This morning, I rose from my sleeping pallet, cast aside my gold filigreed sleeping rifles, and called for my manservant Standish. I donned my silken riding costume and bade Standish to complete my dress with my finest scimitars.
For breakfast, I ate a single poached egg off a golden plate perched upon the head of a trained swan. That done, I headed for my mountain biking stable. Once there, I selected the finest of the fine, the fanciest of the fancy, the truthiest of the truthy: the Ellsworth Absolute Truth 27.5″, for I am a man of wealth and taste. If you meet me, have some courtesy, some sympathy, and some grace.
Yes, today is a great day. I do not carelessly chuck my man hock over any mere two-wheeled crapstack. Nay! I ride a paragon of attention to detail. Regardez!
That headtube badge! That paint! The carbon weave showing through like a muscle rippling beneath the skin! Absolutely gorgeous.
Take a look at this suspension member. Ellsworth could have just made a blank suspension arm here, but they undertook the time, effort, and additional expense to make something beautiful. Also visible on the seat tube is the aforementioned carbon muscle rippling.
And on top of the seat stay suspension member we get a little branding fanciness too.
As we can see, upon first impression it is apparent that the Absolute Truth was made by a company that cares quite a lot about details. I can certainly identify. That attention to detail is why I dress myself exclusively in silk, lace, and velvet. But the Absolute Truth and I differ in our makeup. In addition to being a very finely made thing, it is a fine riding thing, a highly-tuned XC and endurance weapon, where as I am rotten as a road apple.
The Build Kit
Like a lot of high end bike manufacturers, Ellsworth offers a dizzying array of options to configure your machine. When you’re buying one of these, you’re probably thinking, “this will be the last mountain bike I ever buy.” That thought is, of course, ridiculous. You’ll want to upgrade in a few years. It’s just human nature. But let’s forget about that for now.
Here is the Ellsworth bike configurator with options chosen to more or less reflect the test bike I get to mount. I say more or less because the test bike sports an FSA crank, and that isn’t an available option anymore. Also, I took the liberty of signifying via the “Qty:” box that I’d like ten Absolute Truths. (I want to be able to invite a bunch of friends over to my mansion to help me ride.)
As you can see, the bike sports a Loaded cockpit and seatpost. The Loaded aesthetic matches Ellsworth’s to a tee. I love it, although a little birdie at Interbike told me that the Loaded option on this bike would soon be phased out in favor of Thomson. You can’t go wrong with either, but as I say, I think Loaded’s aesthetic is a better match.
If it seems that there are rather more cables up front than you’re used to, that would be because the Absolute Truth in this spec level includes a single-lever front and rear lockout for the Fox CTD system.
Nothing short of being fed caviar as you ride is fancier than having a single lever with three choices of shock. I click this one back and forth between settings even when riding on flat sections just because I can. Then I cackle with glee, which causes a problem if Standish is trying to run alongside my bike and feed me caviar.
Up front we have the 32 Float CTD with 130mm of travel, and in the rear we have 120mm of travel provided by the Fox CTD with Trail Adjust. You can see the Trail Adjust here, which is the red anodized knob. It allows for quick adjustments of rebound, maybe even while you’re riding if your fingers are dexterous enough.
The fork has rebound adjustment as well, of course, but the knob is on the bottom of the right side, which makes it tough to operate while riding unless you’re quite a bit more flexible than I am.
Our test bike sports the FSA crank as mentioned above, seen here mated with the XTR’s front derailleur.
And out back, the driveline’s torque is turned into wheel spin by a matching XTR rear derailleur and cassette.
If you should decide to stop, and I can promise you that is highly unlikely because you’ll be enjoying yourself too much, simply give the XTR brakes a little squeeze and they’ll get pinchy on the rotors for you.
Last, but far from least, the test bike has the Stans ZTR Arch EX wheels and Kenda Slant Six Pro tires, although keen eyed readers will note that the bike now comes with the Honey Badger tires, which are a little more of an XC racing tire than the do-it-all Slant Six Pro.
Although Ellsworth seems inclined to position the Absolute Truth as an XC race machine, it seems to me that the trail geometry (70° head tube angle) and generous travel lends itself more to a super fancy all-rounder, sort of like the difference between an actual racing car, which would be uncomfortable and impractical to drive daily, and a high-end sedan like a BMW M5 or Mercedes SLS. Sure, you can still smoke most anything on the road, but you still get to sit in a fancy leather seat.
Oh, did I mention the Ellsworth-branded leather WTB seat? No? Well consider it mentioned.
Let me also mention Ellsworth’s ICT suspension design. ICT stands for Instant Center Tracking (more from Ellsworth on this technology here). Mind you, I am as far from a mechanical engineer as a beer fart from a floral bouquet, but I think I kind of understand this one. In short, the Absolute Truth’s rear triangle is designed such that pedal force is in line with the suspension’s instant center of rotation. If it weren’t in line, when you pedaled the suspension would feel some of your pedal force, and the suspension would bob.
Here’s a drawing of science from Ellsworth themselves.
Think of it like this. You and a friend are roasting marshmallows on opposite sides of a fire. You are holding a long wire with two marshmallows on it over said fire. The weight of said marshmallows is causing said wire to droop a bit, but you’re compensating by angling your hold. Suddenly, your friend across the fire has made a remark about your family’s heritage for which he must be punished.
Naturally, you want to jab him in the neck with your marshmallow wire. But you have to be mindful of the wire’s droop. If you apply force directly toward your churlish companion, you’ll only cause more wire droop and your honor will remain sullied. To strike effectively, you must lift the wire a bit so that your force takes the wire’s droop into consideration.
That’s how ICT works. The suspension’s members are situated such that pedaling makes the bike go forward into glory, rather than encouraging the suspension to bob into ignominy and dishonor.
Yes. It’s exactly like that. Marshmallow. Trust me. Don’t look it up or ask a mechanical engineer.
Who should buy this bike?
Okay, there’s no easy way to say it. As you might have noted above, the Ellsworth Absolute Truth will jab your neck to the tune of $7,626.41 in as-tested spec. I was able to get under $6,400 by choosing a more economical build, but even so it’s not what you’d call inexpensive.
That said, it’s also not heavy. Even with my egg beater pedals and no tubeless install, it only showed 26lb 5oz on my home scale.
To me, this is more-or-less your max-effort do-it-all mountain bike. You could race on it. You could ride long days on it. You can jump, climb, or descend. But most of all, at the end of the day, you could take this bike and hang it over the mantlepiece and just look at it, because it is a thing of beauty.
The buyer of this bike is someone with an eye for detail, a love of aesthetics, and a wallet fatter than a baker’s dog. It’s beautiful, but also ready to take anything you can dish out without sacrificing comfort for performance. Personally, I love it. Rolling up to a ride on this thing is an event. People will definitely want to talk about it.
To quote the inimitable Ferris Beuller, the Absolute Truth is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.