Back in 2015, a month after purchasing Evil’s OG Insurgent, I wrote my first review for Fanatik’s blog. A “first impressions” piece, I described Evil’s 27.5” weapon as leaving me “with images of Batman’s nemesis Two Face, or Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. I say this because in reality the Insurgent is two very different bikes, with very different ride qualities that will appeal to distinct sets of riders and very disparate trails.”
By switching from the low to the humorously titled “extra-low” setting, the bike turned from an all-around trail bike that pedaled uphill with relative ease and maintained a carefree feeling to a ride that could no longer be described as “carefree,” one that urged you to push the limits of what a trail bike was capable of.
Today, Evil launches their much-anticipated update to the Insurgent, which over the years has developed a cult following among folks who value the playfulness of 27.5” wheels, short chainstays, and a low center of gravity. These are the people that make it a point to plan trips up to the bike park every year. They’re folks who are pushing back up to session that last drop. The people who can’t get enough of that one turn on the trail, the one that makes you feel like you’re going to rip your tires off.
The Insurgent: Redux
The second generation Insurgent, the LB model, was little more than a running change to the line; hence the name, “Little Better’er.” The primary differences were a Boost 148 rear end, bottle cage bolts, and an updated carbon layup. With today’s launch, Evil has gone all out in updating their OG sender into a complete wildchild, the type of bike that tries to jump to the moon but lands on the chunky mountains of mars, and is all the happier for it.
Obvious are the new, sharp lines of the top tube, leading down to the fast-back swoop at the seat-tube junction. The rear triangle is more pronounced; meaner and angrier than its predecessor. The cleaner cable routing is obvious; the rear brake line no longer runs externally, and along with the rest of the cables, now enters the frame at the very front of the headtube. The ports look like the air scoops on an exotic sports car, which makes sense, because this is an exotic mountain bike.
MX = Mixed Wheel Size
Before we dive into what Evil has done with this bike’s geometry, let’s address the elephant in the room: the not-27.5” front wheel. If you’ve seen the press release for this bike, you’ll know that this bike supports dual 27.5” front/rear wheels, but here I’ll focus on the mulleted version, because mixed-wheel bikes are more novel and it is what we asked to borrow from Evil.
Why is Evil jumping on the mixed-wheel bandwagon? Well, although I wouldn’t have acknowledged it when I bought my first Insurgent back in 2015, 29” wheels are indeed faster. Even so, turns out ain’t nothin’ free, and that speed comes with the trade-off of being less nimble around certain types of turns, as well as being harder to bring up to speed (we can talk about the physics of that another time).
By keeping the 27.5” rear wheel, the Insurgent retains those short, 430mm chainstays that makes the bike pull into a manual so easily. It also leaves you with plenty of bum clearance for steep, gnarly terrain (especially those of us with shorter inseams). A smaller radius makes the rear wheel start rolling with less torque input, and most importantly, it lets you throw that rear end around corners with an ease that can’t be matched by a bigger wheel.
Designed for Sending
The Insurgent has always been Evil’s huckster, and they brought the new one up to speed with a host of geometry updates, which we’ll address shortly. Those all add up to a lot, but come on the heels of one fairly substantial change: the new Insurgent has 168mm of rear DELTA travel, up from 151mm. That’s 17mm more of hard charging, wheel smashing, case-saving suspension to play with, and it elevates this bike to an entirely different level. When paired with the now standard 38mm stanchion 170mm travel fork, this is a mullet bike with a mission: smashing trail.
A bike that’s meant to be ridden hard and fast will always benefit from a longer wheelbase. To understand why this is, picture riding a seesaw; first a short one and then a long one. Riding the short one is a much faster, more jarring experience than riding the long one, which moves up and down more slowly and is more calm and peaceful. Evil has extended the wheelbase of the new Insurgent by around 60mm (over 2.25”) across the range of sizes, which makes the new bike far more stable and composed than the previous model.
They’ve accomplished this by elongating the whole front-center of the bike (everything forward from the bottom bracket), and by making the head-tube angle slacker, all of which you’ll recognize to mean that the reach has grown considerably from the LB. How much are we talking here? Well, our size Large test mule has a reach measurement of 480mm in the low (i.e. higher of the two), mixed wheel setting, whereas the previous LB in Large had a reach of 451mm. To put that into perspective, at 5’10”, I personally tend to like today’s size medium bikes that also have a reach of 450mm.
