After a seven-year hiatus, Ventana re-enters the extreme down hill market with a vengeance with our stealthy big travel flier El Cuervo. To make our new DH entry truly World-Class and up for the rigors of today’s extreme DH environment, we incorporated sage advice from the knowledge-able DH experts Scott and “Krispy” at Go-Ride.com into our final design.
Thanks to the Romic platform coil shock and our progressive suspension linkage, the resultant World Class thrasher sits low and stable in the turns, eats up the rock gardens and is an efficient pedaler. El Cuervo features 9” of extensively mapped, meticulously designed, rising rate rear travel with a low 15” bottom bracket, 16 oversized double sealed bearings, 15mm bearing axles, 66 degree head angle, load directional ovalized tubing, 20mm diameter, 150mm wide thru axle, replaceable derailleur hanger, and massive head tube gussets. And for the braking bumps, we offer an optional floating rear disc caliper mount.
from Seattle, WA USA
Date Reviewed: May 31, 2010
Strengths: Slack, low bb for 9" frame, shock mounted low in frame, pivot placement is great for small bump absorbtion, I've replaced one frame bearing in 3 years of use, domestically produced, stiff rear end.
Weaknesses: Rear axle setup is goofy, copied off the old DHR when Razor Rock used to make 20mm thru axle rear hubs. Its heavy and you should cut a slit in the non-threaded reducer if you want it to actually clamp the axle. A tad heavy but that usually means it will last.
*Disclaimer* I own the Downhill Zone, so my opinion is biased in favor of the industry.
I'd like to say that the crack issues some reviews have mentioned are very surprising to me. This bike has been nothing but solid for me, surviving races, trips to Whistler, Sun Peaks, shuttle days, etc. I've sold a number of them and those customers have had no issues over several years of use either. I have had two of their other models develop cracks, but it usually was for a reason. One was because a rider was too big for his HT frame and the stress cracked the set tube (He was 6'9", 300lbs). So they took back the cracked frame and used it as a credit toward a full custom frame that fit him perfectly. I'd say thats pretty good customer service. The other was because the guy admitted he was sitting while hitting drops on his X5. Even so, it was within their 2 year warranty and they sent a new front triangle without even seeing the cracked one. Maybe its different if you go direct or are getting some kind of sponsor hookup, but my Ventana owners have always been treated fairly when going through an authorized dealer like myself.
With that out of the way, the bike rips!. The angles are aggressive, slack and low. At speed over fast, rough terrain, the pivot placement gobbles up the hits. Low bb carries lots of speed through corners. Big wheelbase feels stable and confident on wide open runs. Low standover is great for corning and balance. Been a very low maintenance bike to own. It may not be the latest and greatest design, but its priced affordably(especially for being made in USA), and does its job well without causing headaches. That ranks pretty high in my book, as I see my fair share of crooked rear traingles, bearings failing in less than a year, linkages/hardware wallowing out and developing play, etc.
Its been a great bike and its definitely helped me grow as a rider, which is probably the most important thing to judge a frame by.
Strengths: B$ Marketing Tactics. It got me with all the hype....
Weaknesses: Entire frame: Not even a 5 foot drop and the f$en frame cracked along with the rear swing arm. WTF VENTANA. Called in to complain, rather they argued with me telling me it wasn't their fault. When I hit them the 2nd time; I asked why they had so many cracked rear (glad I read the previous review). They shut up quickly. I told Therese to stop f$ing around and stand by the warranty she hung up on me. Filed a BB report, sent the confirmation and got a call back. They ended up giving me a call immediately and told me they will send me a frame overnight. I told them it wasn't good enough, they were so cool they offered a new frame, AND a free '08 fox talas for the inconveniences. I suppose it was cool, but when I took the offer I felt like I was ripped by them a bit. They had to lure me into giving me something to shut up.
I'm selling the frame and fork, I ended up going back to a Trek where I don't have to worry about these issues. If all else fails I have a local bike shop to go to, or anywhere else I may be riding. There's plenty of resellers in every city for a branded bike that will handle all issues. It was bad enough I had to look for a new box to ship Ventana the old frame yet having to take it to UPS and pay for shipping.
from United States
Date Reviewed: November 8, 2008
Strengths: Ability to hold lines
Loves the rough rough terrain
Low BB and no flex allows great cornering
It has great momentum through rough stuff and out of turns
quiet and stealthy, and just loves to use gravity to pick up speed.
Weaknesses: Paint may be a little boring. (personal preference)
May be considered heavy, but not a bad problem.
