The Evil Following is quite the success story. I remember going on a ride with Kevin Walsh, owner of Evil Bikes, back in the fall of 2014. He told me he was bringing a prototype 29’er up with him, and he was going on and on about how well it rode. He asked me, how are 29’ers selling for you guys? I chuckled, and told him that 29’ers are dead, the market wants 27.5” trail bikes. Regardless, when he got to my house, he unloaded the bike and proudly showed it off. I was certainly impressed with the appearance, and the geometry numbers were intriguing. But could it possibly ride as well as he was promising? That remained to be seen. I got to bounce around on the bike a bit, but it was too big for me, so I didn’t get any trail time on it. I was still skeptical of the relatively short 120mm travel, and the 29” hoops. 90% of the bikes we were selling at the time were 140 – 160mm travel 27.5” bikes, a seemingly very different market segment. Or was it?
Fast forward to January 2015. Evil officially launched the Following, and no one could have imagined what would ensue. Our phone was ringing off the hook. Emails were flooding in. Our website was getting massive traffic. All for this one bike. It became clear very quickly that there was something special about this new 29’er. Before we even had any of the frames in our hands, we had already pre-sold an astounding number of these bikes. Over the next six months, the mass hysteria and hype around the Following only increased. As I write this article, the Evil Following is officially our best selling bike ever. Period.
WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
That’s all dandy, business is good, people are buying bikes, and most importantly, people are enjoying RIDING bikes. Naturally though, we at Fanatik had to get our hands on this bike to see what all the fuss was about. We’ve ridden just about everything out there, so what is it that makes the Following so special? Of all the employees at Fanatik, I was probably the least likely to get on board a 29’er. I had ridden a couple here and there in the past, but the thought never even crossed my mind to buy one. I’m 5’7”, and never thought that a 29’er would really suit my riding style. I’m a fairly aggressive trail rider, coming from a downhilling background. All the 29’ers I had ridden in the past were tainted with steep head tube angles, long chainstays, and just didn’t feel quite right. That said, the Following seemed to rail against all these traits, and there was something about it that I just couldn’t shake off. Eventually the curiosity got the better of me, at which point I decided to go for it. I called up Kevin and told him to get me on the list, I want a Following. He laughed and told me I wouldn’t be disappointed. I crossed my fingers and hoped he was right. I can’t afford two trail bikes, so this was going to replace my trusted and loved 27.5” 160mm trail bike.
Fast forward again to present day, I’ve had my Following for about two weeks now. The verdict? I am trying to keep myself somewhat restrained here so I don’t sound too biased, but I am completely dumbfounded. I cannot believe that a 29’er with 120mm of travel rides this well. I have taken it on several rides now, from fast flowy trails to steep, technical, nasty trails. I have taken lines on this bike that I thought would surely push past it’s comfort zone, but somehow it pulls through every time. At this point, I’ve completely forgotten that I am riding a 29” wheeled bike – this is a 29’er that does not feel like a 29’er. The wheels are bigger than the last three 27.5” trail bikes I’ve owned, but the Following feels more nimble and quick-to-act than anything I’ve been on. Why is this? Well for one, it only has 120mm of travel, so the bike loads up very quickly, providing a very poppy feel. The chainstay is shorter, head angle slacker, and BB height lower than all of the previous 27.5” bikes I have owned. When I first built the bike, I took it out in the parking lot, popped up the front end, and nearly flipped over backwards. I knew right away that this bike likes to play, and begs to be tossed around. On the trail, it is a wickedly fun bike. Roosts, whips and fern slashes quickly become the norm, especially if you happen to be riding the PNW.
One thing is certain – nothing looks quite like a Following. Although we don’t judge a book by it’s cover, the Following is truly a unique and beautiful bike.
