Spy Shots! Ellsworth Enlightenment 26 Full Carbon Mountain Bike

ellsworth enlightenment full carbon mountain bike hard tail bicycle

When we interviewed Tony Ellsworth a while back, he had some pretty strong opinions on carbon frames, and those opinions have helped shape (literally and figuratively) his forthcoming full carbon road and mountain bikes.

Shown above and after the break is the new Ellsworth Enlightenment 26.  Why the “26″ moniker?  Because there’s a 29er version coming shortly thereafter!

Being Tony, he couldn’t just send us some pics…he sent us the philosophy behind the bikes and the material: Rare Earth Carbon.  It’s a cool name, and by Ellsworth standards, it means it’s:

  • Certified Material
  • Qualified Technicians operating high quality equipment
  • Socially responsible disposal of the carbon dust, and treatment of staff

See the white, clean background in the pic?  That’s the carbon manufacturing facility where the frames are made, and Tony points out that there’s no carbon dust, etc., which he says is unheard of from Chinese factories.

Hit ‘more’ for a closeup frame pic and the full philosophy and explanation from Tony himself…

ellsworth enlightenment full carbon mountain bike hard tail bicycle

FROM TONY: “Carbon TENDS to be dull and lifeless. Smooth maybe, like a brick maybe. These variations are a product of poor material, poor material design, poor manufacturing consistency, etc. I’ve taken steps to eliminate the nastiness of the carbon material in my carbon bikes. NOT UNLIKE taking the nasty harsh edge off Aluminum by shaping, swaging and tapering. Our Carbon we’re calling RARE EARTH CARBON. This indicates our commitment to three critical procedures in carbon manufacturing that are important for very specific reasons:

  1. Material is certified to be what it is, and we engineer for specific materials.
    • Carbon material can be ANYTHING—and no one knows what it is. Ash-diamond. So often Chinese carbon (which represents most of the carbon you see in this country, is not certified or verifiable modulus. The highest modulus material, the Chinese government tracks and exchanges in factories for the lower modulus stuff. And no one can tell.
    • We get our material all high modulus in varying degrees, from a Japanese supplier of prepreg., it is then precision impregnated in Korea, and shipped to our high tech facility in the south of Taiwan. We certify that material in our Bill of Materials before they molds are loaded. Thus, our material is exactly what we engineered for. It’s made in a socially responsible, and high tech facility. The consistency of the materials properties is critical in the consistent feel of the bike that I designed.
  2. Our lay up technicians are trained and certified for laying up our specific layup designs. No untrained or uncertified lay up technician ever lays up our Ellsworth frames.
    • Chinese factory labor loads molds in China. They make $70/month—it’s not a typo. The turnover in these factories is over 20%. Literally children will come from the poor center of the country, and work in the factories for a period of time, live in the factories, and when they’re tired, they’ll take them money back to the countryside and live well for awhile. It’s highly unlikely that any lay up technician has consistent training and experience with a given lay up design.
    • The result is not only that the material may not have consistent quality, but the lay up itself may not have any consistency or even be done by design. Lack of consistency means some bikes are light, some are heavy, some ride well, some are flexy, some are so stiff they’re like riding bricks. You never get the same feel twice. They may all look the same, but the performance is all over the board.
  3. Socially responsible Carbon Facility.
    • Is the factory properly ventilated and filtered? Is it clean, are the machines in good repair and capable of consistent heat and pressures? Are the staff trained in the proper operation of the factory and machines?
    • Are the staff treated properly, is the turnover of the staff at a reasonable level, so that the training of the R&D guy, the QC guy, and the lay up technicians complete and thorough?

“That’s Rare Earth Carbon Fiber.

Note in the pictures—how clean that factory is. It’s CARBON factory, and it’s painted WHITE! We’re not kidding around here. I think the customer SHOULD know what goes into making the product they are going to own and espouse.”

Comments

Brian - 07/07/09 - 8:16pm

Huh?! China?! Something doesn’t jive here. Most of the carbon bicycle frames available from the major manufacturers are currently coming out facilities in Taiwan, just like the one pictured (I use the qualifier “most”, even though, to the best of my knowledge, it’s “all”). The carbon technology that the major manufacturers are using is not even available in China due to non-proliferation agreements. Also, manufacturing wages tend toward 200USD per month, with some regional variability. Either Mr. Ellsworth is poorly informed, or using an exceptional, irrelelvant case as his benchmark for marketing purposes.

