E11even M1x11

Every now and then you come across a product that is so affordable, so vacuum-packed with value that it can seem too good to be true. Most things that seem too good to be true are just that. But every now and then said product is not too good to be true; it’s the product of a smarter-than-average bear.

Or bicycle product manager, as is the case with the e11even M1x11 mountain bike. Rarely in my time in the bike industry have I run across a product that more surprised me for what it can accomplish, given its price.

The basics
So let’s cover the basics of this mountain bike. We begin with a 6061 aluminum frame, add an RLO air-spring fork with 100mm of travel, spec it with a MicroSHIFT 1×11 drivetrain (32t chainring and 11-50 cassette) and hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors. The 29er features 32-spoke wheels front and rear shod with CST 29×2.25 Patrol tires. The seatpost does not drop and the bar is 740mm wide and the stem is a lanky 90mm.

The aluminum frame comes in three sizes; I’m riding the large, which is built around a 587mm top tube, 483mm seat tube, 70.5-degree head tube angle and a 73-degree seat tube angle. BB drop is 50mm and the chainstays are 450mm. Fork offset is 40mm, and that all results in a wheelbase of 1085mm.

Before I go any further, I’ll just get this out of the way: Those aren’t the most modern numbers for a hard-tail mountain bike. Stay with me for one more sentence, and I’ll explain why I’m not going to ding this bike for that, or for anything else.

At the point this bike was shipped to me it was going for an astounding $899, but as of this writing it is just $699.

How is this possible you ask? Experience. The man behind e11even bikes (e11even also offers some hybrids, a fixie and several e-bikes in addition to three different mountain bike models) is one of the most experienced Americans I know when it comes to sourcing bikes in Asia.

Picked nits
So let’s cover the details that the pixel tigers in the comments section at a certain rose-colored bike site will flambé this bike for. The head tube angle is a shockingly steep 70.5 degrees. That’s so 2012. And, yeah, the seat tube angle could be a little steeper because mountain bikers don’t fold themselves in half like roadies do. The bar might be considered narrow. The wheels are attached with quick releases, not thru-axles. The CST tires are happier on hardpack or hero dirt than Southern mud. The fork could offer more adjustment than it does.

But here’s the thing: Each and every one of those details is fixable, sure. But this bike built to American ideas about what a mountain bike is today would double its price, at minimum. MicroSHIFT makes good drivetrains but they have never been able to make inroads into OE spec. As a result, a MicroSHIFT drivetrain is much more affordable than a Shimano one.

There are Asian factories still making quick release skewers like it’s 1999. And that says it all. This bike is the product of tooling that was bought and paid for when Prince was still on the charts. Okay, so the 29-in. frame is a bit more recent than most red Corvettes. Okay, I’ll stop with the Prince references, but I think you get my point: Spec’ing a completely up-to-date bike isn’t cheap, though it can be affordable. However, when you weigh opportunity, barrier-to-entry, what someone new to cycling thinks is a good time and the fact that most of us aren’t getting raises the way our fathers did, well, a bike like this starts to make a helluva lot of sense.

Gateway mountain bike
Bear with me a moment: Last winter I devoted a few evenings to earning my Level 1 coach certification for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association; that is, the high school mountain bike league. Some of the kids I worked with come from families that would have suffered a coronary event—the whole family—if you suggested their 15 year old needed a $9000 bike to compete against other high school kids.

At $899 the M1x11 is a pretty incredible bike. At $699 it feels like larceny.

There have been recurring conversations about whether and if so, how, the playing field can be leveled so that the bike doesn’t determine the winner of a NICA race. I think this bike could be a game-changer for NICA leagues across the country. And if my eldest was tall enough for the small, I’d buy one for him.

I’ll say it again: This is an imperfect bike. But to look at its lack of perfection is to miss the point. If you’d told me you could make a mountain bike this good for less than $1000 I’m not sure I’d have believed it. More important, I think this is a bike that could serve as an excellent introduction to mountain biking. At this kind of money I’ll go as far as to say such a purchase is risk-free.

Final thought: I don’t think I’ve ever wanted people to buy a bike I’ve reviewed more than this one.

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    I say good show, Padraig. To me, the bike industry has started to resemble the auto industry in trying to entice us into buying every new shiny object while seriously investing in planned obsolescence for same. To me, a bicycle should be durable goods and if you are still riding it after ten years, you should be able to get spare parts. I recall wasting a lot of time and four letter words finding a granny ring for a 3×9 drive train a couple years ago.

    I’m still riding a 2005 Stumpjumper Expert. Know what? It still puts huge smiles on my face with its steep head tube angle and short, snappy frame as I snap it around technical trails. My newest road bike is a 2006 Six-Thirteen, although I did buy a, cough, gasp, gravel bike from Litespeed a couple years ago. My around town commuter is a Surly Long Haul Trucker frame that I built up with parts taken off of an old tandem when my wife and I bought a new Co-Motion. Those bikes all have fun and utility bred into them.

    You make a good point on accessibility. A lot of reviewed bicycles are so far beyond a lot of people’s purchasing power in today’s economy that cycling remains an elitist sport. Which is why I always enjoyed Patrick O’Grady’s reviews of the more proletarian touring and off road bikes in Adventure Cycling, not to mention your review here. People keep talking about making bicycling the new “green” form of transportation, but the industry at times seems to go out of its way to make sure it is tough to cobble together the “green” to buy bikes for self, wife, and kiddos. So sure, I’m glad bike companies build exotic bikes for true racers and those with more money than they know what to do with. But the bike industry should be building the Civics and Corollas of the bike world, too. Let’s not make perfect or exotic the enemy of good and practical. So good for the M1x11!

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