Evil Bikes’ The Following Leads the Way Downcountry [Review]

Like a great punk rock band, Evil's The Following is a downcountry bike that's much more powerful than the sum of its parts.
Front triangle, Evil the Following

Is it possible for a short-travel mountain bike to feel punk rock? The question popped into my head while flying down a short but fast and chunky descent on Evil Bikes’ The Following. I suppose that in a way, the whole downcountry category exists to thumb its nose at stuffy XC geometry, to bring not only fun but also massively improved descending capabilities to bikes that climb really, really well. After testing The Following for a couple months I gained a profound appreciation for the downcountry ethos, particularly as embodied by this Evil.

Evil The Following LS frame specs

One of the first things that stands out about The Following is the seemingly complex and massive amount of suspension hardware nestled at the bottom of the front triangle. Evil employs a system known as DELTA, aka Dave’s Extra Legitimate Travel Apparatus, designed by MTB suspension design royalty and Evil co-founder, Dave Weagle. I say that DELTA is seemingly complex because the system is, at its core, a linkage-driven single pivot. Basic single pivot designs have been around for a long time, and they are generally pretty simple to understand and build.

Of course Weagle’s DELTA design takes things to the next level and then some, adding progressivity but just as importantly, a tunable design that can be adjusted by tweaking the linkage setup. According to Evil, “different link kits can be used to make drastic changes in the bike’s feel,” and the brand notes their World Cup athletes in particular are able to customize the suspension to specific tracks and riding styles.

Yes, there are a lot of links, bearings, bolts and spacers; no, you don’t have to understand how any of it works to love how The Following feels, and how well it rides. Evil does offer replacement bearings for life, and they’ve done some things to make things easier on home mechanics like integrating shock spacers into the DELTA links.

The Following can be set in Low or Extra Low mode via flip chip. Re-orienting the chip involves removing five linkage bolts on each side of the frame, flipping the hardware, and re-attaching. Extra low slackens the head angle by half a degree and the seat tube angle by a similar amount.

Evil describes the DELTA suspension progression curve as being supple early in its travel, with a predictable middle and “bottomless ramp” at the end of the stroke. The Following offers 121mm of suspension in the rear, and builds come with a 130mm fork up front, though they say a 120mm fork will work just fine too.

Sag indicator, right.

As a starting point, Evil recommends setting the rear sag at 30%, which riders can check using the nifty built-in sag meter. The Following sits fairly high with just a 36mm bottom bracket drop, and with a healthy 30% sag, the bottom bracket is positioned nicely for trail riding.

Geometry based on 130mm fork.

Evil The Following geometry

Starting at the head tube, The Following is just shy of a 67° head tube angle at 66.9°. In the default “Low” geometry configuration, that’s paired with a 76° seat tube angle.

Reviewer profile height: 190cm (6’3″) weight: 75kg (165lb) testing zone: Southeast, USA

I’ve been riding a size XL bike with 500mm of reach and a 614mm stack height. Having ridden another downcountry bike with significantly longer reach, I would say The Following reach plus stack strikes a good balance between progressivity and rideability right out of the box.

Evil specs all sizes of The Following with relatively short, 430mm chainstays which adds a bit of playfulness to the more business-like end of the trail riding spectrum.

Frame features

The latest iteration of The Following, dubbed LS or “lightly salted,” is SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger compatible and uses a threaded bottom bracket. The rear end features Super Boost spacing which Evil says adds to the bike’s overall stiffness.

Inside the XL frame there’s room for a full-size water bottle. The driveside chainstay is wrapped in sound damping, protective material, and there’s more frame protection included on the underside of the downtube near the bottom bracket.

The Following has extensive internal cable routing options available for the rear brake, derailleur, dropper post, and a suspension remote. All four ports start at the headtube for a clean look, though for the ultimate clean cockpit, buyers are going to go wireless anyway. Except for that pesky hydraulic brake line, of course.

Riders can run up to a 36T chainring on The Following, and while the rear brake post mount is set up for 180mm rotors, Evil says the frame fits rotors up to 203mm. The seat tube diameter is 30.9mm. Tires up to 2.6″ should fit in the rear, though Evil notes the maximum width will depend on the tire model.

