You don't have to look far on the internet to find Ellsworth hate. Tales of customer service issues from decades past and comments that seem to indicate that Ellsworth's designs are so repulsive that the person behind the keyboard was compelled to gouge their eyes out after seeing such a hideous creation. Ellsworth doesn't seem at all interested in getting into debates with armchair experts. Instead the old slogan "Those who ride know" confidently dismisses the chatter.
The Ellsworth Method is designed as a 180mm travel bike replacing the slightly longer travel Rogue. For those who like categories you could try to slot the Method into Mini-DH, Freeride, or some other buzz word that you like best. It's a bike with two pedals, two wheels, and handlebars. You can pedal it up hills and ride it down them. It might just be a "Mountain Bike!"
The Ellsworth Method Features
The Method came built up with a Fox 36 180mm TALAS in the front, a Fox DHX RC4 in the rear also providing 180mm of travel, and an X9 build kit. Fox TALAS forks simply don't feel as good as some of their other offerings and the adjustable travel complications add weight. It didn't take long riding the TALAS before deciding to "upgrade" to the 200mm travel Fox Float 40. The axle to crown dimensions are virtually identical so the geometry of the bike is not impacted and the weight increase is acceptable for the extra travel to bail you out when things get hairy. The bike as ridden for the majority of the past year looks like this;
The alloy black anodized frame has nice lines with the shaped swaged and tapered tubing as well as the beautiful welds that are synonymous with Ellsworth Handcrafted Bikes. The ano finish is extremely durable keeping the bike looking new even after taking a beating. The subtle bling of anodized blue and orange bits and bobs will appeal to some and not others. A 650b carbon version would take this long legged steed into the stratosphere.
Over the past year the Method has been put through the paces all over North America from Oregon, to California, Utah, Arizona, British Columbia, and the Canadian Rockies. This is a confidence inspiring bike on the most challenging trails that you can find.
Going up the Method pedals. It's a mountain goat and will climb anything. Although the bike will accept a 2x10 drivetrain it is nice to keep the bars free of clutter and the drivetrain a little quieter with the 1x10 setup. To make the climbs that much more tolerable a 32T Blackspire chainring was substituted in and a Leonardi General Lee 40T adaptor was fitted onto the cassette. The General Lee replaces the four large cogs of the Sram 10spd cassette to create even shifting jumps and has worked flawlessly. Now that X01 is available, it could be the perfect transmission for the Method. With the big fork, the front end requires attention, and on steep climbs the slack seat tube demands that you only use the nose of the seat to avoid wheelying out. But even so, somehow this bike will get you to the top of technical climbs that your friends on shorter travel rigs won't, completely shattering any preconceived notions. Don't expect to get there fast though, there's no denying that the Method is carrying a little extra girth up the mountain. The extra effort is more than rewarded on the way down.
With a short cockpit and short chain stays the Method is awesomely playful and begs to be popped off anything that offers the opportunity on the trail. This bike simply rips and it's playful nature produces big smiles. When things get ridiculously gnarly at speed a little extra wheelbase might help the bike feel more stable but would also sap some of the giddy character that feels so great. The ICT suspension is a dream charging in big rock gardens and through braking bumps. Keeping the rebound quick on the DHX rear shock helps if you're really cooking through sustained hits. The asymmetrical chain stays and 142mm Maxle make the rear end plenty stiff. Ellsworth's lighter All-Mountain wheel set has also proven to be up to the task for rowdy trail duties and are still spinning true despite some painful clangs heard when making poor line choices. The 66° head tube angle is spot on for keeping things manageable on the way up and being able to let loose on the way down.
The Bottom Line
For those who want to push a bike hard on the way down but still want to earn their rewards by pedalling to the top, the Ellsworth Method might be unbeatable. Ellsworth's ICT suspension still looks the same after many years, but why mess with a good thing… The refined four bar linkage is supple and eliminates trail chatter completely while also providing a confidence inspiring bottomless feel on big hits. The heavily CNC'd rocker arms have a nostalgic charm, but won't appeal to all.
With new standards like 650b wheels, 11spd drivetrains, and carbon frames, the Method at a glance doesn't appear to be keeping up with the Kardashians. But if you're grinning from ear to ear all the way down the trail, it probably doesn't matter!
A Photo Journal
Images by Jacob Johnson