While the world seems to be going mad for longer travel 29er full suspension trail bikes, hardtails shouldn’t be forgotten by riders who are happy to invest their riding experience in seeking out smoother lines through the chop. There are a number out there, but with steel and alloy dominating, it’s refreshing to see a carbon fibre option with the Canfield EPO.
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Canfield EPO spec overview — frame only
- Recommend fork length: 120mm-140mm
- Headset: Integrated IS 42mm upper/IS 52mm lower, Campy style 45° bearing.
- Front derailleur: Shimano direct mount — top pull/single bolt or SRAM HO series
- Bottom bracket: Threaded 73mm
- Seatpost: 30.9mm
- Seatpost clamp: 35mm
- Rear dropout: 142mm x 12mm, Maxle included
- 650b+ compatibility: Up to 35i rim/2.8 tire
- ŸISCG tabs: ISCG 05/MRP AMg V2 chain guide recommended
- Brake mounts: Chainstay mounted post brake mount
Canfield EPO frame and equipment
The EPO is designed around 120-140mm forks. We tested it with 140mm Pikes, which seem the perfect complement to a bike like this — stiff enough to handle most that’s thrown at it, without being too weighty. The rest of the build was fairly standard: Thomson dropper, XT drivetrain and brakes, and Spank wheels with some chunky Maxxis and Vittoria rubber wrapped around them. With a claimed frame weight of 1,495g, this built into an reasonable 12.2kg (26.9lb) bike.
Even riding the bike home through town for the first time, it was immediately apparent that the EPO is incredibly stiff. The back end, even with big volume rubber, is very harsh. As such we’d recommend running 29er wheels with wider rims than the Spanks to get plenty of support for big rubber, allowing lower pressures. Canfield says there’s enough room for 2.8” tyres on 35mm internal rims, but we reckon in the UK you’re going to come across mud clearance issues very fast — ultimately 142x12 spacing doesn’t quite give enough room. Hold out a few months for 2.6” rubber though, as we reckon these would complement the EPO well.
Canfield EPO ride impressions
Riding the EPO on the trail is a lot of fun. While the back end is harsh, so long as you ride the bike with this in mind, you can sling the super short 414mm back end around, slapping it into corners and picking it up neatly over rocks and roots. In tight, twisty, technical trails the EPO is a joy to weave around and over obstacles — it’s an incredibly manoeuvrable bike.
On steeper terrain we were looking for a little more from the EPO though. The 66.8-degree head angle isn’t steep, but when loading the fork, the head angle steepens and with no rear suspension to compress this is accentuated. The 457mm reach is also fair, if not super long, but to really get the most out of the bike in steeper terrain we’d love a degree off the head angle and another 10-15mm reach added, bringing it closer to that of, say, a Mondraker Vantage. Such short chainstays are great for the twists, but again, at speed, a little extra length would boost stability.
When the trail returns to the top of the hill you could do a lot worse than the EPO. The 74.5-degree seat angle isn’t too slack, so you’re in a reasonable position over the bottom bracket, while the stiff carbon frame translates plenty of your power into forward motion.
There are plenty of little details to like about the EPO’s build, handy for a £1,400 / $1,500 frame. There’s a standard 73mm threaded bottom bracket, a crowd pleaser with mechanics; ISCG 05 tabs for mounting a chain guide; a low stack integrated headset; and a shiny alloy plate on the chainstays to protect the carbon from chainsuck.
Getting the EPO up to top speed means precise line choice to thread it between the biggest of hits, but with a bit of thought going in to wheel and tyre choice, the harshness of the back end can be tempered. Even so, longer rides in the hills do become tiring after a while, with the relentless punishment from the back end.
The EPO feels most at home in nadgery woods where you need to flick it from corner to corner and hop over stumps and branches, rather than super steep tech. Riders looking for a bike to rag around tightly packed woodland, where pin-sharp line choice is a must, will like the flickable, agile nature of the EPO.
Canfield EPO pricing and availability — frame only
The Canfield EPO is available frame only and is priced £1,400 / $1,500 / AU$N/A.
Canfield EPO early verdict
Stick chunky rubber in and hit up your local woods for maximum EPO fuelled fun.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.