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Ellsworth Bikes has become a mainstay in the downhill biking world, and the Ramona-based company has stayed on top for almost two decades due to having one of the lightest and strongest hand built frame structures on the market today.
With a trail, freeride, road bikes and even a cruising model having been developed in recent years and now having full bikes available as opposed to just frame components, we thought it would be a good time to check in and rate Ellsworth Bikes against some new models by other brands to see if they’re still number one.
WHAT ARE ELLSWORTH BIKES?
Founded in 1991 by Tony Ellsworth, Ellsworth Bikes is a pioneering company in full-suspension bikes, originally geared toward mountain biking and downhill trail riding. Constantly innovating, Ellsworth himself owns nine patents, all related to a technology called Instant Center Tracking (ICT), which was invented by Ellsworth and is still an important component of Ellsworth Bikes today.
Ellsworth Bikes has gone through a number of changes in recent years, namely that it’s been bought out twice: first in 2014 by BST Carbon Fiber, who deigned to focus only on producing carbon fiber frames. Then by a private investor in 2016 who seems to be returning Ellsworth to its original business model, though a large part of manufacturing was moved to San Diego, with some products being manufactured in Vancouver, Washington.
As a pro downhill rider himself, Tony Ellsworth has always been important to the namesake of the Ellsworth brand, and likewise, his ingenious designs have created some of the highest quality bikes in the industry. With the brand having flailed a bit since 2014, it seems to be getting back on track this year with Tony Ellsworth back at the helm, so let’s take a look at the new Ellsworth brand, its products and how it stacks up to other models deigning to compete with the once-legendary Ellsworth Bikes.
We’ll be focusing on trail bikes for the purposes of this article, as Ellsworth now has lines for trail bikes, freeriders, road bikes, and even cruisers. Ellsworth trail models are currently the Epiphany, the Enlightenment, the Rogue Forty, the Rogue Sixty, the Evolution, and the Truth.
Since Ellsworth Bikes are fully customizable, we’ll try to look at specs that many of the bikes have in common.All models come with Ellsworth’s patented full suspension frames, which means there is a set of shocks built into the frame in the back, just under the seat. Most of these models come as small, medium or large frames and can accommodate either a 27.5″ or 29″ wheelbase by customer request.
The Epiphany convert is unique in that it can convert from a 27.5″ to a 29″ wheel depending on the task. Most of the frames are classified for all mountain or trail riding, but some, like Epiphany, Rogue and Evolution are also classified for road and endurance riding with the right build kits.
Prices vary quite a lot with Ellsworth bikes, as the material the frame is made out of, the build, the type of suspension used in the rear and how much work has been done by hand all factor in. For a frame only, the Epiphany and Enlightenment models are the low end, starting at around $1800. It goes drastically up from there, with one Epiphany model and the Rogue Forty at around $3000, the Rogue Sixty and Evolution around $3600 and the Truth topping out the group at around $4000.
Remember this is for frames only, and while the bikes are customizable, each build kit can add anywhere from $500 to $3000 to the price tag.
HOW IT COMPARES
We picked a few similar products available on the market to see how they compare. Since Ellsworth bikes are at the top echelon of the trail bike pricing, this guide may be helpful for riders who are looking for a quality bike which, while not of Ellsworth’s quality level, may satisfy in terms of similar features and endurance. Here’s a list of the bikes we chose to look at:
- DIAMONDBACK BICYCLES OVERDRIVE
- VILANO BLACKJACK 3.0 29ER MOUNTAIN BIKE MTB WITH 29-INCH WHEELS
- OVERDRIVE 1 29ER HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE, SILVER
While the trail riders from Ellsworth bikes are at the top in terms of price, these one-of-a-kind bikes have some features that bike enthusiasts won’t find in other models from other brands. Ellsworth bikes are pro-grade bikes and should be thought of thus.
