It was way back in August of 2020 when we reached out to Evil Bikes to bring in a Wreckoning for The Beta Tests we would be staging in Ely, Nevada. It’s a good thing we did, because that bike was a favorite of two of our testers. And then, as we always do, we asked if Evil had anything else up their sleeve that would be released in early 2021 when we’d be ready to roll out our reviews. Turns out the new Offering was up there, which became another tester’s favorite. But the Insurgent seemed like the most overdue for an update, and also happened to be the furthest from being ready for testing. We didn’t know until we got on the ground in Ely that there was one waiting for us. We also didn’t know that it would be sent to us in a mixed-wheel configuration which, at the time Evil didn’t even know for sure would be a build option out of the box. It was 2020. There were a lot of those types of unknowns.
If you haven’t noticed, it is June of 2021 right now, and Evil is only just today ready to share the news about the Insurgent. It’s 2021, and there are a lot of those types of delays. Thankfully, part of that news is that, yes, you can get a mixed-wheel configuration out of the box, which Evil is calling MX 29. So, let’s start there.
The MX 29 Insurgent specs a 170-millimeter 29-inch front end, which makes sense. It shares the same front triangle as the Wreckoning, also built with a 170mm fork in mind. Only the super-boost-157-spaced rear triangle changes, and not by a whole lot. Both the Wreckoning and the Insurgent have about 430mm chainstays. The Insurgent rear triangle is reshaped just enough to keep the ride height and angles where Evil wanted.
That said, those angles are a little different between the MX 29 and the 27.5-inch Insurgent. Both have 168mm of rear travel, but the 27.5-inch version was designed around a 180mm fork. Swapping to a 170mm 29-inch fork raises the front end by about 20mm and slackens the head and seat angles by more than a degree. There’s two ways to look at this. One is that the MX 29 configuration was secondary in the design process behind the Insurgent. We can assume that matched 27.5-inch wheels is how this bike was primarily intended to roll, and you accept the compromises when mixing wheels. But the other way to look at it is that these are not compromises at all. The 29-inch front wheel makes the Insurgent more capable at high speeds, so the slacker head angle suits it, though Evil’s angle-adjust headset can get it just about wherever you’d want. And mixed-wheel bikes are the go-to for steep terrain, so the higher front end suits it too. The only thing you could really consider a compromise is the slacker seat tube angle, but Evil is already ahead of the curve there. So, even in the low setting, the MX 29 Insurgent seat angle measures a respectable 76.2 degrees and 76.9 degrees in the high setting.
And anyway, this is an Evil, meaning it has the supernaturally supportive DELTA link, which builds an optimal ramp-up just past its sag point. Without any noticeable pedal kickback or squatting, the Insurgent climbs admirably, if not very quickly. We found ourselves reaching down for the climb switch on the steepest part of the fire road on our test loop, but it was plenty supportive whenever we had to grunt through the pedaly, undulating sections of the descent. As in the Wreckoning, Evil has found a way to make a coil-sprung bike remain responsive, even quick under load. All of our testers agreed that a lower-rise handlebar would make the Insurgent a more practical daily driver, but we also agreed that “daily driver” is not on this bike’s resume.
Near the bottom of our test loop were a series of shelfy drops into loose, dry scree. It’s the sort of terrain that, on the wrong bike, you’re barely surviving. On the right bike, you’re surviving, but not really going fast. On the Insurgent, we were really going fast.
Sure, the Wreckoning had a little better rollover, but when the rear wheel gets unweighted in the steep stuff, that literally has less of an impact. On the Insurgent, we all had more freedom to keep our bodies in whatever position the section demanded. That was especially true of one tester who is 5 foot 9, and has just learned to cope with the fear of tire buzz on long-travel 29ers. Another tester immediately thought of his 5-foot-1 wife, who could absolutely use a bike like the Wreckoning on her home trails, but she just doesn’t have the ground clearance to make one work.
And that short chainstay sets the Insurgent apart from the YT Capra MX, the Transition Patrol and the Santa Cruz Bronson, all of which lengthen their rear-centers on larger sizes. While that makes perfect sense, it comes at a cost to the nimble feeling that will draw some riders to the mixed-wheel concept in the first place. Evil’s approach probably makes a little more sense on a shorter-travel, less aggressive bike, but the Insurgent doesn’t care. It is focused on riders who want the most of everything it offers, even if some of those things are in competition with each other. In the right hands, a bike with this capable of a front end and this nimble of a rear end can do some pretty neat stuff.
Photos: Anthony Smith