THE PERFECT COMBINATION
What has Evil done with the Following? They’ve changed the way that MANY people think about 29’ers, including myself. How did they do it? There are a number of factors that come together to make the Following what it is. It’s a winning combination of a lively suspension platform, aggressive trail geometry, low center of gravity, and of course, 29” wheels. As with all Evil bikes, the Following uses the Delta System suspension platform. For those not familiar, this is another product of Dave Weagle’s suspension wizardry, and licensed exclusively to Evil. It’s a single-pivot at heart, but adapted to keep the shock super low in the frame, contributing to the bike’s low center of gravity. Like most Dave Weagle platforms, Delta provides a very supple and bottomless feel. Tuned up with a Rock Shox Monarch RT3 Debonair, the Following is buttery smooth. Unlike most 120mm bikes, Evil recommends setting this bike at a relatively deep 30% sag. It’s best to use the sag gradients on the rear shock, not the sag indicator on the frame. The indicator on the frame is intended just to show your approximate sag, not exact. After riding the bike for a couple weeks, I have been quite impressed with the performance of the Monarch RT3 Debonair. I did find that I needed a bit more ramp-up for the bigger hits (8′ – 10′ drops), so I tossed in a couple of volume spacers. Wait a minute…8′ – 10′ drops on a 120mm travel 29’er? Sure, why not!
Geometry also plays a huge role in the success of the Following. Evil is not one to “play it safe” with geometry, and that’s exactly why this bike is so unique. Depending on your exact setup, you can make this thing crazy slacked out with a 140mm fork, or you can go much more reserved with a 120mm fork. We’ve found that a 130mm fork hits the sweet spot on the Following. Just to see what it felt like, I setup my bike with a 2016 Fox 34 Float FIT4 140mm, and flipped the geometry chips to the low setting. My head angle sits at about 65°, which is ridiculously slack for a 29’er. Yes, the bike suffers a bit on the climbs because naturally, the seat angle is also very slack with this setup, putting me a bit too far behind the pedals when the seat is raised. I could flip the geometry chips back to the high setting, but I just love how low and slack the bike is, especially for the steeper technical trails. Regardless, I will likely be lowering the fork to 130mm when I can get the air spring to do so. That will steepen the head angle and seat angle about a degree, which will make a big difference on the climbs. Other than my geometry setup, the Following actually climbs impressively well. For those who want ultimate versatility in setup, Evil is soon releasing an angle-adjustable headset for the Following, which will allow you to achieve a wide variety of geometry combinations.
The rest of my bike setup was hand-picked carefully. I wanted the bike to be light, but I didn’t want to sacrifice stiffness or strength. Wheels and tires are always tough, as they play a huge roll in how the bike rides. I’ve definitely jumped onto the “wider-is-better” band wagon when it comes to rims. I went with the ultra-wide Ibis 941 rims, and laced them to Industry Nine Torch Classic hubs. The 941 rims measure 36mm internal width, and 41mm external. Tire choice does become a bit of a task with these rims. I wanted to make sure that the tires I chose had a good profile when puffed out to fit on a rim this wide. From previous experience building custom bikes, I knew that the Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3” 3C EXO would be a solid bet, and that’s a tire I’ve always loved. But at 925 grams at the 29” size, that’s a pretty hefty weight for one tire. We had done a few builds with the new Schwalbe Nobby Nic EVO SS tires, and I had heard good things about this tire from my co-workers, so I decided to give them a go. I went with the meaty 2.35” TSC up front, and a slightly lower volume 2.25” Nobby Nic PSC on the back. Weight savings came to about 500 grams by going with these over the Minions. Both tires snapped right up no problem tubeless, and have been running strong. I run about 18 psi front, and 20 psi rear with this setup, and have yet to burp air or get any sort of tire roll in corners. The result is a pretty ridiculous amount traction that cannot be matched with a narrower rim. Pair that up with 29” wheels and the Delta platform, you’ll be hard pressed to find a bike that offers better traction.
