate it from the all the others, but nothing stuck out- except the paint. Maybe that’s a good thing? The Evolve handled well on rolling trails and the rear wheel stayed firmly on the ground through tight turns laden with braking bumps. The bike also soaked up drops like a Brawny paper towel. What the bike didn’t do exceptionally well was sprint. I love to stand up and pound on the pedals out of turns and I also like to climb getting out of the saddle once in a while. These are both things the Ellsworth falls short at when compared to a couple of the other bikes I rode.

I appreciated the predictability of this 29er. The bike invoked a feeling of confidence when crossing bridges and descending on several sections of steep off-camber trail. The Evolve never once made me feel uneasy, but never did it make me feel really fast (I’m not really fast, so that could have been part of the problem). I can’t say that I was really happy with the rear suspension, but as a disclaimer, the pressure and shock may not have been set-up ideally for my weight and the section of trail I was riding (rolling to very steep and fairly rocky).

The Evolve was like a good piece of pizza – nothing not to like. Not too much of anything, not too little of anything. After stepping away from the table, or out of the saddle as it were, I was full and content, but not blown away. Would I ride the Ellsworth again…in a heartbeat. Would I buy one…nah.

Rider/Reviewer: Kevin Kirkhart

Overall Impressions:

The Ellsworth Evolve was the first course of my 29er smorgasbord. As a former owner of a Truth I expected the Evolve to act like its sibling. And Deja vu is what I got. The plushness was there but to get good mid-stroke performance, I needed more air-pressure than I would have liked. As for pedal efficiency, the “patented ICT” does its job but it will cost you extra pennies to have this “technology”. Don’t get me wrong, the Evolve pedals great, but for me, many more variables than suspension technology dictates a good ride. The handling and control of the Evolve were what I expected as well. Basically it was neutral and middle of the road. For whatever reason, I felt like I was on top of the bike as opposed to in the bike. The bottom bracket felt low, which is good for railing turns, but not good when rolling over logs. So pick your poison. As for aesthetics, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the Evolve didn’t catch my eye. Freakie-deakie tie-die isn’t my flavor, but to each his own; I say always bet on black. Ellsworth fit and finish is always nice with clean lines and smooth welds that have come to be expected from this boutique builder. Just remember “you got to pay to play.” Overall, I like the Evolve and with more tweaking and dialing it in for myself I could like it even more. For those with less time and money, some of the other bikes would fit the bill better.

Rider/Reviewer: Joseph Cordova


  • Very fast and responsive
  • Nice handling and geometry
  • Smooth active rear end with 2 optional setting


  • Not real excited by this paint job

Overall Impressions:

Evolving into a 29er is exactly how you feel when riding this bike. While in the saddle you feel so in command and ready to perform with anything that comes your way. With two optional settings on the rear rocker swingarm, the bike is very active and smooth over rough terrain and medium jumps . This Ellsworth is a complete package and is a perfect XC trail bike for someone looking for the best 29er performer.

Rider/Reviewer: Dennis Baker


  • Excellent all around trail bike
  • Climbs well
  • Very stable and fast descending


  • Active suspension makes it feel a bit heavy

Overall Impressions:

Much like the Niner the Ellsworth felt like it had more travel than it should have. The travel on the Ellsworth is also very active and did an excellent job of keeping the back wheel on the ground during downhills and climbs alike. Climbing on the Ellsworth, while not as spry as the Titus, was excellent. If you’ve ever spent much time on an Ellsworth bike then you know that the ICT suspension has it’s own unique feel. This bike was no exception.

Ellsworth bikes have their own distinct look and this one more or less conforms to that standard. I don’t think any of the test riders were drawn to the black flame paint job and when you added in the bright red spokes it just seemed a little tacky to me. That said this isn’t the only paint scheme available and there was someone who saw the bike and loved it. If it were me I’d get the black anodized frame which is quite appealing and durable. Overall build quality of the Ellsworth is good and the anodized finish is extremely durable and cleans up new looking for years.