However with the ICT technology, rear suspension and some of the lightest and most durable frames of any brand in the trail and all-mountain riding, for those who can afford it, Ellsworth are truly world class bikes.
|PRICE – $$$||As we’ve already stated, Ellsworth Bikes is a top-tier brand and its frames alone run from $2000-4000 and with a custom build kit from Shimano or SRAM, customers are looking at a minimum investment of around $3300 for sale models, with the Truth with SRAM XX1 Eagle build kit topping the heap at almost $9000.|
|EASE OF USE||The quality and ease of the ride on Ellsworth bikes are second to none. With its full suspension and ICT technology, riding even the toughest trails becomes smooth and easy, saving the shoulders and spines of many a pro all mountain or trail rider. The only real drawback is that Ellsworth frames are so light and track so well that riders may not expect how fast they can truly go. Practice before the big hills are definitely recommended.|
|ASSEMBLY TIME||Customers can request to have the fully built bike shipped to them at an extra cost, and they can also choose to fly to California and build out their kits at Ellsworth with the team there. To assemble a kit by oneself, a customer should expect to take at least an hour, possibly two as the bikes are quite complex.|
|DESIGN QUALITY||There really should be a higher rating for Ellsworth’s quality because it is beyond excellent. The frames are hand-welded, lightweight and contain the patented ICT technology which makes Ellsworth frames the safest, most comfortable and most efficient on the market.|
|WARRANTY – 5 years||Frames and the products used in Ellsworth build kits are covered by a 5-year warranty issued to the original owner and applicable only if the bikes are purchased at an authorized Ellsworth dealer and assembled properly. Read more about the Ellsworth warranty here: https://ellsworthbikes.com/pages/warranty-support|
- The highest quality frames in the industry
- The safest frames for sport riding
- Fully suspended frames
- ICT technology for best tracking
- Trail bikes can be used for other riding styles
- Many custom options
- The highest prices in the industry
- Maybe too fast/lightweight for inexperienced or casual riders
DIAMONDBACK BICYCLES OVERDRIVE
4.1 out of 5 stars
Diamondback is another very high-quality brand of bikes who also specialize in trail riding, all mountain and road bikes. Their range of trail and all mountain bikes are a little wider than Ellsworth, so they end up with a wider range of price points.
The Overdrive is one of Diamondback’s most popular model for both pros and casual riders, and it often sells out. It comes standard with a Shimano build kit, and the website will assemble the bikes for free for orders over $500.
The Overdrive is usually not customizable to the level that Ellsworth trail riders are, but they do come in small, medium, large or XL sizes and a 29″ wheelbase.
|PRICE – $$ AROUND $500-1500||The standard Overdrive 29er retails at around $600, but other build kits can push the price up to around $1500 these prices are for the full bike builds, not just the frame, so this model is generally much more affordable than even the base level Ellsworth frame.|
|EASE OF USE||While Diamondback models are always a great and easy ride, they are a little more jarring on the body due to less tracking capability for the steering and normally only having shocks/suspension at the front fork.|
|ASSEMBLY TIME||Assembly on Diamondback models is usually pretty quick, averaging at 15 minutes to an hour depending on the kit that’s chosen. The website’s offer to do free assembly and pickup for orders over $500 is also a real plus, as it means there may be zero assembly time if the customer lives within range of a pickup location/dealer.|
|DESIGN QUALITY||The Diamondback Overdrive is one of the highest quality bikes on the casual rider market, but comparing apples to apples its design misses some key points that Ellsworth has had for years. It is not easy for brands like Diamondback because so much of Ellsworth’s technology is patented, but they definitely do a great job for the price point on this model.|
|WARRANTY – 5 years (this Model)||It should be noted, Diamondback’s warranty is model-specific and specific to the parts covered. For a Diamondback frame for this model, the warranty is five years. For branded parts and accessories such as the front wheel fork and suspension, it can be as little as one year.|
- Affordable price point
- High quality for casual riders
- Free assembly and pick up on most models
- Suspension only in front wheel
- Warranty limited
- 29″ model only, limited custom options
VILANO BLACKJACK 3.0 29ER MOUNTAIN BIKE MTB WITH 29-INCH WHEELS
4.5 out of 5 stars
Vilano is known more for its fixed-gear and velodrome bikes, but they do also have a mountain bike line. Not specified as all mountain or trail riders, VIlano’s MTB line is a very affordable option for customers just getting into that style of biking. The Blackjack 3.0 is one of their most popular MTB models and also features Shimano shocks in the front fork. The Vilano Blackjack comes partially assembled, so it seems pretty easy to put together, but it also isn’t as customizable as Ellsworth or Diamondback models.
