Ellsworth. The name conjures memories of the rise of the Southern California boutique mountain bike culture. There were others, of course, but Ellsworth was the one that elicited some of the most passionate advocates. But where emotions run high, you’ll always find both ends of the love-it or hate-it spectrum. And there was Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles.
They have a long history of making high performance, full-suspension mountain bikes. The founder, Tony Ellsworth, created the brand with a precept to utilize U.S. manufacturing with U.S. sourced materials. He was successful for many years, and his aluminum bicycle frames were highly regarded throughout the world. As the bicycle industry shifted from traditional frame-building materials, like steel, titanium and aluminum, towards carbon fiber composites, the Ellsworth brand was compelled to follow the industry trend and sought resources outside the U.S. borders for its composites production.
In reality, Ellsworth was a bit late to the carbon fiber game, and the market had moved on. Sales weren’t as brisk as they had been in the salad days of smoke ano and ICT dominance. And as with too many small-ish bike companies, one too many small setbacks can have disastrous consequences. A devastating wildfire, the economic recession, and poor capitalization created a pitfall that Ellsworth could not escape.
With declining sales in a very competitive market landscape, Tony Ellsworth sought out a solution to highlight his bikes and return to his longtime commitment to U.S manufacturing. He orchestrated a deal to sell Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles to BST Nano Carbon of Rancho Bernardo, California. With new capitol and resources to resuscitate his long-time vision, BST and Ellsworth plan to bring their bicycle manufacturing back to California for the 2016 model range.
While all of Ellsworth’s aluminum frame production has remained in California, the first new product planned for the Rancho Bernardo facility is the newly revised ICT seatstay assembly. Next on the list are bicycle frames, but they have a reasonable, planned manufacturing timeline to start frame production in Southern California for the 2017 range.
Ellsworth is effectively a new company, with new management, some interesting new products, and with what seems like a tight-knit group of enthusiastic and dedicated people. Here’s to hoping that they can steward Mr. Ellsworth’s original vision of American manufacturing, high performance products, and the promise of great customer service.History Notes:
• Ellsworth founded in 1991 in Southern California
• ICT rear suspension patented in 1997
• Always focused on best practices/environmental stewardship
• Long-term commitment to US manufacturing and US sourced materials
• Highly regarded active suspension (Instant Center Tracking)
• Always known for excellent craftsmanship and production quality
• Started full carbon fiber frame development 2011
• Resorted to outsourced Asian manufacturing for carbon fiber frames/frame components for 2012 model range
• Continued US aluminum frame manufacturing and production
• BST Nano Carbon of San Diego acquired Ellsworth in September 2014
• BST Nano Carbon and Ellsworth will be manufacturing the new ICT seatstays in their San Diego facility for the 2016 model range
• New designs for the 2017 range will be manufactured in San Diego
• Lots of new hires and new management
• Ellsworth has a stacked design and engineering team that has the technical capabilities to create bikes to compete in the market with any brand
• They will be able to respond more quickly to market trends and emerging ideas than all of the outsourcing brands
• Lead times for production will be cut drastically
• Ellsworth has the resources to be a leader in laminate design
• With a new revision for 2016, ICT has been modernized, yet still retains all of the active bump compliance and pedaling efficiency that so many riders have appreciated for so many years
• Ellsworth will support the Independent Bike Dealer network
• Ellsworth is effectively a new company with new management, new products, and a small, but enthusiastic team
• “America’s Bike