This bike is awesome and a pretty underrated bike. It loves the rough stuff and excels when your pinning down rock gardens. The 9" of travel is smooth and progressive, but the bike is still quite flickable with the big travel. Bike carries momentum very well and turns great. It's also a very solid bike and holds up through anything you can throw at it and can easily take hard season. I haven't quite found a weakness, all the very small things aren't really problems at all. The bike is quite fast and fun to ride. I'd definatly recommend it to any serious racer or someone who just wants an awesome DH bike!
from grass valley ca
Date Reviewed: June 25, 2008
Strengths: corners well. rare manufacture. USA made.
Weaknesses: cracks very easy. Ventana customer service.
i have owned two of these frames. one of the original versions with different swingarm and geometry and a new version with updated yokes and lower bb.
1st bike- was fairly reliable. just after the year warrenty expired i cracked the rear swingarm. drove down to ventana and they sold me a used swingarm (they had allot of cracked ones laying around) that had a new plate welded in for more support- for 50$ overall a positive experience.
decided to try the new model with the slacker head angle and lover bb- plus it has a new designed rear swing arm that is supposed to be allot stronger. pruchased right before sea otter from ventana- built it up and realized that the rear swingarm was totally crooked- they sent me home with crooked frame. i drove down with the frame on a thurs- and got a bunch of lame excuses- and told i was that its "ok if the frame is not straight- its not like its a road bike". well you are not going to see me manualing down a mountain going 40mph or hitting a 40 ft jump on a crooked frame. so finally after revealing my dissatisfaction they decided to give me a straight swing arm the next monday. well monday came and went with no swingarm. i missed going to sea otter early with my new bike due to all the BS- plus i had to drive back and forth to Ventana a few times- about 4 hours of driving. overall it was not a pleasant buying experience- it was stressfull- and i honestly thought they were going to just stick me with a crooked bike. they would have if i had not complained. to top that off- the extra hangers i bought were mis manufactured- and ruined my new carbon derailure- which ventana was able to fix. so i finally got the bike- was late for sea otter.
i immeadialy noticed the bb is too low for norcal riding. i broke 4 sets of pedals in 3 months with 170mm cranks. i guess 160's would help that problem. i also broke my big toe at northstar due to the low bb. i was off the bike for 2 months. which was ok because the frame had already cracked at the main triangle- where the big bearing pivots are. this was only after light DH runs in auburn and one weekend at northstar. all the areas where the big bearings press in had stress marks showing right after the first month. i ride hard at the pro level but im not hucking this bike huge- just racing. 3 months of riding and it was broke. I called ventana- and they said they would not replace the frame- they would "fix it". No way for them to fix this bad design, they simply need to remake the area around the big bearings- too much was machined off. This is how they treat a local loyal customer. I have had 4 ventana's over the years (all broke exept for the road bike)- but this one is my last.
I liked the first frames specs more. it was better for northstar and really rocky trails. i get tired of braking pedals.
this is my 100% honest experience with ventana. hope this helps. Ventana quality is a illusion- i honestly would say they are low quality bikes.
Similar Products Used: specialized big hit. intense uzzi. canfield jedi
Bike Setup: 40', dee max. racer style
from Park City, Utah
Date Reviewed: September 17, 2007
Strengths: Ha were to start... Suspension is a huge strength! Anything and everything rocky, rooty, & narly this bike eats it up! - Cornering is very fast and low - This bike is very quick handling and responsive - Strength and stiffness - Very very fast and loves to carry moment through everthing effortlessly.
Weaknesses: Stupid logo is a sticker on the OUTSIDE of paint so they get ripped and scratched easily! Nothing a little see thru thin strip of tape cant fix ;). The custom paint job is a little weak but not too bad.
K so set your expectations for this bike...Ride it...and wait for them to be smashed and blown away. I got this bike thinking it was going to be great..But that's an understatement! This bike definately loves rough rough terrain and LOVES to go fast and stick! It tracks to lines soo well and makes your riding so much faster! Suspension is just spot on and works great. This bike does everthing so well! It rails turns, it eats rock gardens, it jumps well, it tracks, not to mention its freakin' stealth through everything! Its just a great all around race bike and worth every hard earned penny! This bike makes you happy to be broke! haha. If i find more I will re do another review. But Seriously consider this bike for a next race purchase it doesn't dissapoint! I would only recommend this to a racer though, not to great of a freeride obviously.
Similar Products Used: Ironhorse 7.5, Ironhorse Sunday WC, Kona Stab Supreme, Scott Octane, Specialized Big Hit.
