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First Ride: Evil’s The Following MB

Evil's 120-mil 29er is exactly the same, but also not

If you happen to follow Bike, you're aware that we're fans of Evil's products, and The Following has been at the top of the list since first throwing a leg over it in the fall of 2014 at our annual Bible of Bike Tests gear guide in central Oregon. But our Evil love affair began a year earlier, during Bible on the bony, speed sucking trails of Sedona, Arizona. The Evil Uprising, the Seattle brand's first trail bike, was the only 26er in the entire fleet of 28 cross-country, trail and all-mountain bikes–the bike was in development for so long that it sort of missed the whole 650b boat. But nobody gave a shit because it was mind bogglingly good.

 

The original Following was ahead of its time. Photo: Ryan Palmer

 

The rule at Bible is to never talk about your experience on a bike before everyone has ridden it, in an effort to prevent one tester putting ideas in another's head before they've gotten the chance to ride it. But one tester after the other would come back from rides, each with the same expression of elation and bewilderment, and without saying anything, the beans were spilled. Testers would return, grinning, laughing, shaking their heads in disbelief, and trying to wrap their heads around what just happened. Somehow the Uprising seemed to have an easier time rolling through gnarly bits and had better traction than the 29ers even though it had tiny, almost antiquated wheels that should have been getting hung up in the Sedona chunk. But the travel apparatus, designed by suspension prodigy, Dave Weagle, was extra legitimate.

 

 

The Following MB still has extra legitimate linkage. Photo: Ryan Palmer

 

The Uprising already rode better than the competition – all it needed to catapult it into the future would be 27.5-inch wheels. That would be the obvious choice: update it to accept the new wheel size and sit back and count the cash rolling in. But that's not what happened. Evil's owner, Kevin Walsh got a hot tip that 120-mil-travel 29ers were the jam, so he set out to put Evil's spin on the concept. Nearly three years later, The Following is still one of the best mid-travel 29ers on the planet. And three years is an eternity these days in the mountain bike development world.

 

Evil Following MB

So, if it's still so great, why mess with it? Well, it's kind of exactly the same, just different. More Better'er, to use the technical term. The only geometry change with The Following MB is a 20 millimeter increase in reach throughout the size run. It still has short 430 millimeter chainstays, still has a 75 degree seat angle and 67 degree head angle in the low (as opposed to x-low) position with a 120-mil fork, and it still uses Dave's Extra Legitimate Travel Apparatus, or D.E.L.T.A. for the monkey-motion.

 

 

Low is high, extra-low is low. Photo: Ryan Palmer

 

Besides that, The Following MB is kind of just keeping up with the Joneses, sticking with the trend of trail bikes being ridden on terrain we used to ride DH bikes on, but doing so in its own Evil way. Many brands have made their 120 29ers more capable by increasing travel, in most cases to 130 millimeters. The Following, on the other hand, already felt like way more than 120 millimeters, so The Following MB has the same amount of travel. Instead, the MB gets its added bad-assery by coming spec'd with a trunnion-mounted piggyback shock, specifically a Metric size RockShox Super Deluxe–something that not many bikes with 120 millimeters of travel come with. Actually, I can't think of a single one off the top of my head. While updating the shock and mounting style, Evil slightly changed leverage rate to prevent bottoming, since it's likely people will be riding these things quite hard. Oh, and there's room for a water bottle now, which means you can legitimately go enduroing on the MB.

 

 

148 x 12 spacing, bolt-on axle, and internal routing. The Following MB is ready for the future. Photo: Ryan Palmer

 

And, of course it's been updated to 148 millimeter rear spacing, which I feel like sort of doesn't even need to be mentioned at this point. On the other hand, it probably should be mentioned, because the Boost spacing allows The Following MB to go plus, with 27.5 x 2.8-inch rubber, if riding with gigaflops of traction is your jam.

Between the two wheel/tire options, the two geometry positions, and messing around with different fork lengths, you can set The Following MB up a whole bunch of ways. Here are a few of Evil's suggestions:

For a light duty XC/trail bike, try a Fox or Rockshox inline shock, 120-millimeter fork and the low position.

For a do-it-all trail bike try the Rockshox Super Deluxe, 130-millimeter fork and the low or x-low position.

Want a Pacific Northwest style bike? Try the Rockshox Super Deluxe or Push Elevensix with a 140-millimeter fork and a Push ACS3 Coil upgrade.

For those seeking more traction, try 27.5+ (aka Plus) with the Rockshox Super Deluxe and a 140mm fork."

 

 

Evil has arguably the nicest built-in upper guide on the market. Photo: Ryan Palmer

 

Evil Following MB Ride Impressions

 

Being in the Pacific Northwest, I started out with the bike in "PNW mode": 29-inch wheels, a 140-millimeter fork, and the flip chips set to the low position–which again, is Evil's way of saying high. It's like how Starbucks calls its medium a tall.

This setup makes the bike totally insane on descents. I took it to Whistler this way and didn't feel under gunned at any point. The front wheel feels like it's a mile in front of you, which is great for keeping you feeling confident when pointed down really steep shit, but isn't ideal for climbing. The headtube angle should come in right around 67-degrees in low with a 140-mil fork, which really isn't crazy slack, but it is definitely felt on steep climbs. It's fine on flat and undulating terrain, you just need to make sure to ride over the bars to get enough weight on the front wheel and prevent understeer.

With a 140 fork, the Following isn’t afraid of BC-level steeps. Photo: Anthony Smith

This really isn't the setup that this bike was designed around, and this is represented on Evil's website where there's no geo chart for running 140 millimeters of travel up front. The geometry was built around using a 120-millimeter fork normally, and bumping to 130 for a bit of extra gnar-factor. Running a 140-mil fork causes the seat angle to become slack enough to eek the center of gravity too far behind the rear wheel for the bike to feel truly balanced. Pushing the seat all the way forward in the rails helped with this, but that didn't change the fact that the front wheel felt far away. In short, I feel like it's a bit of a compromise in this position. If you want 140 millimeters of travel up front, I'd recommend getting a bike with geometry specifically designed around it. I did have a great friggin' time riding The Following MB in Whistler this way, though.

Feeling The Following flow. Photo: Anthony Smith

Once back home, the 120-mil fork went on, and that's how it'll stay for a while. The bike feels balanced, lean, and fast when set up this way. It's a trail bike with near XC efficiency and enduro descending speed. With the short fork, The Following gets extra fun when you stick it in the x-low position. This gives the bike a head angle of 67.2 degrees, about where it was in low with a 140 fork, but the seat angle maintains a reasonable 74.2 degree angle. It's an ideal all-rounder in this mode, and in my opinion, this is the setup that has creates the best recipe for fun no matter which side of gravity you’re on.

On the other hand, I'll probably keep that 140 fork handy. It's been months since any rain has fallen here in central Oregon, and the trails are getting pretty blown out and sandy. I think it's time to slap some plus-size rubber on this more better'er beast of a bike.

 

 

It also comes in Drunken Olive

 

Evil Following MB Numbers:

 

The Following MB is available on Evils’s site right now, starting at $5,300 for a complete or $2,900 for a frame and shock. Here are some other numbers:

 

 

With a 120-mil fork

 

With a 130-mil fork

 

Even more numbers