It should come as no surprise that of late, there's been a bit of a boom in mountain bikes. With the explosion of gravel over the past few years, many roadies have found their gateway drug to a whole new world of trails, stoke, and uncomfortable high fiving. So for those with a growing thirst for dirt and nerdy bike tech, this week's feature is just for you. Derek, our resident off-road specialist, just built up a brand new Evil Following, and he's going deep on the details that went into his latest do-all shred sled. We'll let him take it from here.
Photo: Tyler Nutter
Short Travel, Big Sender
As I've gotten older, I've found myself trying to simplify things. More specifically, I've been consolidating my bike stable. Admittedly, I still have an obscene amount of bikes for any normal person, but there was a time where where I had three different mountain bikes. In recent times I've brought that down to one. A single bike that can cover the span of all the riding I do—from big cross country loops, to rugged enduro trails, to sessions at the dirt jumps.
It could be argued that Evil pioneered the modern day "trail" 29er when the released the original Following, a bike that married the playfulness and climbing prowess of a short travel XC bike with the aggressive geometry and stability usually found on bikes with much longer legs. I had been riding the previous Following, but with this spring's launch of version three, the platform was further perfected. Shaving weight, improved climbing, while also better tuned geo for shredding? I sold my old bike and put one on order.
A Unique Fox Pairing
At first glance, the suspension set might seem a bit mismatched. At the front end I opted for a Fox Factory Series 36, stepped down to 130mm of travel. I considered the lighter weight 34, but being my only MTB I wanted to make sure I had the stiffness and burliness to handle trails with bigger hits and features than you'd usually attack on a short travel bike. I've got a bit of a reputation for overshooting landings to flat, so the bigger chassis has saved me on a number of accounts. It doesn't hurt that the limited run root beer color looks great on the bike.
I love how much tunability the new Fox Factory forks have. I run approximately 85psi in the air spring (I weigh ~160lbs) and run the low speed compression damping wide open, and the high speed compression a few clicks in from open for a bit more mid stroke stability. As for the rebound, I set both high and low speed a click or two slower than the mid point.
Riding photo: Mash SF
Usually when someone mounts a burly Fox 36 on the front of a bike these days, you expect to see a shock with a piggy back mounted behind it, but for a number of reasons the light-weight DPS XC shock actually made a lot of sense for me. This is my only MTB, and I love big climbs, so I was happy to take the weight savings. On the downhill side of things, the DPS actually serves me pretty well. To me, a really progressive spring rate is key to getting away with pushing a short travel bike on bigger terrain, and the DPS paired with the Evil DELTA system, does this really well. For the majority of the riding I do in my area, the descents aren't really that long, so I haven't had an issues with the smaller shock overheating. If I spent more time riding areas like Tahoe, I'd maybe consider something with a little more oil volume.
With 167psi in the air chamber I still get nice small bump sensitivity, but it ramps up nicely to support hard landings without harsh bottom outs. I usually run the compression damping wide open unless I'm on an extended road section, where I'll switch to a firmer setting. I usually set the rebound damping on my shocks right in the middle, but on this bike I felt it was running a little faster than I expected and left me bouncing me around on rocky trails. I slowed it down two clicks and it's felt just right.
Finishing off the Fox medley is the newly revised Transfer post. While most people tend to run as long of a dropper as possible, I actually decided on the 150mm. It's a little bit lighter and I've never truly felt a need for more. The real reason though, is that it gives me just enough room to clam the bike in the work stand at the lower section. I never like to clamp on the Kashima coat. Attached is ti railed WTB Silverado.
Mixing of the Eagle
Deciding on the drivetrain was not an easy task. The latest XTR system is absolutely amazing, but I'd grown a favoring to the feel of Sram on my last couple of bikes. I ended up with a mix and match of pieces across the Eagle range. I strongly considered AXS, but at the moment all of my drop bar bikes are electronic and I wanted to have at least one bike that I didn't have to think about charging batteries on. XO1 has always been great for me so I saw no reason to change here, however I did go for an XX1 cassette and chain because...rainbow. I do like to go big, so went for the more gravity oriented Descendant carbon cranks at 170mm.
Now that the cassettes go all the way to 52t, I wanted to take advantage and give myself a little more top end with a 34t Absolute Black chainring. For places like Downieville, it can be pretty easy to spin out a 30t or 32t ring. Another benefit to the bigger ring is that it keeps you in a better centered cog for on technical trails, making it less likely to drop a chain if you need to back pedal to correct for an obstacle.
Go fast, stop fast. I previously rode the Sram Guide/G2 brakes and while they were a great system, I did over heat them from time to time. This time around, I stepped up the power to Code RSCs on 180mm Centerline rotors and I've absolutely been loving them. The lever feel, modulation, and power have all been great.
The Enve M6 Suite
I realize that most of my build choices have be more downhill oriented, but this is still my XC bike too. The Enve M6 line up has truly been a perfect middle ground for keeping things light without sacrificing durability. While stiff oversized 35mm bar/stems are in vogue, I find the compliance of the 31.8 M6 cockpit to be just right. Some of my riding might be pushing the edge of their intended use, but having ridden them for the past year on my prior bike, they've held up quite admirably. I ride the 55mm stem and the bars are the full 780mm width.
Similar could be said for the M630 wheels. Weight wise, they compare to many top end cross country wheels, making them excellent on long climbs, but they've proven to be indestructible. I considered going with something like the Zipp Moto wheels or the new Enve AM30s, which are designed to have more built in compliance, however at a notable weight penalty. They're fantastic options but I found that for how I ride, the stiffer M630s felt better, especially when pushed hard into corners and pumping through terrain. Laced to Industry Nine Hydra hubs, they incredibly responsive and I don't need a bell to let people know I'm coming down the trail.
I've gotten a lot of comments concerning the Maxxis Ardents tires. There seems to be a general consensus that they're sketchy. I wanted to go with something a bit faster, and while they certainly don't grip quite like a Minion, they're significantly lighter and have been working out just fine for me. Also, tan wall. Had to do it. I HATE the feeling of sidewalls folding over, so I generally run higher pressure than most. ~26psi up front and 28-30 in the rear depending on what kind of trails the day holds.
The Small Touches
I frequently go back and forth between spd and flat pedals. As racing is not really a thing this year, I've been enjoying the foot-out flat-out lifestyle. To be honest, I picked these Deity pedals solely to match the orange Fox logos. As luck would have it, they've worked out great. Plenty of grip and not too tall of a profile. Otherwise, I run Shimano XTRs. The frame comes stock with a generic FSA headset but I upgraded to the Can Creek 110 to keep things a bit more solid and reliable up there. Finally, the K-Edge mount to keep my Wahoo Roam in place.
Does it Fill all the Gaps?
It's really hard to call anything a true "quiver killer" but this bike has really been as close as it gets. It's not a 20lb world cup XC bike, and it's certainly not a long travel trophy truck, but I have to say that so far this build has been a perfect match for all the riding I do. It's punchy and poppy like slalom bike, stout and reliable enough for the extra credit lines, and at ~26.5lbs, it's no slouch up the hill either. All together, this has turned out to be the most fun bike I've owned yet!
While we're know for our drop-bar builds, we've been getting more and more requests for mountain bikes. These new Evil Followings are one of the most versatile platforms out there and we've been loving how individualized each build has been. If you're after a trail bike of your own, get in touch and we'll be happy to get you on the trails!