Just a few years ago, it seemed 29er popularity was fading in favor of 27.5 and 27.5+ bikes, but 2019 seems to be the rising of the second tide. Riding the big-wheeled wave is Eminent Cyles new bike, the ONSET. Eminent offers the ONSET in two travel varieties: a 130/120 short travel (ST) version, and a 140/150 long travel (LT) model. Both are sold consumer direct or via their growing dealer network. As one could expect from a small, relatively unheard of brand, solid spec competitive pricing between $4,000 and $6,000 entice new customers to leave their familiar steeds behind.
After arriving at a discretely marked industrial building, I was greeted by a tall man with a firm hand shake. It doesn’t take long to see that Eminent Cycles owner and head honcho, Jeff Soncrant is a man with passion. His vision for the brand is different that most small bike start ups. While we’re plenty familiar with the rowdy likes of brands like Guerilla Gravity, Eminent is an entirely different vibe.
After a career in automotive interior design and engineering, Jeff took his endlessly revolving mind and turned it towards the bike industry. “It seemed like there was no attention to appearance,” Jeff says of his early inspiration to start the company. “Bike design was fundamentally functional, with round tubes and two triangles. There wasn’t a whole lot of industrial design being put into bikes.” His goal with founding his own brand was to build it off four main pillars. “I always wanted a product that had it all; good value, appearance, function and design.”
That meant applying his background in automotive to pursue a structured approach to bike design, with a large emphasis on consumer experience and visual appearance. He is intimately involved with the entire process from design to production. “Every time we went down the next stage of making Eminent, we asked ourselves how could we make it better for the customer. We went through everything from the box, to the sales model, to the builds,” says Jeff. When it came to visual design and experience, they left no stone unturned. One look at the box these bikes ship in is enough to evidence his meticulous approach.
As the next evolution of his vision, the ONSET adds a 29er to the Eminent bike line up. Much like the Haste, it employs the unique and now instantly recognizable Eminent design language. All tubes are square, which was more of a visual design choice than a functional one, but regardless it adds stiffness to the unidirectional carbon frame. It also relies on their AFS suspension, which is modeled after the designs found on Formula One cars. An upper and lower arm function like control arms, with a shock in the middle. “I wanted a four bar to control axle path, and to move the linkages close to the rear axle to keep rear end stiffness high. Though the ONSET employs the same basic AFS design as the Haste, it has altered kinematics and more anti-squat.
The rearward axle path of the ONSET was also reduced from that of the Haste. The end goal was to improve the bike’s responsiveness and pedaling efficiency from its longer travel sibling. You’ll notice the same sliding brake caliper bushing as that’s a key part of the design and serves to isolate the suspension from braking forces.
Eminent changed their sizing increments, moving to a traditional small, medium and large size. They also simplified the builds, ending the customized component specs and moving to a good, better, best build model to ease confusion during the buying process. Of course, Jeff also emphasized that riders with specific needs are encouraged to reach out during that buying process for questions. That interaction is one of the key differentiators of a small brand. Perspective buyers have the ability to actually talk on the phone with the man that created the bike, ask questions or fine tune their build. It’s not something that can be said of larger, corporate bike brands.
While many are quick to critique the small external section of dropper cable, it’s necessary because of the suspension design. Routing the cable entirely internally would make for very difficult replacement on this frame.
Geometry on the ONSET is in line with current trends but falls on the more reasonable end of the spectrum. A size large 120mm ONSET has a 467mm reach, 66.8 degree head tube angle, 330mm bottom bracket height, 76 degree seat tube angle and short 442mm chainstays. The 140mm version of the bike moves to a 458mm reach, 66 degree head tube angle, 75 degree seat tube angle and 442mm chainstays. It’s worth noting that the two frames are identical, with the only difference being the shock and rear link below the shock. That means riders are able to buy another fork, shock and link to swap between a short travel and long travel 29er with relative ease.
We were sent home with an orange and grey ONSET LT 120 Advanced build that retails for a very reasonable $5,099. Our bike features a 130mm travel Performance Elite Fox 34 fork, 120mm Fox Performance Elite Float DPS rear shock, and Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes. DT Swiss M1700 wheels, a 175mm KS Lev dropper and 810mm ProTaper bars round out the important bits. For $1,100 more, the spec moves up to Factory Fox suspension, new XTR drivetrain and brakes, and DT Swiss M1501 wheels. For those on a budget, the $4,099 Comp build with a Fox Rhythm 34 fork, Performance Float shock, Shimano SLX drivetrain, Magura MT4 brakes and DT Swiss M1900 wheels presents a solid value. The bike is also available as a frame only, with pricing ranging from $2,799 to $2,999 depending on shock spec. Full spec sheets for all three builds as well as geo charts are available in the image gallery above.