-166-millimeter rear travel, 170 front
-Coil shock only
-Supportive for aggressive, stylish riding
-Coil rear shock
-Coil rear shock
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Bikes change. If a model happens to position itself at a specific point on the endless spectrum of categories and subcategories, that’s no guarantee that next year’s iteration will land in the same spot. This year’s Specialized Stumpjumper is far lighter and quicker than last year’s. Last year’s Norco Sight was far burlier and heavier than it was the year before. In many ways, both became better bikes, but they made sacrifices to do so. Each took a step away from the middle of the road to be better at what they do best, and gave up a little versatility in the process. But then there’s the new Evil Wreckoning. It has more travel, a longer wheelbase and a slacker head angle than its now five-year-old predecessor. And somehow, it is also more practical, more efficient and more playful. So, what the hell?
No discussion of Evil Bikes would be complete without an explanation of its DELTA link. The deceptively simple linkage-driven single-pivot design starts off supple but ramps up quickly and straightens out into a long, consistent platform in the midstroke, before ramping up again to soften the endstroke. What that gets you is good small-bump, good pop and good bottom-out. The Wreckoning’s new ride reflects DELTA’s evolution at a time when leverage curves are getting as much attention as head tube angles. “Straight progressive” is the buzzword there, meaning that the rate of increase in support is constant rather than either dropping off and allowing for easy bottom-out, or ramping up too gradually and leading to a sort of “hammock” in the stroke that you’ll fall into whenever you try to push off the ground. That consistent platform in the DELTA link’s midstroke feels more supportive than ever. But the thing is, it really shouldn’t.
The Wreckoning stacks an unapologetic 166 millimeters of rear travel. That’s a tad more than the 161-millimeter Kona Process X. But compared to the Wreckoning, the Process X rides like a cloud made of fresh Krispy Kreme donuts. The Wreckoning is a little more al dente, which is especially impressive because our model–every model–came with a coil shock. One tester who values the light weight and tunability offered by an air spring lamented the lack of off-the-shelf options, but we all agreed that the Wreckoning doesn’t sacrifice any playfulness because of its shock spec. Our test course was coated in a dry, loose shale that begged you to rear-wheel steer. You didn’t even have to touch the rear brake. Just lean into it and then blip your legs out for a split second and you’ll swing the rear end out a bit. The Wreckoning gave us a direct connection between foot and tire, allowing for the sort of maneuvers that people usually chose short-travel 29ers for.
And that’s not just because of the supportive suspension. The chainstays on the Wreckoning are just 430 millimeters. One tester pulled his very first manual on the Wreckoning on our way back to home base, and didn’t set the front wheel down for two blocks. It is not the right choice for everyone, to be sure. The Wreckoning would have been more stable and more predictable with a longer rear center, but none of us felt it lacked for stability or predictability. It was nearly impossible to knock off line. Despite all our talk about how playful the Wreckoning is, it feels every inch a long-travel 29er. When charging through rough sections where it would be inadvisable to test the bike’s playfulness, it suddenly had a damp, quiet, almost heavy feeling. This is not the long-legged trail bike that, say, the Scott Ransom is. It does not let you forget what it’s capable of, will force you to rethink what you’re capable of.
Normally, that glowing assessment would have been a way to soften the blow when we say the Wreckoning is a terrible climber. But it’s not. The bulk of our test track’s climb was tailor-made for lockout levers. A steep, moderately chunky road cut that you just want to get over with quickly. But thanks to that supportive linkage, we always felt like we remained in an optimal position to lay down the power. The seat tube angle isn’t even all that steep at 76.3 degrees, but the Wreckoning was always ready to push when we were. It’s not eager or rewarding under heavy torque, but it’s not discouraging either. It excels at exactly the kinds of climbs you want a bike like this to excel at: Long ones. It gets the job done without complaining or bobbing, and because you don’t need a lockout to achieve that, it’ll allow an occasional sprint if the descent suddenly turns to ascent.
We had to remind ourselves that there is a limit to the Wreckoning’s versatility. As we thought of ways to make the Wreckoning lighter or quicker, we found ourselves just wishing for the Evil Offering. Yes, the Wreckoning is a good enough climber to do big days, and a playful enough descender to nail the occasional cuttie, but only in service of the larger goal of speed at any cost and on any terrain. In that way, it has stayed true to its roots. It is still a mini downhill bike, but one that has matured enough that the “downhill” part is just one element of the experience it offers. It has changed, and change is good.
This bike is expensive. The X01 build we tested now goes for $7,600. And that doesn’t get you AXS shifting, carbon rims or a Push Elevensix rear shock. If you’re looking to save all the money you can, you’d need to go for the $6,000 GX i9 Hydra build. But don’t. Even though that build gets you RockShox Ultimate suspension front and rear, top-notch Industry Nine Hydra hubs and a Bike Yoke dropper post, it has SRAM’s G2 brakes. We’ve found G2s to be underpowered, even in the trail sector. For another $300, the XT build goes to XT 4-piston brakes, keeps all that other stuff, and gets you a full XT drivetrain. In fact, there’s little reason to go far above that unless you want the AXS build for $8,300.
Find it at evil-bikes.com/wreckoning
Photos: Anthony Smith