Bike Setup: 888 RC2X WC, Fox DHX 5.0, Sram X.9, Juicy Carbons, Saint Cranks, E.13 SRS, Thompson Seatpost, BelAir SDG Seat, MonkeyBars EA70, ODI Lockon Grips, Mavic 729's, Maxxis Minion R/F, Blackspire Chainring, Sram Sprocket, etc. etc...(all '07 except '08 Fox DHX)
Date Reviewed: October 29, 2006
Strengths: Rock gardens-no problem Speedy cornering traction suppleness the frame has exceptional line holding qualities. the nasty stuff is tamed by the ultra supple ground hugging suspension design.
Weaknesses: bearings suk black looks bad quickly
This is one heck of a great bike. period. So far its the funnest dh bike I have ridden. Plows like the 303 yet handles just a little bit better IMO.
Its legendary quality buildmanship, excellent design, and railing banshee capability will make any rider feel like he has improved instantly. Take it anywhere, the fun factor is ultra high on this frame!
Similar Products Used: Turner dhr,IH sunday,Cove shockerdh,demo8,Intense socom,yeti 303, ..............
Bike Setup: fox40,dhx5.0,maxxis,
from Portland Or
Date Reviewed: September 10, 2006
Strengths: Follow up review.
If Superman was a bike...
Weaknesses: I dont really care about heavy anymore.
The Romic shock.
Now that I have more real DH riding under my belt, I can give a better review.
This bike is made for one thing. Keeping both tires on the ground over anything in your way as fast as you can possibly go. When i first rode this bike, I kept trying to ride it like a much smaller rig. My riding buddies were always out of sight down the trail. No longer. It is truly a point and shoot machine. I have scraped my knee pads on the dirt while cornering this thing. Oh, the sweet, sweet love.
No matter how steep or scary the trail gets, this bike is spot on. Ive rolled stuff I never thought I would do, and marveled at how easy it was. The times when I have actually had to stick my butt back over the rear tire can be counted on my hands. I used to slow down and try and pick the smoothest lines. I used to keep my speed in check when approaching the real hairy parts of the trails. I used to try to muscle the bike around with my body to match the hardtail and lesser DH bikes I was used to. Now, unless there is a three foot vertical wall directly in front of me, I just lighten the front end and go.
Now that I have had the Champ revamped by the Risse guys (you rule!) my confidence has increased even more. The 9" fork is nice and tall, so I have a hard time hitting large, steep jumps, but now that I can dial the rebound in as slow as I want to, it is getting easier. This isnt a jumping bike though, and I never really liked the dirt jumping thing.
With the 9" of plush love front and rear, Ive dropped stuff I only dreamed about before. You would have to turn your front wheel 90 degrees and hit the front brake to overcome the fudge factor built into this bike. The only limits that this bike has are my own. I have not had one single problem with the bearings or floating brake or the frame.
My bike came with the Romic shock. I noticed last ride that it would sink through the travel and bottom out with a slight thunk almost every time I caught some air over high speed rollers or a significant drop. I never liked the Romic, though it did an excellent job of keeping the rear wheel pinned to the ground over everything except jumps or drops. The adjustments were at the extremes to keep the compression and spring rate from sagging too far, and the rebound at a barely sufficient level to prevent packing up over even short rough sections. I will be upgrading to a Risse as soon as I have the cash.
While everyone else on the DH and NS trails might be riding super light rigs that can pedal back up to the top of the hill (and I will be building my own soon) I will be out there on my lead sled blasting whatever I can get the guts to do as fast as I dare. I wont worry about smacking the frame on a rock or a tree. You could throw it in front of a bus, and pick it up and ride away on it.
from Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Date Reviewed: September 3, 2006
Strengths: Pretty much everything. Very solid frame with absolutely no flex. When you pedal the energy is transfered forward and not sucked up by a flexy bottom bracket or rear end. This bike corners like it is on rails and definitely inspires confidence on steeper techincal sections as the rear end seems to squat under heavy braking as opposed to wanting to throw the rider forward and over the bars. The large size fits taller riders (I'm 6'4" tall) very well. The bike is VERY comfortable for my height. Did I mention how well it corners?
Weaknesses: Only one color choice..... The headtube on the large frame is quite tall. This caused a bit of a problem fitting a Marzocchi upper flat crown and I opted to use the older, raised version. Getting the bike airborne is a bit of work as it wants to stay pinned to the ground-this may or may not really be a weakness to some. I've found that when approaching a jump on the El Cuervo you just need to relax and let the bike do it's thing. If you try and muscle it like other designs often require to get them in flight the racing inspired suspension will tax the bike's energy and you won't go far. It's an odd feeling at first as you are inclined to work hard at getting all that metal up in the air when you really just need to sit back and relax. Maybe not really a weakness, just a different feel to get used to.
