Esker Cycles: Walden Ti GX – by Greg Gentle

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~Henry

David Thoreau

If you’re familiar with the Esker bike brand, you know they have a strong conservation ethos. For example, Esker’s new titanium gravel bike is called the Lorax. You remember the Lorax…he speaks for the trees. Their Hayduke hardtail boasts a monkey-wrench silhouette on its top tube. The monkey wrench is a salute to desert anarchist Edward Abbey, author of the Monkey Wrench Gang. So it is fitting that Esker named their new titanium fat bike after Thoreau’s iconic treatise on nature, “Walden: or, Life in The Woods”–a series of essays rejecting opulence for simplicity, self-sufficiency, and a deep connection with nature.

Before I go any further, I should disclose that I am an Esker fan. My bike stable includes a titanium Hayduke and their mid-travel trail ripper, the Rowl. It would be fair to call me a “brand ambassador”. With that said, over the years Esker has trusted me to give them honest feedback on some of their bikes and that’s what I plan to do here.

The Build

The Ti-Walden is available as a frame-only option, or complete with a SRAM GX build. I’ve been riding the titanium Walden GX on groomed trails and snow-packed, back country roads this winter. Let’s take a deeper look.  

The Esker Walden Ti stock build comes equipped with a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain including:

  • Whiskey Carbon Fork
  • Quality Wheels Blizzerk 27.5 150/197 wheel-set*
  • Terrene Cake Eater Tires
  • SDG Trellis dropper post
  • SDG Saddle
  • Race Face Aeffect and Turbine cockpit

*An Industry Nine wheelset upgrade is available for $600 

The cost-effective build chosen for the Walden GX may have some limitations, but like most of Esker’s builds, it is designed for durability. The team at Esker assembled this build-kit to stand the test of time, not win a weight-weenie contest. 

All of Esker’s titanium hardtails are built from double-butted 3/2.5 titanium tubing. This tube set again reflects their commitment to the same durability ethos reflected in their build kit. Also of note is the Portage rear drop-out system that allows for a variety of options like running it single speed, or adjusting for 26” or 27.5” wheel sets. The Portage system is one of the best design features on Esker bikes. I’ve run 29ers, 27.5+, 27.5, and single-speed. The Walden’s Portage rear drop-out will give riders the same flexibility. 

The Walden design and geometry is based on their stalwart hardtail the Hayduke. Here are a few geometry comparisons of the two available on the S5 (XL) build. Full geo charts are available on the Esker Bikes website.

Effective TT670658
Chain Stay457437
Stack Height626628
Head Tube Angle65.667.6
Seat Tube Angle7475
Fork Offset5151

The Hayduke and Walden share a similar reach, stack height, head and seat tube angles, fork offset, and wheelbase. Where the designs see a departure is in the chainstay length, wheelbase, and overall top tube length of the S5 frame sizes. Slight variations exist across all sizes. Overall designs are similar, but obvious design considerations are in play for building a fat bike. Both frames have multiple water bottle mounts on the seat and down tubes allowing for a lot of liquid cargo. This keeps pace with Esker’s focus on adventure for these bikes. And yet, the Walden is not spec’d with a fork with mounting grommets or eyelets for racks or other bikepacking setups. I think that was a missed opportunity to really stretch the Walden’s utility. 

The Ride

From the first pedal stroke, the Walden made its intentions clear–I’m here to party. A departure from my Specialized Fat Boy, the 50mm stem, 490mm reach, and 67.6 degree headtube angle bring this bike’s geo into the modern hardtail trail geo realm. With the slacker geometry, I would say the Walden is built for comfort, not speed. The short stem and reach and slacker headtube angle allow for an upright riding position. It felt a little loose in the corners at times, but I think that can be easily fixed with a longer stem to help put a little more weight over the front end. A longer stem will also allow you to mount feedbags to the stem more easily. 

Most of the riding I did for this review was on groomed trails and hard-packed snow-covered gravel roads. The seasonal timeframe did not give me the chance to ride any dirt. So I don’t have much to say about how the Walden rides under those conditions. However, given its playful geometry, I anticipate it would be a fun ride on your local trails.

The bike handles well. It is a steady climber with a balanced feel. The seat and head tube angles bring your body weight over the bottom bracket so you don’t lose any traction.  Additionally, like the spec’d 800mm Race Face Turbine handlebar. It adds to the modern feel of the bike and provides extra leverage for climbing. Downhill, the Walden’s modern geometry makes it feel like a trail bike. I descended with confidence, often finding myself letting go of the brakes to give the Walden free reign without cause for concern. To be clear, the Walden is not built for speed. The long wheelbase and slack(er) geometry, coupled with the weight of the tubing and componentry is great for all-around riding, but out of the box, it is not a good setup for fat bike racing if that’s your thing. To make this bike race ready, I would swap out the Quality Wheels for the Industry Nine option (or a set of carbon wheels), add a 90mm stem, and look for other weight-saving options.

Final Thoughts

If I were to change anything about this bike, I would start with the aforementioned frame and fork mounts. This bike begs to go deep into the woods–to live that life of simplicity sought by Thoreau. 

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms-

from Thoreau’s Walden

Like Thoreau, those of us seeking to “live sturdily” and “Spartan-like”, and know the value of unplugging from the tech-driven world we live in would do well by riding the Walden. Ride it into the woods, sit still on an overlook, meditate on the forest floor, rest by a riverbend, and enjoy a sunrise, a sunset, or a bird on a wing. Esker’s Walden titanium fat bike is a beautiful companion to any of those endeavors. 

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2 Responses to Esker Cycles: Walden Ti GX – by Greg Gentle

  1. Jeff Shamansky March 23, 2023 at 10:10 pm #

    if it had, or has in the future, rack mounts, I will be interested!

  2. Allroy March 25, 2023 at 7:44 am #

    I love that it has such a slack HT! What a beauty bike.

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