Overall aesthetics

In profile, The Following cuts a swoopy, almost forward-leaning stance. The angular channels leading away from the internal routing at the head tube are mirrored in the top tube, giving the bike a distinctive look that brings to mind Van Halen with a touch of vintage Ellsworth style.

This colorway is called Foam Roller (Pantone 566 C to be exact) and during my testing the look received a number of compliments. Following loamy rides the bike takes on a mint chocolate chip ice cream look with flecks of dirt filling in for the chocolate chips. The frame has a matte finish and I found that regular car wash soap and a brush isn’t enough to get the frame fully clean, especially when red Georgia clay is involved. Bringing the frame back to its full glory required a quick, light pass with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Photo: Leah Barber

Like most full suspension designs the linkage zone in front of the rear tire tends to collect crud in loose conditions. This never interfered with the performance of the bike — cycling the suspension quickly clears things out — though cleaning this spot can be tedious.

Decals and badging are minimal, sticking to a single color (black). To make the simple, single-color decals work, Evil makes use of negative space for a truly modern look.

Build specs

Evil sells The Following as a frame, or built up with one of two build kits. I tested the top-of-the-line X01 AXS build, which naturally comes with a SRAM X01 12-speed, wireless drivetrain plus a 32t chainring. Both builds include Industry 9 Enduro S wheels (tested), though buyers have the option of upgrading to Evil Loophole carbon wheels for an extra fee.

The X01 build I’ve been riding comes with a Rock Shox Pike Ultimate fork with 51mm offset. Four-piston, SRAM Code RSC brakes are paired with 200/180mm rotors front and rear respectively. Evil specs Minion DHF and DHR II tires front and rear and throws in a Bike Yoke Revive dropper post. Thanks to smart seat tube design, the XL I’m testing fits a 213mm-travel dropper post.

Moving on to the cockpit, The Following X01 AXS build features Evil’s own 810mm-wide Broomstick carbon handlebars paired with their branded 35mm diameter, 45mm-long alloy stem and Pamela Handerson lock-on grips. While plenty of brands spec house-brand parts, the Broomstick is notable for being a fairly popular aftermarket choice even among non-Evil riders. A WTB Volt Pro rounds out the build spec.

Evil includes a chainguide on this build attached directly to the frame via an ISG05 mount. To me this part feels decorative — I haven’t needed a chainguide in a while — though it does fit the premise that The Following is ready for the rowdiest descents and maybe even a little racing too.

Altogether the X01 build I tested, size XL with pedals, weighs 31.8lb.

Photo: Leah Barber

On the trail with Evil The Following

Whether we acknowledge it or not, brands have an outsize influence on our perceptions and expectations. Among bike brands, Evil is particularly brand-forward in everything from their marketing materials to product design to the brand name itself, Evil. It’s meant to be punk-rock for sure, though from a distance the brand seems a little dark to me, like a Horror Punk band intent on shocking fans with evermore extreme antics.

As it turns out, The Following delivers nothing of the sort. No offense to the Evil owners and brand managers, but this is a Pop Punk bike, addictively danceable and packaged for mainstream consumption. There aren’t any sharp edges to The Following, figuratively or literally; just push play and start grooving.

Climbing performance

Most great rides start with a climb, and with that in mind The Following is an incredibly capable uphill pedaler. The suspension platform offers ample firmness while remaining active over rocks and roots for excellent traction. On short to medium climbs I never felt a need to lock out the rear shock; only extended gravel road climbs seemed worthy of reaching down and flipping the switch.

On a few steep climbs I found myself with less rear wheel traction than I wanted. Being a smug product reviewer, I made a mental note that the seat tube angle surely must be a degree too steep. A few rides later, however, I experienced the opposite: the front wheel not only became unweighted, it lifted off the ground a couple inches before I could get it under control. Damnit. Clearly the seat angle isn’t too steep or too slack. It’s likely just right.

Geometry interactions are complex, and by focusing on the seat tube angle here I’m oversimplifying things a bit. Weighting the bike front to back also depends on the head angle, and in the case of The Following, the shortish chainstays should be considered as well. The sum of the angles and tube lengths is clearly well considered and I found The Following delivers a great uphill experience overall.