Tony E - 07/10/09 - 1:39am

First, I apologize if the tone of my comments above communicates contention–I need to remember that when Tyler asks me for comments, he means to put them up on the internet exactly as I answer!
As far as how well informed I am to discuss Chinese bike manufacturing, In 2006, I made my first trip to the Taiwan Bike Show and realized, while I’d had my head down making frames that I was proud to personally ride right here in the USA, that the bike business isn’t done the same way worldwide. It was very educational and disillusioning at the same time.
From that time, I have been working closely and exclusively with a gal who speaks fluent English and Mandarin, is a practicing manufacturing agent and has managed international sales for a consortium of Taiwanese and Japanese owned Chinese bicycle parts factories. From working directly with her, I learned that $70/month IS the base monthly salary for a factory working in this manufacturing space. And it can be potentially less if it’s a Chinese owned factory. However, most workers can make extra money if they work six, consecutive 11 hour shifts. Therefore, many employees end up working 6 or 7 days every week. But $200 per month, as meager as that sounds to us, would be way overstated for factory labor in South West China where the bike industry has grown regionally. After 20 years of making bikes and spending months in Asia every year, I consider my information pretty accurate–it’s based on real observations, not speculation and direct, on the ground translations with factory personnel. However, I’m not here to argue about the going labor rate in China.
I simply wanted to point out that high turnover, uncertified material, and irresponsible environmental and human resource practices are a HIGH PRICE to pay to enable brands to make huge margins on questionable and variable quality, slick looking, carbon bike frames.
Today, as a result of these big profit margins, MOST of the carbon bike frames, especially the higher volume and higher profile brands, are made in China. And the woes of inconsistent training, inadequate facilities and most of all, the complete disregard for the socially responsible manufacturing and disposal of waste is part of every bike frame made there. Many Taiwanese carbon companies have begun sourcing their manufacturing to China to be more cost competitive. As Taiwan implements environmental and socially responsible manufacturing and the Taiwanese labor force is more technical, more educated, works 5 days a week and yes, is well remunerated , they find themselves in a similar situation to the USA, and many manufacturing is moving to China for the express purpose of cheaper manufacturing costs.
My purpose is not to contend with world trade or developing nations manufacturing. My purpose is to shed some light on what we do when we buy Chinese made products that pollute and exploit in ways we, as Americans, voted not to have happen in our own country. Brands can make huge margins making bicycle frames (and other products) in China and then selling these sleek looks for even higher profits. When this happens, the consumer doesn’t win and the environment doesn’t win. Consumers SHOULD know that manufacturing byproducts including carbon fiber, plastics, chemicals, etc., are expelled directly into the air and water supplies around those industrial areas of China and other developing nations. Check your grocery store, most of your food is coming from these areas too: fish from Asia, packaged food products from Asia, etc.
The world is a SMALLER place today than it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago. We cannot export dirty manufacturing practices and then IMPORT the resulting products and food from the very place we exported the filth just so we can ISOLATE ourselves from the health, environmental, and human COSTS. The corporations practicing this make great profit margins—the inhabitants of the planet—all of us, pay the price.

Also, as I have for years with our Aluminum frame material, which is Drawn Seamless, Shaped, Swaged and Tapered aircraft grade aluminum, I will always differentiate our “Rare Earth Carbon” material and processes and methodology from the sloppy, inconsistent and uncertified carbon material produced with irresponsible processes. These differences are why Ellsworth is a highly desirable and great performing product today.

Again, my purpose is not to bring a knife to a gunfight. And please note that I’ve resisted listing brands many people think are currently made in North America, Europe or even Taiwan. The purpose is to educate, differentiate and make the very best stuff I know how to make. My name goes on it, my kids are proud of it and Ellsworth owners love and appreciate it. I personally know it takes a tremendous effort to do things right and to exercise social responsibility. But if I CAN DO IT, so can bigger manufacturers. The consumer just needs to demand it. And they need to know the facts in order to make that demand.

Thanks for your comment. Ride in peace.
TE

George - 07/19/09 - 6:05pm

Made in Asia…sellout!

There are already plenty of Asian-made bike frames; why does E need to market one too? That’s nothing but harvesting the brand name.

James - 07/20/09 - 1:13am

Great to see the Enlightenment making a return, and glad Ellsworth is make a fist of carbon fibre manufacture in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Alot of high-end manufacturers are releasing CF mountainbikes now which I’m still not convinced is any good for off- road. On the other hand the US made OCLV trek Madones are quite simply awesome so hopefully Ellsworth can emulate and make his mark using CF in a competitve market. Go you good thing!

[...] the “first look” was the camera phone spy pics we posted a couple weeks back, but here are the first full production “glamour shots” [...]

Neil - 08/12/09 - 6:42pm

There is no “clean” carbon manufacturing. That is NOT the room where these frames are made…please don’t BS us like this. It would be offensive if it were not so obvious! There is the same dust and pollutants as any other factory. Just because you married someone with family in manufacturing there, doesn’t mean you are suddenly such as expert in clean manufacturing in China. Good God! All you are doing is what every opportunistic businessman there does, except for the added whitewash.

Jesse - 10/21/09 - 12:55pm

I understand that businesses have to make some changes and adjustments to fit with the times, and I have nothing but respect for Tony; but in a way I feel kind of creepy about this. I know E has gone to great lengths to justify the accommodation of future trends but for a American bike company there is sure a lot of foreign countries included in the manufacturing. I like to think when I bought my Sub 22, it felt good knowing money went to a American welder. Nowadays, we aren’t really certain where the money goes are we? And while the process might be as “humanly safe as possible” it doesn’t take into account the carbon footprint required to move plastic frames across the planet via ship and airplane. The thing reeks hypocritical and I’m glad E might see profit from this, but frankly this is a step closer to selling out just like Schwinn, Giant, etc. etc.

If you have to copy business practices from other bike companies your really not a leader anymore.

If your criticize “big” bike companies for doing something, then follow suit, isn’t that… hypocritical?

If it’s not made in America, why does it sport the red, white, and blue on it so proudly?

Are they just maximizing profit margins off of a good name? The beginning of a downward spiral? What will they do to make profit next year?

Especially now during a time of economic hardship? Glad for the Taiwanese engineers and support staff who work in that high-tech lab, and I’m glad it’s not a chinese sweatshop, but frankly the idea is that E was a American manufacturer who supported the local economy. You know, built with pride in the USA, but apparently those days of working out of a American garage are over huh Tony?

Wherever they are steering the company just seems like a discouraging direction, but thats just a opinion from a old, typical Ellsworth AMERICAN customer. Maybe the European crowd will appreciate this more?

Better yet Tony, if you like to ensure the quality and safe practices of foreign manufacturing, why don’t you move over there and just change the company name to

Easyworth or maybe Worthless. Sorry I’m mad, but now my Sub 22 doesn’t seem to shine as brightly as before. I suppose I would rather buy local than a plastic heap from some foreign country. Feels like a bit of stab in the back. Hope you enjoy the money Tony.

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.