As a brand that has struggled in the face of a persistent negative stigma regarding their, “visually unappealing” bikes of the past, Ellsworth knew they had to get it right with the appearance of the Evolution. Most of our testers and the people we met on the trail think they did a great job. People’s eyes are drawn to the smooth lines and beautiful contrast between the glossy carbon fiber and the metallic candy red flake paint. This is a bike that you can stare at for hours and still find new details.
Thankfully the Evolution is more than a pretty face. Out on the trail, the bike has a calm and composed demeanor courtesy of the long wheelbase and slack head angle. The suspension is supportive and seemingly bottomless for being 140mm. Though we frequently used the entirety of the available rear travel, we never felt a harsh bottom out or catch. The Ellsworth team clearly put in the hours to craft a rear end that soaks up big hits while remaining efficient on the pedals.
Even under heavy braking, the rear end remains supple and active, which is much appreciated in washboard braking bumps. The Evolution is deft and poised in rowdy terrain. Though it isn’t as supple or remarkable as the NAILD suspension platform in the rough stuff, the Evolution is no slouch when it comes to getting rowdy, soaking up big hits and rocks nonchalantly. Coupled with the rollover abilities of the 29″ wheels it’s a recipe for speed.
Even under heavy braking, the rear end remains supple and active, which is much appreciated in washboard braking bumps. The Evolution is deft and poised in rowdy terrain. Though it isn’t as supple or remarkable as the NAILD suspension platform in the rough stuff, the Evolution is no slouch when it comes to getting rowdy.
Cornering was good once you got the bike leaned over and committed thanks to the long wheelbase and slack head angle. However, the bike took a bit more work to get there with what felt like a high center of gravity. Conversely, pedal strikes on climbs were much less frequent than on other low BB rigs. The added height is nice for putting down the power. While we can’t tell the difference between 279% and 300%, the increase in stiffness is real!
Sadly, the large upper rocker link that makes the suspension feel so phenomenal and laterally stiff is a just a little too bulky for our liking. It resulted in frequent calf strikes during pedaling or when throwing the bike around in the air. We definitely put on our kneepads to ride this bike.
While 29er’s aren’t typically known for their airborne prowess, the Evolution holds its own as a stable and self-assured co-pilot. It isn’t quite as flickable or playful as a Jeffsy 29, but Ellsworth’s intention was never to have the Evolution be a toy. It was created as a tool to get you up and down as fast as possible.
Climbing efficiency on the bike is solid in the open position and exceptional with the rear shock locked out. For a bike that descends as well as the Evolution, we were impressed by its ability to scale to the top of a climb with ease.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Ellsworth set out to create an enduro ready race machine with the Evolution Convert, but in the end created something far better. It’s a bike that’s able to handle the big stuff, while still remaining incredibly comfortable as a do it all rig. We do wish that the sizable rocker arm was just a little less chunky. We’d also prefer a ever-so-slightly lower BB height, though riders that live in fear of rock strikes would disagree.
For someone that only wants one bike in the garage and gets their kicks from going fast, the Evolution may be the ticket with its impressive suspension and good looks. With the ability to switch between 27.5+ and 29, the Evolution Convert certainly flirts with that elusive quiver killer idea, serving as a solid all around rig that can climb, descend and do everything in between. No bike is perfect, but the Evolution makes a damn good stab at it. If you’re one of the naysayers in the anti-Ellsworth camp, it’s time to suck it up and give the Evolution a try.
Simply put, this bike made us eat candy red crow.
Weight: 30.9 lbs