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Evil Insurgent - Review

by Mike Kazimer

Rolling up to a busy trailhead aboard the Insurgent, Evil's latest carbon creation, is a surefire way to draw a crowd of inqusitive riders, attracted like moths to a flame by the bike's striking looks, and in this case an extra bright paint job called Slimeball. With 27.5” wheels and 151mm of travel, the bike is intended to be a versatile all-rounder, albeit one whose preferred terrain is on the steeper side of things.

Kevin Walsh, Evil's owner, wanted the Insurgent to fit his definition of a mountain bike, something that could be configured for everything from trail rides to days in the bike park. Two geometry settings allow riders to choose just how low and slack they want the bike to be, and the head angle and bottom bracket height can be tweaked even further depending on whether a 150 or 160mm fork is installed up front.

Insurgent Details

  • Intended use: all-mountain / enduro
  • Rear wheel travel: 151mm
  • Wheel size: 27.5""
  • Head angle: 64.8° or 65.6° (160mm fork)
  • Frame material: unidirectional carbon fiber
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket
  • DELTA link rear suspension
  • Weight (as shown, size L w/o pedals): 30 pounds (13.6 kg)
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Colors: Slimeball, Murder Black
  • MSRP: $2,799 USD (frame only), complete bikes from $5,299.
  • www.evil-bikes.com / @evil-bikes

An Insurgent frame with a RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir shock retails for $2,799 USD, and Evil also offers three different complete bikes, beginning at $5,299 for one with a SRAM X1 parts kit, and going up to $6,699 to the X01 package. There a multiple rear shock options, and along with the Monarch Plus, riders can choose from either a Fox Float X2, Float X, or RockShox Vivid Air. We went the frame-only route, and built up a complete bike with components that were on hand for long term reviews, including a RockShox Lyrik, RaceFace Atlas cranks, and Shimano XT M8000 brakes. As shown, without pedals our size large bike weighed 30 pounds.

The sloping top tube provides a generous amount of standover clearance.


An integrated carbon fiber chain guide helps ensure the chain stays exactly where it should.

Frame Details

The Insurgent's frame shape shares similarities with the Uprising, its 26” wheeled predecessor, but the overall look is a little sleeker, with a subtle curve to the low slung top tube and more shaping around the seat mast. Evil placed a high priority on stifness when they were designing the frame, and the carbon swingarm is sight to behold, one that makes it clear that this isn't a spindly little XC whip. That sturdy construction does come with some constraints though, including the fact that it's not possible to run smaller than a 30 tooth chainring, and that the chain runs very close to the top of the chainstay in the higher gears.

Evil sought to create an extra-stiff swingarm, which reduced the amount of room between the chain and chainstay.


Tire clearance has been greatly improved over the 26" Uprising, and there's now room to fit most 2.5" tires.

Internal housing is in place for a dropper post, and the rear derailleur housing briefly disappears into the swingarm, but otherwise everything is cleanly routed along the underside of the top tube. ISCG 05 tabs are located around the threaded bottom bracket, but there aren't the three mounting holes that many riders are used to seeing. This is because Evil have created an integrated carbon fiber upper chain guide (the frame was designed to be run solely as a single ring set up), and have teamed up with e*thirteen to create a lower guide for riders seeking additional chain retention and chain ring protection.

What about water bottle mounts? Unfortunately, the Insurgent doesn't have any. This could change in the future, but for now thirsty riders will either need to carry a pack or figure out a creative way to mount a bottle onto the frame.

The DELTA suspension design is Dave Weagle's take on a link-driven single pivot.

Suspension Design

At first glance, the Insurgent's DELTA link rear suspension design looks complicated, an intricate array of small links and bearings, but it's actually relatively simple, and only uses a total of eight sealed cartridge bearings. Designed by Dave Weagle (DELTA stands for Dave's Extra Legitimate Travel Apparatus) the intention behind the layout is to provide a supple beginning stroke that ramps up for improved pedalling, with a more linear feel later in the travel before ramping up once again to avoid harsh bottom outs.

Changing the bike's geometry (and its on-trail personality) involves flipping over the aluminum chip joining the swingarm and the short link that pulls down on main link. It's roughly a ten minute procedure, one that changes the bottom bracket height by 12 millimeters and the head angle by .8 degrees. We ran our test bike with a 160mm RockShox Lyrik, which gave it a head angle of 65.6° and a bottom bracket height of 346mm in the higher setting, and a 64.8° head angle and 334mm bottom bracket height in the low setting. One of the benefits of the DELTA link suspension design is that the geometry changes don't dramatically affect the bike's leverage rate, which means the shock's settings don't need to be altered when the chip is flipped.


Riding the Insurgent


The first few rides on the Insurgent were spent getting the rear suspension dialed to my liking, and after some experimentation I settled on running four air volume spacers in the Monarch DebonAir, and an air pressure of 40 pounds above my body weight. That put it right at 30% sag, a number that can be confirmed via the handy little indicator located on the main suspension link. The rear suspension has a fairly linear feel as it goes deeper into its travel, and running four volume spacers worked well to prevent the bike from bottoming out too often, although it still seemed easier to use all of the travel compared to a bike like the YT Capra that has a very progressive suspension curve.


