In Issue #113 of Singletrack Magazine, we reviewed three modern geometry 29ers to see just how far the big wheels have come.
Seattle-based Evil Bike Co. hasn’t been on the scene for that long, but in its eight years of existence, the trendy brand has made quite a splash with its cutting-edge carbon fibre frames and distinctive Delta suspension platform.
The first bike to come from Evil was actually an alloy downhill bike called the Revolt, which kicked things off in 2009. Unfortunately for Evil, however, those early days turned out to be a period that the company would soon rather forget. Having run into significant production issues with its Taiwanese manufacturing partner that saw nearly every Revolt frame break, Evil then relaunched two years later with a carbon fibre version, appropriately called the Undead. For such a small brand, the Undead proved to be an astoundingly popular race bike that many riders fell head over heels for – cementing Evil’s reputation as a forward-thinking design company.
Roll on another few years, and Evil has left the downhill race scene, found a new high-end carbon manufacturing facility, and is all about the trail bike. The company has two 27.5in bikes – The Insurgent (151mm) and The Calling (131mm), – along with two 29ers – The Wreckoning (160mm) and The Following (120mm). All models use carbon fibre frames, the same single-pivot suspension design, and a very similar aesthetic that is distinctively ‘Evil’. Because there are so few logos on the bike, it can actually be quite tricky telling which model is which.
The Following we have here was both the first trail bike and the first 29er to come from Evil. Launched a couple of years back, the Following is the oldest design out of our threesome. Though with the kind of angles that you’d normally associate with a much longer travel machine, it’s still very much leading the charge of progressive 29er geometry even in 2017. Despite eschewing spangly new standards like Boost hub spacing and metric-sized shocks, we were keen to see how the Following’s performance stacked up against its newer competitors.
With its loud fluoro green colour and chubby carbon fibre frame, the Following is an industrial designer’s fantasy.
The shapes are so lovely and organic, it’s as if someone carved it out of raw clay and just painted it green. To realise such voluptuous designs, Evil works exclusively with carbon fibre, and has employed the material to full effect on the Following. The huge, blobby, tapered headtube allows for masses of front-end stiffness while remaining short, and it connects to a 92mm-wide PF92 bottom bracket via a large and boxy S-shaped downtube. Continuing the stiffness theme, the asymmetric one-piece swingarm connects to the main frame via a big 15mm pivot axle, while chunky 142x12mm dropouts lock down the rear hub via a flush bolt-up rear axle.
The heavily offset swingarm allows for 2x chainring clearance, with a direct mount plate that’s ready for a mech or a simple upper chain guide. For even rowdier riders, there are ISCG 05 tabs too. And to keep that lovely green paint job looking fresh, Evil has used a collection of integrated rubber armour and stainless steel plates around the lower portions of the frame.
Maintaining the low-slung vibe, the top tube splits in two around the seat tube junction to maximise standover clearance. Also nice is that there’s still room inside it for a bottle cage. Pack-phobic riders rejoice!
Controlling the Following’s 120mm of rear wheel travel is a RockShox Monarch RT3 rear shock and the ‘Delta’ suspension design. Standing for ‘Dave’s Extra Legitimate Linear Travel Apparatus’ (no really, it does), the Delta system is a linkage-driven single pivot designed by Dave Weagle. A small downtube-mounted rocker link activates the shock, while two dog bones connect the rocker to the swingarm via bolt-on flip chips. Aside from keeping the shock low down in the frame, the Delta system promises a dual progressive curve, along with adjustable geometry by changing over the flip chips.
In the Low setting and paired up to the 130mm travel RockShox Pike RCT3 fork, the Following features a proper slack 66.8° head angle. Other key numbers on the frame include a relaxed 73.4° seat angle and compact 432mm chainstays.
The Following is only available in the UK as a frameset, though our test bike came with Evil’s X1 build kit. Highlights include a 150mm travel RockShox Reverb dropper post, wide-rim Race Face Aeffect R wheels, and powerful SRAM Guide R disc brakes. Evil’s own lock-on grips are particularly nice items too, with a sticky compound and a BMX-style inboard flange.
All up, the Following is quite an incredible bike to the eye… there is absolutely no way this bike will get confused with anything else on the trail. (Except another Evil)
The best way to describe the Following’s ride feel is lean and low – which is unlike many other 29ers that are this capable. As the shortest travel bike on test, the Following also features the shortest reach of 418mm. However, the slack seat angle helps to stretch out the effective cockpit length when you’re in a full-height pedalling position, and the 780mm wide handlebars do well to broaden your arms over the front of the bike. So it doesn’t actually feel that short. For my 175cm height, the 50mm stem length also felt on the money, giving me a comfortable riding posture.
