eleven bikes fat bike review and details

After meeting Eleven Bikes’ founder Thomas German at a ‘cross race a few weeks ago, we set a date for him to come visit Bikerumor HQ and go for a ride. It also gave us a chance to discuss the brand, his design background and philosophy, and spec decisions in far greater detail than our first post on the brand.

Thomas comes from motorsports, with several Indy and NASCAR championships under his belt as head engineer for some of the top teams. His role was (and still is on occasion) to set up the car’s suspension and other variables to optimize performance at a specific track and in specific conditions. In that environment, any weak link is a life threatening risk, which is why he spent a lot of extra time with the builder to have the frame constructed a certain way to pass their own aggressive testing. And since he was used to tuning ride characteristics using the soft points like suspension and tires while keeping the chassis as stiff and strong as possible, he carried that philosophy over, too. His bikes have straight tubes, with reinforcements at key joints, to make it very stiff. Compliance is adjustable with the fork and tires. It’s an interesting take, and the geometry makes it even more so…

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

The frame starts with 6061 alloy tubes and keeps them all straight, save for the front of the chainstays. Thomas liked the DJ bike look, with the top tube running straight into the seatstays, so larger sizes get an extra tube to reinforce the top of the seat tube. I rode this size large built up with Rockshox Bluto fork, SRAM GX, Race Face Next SL cranks and Turbine 35 stem / SIXC handlebar, Wolf Tooth oval 32T chainring, Hope carbon seatpost, HED alloy rims with Hope Pro 4 hubs and Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires, and WTB saddle. Claimed weight was 27 pounds, retail as shown is $4,185.

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

Two gussets reinforce the head tube, and an oversized downtube runs down to a large PFBB30 shell.

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

Cables are all run externally, but he worked hard to get them running tidily under the top tube and seatstays. This makes repairs and replacements easier without messing up the clean lines of the frame.

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

German says he really wanted to do a standard threaded BB, but needed the extra diameter of the PFBB30 shell to stick the other tubes to…and so you could run an eccentric bottom bracket to set it up as a single speed. For geared setups, he turned to the Enduro TorqueTite thread-together BB so there’s no creaking.

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

Another nice touch is that the rear brake caliper is completely protected inside the frame, shielded from rock strikes, etc. All frames are made in Portland, USA, and are shipped to ELEVEN’s Statesville, NC, headquarters raw so they can inspect every weld. From there, to go to nearby Mooresville, NC, for powder coating. German says he chose this finish over paint because it’s more durable. The logo decals are baked in so they won’t peel off or get scratched.

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

Now, about the geometry. All three frame sizes (S/M/L) get a 73º seat tube angle and 69.5º head angle. Compare that to the en vogue “trail” geo that uses a steeper seat angle and slacker head angle and this seems counterintuitive. And it feels different. For the first half of our ride, I felt like I was reclining back into the seat and sitting low. This despite getting proper leg extension and feeling otherwise balanced on the bike. At the halfway point, Thomas confirmed my suspicions by explaining his geometry theory as such: The head angle is steeper to keep steering sharp. The seat angle is slacker to put enough weight over the rear tires for climbing traction.

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

Turns out, this makes a lot of sense for a fat bike. It’s not an enduro bike meant for racing down hill where a slacker head angle would be beneficial. Rather, it’s for the XC style trails, beaches and snow covered paths typically ridden on a fat bike. The quick steering negated any tire squirm on the tight, twisting sections, keeping the bike agile on technical singletrack. If it were mine, I’d put a slightly shorter stem on it (this one had a 90mm) to reduce the overall reach.

eleven bikes fat bike review and details

Chainstays are a reasonable 17.5″, which makes room for a max 4.8″ tire (4.0″ tested here). It adds up to a bit longer wheelbase than a super tight XC bike would have, but that adds stability on the straights to counterbalance the steep front end. That, and the long front end, make it a bit harder to pull the front wheel up and over logs, but only a little bit.

Overall, the bike is nimble and easy to flick around the trail. The geometry and design philosophy are a split from the norm these days, but it’s nice to see someone thinking outside the box. At the end of the day, the bike was made to check off all of Thomas’ strength, quality and handling wish list items. The bonus is it seems like a bike that’ll impress others, too. I certainly was.

ElevenBike.com

21 comments

  1. ELEVEN on

    Mark,
    Sorry for the confusion, our first prototypes and production bikes were built by Zen. Since Zen closed, we have kept production in the US but do not disclose the details. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. ATBScott on

    OK – something I am a bit confused with on the Geo – the description (and chart) says 69 head and 73 seat angle… But the tester describes the steep head angle and slack seat tube… Pics look like it might be reversed, 73 head and 69 seat – which would match the description. Which is it?