The Insurgent fits into the 'goes uphill decently, descends like a bat out of hell' trope that's becoming the norm for all-mountain and enduro race rigs, but there's more to it than that. For one thing, its pedalling performance is excellent, even with the Monarch DebonAir in the fully open position. There's minimal undue suspension movement, but when faced with rough ground the suspension stays active and supple, which makes it easier to keep the rear wheel stuck to the trail rather than bouncing and skittering around on tricky climbs.

On long sustained fireroad climbs, the necessary suffering that preceded many of the rowdier descents I took the Insurgent on, I did find that the top tube length and seat angle put my weight more towards the rear of the bike than I would have liked. Positioning the seat all the way forward helped make this more manageable, but I ended up standing and pedalling out of the saddle a little more than usual in order to center my weight and stay balanced between the two wheels.

Not surprisingly, the Insurgent climbs best in the higher geometry setting - the front end feels less likely to wander, and the higher bottom bracket helps reduce the number of pedal strikes. On that note, I'd recommend running 170mm cranks, particularly if you have any plans of running the bike in the lower geometry setting where the bottom bracket sits only 334mm (13.2") above the ground.

The Insurgent's no slouch on the climbs, but it's happiest once gravity takes over.


Putting the Insurgent into the lower geometry setting (labeled XLow on the flip chip) is like angering the Incredible Hulk – it turns the bike into an absolute hell raiser. Granted, this setting works best on the steepest of trails, the type that a downhill bike wouldn't be out of place on, but if that's your preferred terrain the Insurgent delivers a ripping good time.

The 64.8° head angle, low bottom bracket and generous reach provide loads of stability, and the Insurgent's suspension is supple enough that I'd often find myself plowing straight through root and rocks just for the fun of it. 151mm may be a little less rear travel than some of the other big guns in the all-mountain / enduro category, but that's nothing to worry about - it certainly doesn't limit what this bike is capable of. When it comes to cornering, the Slimeball-colored machine felt best carving wider arcs, and going a little further to the outside of a tight corner helped make sure that there was enough room to get everything lined up and ready to blast out the exit. As an added handling bonus, the Insurgent is extremely easy to manual, and I lost track of the number of times I leaned back, lifted the front wheel, and let the rear end do its thing.

As wildly fun as the Insurgent's super slack and low setting was, I did end up spending more time with the bike in the higher geometry position (labeled Low on the flip chip). This made it feel less singlemindedly focused on rocketing downhill, and added a bit of liveliness to its handling on more moderate terrain, or on trails filled with jumps and berms. In any configuration the bike feels well balanced - the 430mm chainstay length is a good match to the roomy front end, and the rear shock position gives the bike a nice and low center of gravity.

The tight clearance between the chain and the chain stay that was mentioned earlier does mean that the Insurgent isn't the quietest bike out there. Clutch-equipped derailleurs only place the section of chain that's under the chainstay under tension, and in this case it's the part above the chainstay that's creating the noise. The rubber protector helps, but on rougher trails the 'thwap, thwap, thwap' of the chain against the protector is still very audible.

Component Check

  • Race Face Atlas Cranks: Race Face's classic Atlas cranks are now direct mount chainring compatible, and are also adaptable to just about any bottom bracket configuration out there thanks to the company's Cinch system that allows for spindles and spiders to be swapped as needed. On the trail there weren't any issues – they're stiff, silent, and the bottom bracket is still spinning smoothly even after a number of wet rides. The sloppy weather is just getting started though, which is why we'll have a longer term review up after riding them through even more nastiness.
  • RockShox Lyrik: The Lyrik is noticeably stiffer than the Pike, and has a more supple beginning stroke, which matched well with the Monarch DebonAir rear shock. Unfortunately, this particular fork, one that had been ridden hard for the last three months, developed a noticeable amount of bushing play. SRAM's response was the good old, “that one is pre-production” line, so the final verdict on durability will have to wait until we get a few months in on a production model.
  • Integrated chain guide: The chainguide is a unique touch, but it did take a little bit of fiddling with bottom bracket spacers to keep the chain from rubbing in the easiest gears. Even after that there still wasn't much clearance between the chain and the innermost portion of the guide, which made it more difficult for mud and grit to escape during wet rides.
  • XT M8000 brakes: Shimano's XT brakes have a well deserved reputation for being reliable and powerful stoppers, and the latest iteration continues that tradition. They were fade free for the duration of the test, even on long descents that required extended periods of heavy braking. The amount of modulation doesn't quite match that of SRAM's Guide brakes, but otherwise they're still an excellent choice for everything from XC to enduro rigs.

Pinkbike's Take:

Evil have created a trail smashing monster with the Insurgent. It'd be easy to call it 'a downhiller's trail bike,' but that's fast becoming a tired cliche, and I'd say that the Insurgent is actually more than that. This is a bike that's capable of making a rider wonder if they even really need a DH bike, especially since it can be pedaled to the top of gnarly trails without too much fuss. There are a few quibbles, including the lack of water bottle mounts and the tight chain clearance, but the Insurgent's brilliant handling on the descents makes them fade into the background. - Mike Kazimer

Enjoyed this write up? PinkBike.com is a one-stop shop for MTB news, reviews and long-term tests.

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