Rider/Reviewer: Nick Thelen

Overall Impressions:

Why are people attracted to “ugly” things?? The Evolve is kind of like that hot “punk rock chick” in the clubs you want to pick up…but have no idea what to say. Sporting an anodized “flame” job and red spokes this ride will get attention!!

In the saddle it feels “spot-on”. The evolve rolls well, climbs well and can soak up the hits. Suspension feels a bit soft (but that may be due to adjustments). Handling steeper descents and rocky/rooty sections is confidence inspiring. The Evolve, however, handles like a truck. Steering is a bit sluggish, but that did not take away from my assurance of bashing through, bouncing off of, and rolling over virtually anything in my way. Overall this is one FUN and solid ride!

A word from the Manufacturer

What makes the bike great?

I think it’s the subtle blending of the advantages of many things: The technology of our shaped, swaged, tapered tubing, the Instant Center Tracking, the Anti Squat Tuning of the linkage, and the excellent handling we have learned to design into the bikes. That all carefully matched and blended with the low rolling resistance of the 29″ wheels makes for a really terrifically “Evolved” mountain bike for trail riding.

The idea that any ONE thing-like “29″ Wheels” alone will make it a better mtb is short sided and naïve. Every platform has its strengths and weaknesses, and there are a lot of fine bikes out there today. When we design new bikes here, we pay very close attention to details of each “things” characteristic, and blend the advantages and avoid the disadvantages of each. Frame building as advanced as it has become is still a bit of a black art-a art of compatibility, packaging and tweaking. I’m sure every 29″ bike in your shootout had it’s strong points. My goal with the Evolve was to capitalize on as many strong points as possible, without compromising on the weak points of things.

How did you use the 29inch platform to help the bike achieve its design goals.

Well, the design goal for the Evolve is the same as the design goals for all Ellsworth Frames: handling on a thought, efficient utilization of energy input, ride quality, and traction and control.

The BIG disadvantage I saw with the 29″ platform, and it manifest itself in many 29″ bikes today is that they DO NOT handle on a thought-they handle like log trucks. Long wheelbases, high bottom brackets and high center of gravity make them require a good deal of attention to ride. The Evolve geometry minimizes this to the point of feeling handling wise very much like a “normal” mountain bike. In fact, at Dirt Demo at Interbike, that was the most common comment from dealers who rode the bike-”feels like an Epiphany” they would say, only faster. What they were feeling was the rolling characteristics of the 29″ wheel, without the handling limitations of the 29″ platform.

The BIG ADVANTAGE of the 29″ platform is simply the way the wheels roll. Making sure that the full suspension doesn’t take away from that efficiency was done by utilizing the design tenants and methods of Instant Center Tracking. In fact, when the axle center rises, and the BB height stays the same, the dynamics of where the Instant Center goes and what it does changes dramatically. But understanding this, the ICT suspension on the Evolve was adapted and tuned specifically for that 29″ configuration-so it’s not a 26″ bike adapted for 29″ wheels. It is very literally a 29″ Instant Center Tracking Suspension bike. The smooth ride, the traction and control you feel, the acceleration and energetic lively feel are all part of Instant Center Tracking-and all contribute to the efficient feeling of the 29″ wheels, without taking anything from the blend of 29″ and Full Suspension.

Who is the ideal rider for the bike?

Anyone wanting to ride everywhere, efficiently and fast. Ttaller riders especially benefit dramatically from this platform. I’m a committed Truth rider. While I also love the Epiphany, I love the tight agile Truth, and the 4″ travel is just perfect for me. The Evolve has the ride of the Epiphany with the bigger wheels and without the increase in travel at 4″. The handling is spot on. It’s my next “go to” bike. I love to climb and I love technical single-track. I don’t like walking and like to ride anything I possibly can. I like long rides, where I get lost and find my way home before dark, tired and hungry. I consider myself to be an ideal rider for that bike. It’s efficient, comfortable, and invites me to ride everything while staying on the pedals.

Tony Ellsworth
Ellsworth Bicycles

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