Ellsworth was at the recent Winter Bike Press Camp in Westlake Village in Southern California and we had a chance to sit down and talk to founder Tony Ellsworth about his company, its new owner and the current bike lineup for 2016. It seems like just a few weeks ago, we had posted an announcement of Ellsworth’s rebirth under US carbon brand BST Nano. They had a snazzy promo video and prototypes available at Interbike last Fall. But when the time came to start writing the checks to get the factories rolling, BST Nano was unable to fund the production. So, Ellsworth was forced to go searching for another financial backer, determined to keep things local. His searches led him to Jonathan Freeman, a San Diego businessman and entrepreneur. They are working on plans for carbon US production by this year, hopefully leveraging sources from the big aerospace industry in Southern California.
Tony Ellsworth is now the VP of Product Development and Engineering. 2016 marks the 25th anniversary for Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles and they have restructured their model lineup. Gone are the Truth, Moment, Evolve and Evolution, replaced by the Epiphany in 29er, 27.5 and 27.5+ form in both carbon and alloy versions. The 27.5 version has 140mm of rear travel and the Plus and 29er versions have 120mm of travel. The Enlightenment (carbon hardtail) and Buddha (carbon fat bike) remain as do the carbon Moment and Dare.
The Epiphany has been completely redesigned and is all new including, yes, shorter linkages (the employees stopped counting the number of times they heard “the 90’s called, they want their suspension back”.) Other updates and changes include Boost axle standard in the rear, Shimano Di2 compatibility, 1x and 2x drivetrain compatibility, internal routing for shifter cables and dropper posts, tightening up the rear end, increased stiffness and updated geometry. The suspension design is still Tony’s ICT (Instant Center Tracking), but the linkages have been shortened considerably and the leverage ratios changed a bit. Also, if you look close, you will see that the chainstay pivot has been relocated to a position closer to the mid-point (somewhat reminiscent of Breezer’s MLink mid-chainstay pivot location).
Overall, the Epiphany has been tightened up from back to front (a claimed 300% increase in lateral rigidity over the previous model) by using 3 different locking mechanisms. From the stiffer Boost standard with hex tapered axles, the carbon torsion arch (CTA) swingarm brace, the dual encapsulated torque tube pivots to the ovalized rocker locker (linkage cross member), each point has been strengthened. Every little place where any lateral play could creep in, they improved creating what they call the “stiffest suspension on the market.”
For the geometry, it should be noted that the carbon versions of the Epiphany have steeper angles than the alloy versions. The thinking here is that the more aggressive riders will opt of the alloy whereas the more trail and XC riders will opt for the carbon. Tony was keen to point out that the overall wheelbase of a given bike is more or less the same whether it is achieved with slacker angles and shorter chainstays or with steeper angles and longer chainstays. But it is the turn-in that will feel different and handle different. The carbon bikes (with their more XC orientation) will have a faster turn-in while the slacker, more aggressive alloy models will provide more stability at higher speeds. Tony adds, “Our bikes are tremendously stable and they turn in really nice and quick. There are other bikes that are also stable, but turn in a little slower. So it’s really a matter of which one you like…it’s not a matter of right geometry or wrong geometry.” Tony also emphasizes that the Epiphany is not meant to be an enduro racer and he hints at a forth coming model that is currently in development along those lines.
Hex taper axle close-up (left). The rocker locker (right) keeps things laterally stiff (click to enlarge).
Ellsworth also now includes a 5 year warranty on all new models. As an indication of the brands health, since Interbike Ellsworth has signed 34 new dealers and they have 9 global dealers with 11 reps covering those territories. They still have 3 demo trailers with 9 bikes each and they sponsor 8 racers, sponsor 2 events and stay active in the local SoCal mountain bike scene. These bikes are available to order now from your local Ellsworth dealer. Ellsworth will also have plenty of their bikes for demo at the upcoming Sea Otter Classic festival.
For more information visit www.ellsworthbikes.com.