Ellsworth Enlightenment - first ride £2600

Lightweight race bike & great do-everthing trail bike in one

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

The Enlightenment’s featherweight 21.5lb build will make it the ultimate race bike for many riders. Sure, you could happily race on a bike that costs half as much, but you can’t put a monetary value on the sense of satisfaction that comes from opening a little gap on your mates on the climbs.

Hand-built in California, the featherweight Enlightenment is the frame that Ellsworth US doesn’t even advertise, simply because it prefers to focus on its more popular full-suspension fleet. But UK distributor Freeborn is aware that there’s a demand for frames like this, and it’s a discerning demand that can’t always be satisfied by big-name brands.

Ride & handling: race looks hide do-it-all trail bike

Its ease in acceleration and climbing is the Enlightenment’s most significant attribute. A few quick pedal strokes out of the bends take you straight back up to cruising speed, and you find yourself climbing in bigger gears than you would on a bike that’s only slightly heavier.

Despite its race thoroughbred looks, the Enlightenment’s neutral geometry takes it away from pure race bike territory and into the realms of confident, predictable do-it-all trail bike handling.

We expected the ride to feel fairly harsh with the skinny low-profile tyres, but it didn’t. The carbon-tubed rear triangle combines with loads of standover room and the consequent need for a long seat post to create a surprisingly comfortable ride across bumpy terrain.

Those thin tyres may hurt your confidence as speeds increase over technical terrain, but bigger treads will boost on-trail assurance as well as comfort.

With big profile tyres fitted, it felt dead neutral through demanding singletrack, and was only occasionally out of its depth on rough descents – mainly due to the limited travel of the Fox F100 RLT fork.

Frame: light & well thought-out

The scandium main frame and carbon rear triangle of the Enlightenment help trim its weight to almost 3lb. The monostay ‘Firm Tail Technology’ is designed to absorb a small degree of vertical trail shock at the back end without compromising lateral stiffness.

The carbon stays are bonded into seat tube and bottom bracket shell extensions, and the replaceable dropouts are double-bolted to the stays.

While scandium tubing is a sensibly tough lightweight option, you don’t want to drop thin-walled frame tubes like this on the rocks – the Enlightenment is a frame for those who ride with finesse.

The head tube is ring-reinforced for resistance to damage via front-end impacts, while the big down tube braces the frame nicely. The seat clamp bolt faces forward, out of the rear wheel spray, and there’s masses of tyre room.

Equipment: racer’s choice

Our test bike was fitted with Ellsworth’s race team rider’s kit pick. This includes a complete Shimano XTR groupset, with dual-control shifter and brake pods, but UK importer Freeborn offers builds to suit any requirement.

The wheels used Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Olympic rims laced to XTR hubs, with skinny Geax Mezcal tyres.

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