A long reach doesn’t mean a stretched out, road bike feel though. By scooting the seattube forward (bringing the angle from 74.3 degrees to 76.9 degrees in our aforementioned configurations), the effective top tube actually gets a hair shorter, on our size Large down to 633mm from 640mm. This maintains an upright, over-the-pedals feel that also places more of our weight forward than it used to, and makes for a bike that doesn’t want to wheelie and loop out on steep climbs.
The last tactic Evil used to elongate the wheelbase was to slacken the headtube of the bike, a change they accomplish by running a longer fork—the MX model runs a 170mm fork, the 27.5” version 180mm, all of from the old 160mm fork—and in our case, that 29” front wheel. Not only this, but all new Insurgent frames come stock with a -1 degree Works Components angled headset. Why do that? Our MX bike, in the Low setting, has a headtube angle of 64.2 degrees. In x-low, that drops to a dramatic 63.5 degrees; that’s perfect for racing down steeps or days at the bike park, but those of us looking for a bike that feels more nimble on flatter terrain but still want to do the odd flat-drop might want a steeper headtube angle, which we can accomplish with a neutral headset. The options are many, and the choice in setting it up is yours.
The one thing that remained constant was the tight, 430mm chainstays are Evil’s calling card, and that make them so willing to roll back into a manual or send a wave of dirt spewing off a berm. Some things are better left untouched, particularly if you want to be able to lay into turns like you’re on a slalom ski.
My coworker Ian, a 6’2” huckster of a man, the kind of guy who revels in ripping tires off of rims, spent a week riding the new Insurgent prior to getting out to film our launch video. He comes from a dirt jumping, enduro racing, freeride-line-finding background, and is the perfect person to elaborate on how this bike rides, since he’s exactly the target demographic.
As you might expect from someone who likes to get sideways as frequently as possible, he opted for the size Large frame instead of the the XL. When in between sizes like he is (or I, at 5’10”, am), going with the smaller frame option gets you a bike that is easier to whip around corners, or whip off the lip of a jump.
Bikes are so long these days that you don’t massively sacrifice high speed stability, especially if getting buck every once in a while is up your alley. If you’re only doing high speed runs down baby-head chutes, sure, pick the bigger bike, but otherwise, Ian and I agree that a snappier bike is a fun bike; after all, having fun is the point.
At 190lbs, Ian ran a 500lb spring, finding the bottom a few too many times on the 450lb coil he tried. This gave him a supple rear end that, as Evil’s DELTA suspension is wont to do, still offered up an insane amount of pop off of jumps and trail features. Having been his first time on an Evil, that was a point he noticed instantly, and says that this bike’s willingness to get airborne was greater than on any other bike he’s owned or ridden (a trait I absolutely attest to).
He also found himself marveling at the bike’s rear end stiffness, a factor attributable to the 157mm Super Boost rear end, a 27.5” rear wheel (inherently stiffer than an equivalent 29” wheel), and of course Evil’s big, burly one-piece swingarm and pivot hardware.
That rear-end stiffness is complemented by the ZEB fork he had mounted up, a 38mm stanchion fork designed to track a straight line no matter what heinous mine-field you find yourself pinning it down. He said that all of this made the bike feel like it was on rails, locked in to his line with a commitment that sometimes outweighed his own.
Coming from a mid-travel 27.5” bike (think Evil’s Calling), Ian was used to a snappy little bike. What he wasn’t used to was being able to lock his arms, drop his heels, and monster truck over chunder by letting the low attack-angle of the 29” front wheel float over rocks and roots while the 6.6” of rear travel soaked up everything that came its way. But when things got smooth and flowy, he says that the rear end really shined, making for sharp, snappy turns of the kind that had both him and Doug and me (who were filming him) giggling like little kids.
Am I an Insurgent Rider?
If you’re considering an Evil, there’s lots of good choices. If you think one of their 29’ers might be the bike for you, I won’t try to dissuade you, and would point you to my comparison of their Following (which I own and love), the Offering, and the Wreckoning. Chances are, if you’re an Insurgent rider, you’ve been one all along. But if you’re not sure, consider the identifiers posed at the beginning of this review. Do you make it a point to plan yearly trips to the bike park (or buy a season’s pass)? Do you find yourself pushing back up the trail to session a drop or a jump? Can you name every turn on your favorite trail, and do you know which one gives you the biggest smile?
If so, the Insurgent is probably the bike for you.
Happy trails - Dan at Fanatik