At this point Evil Bikes needs no introduction. These shapely, almost other-worldly mountain bikes have graced the pages of all the media outlets, garnering attention and curiosity wherever they are seen. Evil’s first foray into the wagon wheel trail bike market has been a smashing success. The Following re-defined what many people, including myself, thought a 29er was capable of, much less one sporting a mere 120mm of rear travel. This was soon followed by a return to their more gravity-centric roots, with the release of the Insurgent, a 150mm travel, long, lean, and slack 27.5” trail slayer. Not one to rest on his laurels, Kevin Walsh, the owner of Evil Bikes, has built on the rock-solid foundation laid by these two bikes to create something entirely new in the world of enduro bikes: The Wreckoning (now available in small sizes!)
AN INSURGENT WE CAN ALL LOVE
Before we delve into that bike to see what makes it tick, let’s take some time to examine the Insurgent. At this point I have spent six months riding this bike, during which time I began to feel more comfortable on it than on any other bike I’ve owned. With it’s easily adjustable geometry, this is a bike that is just as at home charging through chunky terrain at the bike park as it is tooling along with the family. Well, maybe a little more at home at the bike park, but it will hang with the kids just fine. Sporting a 65.6° headtube angle, 345mm high bottom bracket, and 430mm chainstay in the high geometry setting, the Insurgent is still a bit more slacked out than most other trail bikes in it’s category. That said, I have found it is perfectly comfortable on longer rides with more intensive pedaling. My longest jaunt on this bike was a 55 mile suffer-fest on rolling terrain, where I had little trouble hanging with guys on 24-lb XC bikes with 100mm travel. That was the first time I realized how outstanding the DELTA suspension platform really is. I already knew it soaked up trail chatter and big hits like a sponge, but that ride drove home how stable the pedaling platform is, even on it’s substantial six inches of travel.
When dropped into the tongue-in-cheek “X-low” setting, the Insurgent is a horse of an entirely different color. The headtube angle drops almost a full degree to 64.8°, both the wheelbase and the chainstay lengthen by two millimeters, and the bottom bracket drops 12mm to a category low of 334mm. With these numbers, this bike is not just dipping its toes in downhill bike waters, it’s jumping in head first. It manages to maintain uphill composure for those fire road climbs to the top of the trail, and even retains flat ground flickability, but you do certainly notice the front wheel wandering a bit, and your weight is placed far enough over the rear end that climbing isn’t quite as easy as it was in the regular, “low” setting.
You may wonder if it’s worth the hassle of having two geometry settings that require disassembling and reassembling the linkage every time you want to make an adjustment. Although seemingly complicated at first glance, it is actually incredibly easy to make the switch. On that 55 mile ride, I started off with my bike in the extra low setting. Quickly realizing that this was not appropriate, I took advantage of another rider’s flat tire to reverse the two flip chips in the suspension linkage, bringing me back to full trail bike status. All this in the time it took my friend to change his flat. I have a quick 10-minute, 10-step “How To” for this procedure here.
THE WRECKONING IS UPON US
The Insurgent has been out for a little while now, and it has generated loads of positive feedback from not only us, but many other riders and publications. Many of you are probably here to learn about Evil’s new ride, the Wreckoning. Imagery of this big wheeled monster has been floating around the dark side of the internet for several months now. We have seen Luke Strobel win stages of the NW Cup on this bike, we’ve heard all the rumours, and now it is finally (finally!) here.
So what is this big, “Megaladon” blue bike we’ve all coveted for so long now? The numbers are very similar to the Insurgent: in the higher geometry setting this bike sports a 66.1° headtube angle, 348mm high bottom bracket, and 429mm chainstay. It does have 11mm more rear wheel travel, bringing it up to 161mm. Then comes the elephant in the room: those big 29-inch wheels. What, say you? A six-and-a-half inch travel 29’er with a 66 degree head tube angle? How did those Evil geniuses fit that much bike into a manageable package?
BOOST IT, BABY!
The real answer to that question can be condensed to two factors. The first is somewhat contentious: Boost 148 is a large part of what made this bike possible. The Wreckoning and the Insurgent sport identical chainstay length, and the big wheels on this bike feel just as stiff as the smaller wheels on the Insurgent. Neither of these feats would have been possible without the wider hub that Boost 148 provides. I owned a long travel 29’er three years ago, from a company who has all the money they care to spend on R&D. I still couldn’t get over the noodly feel of the wheels, and the noticeably high center of gravity left me struggling to corner confidently. That is where the second factor comes in. Dave Weagle’s Extra Legitimate Travel Apparatus (D.E.L.T.A.) pushes all the weight attributed to the suspension system down toward the bottom bracket, bringing the bike’s center of gravity as low as I would dare say possible. The single pivot design also creates an extremely stiff rear end, with all the side loads directed to one solid swingarm attached to the main triangle via one beefy pivot.
