Just two years ago, Esker Cycles popped out of nowhere. The brand was new, but the people behind it were not, with more than 100 years of bike industry experience between them. It wasn’t just the brand that was new, but the suspension design as well. After years of holding out, Dave Weagle’s Orion Dynamics suspension platform finally made its way to a mountain bike frame with the Esker Elkat as the first model. Now, the Elkat is getting a sibling with slightly less travel, but bigger wheels.
Called the Rōwl, the name is a mix of Ram+Owl, hence the horned owl creature hidden between the chainstays. Compare that to the Elkat which is made up of Elk+Cat (mountain lion). Esker says there’s more to the naming structure than made up animals though, as the animals are chosen to “suit the character of the bike and reside in the areas in which they ride.”
As mentioned, this is the second Esker mountain bike to make use of the Orion Dynamics suspension platform. We went into quite a bit of detail on the original post here, but the takeaway is that the suspension seems to live up to the promise of remaining supremely active at all times, even while under power. This allows it to be very pedal efficient while also crushing through rough terrain. In my experience, the suspension worked very well for the Elkat, so I can’t wait to see what it’s like for the Rōwl with bigger 29″ wheels.
The suspension travel is slightly less on the Rōwl at 140mm rear mated to a 150mm travel fork, but the choice to spec complete builds with a Fox 36 suspension fork hints at the bike’s aggressive nature. Esker likes to build ‘mountain bikes’ that don’t need categorization. They want to make a bike that you can ride anywhere, on any terrain, you know, like a mountain bike.
Keeping with their “Slack & Steep” geometry angle, the Rōwl is built with a 65.16° head tube angle and a 76° virtual seat tube angle. Compared to the Elkat, reach numbers have increased by 10mm per size, but the chainstays remain the same length at 425mm – which is impressive considering the frame will fit a 29 x 2.6″ tire.
Constructed from a “proprietary blend of high modulus carbon fiber” and with Esker’s cheekily named Smooth AF molding, Rōwl frames use a 73mm BSA threaded bottom bracket, Boost 148mm rear spacing, and run a 31.6mm dropper post. Framesets will be offered in all four colors (Lunar, Dusk, Tannin, and Salmon), and include a custom tuned Fox DPX2 Performance rear shock, WTC Headset, seat collar, and thru axle for $2,899.
Complete builds will be offered in three levels named R1, R2, and R3. At the time of launch, only the R2, and R3 builds will be available though. Pricing starts at $3,999 for the R1, then $4,999 for the R2, and $5,999 for the R3.