Six-Month Test: Evil The Following
If this aggressive trail 29er had come along a year earlier, it would have crushed the competition. And today it still shreds as hard as anything out there
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There isn't much this bike can't do. Here's why.
The Good: DELTA suspension, the third unique suspension design from mountain bike engineer Dave Weagle, is the most capable we’ve ever seen, eking both incredible pedaling performance and big-travel manners out of just 120 millimeters. The combination of flip chips in the suspension and an adjustable headset make for four riding positions and ultimate customization. The brawny parts spec is perfectly tailored to the aggressive trail riding this bike is built for. There’s pretty much nothing there we would change.
The Bad: We love the adjustability of the suspension, but dang if it isn’t fiddly to switch from the High setting to the Low and back again. At 28.1 pounds for our size medium, The Following isn’t overweight, but it isn’t feathery, either.
The Verdict: Evil’s The Following proves, once and for all, that 29ers can hold their own in the tightest, techiest, burliest terrain you can throw at them. It’s on a par with the Specialized Enduro, which we still feel is the benchmark long-travel 29er, though thanks to the masterful engineering on the suspension, Evil manages to keep up using a lot less travel. If The Following had come along a year earlier, before the advent of 27+, it would have swept our Gear of the Year awards. As it turned out, the bike was well-loved but overshadowed by plus-size hype. Still, it’s every bit as relevant today and topped the favorite list of about half the riders who tried it.
- Price: $6,600 as tested
- Weight: 28.1 pounds
- Drivetrain: SRAM XO
The Following is full carbon fiber and fairly complicated relative to the host of suspension designs on the market, most of which fall into one of a few basic categories. Without dwelling on the details, the huge chunks of carbon on each side of the rear triangle account for the lateral, rear-end stiffness, and the suspension, which rides at 30 percent sag (easily tuned thanks to a built-in dial), sat where it needed to in the stroke for efficient climbing no matter how rugged or steep the terrain. As for the complication, we’ve been beating this bike up for nearly eight months without so much as a creak from the suspension, and we’ve heard of no problems otherwise, so the system seems to work.
There’s only 120-millimeters of rear travel (just 4.7 inches), but, as if by magic, it stays soft and plush through most of the stroke, then ramps up stiffer at the end so it feels like you can never burn through it all or bottom out the bike. This is the closest design we’ve see to a 4×4 suspension, which is stiff when you don’t need it, soft when you do, and always doing what it’s meant to without any consideration on our part.
We tried the adjustable suspension in both positions but leaned toward the high setting given our rocky terrain. That amounts to a 67.8-degree head angle, not excessively slack, which probably accounts for the bike’s ability to both climb and descend. Similarly, the 334-millimeter bottom bracket height is quite minimal, but we didn’t have nearly the same pedal strike issues as on other low-riding bikes, partly because Evil stocks a short, 170-millimeter crank to compensate.
Even without Boost hub spacing, there’s solid tire clearance out back for the biggest standard tires (we put 2.4s in there, no worries), as well as the ability to run a front derailleur, which is increasingly uncommon. Moreover, The Following just feels stout. Evil had some early production woes a couple of years back with their carbon fabrication, and, having since changed vendors and processes, it seems they’ve more than fixed the problems.
The super plush, dialed suspension comes courtesy of the 130-millimeter RockShox Pike fork and Monarch Rt3 Debonair shock in the rear, both of which are both brawny and buttery smooth. The rest of super-smart spec includes lots of high-quality, all-mountain gear: SRAM XO1 drivetrain, including a 30-tooth chain ring (we’d go 28 for our Rocky Mountain steeps); SRAM Guide RSC brakes, which continue to impress, including meaty 180-millimeter rotors front and rear; Easton Havoc 35-millimeter cockpit bits, with, thankfully, 800-millimeter-wide bars for pushing it all around; and 2.35-inch Maxxis Minion tires, which are our gauge for aggressive 29-inch rubber.
The only parts on the bike that have caused us any grief are the Easton Heist wheels, which are quite wide at 30-millimeters for max tire spread but have suffered some pretty significant diggers and dents in all of our adrenalized testing. To their credit, these rims haven’t flatted or failed in spite of all the dents—a testament to alloy’s staying power. Still, they could be lighter and we don’t love that they’ve taken such a beating. Additionally, while we’ve only had minor issues with this RockShox Reverb, given our history with this generation of the dropper post, we’d prefer something more reliable like the Thomson.
This is a strange bike because it presents as big and slack and aggressive but still pedals easily and effectively. Once, I switched the wheels for a superlight, 1400-gram set of Enve M50 Fifties with fast rubber and had no problem keeping up with a group of riders on XC machines. Thanks to that somewhat slack head angle and low pedaling position, it’s deft on rock features, step-ups, and tech, too.
But The Following is really made for smashing up rocky descents and carving steep turns. There’s an old chestnut that 29ers can’t be quick and agile because of the larger circumference of their wheels, which might be true for some bikes that aren’t well designed, but this one completely shatters that myth. The steeper and more hectic the terrain, the calmer this bike felt. It steamrolled chunk rock gardens and rooted and deadfall-strewn passages, felt totally at home in the air, and still managed to pick through tight, fall-line trees with more ease than any 29er we’ve ridden (other than, perhaps, the Specialized Enduro).
And though it pedals great and shreds the steeps, The Following should not be construed as a do-it-all machine. This is a bike that will get you up very effectively but is much more at home going down. If there was harried trail or big chunk in the day’s plans, The Following was always atop the list of bikes for the job. For those that like the feel of a 29er, this would also double just fine for enduro racing.
The Following’s peers are much bigger bikes than its numbers suggest. The Trek Fuel EX 29 (which I love, incidentally), might seem similar on paper, but that bike rides like an XC racer relative to The Following. Instead, you’d have to look at models like that Intense Carbine 29, the Santa Cruz Hightower, and the Trek Remedy 29 for a close equivalent. The Evil also manages to cover a wider cross-section than all of these, from trail bike all the way up to enduro. It’s a bit heavier in this build, but also relatively affordable for the high-quality parts at $6,600. (And there’s a second-level build with equally smart spec for $5,000.)
The bike that seemed the closest in ability and predilection to The Following was the Specialized Enduro, with 155 millimeters of travel out back to the Evil’s 120. We rode the two back-to-back-to-back, and while the Specialized is a bit more capable—and we like that you can squeeze plus-size rubber into it for ultimate versatility—the Evil is quite a bit cheaper than the comparable S-Works model and surprisingly deft for its size. Also, where the Enduro is a specialty machine, The Following will suit many more riders.
This is a bike for skilled, hard-charging riders who like to push themselves on the steep and the tech but also don’t mind big, high-altitude pedal sections. It’s the bike I would have taken to Ethiopia, with its boulder minefields, stupid-hard pedestrian paths, and 15,000-foot summits, if I’d had it then. The 29er wheels won’t be for everyone—they definitely have a bit of monster truck feel—though we’re confident that many 27.5 devotees would climb aboard The Following and feel surprisingly, perhaps grudgingly, happy. It climbs better than most plus-size bikes, grips in corners nearly as well, and is just damned sexy for its non-conformity. As far as aggressive trail 29ers go, this one is pretty much second to none.