Super easy to ride fast
The Ancilotti Scarab Evo 29 is the mountain bike equivalent of Savile Row and takes customisation a step further than most.
Ancilotti Scarab Evo 29 need to know
- 29er enduro bike with 165mm travel
- Frames are handmade in Italy with fully customisable geometry and sizing
- Coil shock only, also produced by Ancillotti
- Custom complete bike builds available to order
- €2,900 (frame and shock)
In a world where bikes tend to come from the same place and tick all the same boxes, it’s rare to find a modern enduro race bike with a USP… The Ancillotti Scarab Evo 29 has several.
To begin with, Ancillotti has no desire to be a mainstream brand. Producing between 35 to 40 bikes a year, Tomaso Ancillotti and his father source the raw aluminium tubing from Germany, then the tubes are formed, mitered and welded in Florence, Italy.
Because each frame is made to order, you can choose your preferred geometry and sizing. Need a shorter seat tube to fit a 170mm dropper? Not a problem. Longer chain stays to balance a long front end and slack head angle? That’s possible too. You can have whatever you want!
But rather than just fire off a random set of numbers via email, Tomaso encourages potential customers to visit him at his workshop in Valperga, Turin, in the foothills of the Alps.
There you can ride a selection of frame sizes on trails worthy of a 165mm travel 29er, and Tomaso can see how you actually ride, and more importantly, how each bike fits you. You spend a full day riding different bikes, fine-tuning the set-up, and then the discussion begins in earnest to pin down the sizing, geometry and the build kit if you’re buying a complete bike.
It is not just Ancillotti’s approach to customer service that’s sets it apart either; the bike is unique too. The main departure from convention being that the suspension uses bushing in the pivots rather than cartridge bearings. I’ve been testing bikes for long enough to know that while bushings are better engineering solution in theory; bearings always win the day because ultimately they reduce friction. Well, the Scarab Evo 29 made me rethink that firmly held belief, because the rear end on the team bike that I rode in Valperga was completely free from stiction. So done properly, bushings work very well.
Sure, when the bike is new there’s a bedding-in period, one that I witnessed firsthand this Xmas as my riding buddy Davide from Livorno got to grips with his new Scarab Evo 29. Under Tomaso’s instruction, the rebound damping was run wide open for the first couple of rides and after every few days of riding Davide was told to add one or two clicks of rebound as the system freed up. After three weeks of riding it was buttery smooth, just like the team bike I tested.
At this point Tomaso instructed Davide used the geometry adjust feature to raise the BB a hair to offset the lower dynamic ride height of the bike, a direct result of the pivots bedding in.
Okay, so the Scarab Evo 29 isn’t the only enduro bike to have adjustable geometry, but the way it’s achieved is unlike any other bike I’ve tested. Instead of having a two-position design with a flip-chip, the lower link on the Scarab’s suspension has a threaded interface that can be extend or shorten one thread at a time – the design offering approximately 1 degree of head angle adjustment. Tomaso was keen to point out that because the bike has been custom built for the rider, he knows it’s going to fit, and the geometry adjust feature is more about fine-tuning the balance of the bike for different terrain. In the lowest setting the BB height is approximately 340mm. In fact, it’s probably the only measurement other than the travel that’s fixed. I emailed Tomaso asking him to supply the geometry for the Scarab Evo 29, but no sooner than I’d hit send, I realised how dumb that question was. How can you list geometry when each bike is unique? So the geometry listed here is only for the team bike I rode in Valperga.
And it’s not just the geometry that’s adjustable on the Scarab Evo 29, travel can be reduced to 155mm by changing the linkage position on the swingarm too. Ancillotti also offers a different shock link with increased progression for more aggressive riders.
For years people have been telling Ancillotte that it should use an air-sprung shock, but Tomaso was having none of it. And if the quality of the suspension on the coil-sprung enduro bikes in this month’s bike test is anything to go by, he was right to stick to his guns. The coil shock on the Scarab Evo 29 is built by Ancillotti and has external rebound adjustment and a lock out lever, but the latter is more a Bandaid for riders who think coil shocks are going to feel mushy and soft when pedalling. They are not. Even on the steepest climbs, and there are some pretty big hills behind Tomaso’s workshop, I never felt the need to use the lock out, even though the spring rate was low enough for me to bottom the shock a couple of times on every run. And given how sensitive the suspension was off the top, it was one of the most efficient pedalling bikes I’ve ridden.
And it’s not just the slightly rearward pivot location that makes the bike pedal really well; stiffness also plays a part. The way the swingarm is triangulated, and the fact that that it’s bolted between two lugs on the front triangle, rather than the other way round make a difference too.
The Pull Shock design is also important. The term is somewhat lost in translation though, as the bike actually uses a conventional push shock. A more accurate description would be pull-link, as it’s all about the way the swingarm pulls on the linkage that compresses the shock to keep the system in tension and aligned. Tomaso likes to use the analogy that towing a car makes it much easier to control than pushing it because the system is in tension, and this makes perfect sense. Or to think of it another way, most suspension designs use the seat stay assembly to push on the link that actuates the shock, which exposes it to more lateral load.
So we’ve established that the Ancillotti Scarab Evo 29 is completely customisable, pedals really well and has some truly unique design features that question modern manufacturing techniques and attitudes. That‘s all well and good but as an enduro race bike it needs to be fast and easy to ride when fatigued. The Scarab 29 Evo easily ticks both those boxes.
Coming from the Specialized Enduro 29, a bike with similar proportions, I was most impressed by the Scarab’s ability to maintain momentum even on the roughest trails. The rear end just didn’t hook up as much on square-edge hits as the Enduro 29 and even though the suspension was very supple, offering superb levels of grip, the bike felt steadfast though high-speed turns and could still be preload and popped into the air in the blink of an eye.
The second time I rode the Ancillotti was in Italy, this time in Tuscany where it rained for three days straight. The bike still felt superbly balanced sliding around in the slop, but the sticky mud highlighted one weakness in the frame design, namely mud clearance.
Granted the 2.35in e*thirteen rear tyre was pretty chunky for the conditions and when I mentioned this to Tomaso he said that if you need more clearance for fatter tyres we just increase the chainstay length by 5mm. The solution was beautiful in its simplicity, but when you’re talking to the guy that designs and manufactures the frame, it really is that simple.
Getting info on this bike is a little trickier though, and when I questioned Tomaso about his website not being updated since 2014, he simply said that people still manage to find him. In many ways that just adds to the appeal. There’s no marketing strategy or hard sell, Ancillotti happy to let its product do that talking.