November 28, 2017

by Chad Cheeney | Images by Ben Kraushaar

Weight: 32 lbs | Price: $5,500 (Shimano SLX build) | Travel: 160 mm

This Ellsworth Rogue 60 was yet another amazing gift from the Mountain Flyer testing gods, as I was without a modern enduro machine for the entirety of Colorado’s sweet fall riding season. I was borrowing bikes from buddies and bike shops (thanks, friends and 2nd Ave Sports) trying to hit all the rowdy bits in the area but really felt like I did not have a true love of my own. All my bikes where dated and asking for failure around the next bend. I just never felt like myself in Durango until I slayed some trail on this hyped new enduro machine. It handled my needs, took a beating and kept me safe when things got out of hand. I’m not the smoothest rider, but I felt fast again on the Rogue 60. This was a bike that was made for me.

 The 27.5-inch-wheeled Rogue 60 looked great in my living room and is a visible departure from the company’s past designs other than the elegant cursive Ellsworth logo on the down tube. Sure, I grew up knowing the “classic” Ellsworth long-rocker-arm design, fell into the pool of dis’ and claimed it would never be a bike I’d ride because it just did not look right. I never knew anyone who really rode one but managed to soak up the negative opinions based on look and never really thought much of the California brand that bragged about being made in America. Well, things have certainly changed. Ellsworth has new owners as of January 2016 and seems to have dropped the over-the-top “Made in America” branding that had us all confused at why they were showing at artisan framebuilder shows. The long rocker arm is gone for the most part (it’s still long and strong on the Dare, the company’s DH bike), but now Ellsworth is seemingly a new company with sights set on re-creating its image around the swell of carbon fun bikes.

Back to my living room and how good it looked. The California-made carbon weave frame is a solid base to this beast. It looks like a 2017 bike ought to. It has all the things we consumers want, including internal cable and stealth dropper routing, stout head tube and Boost 12x148 spacing. The Rogue is Di2-able with stealth battery storage, and it has techie-looking pivots, room for a water bottle cage, and, thank heavens, no way in heck to attach a front derailleur. My test bike was black with Fox-orange lettering and flashy swoops here and there. You can also pick it up in murdered out Back in Black or Captain America (red/blue/black) if you enjoy more flash. The carbon weave was visible on most of the frame. It looks rad all the way around, and most of the Ellsworth naysayers I’ve come in contact with seem to agree: This is not your daddy’s Ellsworth anymore.

 

The frame held up well to my 400 miles of test time on the bike. Cables did not rattle in the frame, the pivots never came loose, and there was no creaking. Ellsworth designed a rear axle that is hex shaped at the ends to resist torsional deflection as well as a hex key “rocker locker” at the top pin of the rear shock to help with unwanted torsion. These small design elements show me Ellsworth is really trying to make this thing solid. The frame definitely took a torsional and deflecting beating; I am 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weigh in at 195 pounds.

The geometry aligns with the aggressive enduro-racer trend, with a longish reach at 490 mm on my XL sized frame, short aluminum chainstays at 420 mm, a 66 degree head angle and a neutral bottom bracket height at 349 mm. The slack head tube angle is complemented by a steep 74 degree seat tube angle, which helps keep the rider over the pedals and greatly improves the position when climbing. For a new design, it definitely feels solid and well-thought-out. Nothing gimmicky about it.

I don’t know what to say about the Boost spacing. What is there to say, unless I get some engineers and some time in the test lab. It’s stiff, sure. It makes sense on paper. But I did not take this bike to the limit at all in my time testing, so I couldn’t put a word or a number to it. I have read that Boost spacing allows for shorter chainstays, so there’s that. There, I’ve finally been outed, I am not of techie pedigree. Give me a bike; I will crush it in the pursuit of fun. 

I’ll do my best on the tech now. This is a bike review after all. Let’s talk suspension as this is not a new design to the game. The 160 mm travel Rogue uses a popular four-bar linkage design that places the virtual pivot in line with the effective chainline force, which in theory means less bob. They call this Instant Center Tracking, and I call it a proven suspension design (thank you to designer Chris Herting) with a solid shock. The rear shock is a Fox Float DPS, which is a dual-piston system that separates the firm from the medium and open settings, giving the firm setting its own chamber to be firmer. This gives the shock more tunable trail options. I did ride the majority of the time in the medium setting and felt the need to switch to firm on most climbs. Anytime I was on an extended downhill, I flipped the lever to open. As is true with most bikes I’ve ridden in the past five years, you have to play the game to feel the ride, so yeah, there was a lot of lever flipping on the up and down trails around Durango. I rode the travel from 15 percent sag up to 40 percent and settled into 25 percent due to my cross country roots.

The Fox Performance Series 36 fork provided 160 mm of smooth sailing. I think you have to be an enduro world series honch to tear this thing down. It is so buttery smooth and easy to set up and dial in with compression and rebound dials spelling it out for you. It’s a well-tested, highly tunable fork that with some consistent love, will perform for many seasons. With the Boost spacing, you could amp up the front even more by running some pretty big tires.

My test bike came with Maxxis High Roller 2s at 2.3-inch width, and I think you could squeeze in something up to 2.4 in the rear if you wanted the traction. I did not test this or ask Ellsworth its limits, but good clearance is a bonus for a multi-season rider like myself. All in all, I think this bike really begs for something more like a Minion DHF on the front.

Speaking of performance, one has to appreciate the middle ground component groups these days. Our Rogue 60 was outfitted with Shimano SLX brakes and drivetrain. It all worked flawlessly throughout the test. If this was my bike, I would have ramped up to a bigger chainring, from a 32 to 34 tooth, and probably a lighter, way more expensive, 11-speed 11-42 cassette. The cockpit was all Raceface and it did its job; nothing flashy about it, and I like that. The 60 mm stem clamped to the 780 mm Chester bar was just like all the other enduro bikes out there, wide and proud. It felt comfy and stout. Grips by Lizard Skins locked on and rubbery gave it a good downhiller feel. The WTB saddle has the Ellsworth logo embossed on the top and was kinda flashy but sat comfy.

 Raceface laid its 150 mm travel Turbine Dropper seatpost into this Ellsworth carbon steed, and it was my first time using this model. It performed great, and fine tuning the bar lever was not that complicated. The two-bolt seatpost head was simple and solid. Overall, it was a good post, but I didn’t have a full season’s use to fully test it.

The wheels on this bus are still going round and round. I usually have bad luck with stock wheels on my test bikes, but this set of DT Swiss M1900s gave me no problems. Maxxis High Rollers felt great but rounded out pretty quickly. Bet it was all that damn commuting to the trails. Poor me. Poor tires!

Again, this was a bike made for me. Out on the trail, the Rogue 60 feels like what it is sold to be: a trail-slaying enduro machine, as pitched on the Ellsworth website. It truly is what they claim. I felt confident to take the bike to my limit and was encouraged to play along the way. It does best pointed downhill, but I never felt lame climbing. Well, maybe on some of the real XC switchbacks, but with the suspension being so active, the traction at slow speeds was what you’d expect from a bike of this caliber. At 32 pounds, it was quite portly to pick up and stick in the shed, but while riding, the weight was never on my mind. That’s a good bike in my mind — it does its job and lets you think about the task at hand. I would love to have this as my race bike. I’d get a set of race wheels but otherwise run it stock. Enough said. Now let’s see if Brian Lopes and the new crop of Ellsworth shredders racing the Rogue can put the Ellsworth ugly ducking history to rest.