Every so often a brand will create something that spreads like wildfire through social circles and the next thing you know, they’re popping up everywhere. Most often this contagious feat is due to a company doing things a little differently based on not paper but pure “on the dirt” experience. Even better, when that said experience comes from a couple of brothers, one being a mechanical engineer, former pro downhiller & Red Bull Rampage competitor, and the other having raced on the world cup circuit… well, what did you think would happen?
If you hadn’t already, check out last week’s post on the Skittle-like parts I gathered to mount on this soon to be party on wheels. Otherwise, step right in and take a close look at what a couple of brothers came up with and what led me to start assembling this as MY “world’s funnest bike”…
There is no other company that comes to mind with a more comprehensive direct feedback to the design component than Canfield Brothers. Even the best communication between pro riders and engineers can’t compare to the engineer being the pro rider. Canfield Brothers was founded by Lance and brother Chris Canfield in the mid-90s when rear suspension was in its infancy. Lance started designing what he thought was a better bike by tweaking geometry and designing his own rear suspension of which he and brother Chris were competing on all over the world. Rather than study what worked for others they went purely on what THEY wanted and went to the drawing board. Turns out, that rather pro experience seems to have paid off.
So why this frame? I was one of the last converts to 29er wheels. I don’t race anymore so “fun” outweighs “fast” by a large margin. I gullibly thought that the bigger wheels neutered a bike’s handling characteristics and ignored all of the “great handling” marketing claims everyone was trying to entice me with. I wanted something playful and my formula for that was a slacker headtube angle, short chainstays and a pedal dragging bottom bracket height that enabled my 6’1″ frame to carve with the best of them. “Slack” was just becoming a thing on longer travel bikes and 29 wheels seem to be the anti-short chainstay/low bottom bracket height combination. When Canfield Brothers came out with the Yelli Screamy and a few people’s whose opinions I valued… I mean, I couldn’t believe they were so stoked about a 29er hardtail! These were people that live for bombing technical jumpy descents so I became intrigued to say the least. The Yelli Screamy wasn’t just a 29er with a slacker geometry, it was the first production 29er with sub 17″ chainstays.
Skip ahead… when Canfield first announced the Screamy’s carbon sister with the EPO, I couldn’t have been more excited when they asked if I was interested in reviewing it. So excited, I even put in on my holiday wish list! Just looking at the EPO’s curvy lines and geometry made me think this might defeat my 29er assumptions. While not slow, this bike was designed to be an aggressive hardtail. Before building it up I tried to imagine a bike that had the handling characteristics similar to my 6-inch bike with the light whippy properties of a carbon hardtail. Then considering my beloved 6″ bike resembles bringing a cannon to a gun fight for the trails I ride 80% of the time, I concluded this could be the ideal daily slayer.
Sporting a 66.8 headtube angle (with a 140mm fork, or 67.9 w/ 120mm), and 74.5 seat tube angle (effective), this should be a nice fit when it comes to handling some aggressive trail… you know, like in all the dirt spitting tire ads. The EPO drops a whopping 1.5 pounds over the Screamy and has almost a massive half-inch shorter chainstay length. Those are some big numbers especially considering the Yeli Screamy already had some of the shortest 29er chainstays on the market. The 3lb 2oz frame (large) was impressively light for such a robustly built bike made to take a beating. For reference, the full suspension bike’s frame I’m riding with a similar headtube angle weighs over 4 pounds more than the EPO. Considering most of that heft is towards the back half of the frame… I’m no weight weenie, but that’ll make a difference. There were a lot of things to like so far with the EPO… they even went to the trouble to incorporate a place for a direct mount bottle opener on the seat tube!
The swoopy chainstays come in at 16.3 inches and still allow you to cram some pretty fat rubber in there. The 142 x 12mm thru axle is pretty standard but the replaceable dropout was one of the sturdier ones I’ve seen and is easily replaceable.
Going with carbon not only makes things lighter, but it opens up a lot of possibilities when it comes to the frame’s design… like tire clearance. The seatstays (R) have a curve and inner bow that take a bit more “bite” of the ride and the top view of the “yoke” of the chainstays (R) are shaped to keep things stiff while maximizing tire and crankarm clearance. According to Canfield, the EPO will handle up to a 29 x 2.5 and you could even stuff a 27.5+ 2.8 in there.
The disc brake mount was placed in the stays for a nice clean look however, the upper one was difficult to access since it sits on the inside of the seatstay. Nothing a long round nose hex couldn’t solve, but you will not get the common 3-way in there.
It’s hard to make out, but the EPO had external cable stops aplenty inside the top and down tubes. It doesn’t have internal routing, but I personally prefer the “easier to access and maintain” external routing. Even for the dropper there is no internal routing. Regardless, once everything is zip tied in place, everything is nice and tidy.
No doubt a company with such a hardcore background in gravity would use a threaded BB and ISCG-05 tabs. From the look of the BB shell, there was no skimping when it came to making sure this thing could handle everything it was designed for and then some.
Next week everything comes together with a couple of surprise changes I went with. I gave the EPO a good thrashing and couldn’t be happier with how it came out. And while I’m usually pretty boring when it comes to function over fashion, but this rig came out looking as good as it rode… as least I think the stares it got were in mostly in awe.