The headline might be a little misleading on this one as there is some nuance to the idea of Esker and the Orion suspension system being “new”. Esker has some of the DNA of Advocate Cycles, a brand built around a non-profit model that donated over $85,000 to cycling-related causes. Advocate quietly closed up shop with this to say:
“Along the way, we have learned that much of what we have created is working well, while other parts of our model are holding us back. In an effort to hang on to the pieces that are working well, continue to develop and deliver great bikes, and help to build an outstanding cycling community, we are closing Advocate Cycles. Moving forward, we are working on putting all of our knowledge, experience, and willingness to give back to the cycling community toward a newly established bicycle brand, Esker Cycles.”
While Advocate was all about metal hardtail frames, Esker’s first bike is a carbon-fiber, 150-mm-travel, 27.5 trail bike. It is the first bike to use Dave Weagle’s Orion suspension design. Orion was developed at the same time as dw-link, but with a focus on motorcycles. But after years false starts getting motorcycles brands to bite on a design that isn’t a single pivot swing arm with a linkage-driven shock, Weagle went back to mountain bike brands, where single-ring drivetrains were suddenly making Orion a much more attractive option.
Orion still uses a pair of short links, but the lower link pivots around the bottom bracket shell. The shock is driven by a yoke. The entire package of frame and suspension bits looks very refined for a first-year effort. And that isn’t just nice photos. We’ve been bashing around on one of the few rideable samples for the last few weeks. It looks as good in person as it does in photos, distinctive yet understated. The matte brick finish attracts a lot more attention than I would have expected.
We’ve got a bunch of hours on this bike and the next issue will have an extended review. First impressions of the bike are very positive. The shock was not quite the right tune, but even with that issue, the Elkat has been very easy to get along with. A full-size bottle fits easily inside the front triangle, the shock controls are easy to reach and it looks like a 170 mm dropper would fit this frame easily, considering how much post is showing with this 125 mm dropper.
There is plenty of room for 2.6 tires, even some 2.8s might fit, but the bike is designed around 2.3-2.6-inch tires, which makes sense to me. As travel goes up, speeds and cornering forces increase, and bouncy, squirmy wide tires start to become a liability. Geometry is modern, but not extreme in any one direction.
|Top Tube Length||554||587||608||632|
|Seat Tube Angle Virtual||75.9||75.9||75.9||75.9|
|Seat Tube Angle Actual||71.4||71.7||72||72.2|
|Seat Tube Length||380||410||450||490|
|Head Tube Angle||65.5||65.5||65.5||65.5|
|Head Tube Length||99||115||126||143|
|Fork Rake (Offset)||44||44||44||44|
|Fork Length (150mm)||555||555||555||555|
A frame kit (Fox DPS shock, headset, spare derailleur hanger, pivot tools, rear axle and seat collar will set you back $3,000. Complete bikes start at $4,000 and go up from there. The builds are custom, with a heavy emphasis on Shimano and Fox, but other options will be available. Consumers will be offered a “delete” option as well. Perhaps you have a favorite saddle, handlebar and grips, but Esker doesn’t offer it an option? You can choose to have the bike shipped without those items. Each bike will be assembled in the U.S.A., in a similar fashion to other high-end brands such as Pivot, Santa Cruz and Turner.
Esker will be consumer direct to start, but plans are in place to create a small dealer network as well. Esker will have bikes at a number of demo events in the coming months, check the website for more info.
If you are ready to get in line for the first run of frames, a $500 deposit will reserve you a frame or complete bike, plus a bonus pack of Esker hat, t-shirt, and High Above hip pack. Check out the Esker website for more info.
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Author: Eric McKeegan