The team here at Singletracks recently outlined our favorite test bikes of 2019, and the frame at the top of my list has yet to receive a proper review — until now. My personal Ancillotti Scarab Evo29 is nicknamed Lo Specchio Sporco (The Dirty Mirror) because its reflective finish is often soiled by the fact that I just rode it. I take it to the trail any time I’m not testing another bike, both because it’s my favorite whip and because I need to test the components that I mount on it. The Scarab is truly a “work bike” in that sense, and it has endured more component swaps than any other bike I have owned.
Now, enough about its work ethic. It’s time to dive into how the bike rides. A while back I wrote a detailed article about Ancillotti’s familial roots, their pro enduro race team, and how and where their bikes and shocks are handmade here in Italy. So for this piece, I will focus solely on my beloved alloy 29″ frame.
Handmade bikes hold the distinct advantage that you can order them with some unique geometry measurements, provided the frame designer approves. Frame builder, Tomaso Ancilloti, and I are very similarly-sized humans, so I decided to go with measurements that almost mirror the master’s bike. The 450mmm reach on my bike is a touch longer, and his next bike may be as well. Combined with the 435mm chainstays, this bike balances stability and agility like a proper enduro race whip should. The headtube angle is adjustable between 64° and 66° by lengthening or shortening a rod at the base of the linkage. This adjustment simultaneously lowers the BB slightly, adding to the “steep and deep” readiness of the frame. I generally keep my frame tuned to a 65° head tube angle, which feels great on steep slopes and keeps my 170mm cranks from smashing too many stones.
Building the frame up was a pleasurable experience, given its drop-in headset and external bottom bracket and cable routing. I prefer bikes that are designed to be wrenched on with the tools I have at home, and the Scarab doesn’t require any proprietary or specialty instruments. The only bit of internal cabling is the last hunk of dropper housing which threads up the seat tube without a hitch. I have tested three different seat posts on this bike, and they were about as easy to set up as an externally routed post.
The polished alloy tubes are wrapped in protective decals, so there is no need to add frame protection prior to building the bike. After a few more seasons of trail-sanding, I will remove the stickers, repolish the frame, and apply a new color of protective decals. Viola, it’s a new bike!
Now in its third or fourth build iteration, depending on which parts you pay attention to, this bike is beyond baller. It currently has a set of Formula Cura 4 brakes attached to e*thirteen LG1 Race Carbon wheels and e*thirteen All Terrain Enduro/Downhill tires. The wheels and tires get swapped to test other rubber occasionally, but that’s how it’s dressed today. The drivetrain is all Shimano XTR 9100/9120, apart from a wicked light e*thirteen 9-50t cassette. Squish wise, The Dirty Mirror currently has a 160mm Cane Creek Helm up front, though that will be swapped for a Formula Selva R after a little more testing, and Ancillotti’s own coil shock manages the grip out back. The control panel is all OneUp, with a 35mm EDC stem and carbon bars chopped to 78cm. Finally, the current dropper is a 150mm Vecnum Nivo. What else? Oh, it has the same Fizik Antares road saddle I always ride, and a pair of Race Face Half Nelson grips. I’m sure I forgot a piece somewhere in there.
|Custom frame/shock price||€3,100|
|My build price||A bunch. Somewhere in the $7,000 range|
|Suspension||160mm fork, 150-165mm adjustable rear travel|
|Seat post diameter||30.9mm|
|Rear brake mount||IS to PM, 203mm rotor compatible|
|Pivot/shock maintenance||Replace bushings and change shock oil 1x annually (or less)|
Considering the bike’s unmistakable resemblance to a bionic-grasshopper, I expected the Scarab to climb awkwardly and to descend like it built the trail. Furthermore, given that its creator is a former downhill pro, I wasn’t anticipating any uphill abilities. I love being proven wrong — a.k.a. learning. With the coil’s damper flipped open, the Scarab climbs with soil-stomping confidence, gripping tightly to technical ascents. In the uphill department, it truly feels like an “all-mountain” bike, designed as much for long days on the trail as its stated enduro race purpose. I have been able to clean some tricky tracks with this platform where I had to hike other bikes, thanks to the ground-glued grip the coil provides. On dirt road transfers the compression switch makes for a solid platform to spin against and get the job done.
I haven’t noticed any pedal kickback or bobbidy-bob characteristics to speak of over the year. It seems that Ancillotti’s technical motorcycle suspension upbringing made its way firmly into their current gravity bikes.
While we’re into the damping details, the Ancillotti coil shock offers a broad range of compression adjustment. Riders can dial in support to the point of a nearly rigid lockout simply by rotating the lever a little further toward the top tube. I like to add a touch of compression on stages where I know I will be sprinting hard out of the saddle. For extra-chunky descents, open it up all the way and experience the confidence-inspiring, poppy-plow characteristics this bike is known for. Even if the Scarab wasn’t a great bike to climb on (though it is), I would suffer the ascents to experience the amount of traction and composure it has to offer going down. The grip is like nothing I have ever experienced, largely thanks to its well-tuned coil shock that pairs like pizza and beer with the frame’s kinematics.
The rear end can travel between 150 and 165mm depending on where you place the lower linkage bolt. In the 150mm slot, the bike rides a little more actively, which is fun on flatter tracks or technical descents where you frequently want to hop around. I leave it in this position for about 80% of the trails I ride. When it’s time to roll some super steep chunder in La Thuile or line up for an enduro race, the longer travel setting provides a decidedly “point and chute” sensation that works well for higher speeds and riskier lines.
There’s a good reason other bike brands have copied Ancillotti’s original motorcycle pull shock platform at different points over the years. It makes for a unicorn whip that descends like a DH sled and climbs like a spry trail bike.
So, the Scarab Evo29 is a stellar handmade bike that will make any descentophile smile, and shreds like it built the trail. What truly sets it apart from other bikes in its class? Well, it uses a pull shock design that a lot of other brands have shied away from in favor of more industry-standard platforms, the tubes and shock are not only made in Italy but all of the smaller pieces come from EU-based manufacturers, and buyers get to select precisely the bike they want that will include a shock tuned for their frame and riding style. Top it off with the fact that your purchase supports a squad of talented young athletes through their Superenduro and EWS season. Like any bespoke bike, Lo Specchio Sporco may not be everyone’s flavor, but it is undoubtedly a favorite for those of us who have the pleasure of owning one.
If I were asked to dig up one gripe about the bike, it will be one that I asked for. Given the round tube shape and short chainstays, the rear triangle doesn’t have much mud clearance, and there isn’t room for tires wider than 2.4″. I knew this before the bike was built, and could have asked for 5-10mm longer chainstays to make space for 2.5″ tires and mud, but I chose the shorter option. So it’s really not a gripe but a choice. Does anyone need rear tires wider than 2.4″?