Review: Ventana El Toro Bravo

Ventana's take on singlespeed sophistication is a worthy match for singletrack seduction.

By Stevil Kinevil

Ventana El Toro Bravo
$2600 (as tested)

To begin this review, I will offer you a little history lesson, during which time absolutely no note-taking is required. Despite the fact that Ventana Bicycles is a relatively intimate operation, their name is synonymous with an array of revolutionary suspension advancements and fabrication technologies. Ironically then, the little company from Sacramento, California, was also the first to bring low-tech mainstream with the first-ever production singlespeed mountain-bike frame. The year was 1995 when Scott Berg, Sean Hunt, and Robert Ives, all of whom were in Ventana's employ at the time, got a wild hair up their dark sides and begged bossman Sherwood Gibson, to allow them to make a small run of frames with horizontal drop outs. "You sell 'em, and we'll make 'em" was his response, and as a result, they did—and they did. El Toro was born.

The El Toro Bravo doesn’t sport horizontal dropouts anymore, choosing instead to adjust chain tension with an eccentric bottom bracket.

Seeing as there was no one at the time who made a proper group for such a bicycle, The Three Amigos went on to relentlessly hassle Paul Price of Paul Component Engineering, until he finally succumbed to their charms, and introduced what arguably changed the game for everyone with his KISS group.

Fast forward sixteen years, and Robert is back in the trenches for his third stint behind the machines at Ventana, and much like their initial outing with the El Toro, they have come out swinging with the introduction of its big wheeled brother, the El Toro Bravo.
With a reasonably standard 71-72.0 head tube (depending on 80 to 100 mm fork travel) and 71.7 seat tube angle, coupled with 17.5 inch chainstays, the complete build lives up to the old adage of 'handling like it's on rails'. In contrast to the typical one-speed dirtbag fashion, a decent hodgepodge of parts has been amassed to round out the El Toro Bravo's build.

Extensive gusseting and big, beefy tube joints mean one thing—the El Toro Bravo has stiffness in spades.

Dressing up the 6061 straight gauge frame, the mix of snazzy Shimano XT M785 hydraulic brakes (not shown), Thompson stem, and bomber Truvativ bars comprise the cockpit, while Truvativ Stylo cranks and a White Industries freewheel make up the drivetrain. A Fox 32 Float 29er 100mm RLC provided me with what I can only describe as a new found and unwavering confidence, and rounding out the build are Paul Components' WORD hubs built up on Stan's NoTubes Crest hoops shod with Maxxis Ignitor skins.

The El Toro Bravo uses a 68-millimeter-wide eccentric bottom bracket shell.

From our very first outing together, I felt quite at ease squaring off against the most technical terrain and tight Northern California single track I could throw at. At the end of a day filled with rain-slicked rock gardens, blistering fast, wide open fire roads, and loamy redwood enshrouded trails, I was beat, but the bike sat up and begged for more. In dozens of rides since our first, the roles haven't changed a bit.

With bars this narrow, there’s no guessing what the El Toro Bravo’s intended purpose is.

At 22.5 pounds, my personal El Toro Bravo might be considered a heavyweight to folks who care about such matters, but for the person who wants a no-nonsense, tough-as-Tyson one-speed machine with the extensive legacy to back it up, they need look no further than the Ventana El Toro Bravo.