Most folks who slobber and drool over high-dollar classic mountain bikes will have you believe that the title of "Pinnacle of the Species" belongs to a brand like Ritchey, Cunningham, or maybe Potts. California builders with a design ethos angled toward the simple, durable and purposeful. I'm a big fan of durable, simple and purposeful, so I should be a lover of these fine brands. I'm not. There's a reason...
Along with simple and purposeful and durable, there's an equally significant factor in mountain bike design that gets often overlooked in conversations about the perfect bicycle. Regionalism.
Regionalism is very important. Specifically regionalism refers to the elements of a bicycle's design that relate a purpose built machine directly to the requirements of the terrain for which it was built. The earth is not covered only in the sweeping rolling hills, long switchback climbs, and vision-blurring descents of central California. Nope... there are variations. I don't live in California.
In the late 80's, east coast frame builders popped up and introduced bicycle designs made to tackle their local terrain. Mid Atlantic and New England states feature tight, twisty, muddy, rock strewn and aggressive trails that are very different from standard western state’s fare. Not better. Not worse. Different. Brands like Fat Chance emerged to take the simple proven geometries of the standard bearer cross county machines of the day, like the Bridgestone MB-Zip or Specialized Stumpjumper, and give them an aggressive tweak. From these builders, tighter geometry, shorter stays, higher bottom brackets and smaller wheelbases emerged, and the general concepts of East Coast Specific design were established. Major regional manufacturers, like Cannondale, joined the fray with SM600s and SM800s, and later the Beast of the East, solidifying the market for the regional style. For some, however, it just wasn't enough.
Pennsylvania, 1991. Local trials, downhill, cross-country and dual slalom rider Jay DeJesus organizes Eastern Woods Research and shortly finalizes the design for his first frame to be offered for public consideration. Designed to handle the rigors of the sloppy and technical east coast trails, and manufactured locally by Grove Innovations, the first generation Original Woods was born. The frame featured horizontal laser cut dropouts from Grove, short chain stays, a bottom bracket height of nearly 13", steeper head and seat tube angles that would put a Fat to shame, and 4130 straight gauge steel tubes through out. The down tube was manufactured in a distinctive mitered and angled design, which provided for additional drop-over clearance for technical riding as compared to a typical double diamond bicycle frame, and was triangulated to a seat tube strut for strength. To maximize the strength of the strut itself, the top tube was pierced and the strut fed through the top tube, and then butt welded to the mitered joint of the down tube. The top tube was fashioned such that it sloped sharply away from the head tube, and then met the seat tube strut at the pierce-point, under the nose of the saddle. Triangulation and strength in frame design is key. Each tube has a primary structural and a secondary reinforcement role in the design of the frame. The final design’s sloped top tube and intersecting strut also affords the Original Woods rider the security of knowing that body clearance is also enhanced. As Jay once told me on the floor of the Philadelphia Convention Center in 1994, the OWB has more “Ball Room to Dance!”
The first generation EWR Original Woods has proven to be everything that Jay intended it to be. Despite the increased weight attributed to the straight gauge steel tube-set, the aggressive geometry provides for a bike that rides much lighter than its frame weight would suggest. Quick to accelerate, blistering in the turns, able to be wheelied out of corners and muscled through tight twisties with good old fashioned muscle control and body english. Additional designs followed the Original Woods, first with the 4130 E-Motion, then a True Temper double butted E variant called the B2, a dedicated trials bike – the Mettle, and finally, after a ten year hiatus, the second generation Original Woods and OWB 29er.
To some, the first generation EWR represents the purest realization of Jay’s ideas, fully committed to the concept that a bike should be designed for its environment and if the environment is aggressive and no nonsense, then the bike should be too. It’s not sexy. It’s not sleek. It’s not meant to sit on the car rack trail-side to impress your friends. The EWR Original Woods has to be ridden to be understood. Like the folks at EWR say…”Pennsylvania designed and built mountain bikes for aggressive style”. To ride is to love.