Bike: Canfield Brothers EPO Carbon 29er
Size Tested: Medium
Drivetrain: Shimano XT / SRAM XO
Brakes: Shimano XT
Fork: RockShox Pike 140mm
Travel: 0 / 140 mm
Reviewer Info: 5’9”, 155 lbs.
Test Location: Boulder City, Nevada
MSRP: $1,700 (frame only)
Interbike’s outdoor demo is located at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, Nevada. It’s a fantastic network of trails, and it’s a great escape from that wretched hive of filth and villainy that is Las Vegas.
The trails we spent most of our time on were relatively fast, with a fair amount of sand and some pretty rocky sections.
Having said that…
Riding bikes at a demo is always kind of tricky. For starters, we’re unable to get as much time on each bike as we like–our test durations are measured in minutes and hours, not our preferred time frame of weeks and months. One good ride can tell you a lot about how a bike handles, but it certainly doesn’t allow for the customary, in-depth, Blister analysis.
Demo days also don’t generally permit the time needed to get each bike dialed to our liking. A quick suspension setup and fiddling with the bike’s ergonomics gets it most of the way there, but it takes days to really get everything running just right. Furthermore, differences like tire selection and tire pressure can have a huge effect on how a bike rides, and we generally don’t have the chance to get to tinker with those variables too much.
So while we believe it’s important to be upfront about the limitations of reviewing bikes in such settings, there is also merit in riding a slew of bikes, back to back, on the same trail. Subtle differences that might not become apparent if our test rides happen weeks or months apart are able to come to light, and each bike’s attributes may be more easily identified.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the new Canfield Brothers EPO Carbon 29er…
I have been, and continue to be, a strong advocate of the Canfield Yelli Screamy. I’ve been riding that bike for four years now, and I still spend a fair amount of time on it. I don’t tend to hang on to bikes for all that long, but the Yelli has been a staple in my garage.
So when the Canfield EPO hit the shelves last spring, my ears perked up a little bit. A carbon wonderbike version of the Yelli? I kinda want that.
I happened across Lance Canfield and his personal EPO at the Interbike Outdoor Demo, and he agreed to let me take it out on the trail.
Is the EPO everything I want it to be? Yeah, actually, it pretty much is.
My main complaint about the Yelli Screamy has always been that it beats the crap out of me on long rides. It’s got a really stiff rear end, and a relatively slack seat tube angle. That means that when my seat’s all the way up in “pedaling” position, I’m perched way back over the rear axle, and every little blip in the terrain gets transmitted straight up into my spine.
For short rides, it’s not a big deal. But for a longer ride with a lot of saddle time, it gets a little old.
The EPO gains a bit of compliance in the rear end sheerly by virtue of the carbon construction. Added to that is a steeper seat tube angle: 74.5° on the EPO, vs. 70° on the Yelli. The end result is a bike that feels much more comfortable to ride. Even though my test was pretty short, it was very apparent that the EPO is more forgiving.
But that more compliant rear end didn’t seem to accompany any untoward lateral flex. The EPO, like the Yelli, was still more than happy to get thrown sideways into a corner.
A few other tweaks to the EPO’s geometry are also improvements over the Yelli. The front end has been “modernized,” and sports a significantly longer reach than the Yelli which allows you to run a much shorter stem on the EPO.
The chainstays have also shrunk by about 10mm, down to 414m (which, for the record, is crazy short for a 29er).
The head tube angle stays more or less the same, and the bottom bracket is a smidge lower.
Of course, there’s also the fact that the EPO weighs a good bit less than the Yelli. The EPO frame weighs around 1450g (3.2lb), which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 grams (2lb) lighter than the Yelli. The EPO that I rode weighed in at about 25.9lb without pedals, and there was room to shave weight off of that build if one were so inclined.
Most importantly though, like the Yelli, the EPO will still rally down trails that aren’t really at all appropriate for a hardtail 29er. I don’t really know how else to put it. The EPO does all the things that a hardtail 29er should do, like scoot up climbs and that sort of thing. But the real magic happens on the descents. Just like the Yelli, the EPO punches well above its weight class.
In the time I’ve owned the Yelli, I’ve recommended that bike to a lot of people. If you can’t have fun on that bike, then you’re doing something seriously wrong.
The EPO is all that, plus some. The only downside, of course, is that the EPO costs quite a bit more than the Yelli. But if you’re looking for a quiver-of-one hardtail, the EPO should be high on the list to consider.
Or if you just like everything about the Yelli and you can handle the price jump, then yeah, go for it.