Ellsworth – AM Wheelset Review

Pro Reviews

The Rims

Picture by regularJoe

The 32mm wide, low profile rims gave the Big Betty’s a very wide profile (BB’s are 2.4 at the casing and 2.5 at the tread). It was actually so wide that at 60 psi, the tires rubbed the stays. That is the first time I have ever run into this on the Terremoto, but that brought a smile to my face. I love wide rims and at 26 lbs. there was no rubbing or clearance issues. The Ellsworth AM rims gave the Betty’s a very square profile which I really liked.

When I went to air up the tires, I did notice that the shallow depth of the rims did not let the retaining ring of the valve to grab enough thread. The result of this is a valve stem that moves from side to side…not that big of a deal really.

The Engagement

Whenever we talk about wheelsets, there are three areas that seem to be the most important in our groups.

  1. Weight
  2. Stiffness
  3. Engagement

Why is engagement so important? The faster the engagement, the faster the power from your legs moves the rear wheel. The more engagement a rear hub has…the fewer degrees the crank arms have to more to “engage” the drive mechanism and move the rear wheel.

The Ellsworth wheels use a 3 pawl, 24 point engagement drive system. As you can see by the pictures, the pawls are set up in pairs and engage the ring in the hub body. This makes for a very strong engagement system according to Ellsworth.

I emailed back and forth with TE on the subject of engagement because his 24 point is much less than the competition at this price level. Chris King’s ring drive is 72 point and Industry Nine’s 6 pawl system is 120 point. Long story short…TE explained that he wanted durability and less drag over faster engagement. You can see his exact thoughts in this pdf file.

Tony Ellsworth on Engagement PDF

From the email with Tony Ellsworth:

When I did my own hub, I wanted to really have the focus be on overall performance, and so, I made a conscious decision to go with a known low freewheel resistance and robust pawl for durability and reliability.  Nothing ruins a ride faster then to have your hub cease to engage…  I just wanted none of it.  And that’s why there are the 24 robust POE in my hub that there are.  When there’s a better way to do it all the way around–I’ll be looking to add that to my hub, but for now, my hub is dependable, durable and the mechanism that’s in there has millions of trouble free miles on it.  That was my objective, that durability, and the known fact that the 24 POE, three pawl mechanism is a freewheeling resistance cue!

Now I am going to tell you why I disagree. In my opinion, there is two types of drag.

  1. Drag that can only be seen on the stand.
  2. Drag that can be felt on the trail.

Drag that can be seen in the stand doesn’t always transfer to the feeling on the trail. In the case of Industry Nine and Chris King, they may stop faster when spinning the wheels on the stand in comparison with the wheels from Ellsworth, but on the trail…I felt no noticeable difference in drag between the three wheelsets (I own a set of the I9’s and Kings). On the trail…I would rather have more engagement. More points of engagement mean better control in rock, tech situations and less gaps in double clutches. These are two areas that I spend a lot of time riding in.

Overall Wheel Stiffness

On the trail…these wheels are stiff. The quadruple butted, straight pull spokes do a great job of holding the wheels together under hard load. They hold a great line through rock gardens and there is no noticeable flex through heavy carving. If Tony’s main objective was to build a stiff wheel…he did it. Even through all of the pounding, the wheels are still as true as the day they were dropped off at my front doorstep.

For more of Tony’s thoughts on wheel stiffness…check out this pdf.

Tony Ellsworth On Wheels

Once you had the wheels going, there was no noticeable efficiency losses. The weight of these wheels are what you would expect out of an AM build. There are a little bit more than a comparable Industry Nine build and just about on par with a Chris King build…so there are no surprises here.

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  • Anonymous says:

    seems to be a staight talk review, no bias. the points of contention were exactly what i would consider to be deal breakers @ that price, mainly the slow hubs. i look forward to more reviews from the author.

  • Anonymous says:

    Sounder interesting but the slow engagement is a deal-killer. I mean, 24 points is just ridiculous and a cheaper way to manufacture durable hubs. My Kings have no drag on the trail and I have Hopes as well. It is not cheap to properly design and build a high-engagement hub…thus the easy way out.

    Bottom line- now way, I’d pay that much for thi swheelset. I can get a custom-built Chris King set laced to any rim for around $800. The I9s are a bit more but both totaly outclass the Ellsworth wheels. 24 points makes me smile, especially rge reasons used to justify it….amusing stuff 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    Great review, by the way- detailed and clear with no hype or bias. Excuse my hurried and consequently, inaccurate typing.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the responses. I tried to be as complete and non-biased as possible while presenting both views.


  • Anonymous says:

    Excellent review. Thanks.

  • Anonymous says:

    “I have seen Trials riders, in highly technical position, need
    the pedal in a specific position for clearance and power to
    hop or step up the bike. But other then this the immiediate (sic)
    engagement feature is very cool, and feels very good, but to
    trade it for freewheeling friction makes no sense.”

    From the engagement PDF. I have found – as a mountain biker, mind – that I occasionally have to position “the pedal in a specific position for clearance and power to hop or step up” over trail obstacles. I’m sure I’m the only one, though, and it is obvious that I don’t need faster engagement since King and I9 hubs are known to have terrible build quality and most slow riders use them.

    Oh, wait a minute . . .

  • Anonymous says:

    These wheelsets are just rebranded Easton’s, what do you expect? Look it up.

  • Anonymous says:

    i really hate to bust some of people bubbles but these hubs are the exact same as the azonic outlaw and performance locos minus the way the flange is made. these wheel have straight pull spoke versus standard pull spokes. those hubs are good but def. do not belong on a wheel of this expense. i mean seriously these hubs cost them nothing to get made.

    i hate to say it ellsworth fails once again. i really want to see this company do the right thing. i love the way that their products look.

  • Anonymous says:

    A four page review and no weights are given for the wheels? Or did I miss that…?

  • Anonymous says:


    Claimed 2,376 grams
    Weight as tested on Ultimate Digital (QR rear w/20mm Caps on the Front) – 2,420g
    Front w/20mm End Caps – 1,100g
    Rear w/QR Axle and No QR – 1,320g

  • Anonymous says:

    Again why would one spend nearly 1000 buckaroos on these poor engaging wheels when you could build a set of Kings or order some I9’s for 100-200 doll hairs cheaper?

    It’s the same with their frames. Overpriced for what you get.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have CKs. I have for years, and probably will for several more. QR front, 20mm front, and a couple of rears with different rims. No way I’m spending that kind or coin on an inferior hub. Has anybody clued TE in on the reputation of King hubs?

  • Anonymous says:

    Tony E responded to your column posted in 2008 and suggested he was going to address some of your objections to the Ellsworth Wheelset. Has he done so and have you looked at them again?

  • Anonymous says:


    Haven’t heard anything back yet.


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