For a while there, the patient was touch-and-go. Assets were on the operating table. Little passion was moving through its blood. After its sale to BST Nano Carbon in late 2014, Ellsworth looked like it might not pull through. The 2015 lineup wasn’t released at all.
“We weren’t dead,” joked company founder Tony Ellsworth. “We were fermenting.”
Then, as it has done many times before, Ellsworth came roaring back to life—just in time for its 25th anniversary—with a new owner supplying much-needed capital and Tony Ellsworth still at the helm. Despite not having bikes in dealer showrooms, the team never stopped engineering, and for 2016 it has an all-new lineup with clean-slate designs built around its classic Instant Center Tracking linkage system.
A four-bar design, ICT is similar to the Horst-link design used by many brands, but it keeps the virtual pivot point in line with the chain forces, thus preventing drivetrain input to affect the suspension. Because of this, Ellsworth says, it runs a much softer tune on its Fox shocks, allowing the suspension to remain much more active during pedaling or braking.
The centerpiece of the new lineup is the Epiphany. Combining the traits of several previous models, the 2016 version is available in two frame materials and three wheel sizes. The 27.5 versions have 140 mm travel and are built for 150 mm forks, while the 27plus (pictured) and 29er versions have 120 mm of travel and 130 mm forks. To further differentiate the attitude, the aluminum bikes have a much slacker head tube angle for a more gravity-oriented ride.
All the bikes use identical ICT systems with smaller rockers that Ellsworth admits were slimmed down based on customer feedback that the massive rocker links of the past looked outdated. All the models also use a 148×12 Boost rear axle with hex-shaped ends that lock into the frame to prevent twisting. Making everything as stiff as possible can only improve the performance of the suspension, Ellsworth says.
Each of the Epiphany models will be available in a frame-only or in six spec levels, starting at $3,895 for the aluminum 27.5 and 29-inch models and $3,995 for the 27plus.
The new lineup also includes the Moment and Dare, which share a frame but are built into either 160 mm all-mountain bikes in the case of the former, or 200 mm downhill bikes for the latter. That same frame can also be set to 180 mm for freeride or bike park use. Switching travel isn’t as simple as flipping a shock mount chip though, so don’t plan to do it trail-side.
Other new models include a carbon hardtail Enlightenment in both 27.5 and 29er flavors, and the Buddha fat bike.
While the bikes aren’t entirely made in America, Ellsworth says it still prides itself on having one of the highest percentage of American-made content in its bikes in the industry. The carbon frames are made overseas but the aluminum frames as well as the rocker links and chainstays are made in the U.S.
Interbike Outdoor Demo: First look at Ellsworth’s new Dare with 160, 180 or 225mm of adjustable travel
There are big changes afoot for the storied SoCal brand, with a new owner and some new models on the way. Having been acquired by BST Nano Carbon, a San Diego-based composites manufacturer, Ellsworth is debuting the last of its Asian-made carbon fiber frames, as it will soon shift its carbon fiber production to the US alongside its aluminum bikes.
The new Dare is a direct descendent of the previous model, but it is also designed to take on new terrains, as it can be set up in three different travel settings: 225mm, 180mm, and 160mm. Each setting has its own shock mount location and uses a different shock length eye-to-eye measurement.
The classic four-bar Instant Center Tracking suspension layout remains, with a huge, machined aluminum rocker link with a carbon fiber bridge, paired to a carbon fiber seat stay.
Pictured here is an early prototype with a carbon fiber front triangle that was air-mailed from Asia and just arrived last night. With the full Shimano Saint downhill build pictured here it sports a 63 degree head tube angle, 17.5-inch chainstays and a 14-inch bottom bracket. The aluminum and carbon swing arm is built around a 142x12mm axle for versatility and is plenty strong enough for downhill use.
Because the same frame can be set up as an enduro/all-mountain bike, it also sports internal dropper post routing and a front derailleur mount, though on the final version it will be removable for a cleaner look. Speaking of look, any of the black you see here will instead be exposed carbon.
The Dare will retail for $3,695 for a frame and shock when it becomes available at the end of the year, and will be available in complete builds as well. All new Ellsworth bikes now come with a lifetime frame warranty too.
As part of the sale of the company, Ellsworth’s founder Tony Ellsworth will oversee the brand’s product design and work closely with BST Nano Carbon’s engineering and advanced materials team to create the next generation of Ellsworth bicycles. Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles’ offices and operations, previously based in Ramona, California, are now located in BST Nano Carbon’s state-of-the-art 65,000 sq. ft. R&D and manufacturing facility in San Diego.