ELLSWORTH EPIPHANY 27.5+ TEST
The Epiphany is Ellsworth’s trailbike. It’s the do-it-all machine that’s been the meat of the Ellsworth lineup for many years. It’s been through several iterations over the years, always adapting to the newest technologies. This latest Epiphany’s big claim to fame is the combination of Ellsworth’s patented Instant Center Tracking suspension design and plus- sized tires, something that Ellsworth’s engineers say delivers the best traction of any bike they’ve ever made. With a claim like that, we simply had to test one.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Epiphany is a true trailbike with just over 5 inches of travel front and rear. Somewhere between a cross-country racer and an enduro bike, it is a lightweight bike with trail chops that won’t shy away from some of the gnarlier lines. The Epiphany is available in aluminum and carbon versions and with options for 27.5, 29 and 27.5+ wheels. Each of the Epiphany bikes is still designed for one purpose, though—to shred trails uphill and down.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Our Epiphany test bike came with a carbon front triangle, carbon seat stays and aluminum chainstays, all held together with 120 millimeters of ICT travel. The bike sports all the modern features you’d expect from a carbon Ellsworth, like a Boost 148 rear axle, tapered internal headset, Press-Fit bottom bracket and slick-looking internal cable routing.
Slick internals: The Epiphany uses internal cable routing through- out for both the brake and shifters. The sculpted head tube has a dedicated port for those cables, which makes it easy to route them.
Built to last: The Epiphany rides on oversized cartridge bearings throughout. Everything about this frame says “attention to detail” and “built for the long haul.”
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The first impression of anyone who sees an Epiphany is, “Wow, that thing is swoopy.” The carbon frame is sculpted in a way that makes it a work of art as well as a performance trail machine. The bike also has an impressive paint job with a deep metal flake and enough transparency to see the carbon structure below. It’s truly a stunning bike.
The component group is up to the rider. Ellsworth offers kits from SRAM and Shimano, from the basic to the ultra fancy. Our bike came with Shimano’s workhorse XT drivetrain and brakes, and they didn’t let us down once during testing. The Fox suspension package is also perfectly matched to the bike and provided worry-free performance.
ICT heart: The Instant Center Tracking suspension design is unique to Ellsworth and features a chainstay-mounted pivot that they claim delivers best-in-class traction and braking performance.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Suspension setup: Ellsworth makes the initial setup easy with air-sprung suspension front and rear. We initially used a typical 20-percent-matched sag setup front and rear, but quickly found that the ICT suspension was efficient enough to run more. After our first couple rides we backed the pressure off all the way to 35-percent sag and still felt the bike pedaled efficiently.
Classic Ellsworth: The Epiphany comes to the trail with an oversized, machined aluminum rocker, which has always been the signature look for their full-suspension frames. The difference is in the rest of the frame construction, which is entirely carbon.
Moving out: The carbon construction and swoopy lines make for a beautiful bike but also a fairly high standover height. While our tallest test riders had no issue with this large-sized bike, we strongly recommend testing one before buying if you might be between sizes. The front end of the bike is also relatively high, even with no spacers under the stem. We flipped the 80-millimeter Thomson stem to a negative rise almost immediately to give the bike a more aggressive position.
Climbing: The Epiphany’s ICT suspension design is efficient and fast-feeling, which makes the bike float uphill easily. The lightweight construction also helps keep the bike feeling quick and nimble when climbing. The plus-sized tires are naturally more portly than a standard cross-country or trail setup, but our test riders hardly noticed thanks to the rest of the bike’s svelte construction.
Big-mountain-capable: The Epiphany is a plus-sized bike that is capable of heading out for big mountain adventures thanks to a capable suspension design, solid build quality and impres- sively lightweight build. Don’t expect it to be on the podium on any given race day, but expect any Epiphany rider to have a big smile on his or her face.
Where the Epiphany really shines is on slow-speed technical climbs. This thing will tractor up the steepest of elevator-chute climbs thanks to the superb traction and long chainstays that keep the front end planted. This bike will take a rider with intermediate skills and turn him or her into an expert climber immediately.
Big trucker stability: The Epiphany has a relatively stable-feeling geometry, but the relatively steep front end keeps the handling quick enough to dive into and corner with confidence. This is a bike that can handle high speeds, but also gobble up switch- backs with ease.
Cornering: The geometry of the Epiphany is tight with a relatively steep head angle. This makes the bike handle quickly through every turn. This is far from the new-school “slacker is better” approach most companies seem to be taking. The bike is quick through tight corners and switchbacks and was clearly not designed as a gravity machine; however, the long chainstays keep the bike relatively stable at speed. Ellsworth also managed to keep the wheelbase in check with the Epiphany, which makes the handling solid enough that the rider can simply enjoy the impressive traction of those big tires when the bike is laid over in the turns.
Big-tire-supple: The Epiphany looks like it has more travel than it does, and that’s partially because of the massive tires. The bike only gets 120 millimeters of rear-wheel travel, but the big air volume of the 3-inch tires helps to eat up the rest of the trail chunder.
Descending: The Epiphany is a short-travel bike, but it’s not meant to be pigeonholed as a cross-country bike by any means. The big tires deliver big traction, which makes descents more fun than the 5 inches of travel would let on. The bike will claw its way down steep stuff with ease, allowing riders to pick and choose their lines carefully without having to worry about “washing out.” This bike feels more like a rock crawler than a Trophy Truck. The tight head angle combined with the relatively long chainstays makes this a bike that loves to pick rock gardens apart rather than mob over them with reckless abandon. Riders who love precision and endless traction when the trail points downward will love the Epiphany.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Our Epiphany came equipped with excellent components top to bottom, with two major omissions: no tubeless tires and no dropper post. Plan on upgrading both. This bike deserves it.
The internal cable routing is slick and streamlined, but it makes a racket on rough terrain as the cables hit the insides of the tubes. We were able to remedy this with a bit of 3M 2228 electrical sealing tape on the ends to keep the cables from moving; however, a more elegant solution from Ellsworth would be welcome.
The front end of the Ellsworth is quite tall, and the long Thomson stem with a positive rise doesn’t help the situation. We immediately flipped the stem for a negative rise. This gave us a better body position (more over the front end) for better weight distribution and cornering manners.
When Tony Ellsworth designed his first bikes in the early ’90s, he probably had no idea they would eventually look like this. The Epiphany tested here not only uses the most current and progressive technologies, it also sports a very sculpted frame design that is enough to make riders rubberneck as you pass them. It’s that beautiful.
The Epiphany is a trailbike that will satisfy the needs of a big cross section of riders, from cross-country to trail and possibly even enduro. The suspension is firm, and its progressive nature will appeal to riders who want an efficient, short-travel bike but don’t like their bikes to blow through travel too easily on big hits. The geometry is tight, but the longish chainstays keep the bike feeling stable. The Epiphany has always been a classic, solid-riding chassis, and the plus-sized rubber adds a new level of traction that makes riders feel as if they’re on hero dirt every time they hit the trails.
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