Ventana El Ciclon - First Ride£1,599.00

Great value and versatile top-shelf rig

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Sherwood Gibson has been making mountain bikes since 1985 and Ventana’s Marble Peak was one of the first properly sorted full-suss bikes available. They’ve never been a ‘big’ brand though, preferring to hand build in the US for “those who know” rather than chase big money and big numbers. This makes the sweetly sorted El Ciclon a very individual, yet remarkably versatile and good value ride.

Ride & handling: Understated classic which will push your riding up several notches

Big tubeless treads provide an immediate, unshakeable confidence in what the El Ciclon can do. The seatstay pivot suspension design doesn’t suck up square edges as well as some linkage bikes, but its glued-to-the-ground connection and extremely tight tracking feel widens your usual margin of error massively going down the big stuff.

It applies the same nonchalant ‘can do’ attitude to climbs too. You’ll want to flick the ProPedal platform damping lever on to stop bounce on longer climbs, but thanks to the main pivot position there’s never any feel of bob through the pedals, just consistent traction.

Sherwood’s experience shows in the micro feel of the El Ciclon too. Regardless of basic geometry (a mid-length chassis with 68.5-degree head tube and 72.3-degree seat tube angles) it’s a bike that feels totally sorted and safe, yet eager.

The El Ciclon turns your riding up several notches so quietly you hardly notice at first. Dropping the big stuff, making murderous descents mundane and clearing treacherous climbs dab-free, this is an understated classic.

Straight non-hydroformed tubes give a classic, old school look: straight non-hydroformed tubes give a classic, old school look

Frame: Old-school straight tubes set this hand-built beauty apart from the pack

At a time when every frame we see is twisted, bulged and bent hydraulically, it’s refreshing to see an old-school straight tubular frame, particularly one done this well.

For a start, all the tubing is custom butted for Ventana, with wraparound head tube to down tube gussets, and a large bridge gusset between seatpost and dropped top tube added for good measure.

Our test bike also had the ‘heavy duty’ rear end option with beefed up chainstays for big brakes and big riders, although an internally butted head tube and bottom bracket shell keep overall weight down.

Chunky cut dropouts, stay bridges and triangular rockers are beautifully CNC machined, while Ventana’s ‘Electric Sex’ welds are flawless enough to put a tent in any TIG pervert’s pants.

There are two standard colour options, while multiple custom colours and full custom geometry are also available. You even get a head badge to be proud of on this hand-built beauty, but the price is actually a lot cheaper than many Far Eastern-made frames.

Equipment: Choose your own spec, but lighter wheels make a big difference

Riverside will either build a bike to whatever spec you want or just sell you a frame, so the kit on our sample bike is largely irrelevant.

What we would say though is that the wheels and tyres added a lot of rotating weight that a more cross-country/trail build wouldn’t need.

Strength where it’s needed with a wrap around head tube gusset: strength where it’s needed with a wrap around head tube gusset

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK
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