This is my first full-on DH race bike and I definitely made a wise choice. I've raced this bike and done very well for a beginner. I've also taken it up to Whistler and had a lot of fun both on the super technical stuff and the fast jump filled trails like A-line. The skills and confidence I've learned on this bike have translated into better and faster rides both at lift served trails and general all-mountain riding with friends. I now use it to train fast descents and better my Super D racing skills. It's not much of a thinking man's bike as the design of the frame takes away a lot of judgement calls-it just instinctively seems to know what to do whether it be a fast corner or a sketchy technical section. Basically this is a great bike to race or if you have access to a lift or friends/family willing to shuttle you to the top of the trail, it's an amazing bike to have fun on.
Bike Setup: 888 with Go-ride lower crown, DT Swiss FR2350, Diabolous crankset, Fox DHX 5.0.....
from Roodepoort,Gauteng,South Africa
Date Reviewed: November 11, 2005
Strengths: Incredible stiffness, Sticks like Chewinggum in corners, Attension to detail, geomotry, romic rear shock
Weaknesses: none thus far
THIS IS THE BEST BIKE OUT THERE!!! Everything on the bike just feels right. Travel feels endless and matches the 888 perfectly. The frame is super stiff. The suspension is also very much bobfree at the recommended sag, excellent peddelar. There is nothing to match it. Turns heads whereever I go.
Similar Products Used: Cannondale Gemini 2000, Intense uzzi
Bike Setup: 888 rc2x(recently added), e-thirteen, saint cranks,magura , mavic d321 on hadley hubs,easton, maxxis minion
a Weekend Warrior
from Portland, Or
Date Reviewed: December 31, 2004
Strengths: Super strong. Solid. Attention to detail is evident from the moment you pull it out of the box. This is more a functional piece of art than a mass-produced bike.
Most of my experience in mountain biking is XC and urban assault. I rode the local DH trails a lot with my friends, but found that XC bikes just dont cut it. So I turned to borrowing my friends bikes for the DH rides. While riding on their rigs i first figured out what the real appeal of DH was. I still enjoy the challence of riding the rough trails and stunts on a hardtail (I now have one built for it) but after putting on some miles in the cockpit of a Super 8, i decided it was time to get my own damn rig. I considered a bunch of different bikes before buying the El Cuervo. Looked long and hard at the Eliminator, the Bullit, the Fly, the RM-7, the M-1, Turner DHR, etc. I made the right decision. Nothing even comes close to the performance, feel, and pure love I have experienced on this bike. It sucked up everything in my path. I blasted through sections of trail i had never cleared before. I rolled through hairball rock gardens and stunts I had not even attempted before. It cornered like it was on rails. This bike inspired confidence. It has made me faster than i thought i could be. And this is only from the first trail ride. In the hands of someone who knows what the hell they are doing, who knows what feats they might accomplish. This is the first Downhill bike I have owned. It will aslo be the last. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
Similar Products Used: Super 8. Specialized Big Hit.
Bike Setup: Risse Champ 9", Romic shock, Hadley rear hub, Risse front hub, MRP/XT drivetrain, Velocity Psycho rims, Nokian Gazzoladis, Azonic seat and bars.
from Medford Oregon
Date Reviewed: December 4, 2004
Strengths: Plush, Corners VERY well, Jumps well, Good all around DH frame.
Weaknesses: Bearings don't like wet conditions. Mine rusted solid. I had to remove seals, free them up with WD-40 and re-grease them. (Used Sheffers red grease.) With 16 bearings, it got tedious. Keep your bearins lubed with a different grease and you won't have any problems. Powder-coat scratches off very easily as well. Top tube is down to metal just from armor scrapes!
Ventana is a small company but seems very dedicated to satisfying the customer. I'm very happy with customer support. All of the CNC detail and welding is mind numbingly cool. Building the bike was worry free. The input from various people who designed the frame seems to have yielded a very capable platform for all your race\freeride needs. This bike has been to Whistler and Vancouver twice this year and it begged for more...
Similar Products Used: bighit, dhr, GTi, tested most common brands.
Bike Setup: 888R, Risse Crowns, MRP, M4, Goodridge, Hadley, Arrow, Mavic, Blackspire, XT, FSA, Cullies, Stone Edge Racing.
from lake stevens WA
Date Reviewed: April 30, 2004
Strengths: super plush confidence inspiring downhill rig that pedals awesome for a 40+ pound bike with 9" of travel
this bike rocks. IMO its one of the better made downhill bikes on the market right now. the bike is super strong and the welds and attention to detail are excellent. the suspension on the bike is plush and its a really well balanced bike. it soaks up the super steep rough chatter bumps and it pedals as well as my bullit did. i bought this bike for freeriding and downhill racing and so far i'm really impressed with the performance of this bike. if your looking for a downhill bike that can be pedaled go for the el cuervo. you won't be disappointed.