|PRICE – $$ $300||One of the most affordable models on the market, Vilano Blackjack models are great for beginning trail riders who only ride a few hours a week.|
|EASE OF USE||While it’s easy to put together and ride, the Vilano Blackjack isn’t fully suspended, and while the shocks in front are from the reputable brand Shimano, they are the low-end product. Once riders get more serious, they would do well to upgrade for the safety of their shoulders and spine.|
|ASSEMBLY TIME||The Blackjack 3.0 comes partially assembled with really good instructions to assemble quickly and adjust for height. It assembles in 15 to 30 minutes. Definitely a plus for ride-and-go beginners.|
|DESIGN QUALITY||Solid frame and good shocks for the price point, it’s hard to compare the quality to an Ellsworth or Diamondback because Vilano is making a different product design.|
|WARRANTY – 1 Year||One-year warranty, in this case, applies to the frame and front wheel fork as well as any other Vilano branded parts. Other brands in the build kit are not covered under the warranty.|
- One of the most affordable MTBs in the industry
- Good quality parts for the price point
- Very easy assembly
- Suspension not up to same standards as other brands
- Not customizable
- Vilano seems more focused on Velo bikes than trail/MTB
OVERDRIVE 1 29ER HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE
4.6 out of 5 stars
Another Diamondback entry, the Overdrive 1 is a hardtail construction frame, similar to some Ellsworth models. Ever chasing Ellsworth but not quite getting there, this frame is a lightweight aluminum hand build and is a good quality dupe of an Ellsworth frame for about a third of the price for a full build. It also has multiple sizes and Shimano shocks and gearing system, but the wheel capability isn’t customizable and is in 29″ only.
|PRICE – $$ $600||Another decent deal for a Diamondback, especially since the frame is so lightweight and hand built. This model also has the free assembly and pickup option on the Diamondback website.|
|EASE OF USE||A little easier on the body than the original Overdrive, it can probably be ridden much longer than the other Diamondback model without as much soreness. It’s also a bit faster due to the lightweight construction while being lower to the ground, so it’s a more affordable option for serious riders, especially those interested in all mountain rather than trail riding.|
|ASSEMBLY TIME||Assembly of the kit that customers choose to do themselves is about an hour, but those who choose the option to have the bike assembled by Diamondback and pick up will be able to ride right away.|
|DESIGN QUALITY||With the Hardtail design, this model by Diamondback stacks up a bit more to pro quality and Ellsworth frames, especially since its hand-hewn. Its lightweight construction will also allow riders to be faster and have more control.|
|WARRANTY – 5 Years||Since this is a suspended model like the original Overdrive, the Overdrive Hardtail has a 5-year warranty; as do any Diamondback branded parts on the bike. Rigid frames are only a 1-year warranty.|
- Lightweight, pro-style design
- Handmade build, excellent for the price point
- Free assembly and pickup for this model and any model over $500
- Not fully suspended
- Not as customizable as other models by Diamondback and other brands
It seems that Ellsworth Bikes are still the gold standard of the trail, all mountain, and endurance bikes, with frame modeling and build kits that far surpass even their next competitor. Now that the ownership issues have been solved, Tony Ellsworth and his team are innovating and dominating the market once again with customization, patented and hand-built frames and even a chance to interact with the team on the builds and maintenance of these unique, high-quality bikes.
For pro racers, Ellsworth bikes are definitely the only bikes worth considering for all mountain, downhill and trail riding. They also now have high-quality road and cruiser bikes, so customers who want their bikes to last a lifetime and are willing to shell out the extra money should also consider the one-of-a-kind brand that is Ellsworth Bikes.
It’s a 5-star product and looks like it will continue to be 5-star for years to come.