At 5’10,” I have always ridden medium bikes, falling squarely in the middle of that size. The Wreckoning, although sporting a low standover height and BB, is definitely a lot of bike. As opposed to the Following, which feels lithe and sprightly at any speed, the Wreckoning is more reminiscent of a DH bike. It doesn’t really come to life until you crest that hill. Then, in a straight line, let off the brakes and the Wreckoning surges forward, dismissing trail noise with nary a backward glance. Approaching that first corner, you may remember your previous 29’er and wish to tap the brakes to hit that apex, but don’t; lean in, stay aggressive, and push right on through to the other side. See that jump coming? Feel free to boost it to the moon, the Wreckoning will bring you safely back to Earth with style and grace.
Evil’s progressive geometry on the Insurgent and the Wreckoning does leave me feeling fairly stretched out, which I’ve balanced by running a shorter stem than I normally would. I dropped from a 50mm stem on my previous bike to a 32mm Race Face Turbine R, one of the shortest stems available. Although this looks a bit odd at first, placing the handlebars behind the crown of the fork, I like the feel quite a bit. When matched with wider bars (like my 800mm SixC bars) the short stem creates a very quick yet stable steering feel. Call it power steering.
I ended up keeping my Insurgent in the X-low setting the majority of the time, which drops the BB to a ground-shaving 335mm. Although this makes for a cornering fiend, it can result in a fair number of pedal strikes, especially if you live in rocky areas. I remedied this by switching to 165mm cranks. I did worry that this might compromise my pedaling, but that concern never materialized. I used the same cranks for my Wreckoning, although I do think the larger wheels and slightly higher BB could warrant 170 mm cranks. Now that I am used to the 165’s, I can’t fault them, and I certainly don’t miss whacking my pedals on roots when I’m charging.
Speaking of charging, the large wheels do allow me to continue pedaling through the rough where before I would just try to hang on. Aiding this are the 120-pt engagement Industry Nine hubs, which deliver power at a moment’s notice. Always forward thinkers, the folks at I9 down in Asheville, North Carolina have jumped on the Boost train and are manufacturing their beautifully machined and anodized Torch hubs in this new size. I opted to match my purple ano hubs with Easton’s ARC 30 rims, which sport a 30mm inner width and work superbly with the new crop of wider tires that manufacturers like Maxxis are releasing.
SO WHICH BIKE SHOULD I BUY?
At this point you may be wondering: what does the Wreckoning do that the Insurgent doesn’t? Why might I want one versus the other? First question to ask yourself: do I need this much bike? Are you constantly seeking the the nastiest, steepest, most technical descents out there? Or do you consider yourself more of an every-day trail rider, where your average ride consists of a fair bit of pedaling and nothing too crazy on the descent. If the latter is true, you will likely have more fun on a Following. The next important deciding factor is your size. I don’t know how comfortable I would be on this bike (a medium, in my case) if I were much smaller than myself: 5’10,” 31” inseam, and 32” sleeve. If you are shorter/smaller than this, never fear, the Insurgent is equally as capable of a bike, and will be more fun for smaller people. If the Wreckoning still piques your interest, consider what you enjoy in a bike. Do you want to be able to readily hop off any and every nub in the trail? Or do you want to blow past these features with no consideration whatsoever. The way I best heard it described, after a back to back test, was my good friend Chester’s comment “the Wreckoning has an easier time getting you through poor line choices, but I think it’s easier to make good lines on the Insurgent.”
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT FOLKS. TWO BOUNDARY PUSHING, OUTER-SPACE LOOKING, HEAD TURNING SPEED MACHINES, EACH WITH THEIR OWN STRENGTHS, NEITHER ONE WITH BOTTLE CAGE MOUNTS, READY FOR YOU TO HEAD OVER TO OUR BIKE BUILDER TO FINE TUNE YOUR ASSEMBLY. HAVE AT IT, AND DON’T HESITATE TO CONTACT US ANYTIME WITH QUESTIONS/CONCERNS.