Bike Test: Ellsworth Epiphany 275 Enduro SST.2e

When he’s not overseeing the production and design of Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles, CEO Tony Ellsworth spends his time making homemade “Ellsworth” ice cream. Even in his delectable ice cream, he believes a finished product is only as good as its individual ingredients, which is apparent when he uses maple syrup for sweetener. He walks down grocery aisles and finds “all-natural” maple syrups that list high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient. Throwing them aside and looking past the marketing hype, he picks a truly natural syrup, knowing it’ll produce the finest finished product. Tony and the rest of the crew at Ellsworth implore riders to approach their bikes with the “ride and know” method to get a hands-on realization that their bikes are made with quality in mind from start to finish. Ellsworth aims to produce the optimal bike for each riding discipline and won’t simply paint its bikes in San Diego to call them “Made-in-America.”

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Ellsworth Epiphany 275 Enduro SST.2e is made for exactly what the name implies: an enduro rider who has an epiphany that he needs to be out climbing the most technical of descents. The SST.2e emphasizes the belief that aluminum still has high-end potential for enduro riders who need a bike that outperforms the rest while offering the toughness required of something that is occasionally tomahawked down the trail. Ellsworth has a true-blue following of core riders who swear by Ellsworth and nothing else. In other words, this bike is for the rider who knows exactly what he wants, without compromise.

 

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

Constructed using aluminum and carbon fiber in different areas of the frame, the Epiphany 275 Enduro isn’t built upon the common ideals of weight or durability. The frame triangle and chain stays use Ellsworth’s SST (shaped, swaged and tapered) technology to precisely define the thickness of the aluminum tubing. The seat stays utilize certified high-modulus carbon (Ellsworth coins it Rare Earth Carbon) to provide extra torsional rigidity in the rear triangle that combats the flex sometimes found in four-bar suspension designs with longer linkages. Ellsworth’s Instant Center Tracking (ICT) suspension linkage design is the most energy efficient suspension design in the world, with zero loss being pretty hard to beat. ICT takes into account the three principles that make bicycles the most efficient human-powered machines and translates them into full-suspension design. By doing so, ICT creates a suspension design that is always fully active, thereby increasing traction and power transfer, which keeps the rider pedaling harder and longer.

 

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

When it comes to discussing components, there are few companies that immediately imply high-end quality, regardless of which product you’re talking about. Thomson is one of them. Thomson Trail Carbon bars, bolted onto the frame via a Thomson Elite X4 stem, create a cockpit that delivers durability and stiffness in an elegant package. The other body contact point is supported by a Thomson Elite Dropper post.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setup: Our test bike arrived with air suspension that was preset for our rider weight right from the factory, so we simply hit the trails. If your Ellsworth needs some fine-tuning from the 25-percent sag stock setting, the job is made easy thanks to the single air valves on the shock and fork.

Pedaling: Aside from the high-quality, handcrafted construction, it’s safe to say that ICT is what makes many individuals Ellsworth riders for life. It has a remarkable way of providing a solid pedaling platform that still soaks up everything in its path–without the need for lockouts or additional shock technology. On loops with consistent ups and downs, we often found ourselves leaving the Fox CTD shock in Descend mode as long as we weren’t standing up to crank out steep pitches. The only time we flicked it over to Climb mode was pedaling out the smooth asphalt road leading back to our house.

Cornering: Ellsworth’s ICT suspension design produces a platform that offers a little added traction but doesn’t have you sinking into every corner. We found ourselves hitting corners with more speed and aggression than we are normally comfortable with. The Kenda Honey Badger Pro tires loved any properly ridden hardpack corner, but the first sign of loose terrain left our front tire swimming in the sand.

Braking: Whether cruising along a road without any suspension compression or barreling down chunder-strewn chutes named after something meant to scare you to death, braking power and reliability were consistent, through and through. We don’t typically throw out a product name without it needing any explanation, but if one product were able to pull it off, it would be Shimano XTR brakes.

Descending: The Epiphany 275 Enduro is designed to pedal to the top of every descent, but it truly shines when the front tire points downhill. High-speed pinning is where this bike excels, as the 68-degree head tube angle and 50-millimeter stem create a riding position that keeps the front tire in front of you for any rocky chutes or drops.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

The Honey Badger Pro tires are a solid choice on any sort of terrain that mimics the feel of smooth concrete, but we suggest swapping them out for something with a bit more width and knobby if you live in the Pacific Northwest or Northeast. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: do your bum a favor and ride something a little more forgiving than the WTB Silverado saddle. Ellsworth also builds the bike with a WTB Rocket V, which seems like a downgrade if you look at the price, but your bum will thank you for the added comfort. Want something entirely different? The beauty of buying from a company like Ellsworth is that they’ll customize the bike however you like.

BUYING ADVICE

While the Epiphany’s aesthetics are a little dated, with large CNC rockers and traditional aluminum construction, we don’t ride bikes because of how they look. We ride bikes because we enjoy the exhilaration of blasting down the trail atop a bike that empowers us to rip faster than anything else around. While the Epiphany Enduro SST.e may have your buddies talking about the old-school look at the trailhead, they won’t catch you again until you’re up at the top with your shoes off.

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