While 31.8lb isn’t notably lightweight for a downcountry bike, in my opinion the weight doesn’t take away from the bike’s climbing performance. Here again, the DELTA suspension tune plays a role in making The Following feel quick and responsive on the climbs. The AXS shifting is quick and crisp too, adding to the total package.

Everything I’ve mentioned in terms of climbing applies to flat-out pedaling as well. The Following feels as if it leaps ahead as soon as you mash the pedals thanks to the laterally stiff frame. Even after months of riding there’s nary a peep out of the crank or frame when torquing on the pedals.

Descending on The Following

The downcountry label puts ‘down’ front and center, and for good reason, since downcountry bikes are ostensibly designed to ride down the hill better than a traditional cross-country bike. The Following is Evil’s shortest travel, full suspension bike and clearly takes cues from its longer-travel siblings.

On paper the nearly 67° head tube angle looks a bit stuffy compared to the short-travel competition, where 66° and even 65° head angles aren’t uncommon. And yet, The Following feels unflappably poised when pointed downhill. Using all 213mm of the dropper post travel I found confidence on even the steepest, most technical drops and the thought of an endo never entered my mind.

Perhaps the biggest revelation came on fast, chunky descents. The Following daftly tracks the ground through chattery sections and still manages to soak up bigger hits and drops without feeling harsh. A lot of bikes at this end of the trail spectrum seem to prioritize a somewhat racy, tight suspension feel, from the start of their travel to the end. Not so with The Following.

Evil the Following

DELTA delivers a plush feeling and cozy small bump compliance initially, followed by a predictable ramp up. Honestly, trying to describe the middle of the suspension curve is a challenge; this is the zone where we’re usually blasting along, eyes focused on the trail ahead, so predictability here is key.

I like to run my suspension pretty soft, and on inspection I found I regularly blew the O-ring off the piston. The great thing is it never felt like I reached the end of the bike’s travel; I always found I had plenty of bike for the trail. The Following truly has me questioning if my ideal trail bike needs 140mm of rear suspension, or if 121mm of DELTA is more than enough.

Letting go of the brakes and pushing The Following downhill at high speeds I found the bike to be very quiet. Well, except for the incessantly buzzy Industry Nine Hydra hubs. Chain slap was nonexistent and here again the frame and build proved to be utterly solid.

Pressing The Following into corners the bike handles very well. The bottom bracket height seems to offer a good compromise between handling in the corners and pedal efficiency, not to mention avoiding pedal strikes. As usual, the Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II tires deserve much credit when it comes to cornering, and over the course of testing I experienced little to no air loss between rides. If this were my own bike I’d probably choose to run Minions too, though perhaps a more downcountry-appropriate choice would be the new Forekaster.

The Following, overall

It’s only February but I suspect the Evil The Following is going to be one of my favorite bikes when looking back at the end of 2023. While some bikes are designed to make a statement, either through geometry or a particular build kit, The Following confidently proves itself on the trail, even without the branding or perhaps even in spite of it. It’s a highly capable, efficient climber and still, it descends even better than it climbs. On the surface that statement might not turn many heads; after all, downhill and enduro bikes are meant to descend better than they climb too.

But down here at the short-travel end of the spectrum, designers usually trade off downhill performance for better climbing. The Following feels like the designers started with the ultimate climbing machine, and then started adding back all the little things that make descending fast and fun like tuned DELTA suspension, long travel dropper posts, capable tires, and well-considered geo.

Like any great punk band, The Following is so much better than the sum of its individual parts.

  • Price: $8,299 as tested. Framesets priced at $3,750.
  • Buy from Evil dealers including evo and The Pro’s Closet.

Party laps

  • Excellent climber. Even better descender.
  • DELTA suspension is both supple and supportive
  • High quality construction and build
  • Geo and frame features work in concert for a balanced ride feel

Pros and cons of Evil Bikes’ The Following.

Dirt naps

  • Even the entry-level builds are pricey
  • Multi-part linkage can be tedious to clean and service
  • Lots of internal cable routing