Being very familiar with the RockShox Pike, I promptly set it up with 63 psi and three Bottomless Tokens for my 70kg riding weight. For the rear shock, a clever sag indicator tucked into the rear linkage lets you know once you’ve hit the recommended sag of 30%. However, I still found I was having to run higher pressures than I would have liked in order to reduce shock bottom-out. After unbolting the shock from its awkward pocket to fiddle around with spacers, I discovered zero inside. Two Bottomless Rings later (not actually a cocktail), and the shock pressure was down from 200 psi to 170 psi, and feeling deliciously smooth, with good ramp-up towards the end of the travel.
With a supple starting stroke, the Following keeps the rear tyre resolutely stuck to the trail. The Delta system delivers outstanding traction, with a responsive feel that sits somewhere between the uber-plush Pivot and the firmer Orange. In the case of the Following though, I think Evil has gotten the balance between comfort and feedback absolutely spot on. While the suspension is supple and active, there’s still support in the middle of the travel to push back on when you need to lift the front end up or snap the bike out of a corner. There are no marshmallows hiding inside the shock here.
The responsiveness continues elsewhere on the trail, with the Following delivering a highly involving ride quality with masses of grin factor. It’s the most efficient pedaller here, with a snappy but smooth feel through the pedals when you’re on the gas. It corners with ridiculous precision and speed, largely thanks to the compact rear end and the 29cm sagged bottom bracket height. With the bike’s belly nice and low to the ground, the Following flies along swoopy singletrack like a hoverboard. Really, if you don’t think 29ers can go around tight corners, you haven’t ridden a bike like the Following. The low slung geometry allows you to lean the bars hard into the turns, but as the suspension doesn’t dive into its travel, the front tyre holds your weight distribution well, with loads of traction to dig into as you feel the rear tyre beginning to drift.
I’m certainly no back-wheel bandit, but I couldn’t help myself lifting the front wheel off the ground wherever possible. The bike is willing to dip into its travel for preloading jumps, before popping up the front wheel with a light tug of the bars. It’s seriously addictive, and those who like to get airborne are going to love this bike.
Steep terrain isn’t particularly an issue for the Following, but compared to the Orange and Pivot, the shorter wheelbase does mean it bounces around a little more when things are starting to get blurry on either side of the trail. Of course you could achieve more stability by upsizing, but then the Following is so goddamn playful that I’m not sure I’d want to give that up.
I won’t comment on spec too much, given that it’s largely moot, but I will say that the RockShox suspension package delivered impressive balance on the Following chassis. The whole bike performed smoothly, quietly and consistently during our time with it, and the only thing I would change is the standard Reverb remote, after having used SRAM’s new 1x remote that is far more ergonomic.
Very early on, I realised the Following was going to get me in a lot of trouble. It’s flat out one of the rowdiest 120mm travel bikes I’ve ever ridden. And because it’s so playful and so fast, it fully encourages you to career off lips and bumps in the trail with far more tenacity than you really should on a bike with this amount of travel. But that’s kinda what makes it so fun.
Evil The Following X1 Specifications
- Frame // Full Carbon Fibre Monocoque, 120mm Travel
- Fork // RockShox Pike RCT3, 130mm Travel
- Shock // RockShox Monarch RT3 Debonair
- Hubs // Raceface Aeffect, 100x15mm Front & 142x12mm Rear
- Rims // Raceface Aeffect, Tubeless Ready
- Tyres // Bontrager SE4 Team Issue 2.4in Front & Rear
- Chainset // Race Face Aeffect SL, 30T Direct Mount Chainring
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // SRAM X1, 11-Speed
- Shifters // SRAM X1, 11-Speed
- Cassette // SRAM XG-1175, 10-42T, 11-Speed
- Brakes // SRAM Guide R, 180mm Front & Rear
- Stem // Race Face Chester 35, 50mm Long
- Bars // Race Face Chester 35, 780mm Wide, 35mm Rise
- Grips // Evil Lock-On
- Seatpost // RockShox Reverb Stealth, 30.9mm, 150mm Travel
- Saddle // WTB Silverado
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes Available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Weight // 13.28kg (29.21lbs)
|Brand:||Evil Bike Co|
|From:||Evil Bike Co, eu.evil-bikes.com|
|Price:||£2699 (frame only)|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 3 months|