The Nobby Nic is fairly predictable, and it does break loose in corners slightly sooner than a Minion would, but overall, I’m happy with the tires, especially considering the weight savings. The fork was the next big decision, and I opted to give the new 2016 Fox 34 Float a try. I’ve been on a Rock Shox Pike for the last two years, and I love that fork. That said, I had heard good things about the new Float with the FIT4 damper, so I figured I’d check it out. Fox made a number of changes to this fork for 2016, making it a lot more appealing to me. In the past, Fox forks tended to a feel a bit stuffy and over-damped. With a couple weeks on board the new Float, I can definitely say without a doubt that this is the best feeling Fox fork I’ve ridden. It’s much more supple and responsive, I don’t get any stuffiness at all. The FIT4 damper now offers an added 22 clicks of fine tuning in the Open mode, which is nice considering that’s where most people will spend the majority of their time on this fork. Overall, I’d put the 2016 Float on par with the Pike performance-wise, and it’s about a quarter pound lighter which doesn’t hurt! The rest of my build is includes Raceface Next SL cranks and Next/Atlas 35 cockpit, XX1 drivetrain, SDG Circuit Ti saddle, and a KS Lev Integra 150mm dropper post. At 5’7” with a 30” inseam on the small frame, I find that I definitely need that full 150mm drop. The Following has a pretty short seat tube, so a longer dropper will be required for most people. I run about 75mm fixed post exposed, and use the full 150mm when I’m climbing.
WILL IT HOLD UP?
It’s impossible to do a review on an Evil bike without addressing the elephant in the room. If you’ve done your homework, you know that Evil has had some troubles in the past with their bikes. Evil is a company that has been put through the wringer by overseas manufacturers, and basically left for dead. The good news is, they have stuck with it, and ditched the factories that were causing all the production problems in the past. The Following is now produced at VIP in China, one of the most reputable carbon bike manufacturers in the world. As you’ll see in our video, Kevin Walsh is still riding the original prototype of this bike and it’s still going strong after nearly two years. They also made a number of improvements to the Delta System. It is now much easier to work on, and houses dual-row angular contact bearings for maximum longevity. Given the sheer volume of these bikes we’ve sold since January, it wouldn’t be unusual for us to get one or two back with more serious warranty issues. To date, we’ve only had one customer with a minor cosmetic issue on the swingarm, and that’s it. The changes that Evil have made, along with a reputable carbon manufacturer are paying off already, that’s for sure. Basically, we feel 100% confident selling these bikes, and we know that Evil will stand behind them no matter what.
A 29’ER FOR THE MASSES
With a bike like the Following, the question must be asked – is it for everyone? I think it’s about as close as you can get to a bike that will appeal to a wide variety of people and riding styles. It’s been very interesting listening to the customers that are buying these bikes. People are coming out of the woodwork, folks that haven’t bought a new bike in 15 years are deciding that the Following is their new ticket. From young guns to older folks and everyone in between, this bike is appealing to a huge variety of people. After all, I am now riding one – the guy who swore off 29’ers years ago. With the versatility in geometry and build setups, the Following can be catered to just about anyone who enjoys riding dirt on two wheels. If you enjoy riding dirt on two wheels, then it will be very difficult not to fall completely head over heals for the Following. It is truly a defining bike that rails against any particular genre, and will change the way people think about 29” wheels indefinitely. For those who thought 29’ers are dead: ride this bike, and I’d be willing to bet your mind will be changed real quick.
EVIL FOLLOWING QUICK SPECS
- Frame Material: Carbon
- Frame Travel: 120mm DELTA System
- Rear Shock: Rock Shox Monarch RT3 Debonair
- Frame Weight: 6.5 lbs (medium, verified with shock, axle, headset cups)
- Seatpost Size: 30.9mm
- Headtube Size: ZS44mm upper, ZS62mm lower
- Wheel Size: 29″
- Dropouts: 12x142mm
- Bottom Bracket: BB92
- Internal guided stealth dropper post routing
- Internal front derailleur cable routing
- External brake/rear derailleur cable routing (internal on seatstay)
- High direct mount front derailleur mount
- ISCG ’05 chainguide mount
- Built-in sag indicator
- Integrated rubber downtube/chainstay/seatstay protectors