Joe Howard's Ellsworth Joker - Bike Magic

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Joe Howard’s Ellsworth Joker

My 2001 Ellsworth Joker has been a bit of a journey for me. From utter novice to it recently being retired in favour of a real downhill bike its been a symbol of me learning how to ride, and what to and what not to buy.

I’d only been riding XC for about a year when I thought that I fancied a go at a spot of downhilling. So onto eBay it was and I was soon the proud owner of a thoroughly thrashed frame with what turned out to be a knackered shock. Hmm, not a good start. As the original red paint was in a rotten state, it was off the local auto painters to get it powder coated in black. Once I’d saved up for a few months I had a decent set of parts, some Atomlab wheels, ‘Zocchi Z150s and some C2s off the old hardtail and the lot went off to the shop. This was all well and good until the bloke they sent it to get the headtube faced buggered off to Japan for two months. So no bike for me.

Eventually when I did get it back the next year was my first at university, and as I had taken a gap year and had some money I was able to sort out all the things that turned out to be wrong with it. A new Romic shock for starters, then new brakes to replace the C2s that boiled over at the drop of a hat, then the cranks that were worn and fell off, then the ISIS BB that seized, and about three mechs that got totalled.

Come my final year at uni and some judicious saving and money earnt in the TA, the bike was in its final form, in which it did me proud in the 2007 Megavalanche in Alp d’Huez. Wheels, fork and frame the same – the rest in a parts bucket somewhere. Lessons learnt? Don’t buy stuff when it’s cheap, it’s likely to be cheap for a reason…

The bike has now been retired to the garage wall of fame with my snapped hardtail XC bikes, possibly awaiting the day when it gets resurrected as a trail bike with an air shock. But fond memories remain of learning to ride DH, jumping at local trails and whimpering with fear as both ends bottomed out in some daft Alpine rootfest. I try not to think of how much got spent on the bike, as when it came to rest, it had MRP, X.0, Thomson and Hope bits on it, so it can be definitely classed as one of those financial black holes!

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