Now I'm never one to jump to conclusions based on appearance alone, but isn't it pleasant to see a simple and classic looking mountain bike for a change? A bike that hasn't had a bag of bearings and a box full of linkages shaken liberally over the design for no good reason? The Team Evolve looks clean, tough, chuckable and simple. It looks... right.
A bunch of 7005 (T6 heat treated) triple butted custom drawn tubes are welded together (over-gassed smooth-weld in key places) along with a few choice machined chunks of alloy to create a single-pivot frame that offers a wonderful balance of low weight, stiffness and strength.
With reasonable tyre clearance at the rear and 100mm of travel on offer at the rear axle, this is a frame which is squarely aimed at the marathon rider, or the day rider who doesn't want (or indeed need) 150mm of travel and a frame that weighs as much as a small elephant. It's a frame for the experienced and wise: the trail finder-general would love this frame, and as such it was appreciated by all who saw it round here at WMB.
The spec strikes a good balance between durability and low weight without risking a loss of functionality. Up front, the bump problems are handled well by the proven RockShox Reba Team fork and providing leverage over them are a Syntace F99 stem and Syntace DuraFlite carbon composite bars.
We would change the stem though, because the F99 exhibits just a little too much flexibility on torsion and you can really notice it when you start to get enthusiastic, especially on the descents. However, the bars are nice - at 580mm wide they're just perfect for this kind of bike. While the 9-degree bend might not be favoured by the XC crowd out there, tilted up to offer 7-degrees rearwards and 2-degrees upwards sweep they're comfortable for hours and hours and give a distinctly aggressive feel on the bike. SRAM equipment for the shifting duties works well, and the Truvativ Noir crank and rings setup is again reasonably light and yet surprisingly durable.
The wheels that Bergamont have chosen here are well proven kit - we've had DT 1540s on all kinds of bikes and not had any problems at all. They're not too shabby in the weight stakes, but they're straight and a damn sight tougher than you think, which may explain why they've been found on more than a few World Cup dual bikes in the past year or so.
The Team Evolve really shines in the riding department. There's something about it that seems to inspire you: it has a willing eagerness and a precise feeling about it that's difficult to quantify. For those readers old enough, it's akin to the first time you ride a proper old-school Kona. There's just something very right about the ride quality. It's the kind of bike you just enjoy riding, the kind of bike you forget about because it responds and reacts in an almost second-nature kind of way with the way you handle it.
The 100mm of travel feels like a whole lot more on this bike, but at the same time it doesn't feel like 100mm. It's there when you need it, but well behaved and controlled in a way that makes it seamless and smooth through the rough stuff. It doesn't do a single thing badly, although with such sharp and precise steering some might say this is not the bike for a beginner. But then this bike is certainly not made with the beginner in mind.
If you're an experienced rider who's looking for something a little different, something that offers quality and a well thought-out balance of spec, and you want a bike that will simply reward you the harder you ride, you could do a lot worse than take a good long look at this.