Like politics and religion, it’s best to avoid conversations about wheel size when among friends and family. There's always that moment when grandpa gets belligerent about how much he misses 26-inch wheels, and inevitably the Evil Uprising gets mentioned. Sorry Pops, but some things have to change. The 27.5-inch-wheeled Evil Insurgent has overthrown the Uprising, and the world is not going to end because of it. The models have the same travel, the same two bottom-bracket-height options and the same chainstay length. The head angle slackened by 1 degree, but it can still be adjusted independently of bottom-bracket height. Our X01 build had some nice touches, like a carbon Race Face SixC crank, wide carbon Race Face SixC 35 bars and wide Enve HV rims. The premium setup makes for a pricy bike, but the X1 build offers identical frame and suspension for $5,300.
On the trail, the Insurgent displayed everything we love about Evil. It weighs less than 29 pounds and feels even lighter under foot. It has one of the stiffest frames in the category and nearly the meanest geometry. The lowest BB setting had us scraping pedals, which Evil warns of by labeling the settings 'low' and 'extra low.' A few of us preferred to climb with the Monarch Plus in 'pedal' to calm the slack angles, but there was remarkably little pedal feedback regardless of where we sat in the travel. While climbing out of the saddle or sprinting, the unique DELTA linkage offers a reliably firm platform.
The Dave Weagle-designed DELTA combines a supple early stroke, a moderate ramp-up mid-stroke and a steeper ramp-up just before bottoming out. The Insurgent charged confidently through large hits, and when they occasionally ate up all of its 150 millimeters of travel, the bottom-out was so soft that we rarely felt it. The magic on any Evil is the firm mid-stroke, which allows its bottomless-feeling rear squish to also feel playful and responsive. It pumped through berms and rocketed off jumps like a shorter-travel bike, and had a masterful sweet spot for slides and manuals, thanks to sub-17-inch chainstays.
So hammer another nail in the 26-inch wheel's coffin, and maybe we'll finally stop talking about it.
MSRP: $8,000 (X01 with Enve upgrade)
Q&A with Kevin Walsh
Evil's Insurgent is, in some ways, a 650b-version of the Uprising-the bike that marked the brand's rising from the ashes. But, to be fair, the company did a whole lot more than slap mid-size wheels on a previous frame. A lot has changed in bike design during the past couple of years, and you'll find a lot of those changes on the Insurgent.
What's the Insurgent all about? We sent off questions before the bike ever rolled into our barn in Vermont. Evil's owner and head bottle-washer, Kevin Walsh, had answers...at least when he wasn't busy being a smart ass. -Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
Vernon Felton: What's this bike all about?
Kevin Walsh: For lack of better words, The Insurgent was designed for shredders and people laying waste to silly categories. It's a super fun mountain bike designed for all kinds of mountain biking in the mountains where mountain biking is done.
VF: There is an almost ridiculous number of very versatile, very capable all-mountain/enduro bikes out there right now. What sets the Insurgent apart from some similar bikes that riders might be looking at in 2016?
KW: Our bike is exactly the same as all the others, the main difference is your purchase directly influences when I can buy a new Lamborghini, sell the company and buy an island. Lamborghini's and Islands aside, the Insurgent can shred a bike park, enduro race, DH laps, or a long trail ride and it’s fun on all of it.
VF: Invariably, people are going to look at this and say, "Oh, this new bike is an Uprising with 650b wheels." How accurate is that statement?
KW: Of course, but this bike has 1,000 years of combined development and it's been carefully OPTIMIZED and REFINED to be better than any 650b bike in the world. That's why it gets a new name, because its so F'n good. Just kidding.
The Insurgent definitely borrows from its little brother in the fun department, but it's definitely a bit more than a 650 Uprising. We revisited the geometry and updated the leverage rate curve and made it more prettier than the Uprising. Basically lower, longer and slacker with a more progressive leverage rate curve and, again, more prettier...
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you guys are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
KW: Seriously now, I am really proud of the entire design. We evolved the form language of the frame to be a bit more aggressive, added an integrated carbon upper guide and tightened up a lot of the mechanical aspects of the linkage and derailleur hanger/axle.
VF: Are there conditions in which you feel this bike really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that so?
KW: When we were designing, there were really no specific conditions that we had in mind. We obviously wanted to make sure it would handle the Pacific Northwest's finest, but work anywhere. It's a pretty versatile bike in most conditions.
VF: Component spec can be tough to nail-What were you aiming for with the spec on this bike?
KW: When we are selecting spec, its pretty simple. We try to avoid DLD ( Doctor, Lawyer, Drug Dealer ) spec and usually just spec what we ride and what best holds up to our local conditions here in the Pacific Northwest.
We typically offer an alloy spec and a carbon component spec with no compromise in suspension spec. This really takes ride quality out of the equation and places more emphasis on component selection.
VF: RockShox and Fox...it's like Coke and Pepsi. Some people are going to want to know why you opted for the Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair rear shock...
KW: We have done extensive testing with both Rockshox and Fox. Although we spec Rockshox on the current frame and build options, we do have Fox/Shimano options coming shortly.
VF: Are there any details or features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked?
KW: I think suspension tuning would be the thing that stands out the most. I try to make the base suspension tunes work out of the box for most people, but it's important to spend the time tuning the bike to your riding style and trail conditions. We post tunes on our website and we encourage everyone to experiment with different volume spacer and air configurations.
VF: How big of a tire can you run on this thing (out back, that is)?
KW: 650b x 2.5. It doesn't support 26+, 27.5+, 29+, 31.666+ or whatever next week's wheel and tire standard happens to be…