    Reply
    • ATBScott on

      OK – so the charts are correct… I don’t see any geometry difference from most of the fat bikes out there. Salsa Mukluk, Advocate Watchman, Framed Alaskan, etc… all have nearly identical geometry.to this, and they have been around a while… It looks like a nice bike, but I see nothing different about the geo.

      Reply
  3. Mike D on

    Pretty bike.
    A 90mm stem spec’d on a size large with that geo does make me worry that this is yet another car/moto person thinking their area of expertise will translate to a slam dunk in the cycling world. I can’t help but to think that a $4k+ aluminum hardtail is really only going to appeal to a very niche market. Best of luck to the folks at Eleven though, glad to see them making the effort to produce a nice bike.

    Reply
    • ELEVEN on

      Mike D,
      Since ELEVEN bikes are made-to-order, we don’t have spec. component groups, colors, or stem lengths. We discuss specifics with each customer and do our best to insure the build is right for them. During demo rides, several customer have tried different stem lengths and seem to be migrating to 70 mm on small and medium frames.

      Please take a few minutes to check our our site (elevenbike.com) and “build” your bike (we start at $2950).

      Reply
      • Mike D on

        Ah, I noted that they were made in the states, but missed the part that mentioned these were built-to-order. Cool stuff. I’ll have a look at the website. Thanks for the info guys!

        Reply
  4. dustytires on

    Nice to see a well proven seat angle, unless one is riding flat pedals/shoes it makes no sense to jack the seat angle to 76 freakin degrees. An inline dropper post and flat pedal work ok with super steep seat angle as the pedal axle migrates toward arch, not so with clip in pedals. I love the idea of an eccentric to SS the bike, I just hope the dimensions are not as sloppy as say a Specialized press fit. I think sh*tty bore sizes have been the bane of all PF systems, not the concept.

    Reply
    • the other Andy on

      Well said. My PF30 shell with Enduro TorqTite BB has been dead silent for over a year. And 76 degree seat tube angles are not for bikes that are designed to be pedaled in anger. They are designed to provide more clearance for rear suspension, super short chain stays and sedate climbing. That’s it.

      Reply
  5. Jay_24 on

    Maybe I’m missing something… The new Mukluk uses a 69 head tube and 73 seat angle. So does the Beargrease and the Trek Farley. The Otso uses the same geometry as well. So does the half a degree on the head angle make that much difference? This doesn’t seem that new and different.

    Reply
  6. Ol Shel on

    Let’s not compare all bikes’ numbers to this fad geometry that the industry is pushing on all of us. People will soon realize that these absurdly long and slack bikes don’t work well on normal trail.

    Reply
  7. TheKaiser on

    These are funny days we live in, when 69head/73seat qualifies as a radical departure from mainstream geometry. Nearly every “trail” bike on the market had that type of geo 5-10 years ago. I have 3 in the garage as we speak. This bike may be out of keeping with the current long/slack front end steep seat tube “enduro” trend, but it is solidly in the middle of the bell curve for fat bike (and relatively recent “trail bike”) geometry, which seems reasonable given that it seems to be intended as an all purpose hardtail.

    Reply
  8. arp on

    FS trail bike geometry should not have been brought up as a point of reference for this review. Those numbers are not unusual for fat bikes. And the chainstay length is actually on the short side for fat bikes (a good thing imo).

    I like what I see here. Understated non-big brand quality frame, the chance to customize components, and reasonable prices for what you get. I might be placing an order!

    Reply
  9. B_rider24 on

    I had the chance to meet and talk with Thomas at the 2016 Cyclofest near Charlotte where he really took the time to explain the overall design philosophy of the bike as well as the concept of the “build to suit” capability of his website. I was intrigued, since the bikes he brought along looked so nice, but skeptical like many regarding fat tire bikes so I took one for a ride….well I can tell you this I came back with two words in mind….confidence inspiring….meaning I was more confident in trying to push the bike harder and harder with each successive turn!

    I was in the market for something fun and new anyway so I gave the website a shot and found myself constantly playing with component and color combos, checking total mass until finally I said to myself “I need one of these bikes!” because I can “give it my own look” and repeat the fun on the trails I ride, same as when I tested one at the Charlotte show.

    Ultimately I gave myself an early Christmas present and now a sweet looking, high end components, corner shredding machine has been pulling duty on my rides this past month and let me say it’s been worth every penny! The bike continues to not let me down in performance and outright fun.

    Reply
  10. Mike on

    I know Thom. I met him at Lake Norman State Park and he let me test ride his new bikes. Super fun fat bike. We discussed the steep head angle and how it affected the ride. I was totally impressed with how much better his fat bike handled vs. the few I’ve ridden.

    Reply

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