Ellsworth’s new Evolve sst.2 is proof, if it were needed, that big wheels and a short travel suspension chassis can create a thrilling high-speed trail combo without having to carry a heft penalty. Tipping the scales at 11.97kg (26.4lb) without resorting to big money top-end carbon widgetry, our test build is as agile and refreshing to ride up climbs as it is to blast the sort of raggedy trails that are usually the domain of far heavier-duty, longer-travel machines.
Ride & handling: Lively technical singletrack handling
Bigger wheels roll smoother, so demand less suspension travel. The Evolve is very much like Ellsworth’s longer travel Epiphany in its ride personality. A four-bar linkage Instant Centre Tracking frame design makes full leverage use of its longer than average rocker conﬁguration and Fox RP23 Boost Valve shock. This frame creates a ride that’s incredibly plush for a 100mm (3.9in) travel bike, without suffering from squat or bob under heavy braking and power pedalling.
In short, the back end remains ﬂuid over even the smallest trail ripples. There’s never an obvious feeling of power loss through the pedals, and bigger hits are absorbed smoothly without feeling that you’re at the end of the travel. Only the dirt lines on the shock will tell you that you’ve been using everything on offer.
Frame geometry is steeper than most (74 degrees seat/72.5 degrees head). But this combines well with the easier roll and extra traction of big wheels and tyres to create livelier technical singletrack handling than on most 29ers, at high and low speeds. That said, we found the best suspension set-up to be slightly softer at the back than up front.
Frame: Evolve's signature looks are retained
This is the second incarnation of the Evolve. The distinctive low top tube and long rocker still stand proud, but the down tube takes on a more swoopy form. A new lighter seat tube also incorporates the big rocker pivot and the graphics are more subtle. A new semi-integrated tapered stubby (to keep the front low) head tube makes for a very precise steering feel, obviously assisted by the inherent stability of a 100mm (3.9in) travel through-axle fork.
There’s more mudroom around the rear tyre than on older Ellsworths, and the geometry is long and steep, so you can use a 100mm travel fork if you like lively, almost cross-country handling, or use a 120mm (4.7in) fork to make things more relaxed. Any longer would jack up the front end and bottom bracket too much.
Equipment: Different build kits at various prices
UK importers Haven Distribution offer different build kits at various prices. We equipped our test bike with a mix of relatively light parts that would enable us to get the best out of the frame up and down trail loops in our local woods. We’re very impressed with the supple trail performance and extensive ﬁne adjustment potential of Marzocchi’s new Bomber 44 Micro Titanium 29er fork.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine.