Dave Weagle is a busy man, being largely responsible for both e.thirteen chain devices and the DW link suspension system used by Independent Fabrications, Iron Horse and Ibis. He's also been turning out the Evil family of hardcore hardtails for several years, picking up a loyal cult following in the process. We were lucky enough to ride the first Evil bike brought into the UK by new importers Silverfish.
It's a standout bike from the start, with the triple butted Reynolds 853 mainframe using a radically sloped top tube that's as thick as the down tube. The extended seat post is then supported by a fat bracing pipe with flared trumpet-style wishbone stubs, giving enough room (up to 3in with a 24in tyre) to make the 2.1in High Rollers look like cyclocross tyres.
The XX-Rated adjustable dropouts have two slots to give the bike different wheelbase lengths (15.5-16.75in) for either 24 or 26in wheels and let singlespeeders tighten their chains. The wheel carriers themselves are super neat CNC shelved pieces with tension screws on the inside faces of the dropouts to stop slipping. Twin position disc and derailleur mounts are also built into the sliding sections, so there's no compromise of stop and go function.
Although the dropped top tube makes the angles look much steeper, we clocked them as 70-degree head and 71-degree seat with a full length Talas fork. The frame is also sized BMX-style, with both regular (23.1in) and long (24.14in) sizes using the same stumpy seat tube. However clever you are, you have to have some nerve charging a couple of hundred pounds more than a normal 853 frame, even if it is 'proudly made in the USA'. It took about 10 seconds for our cynical attitude to vanish and be replaced by a dirty great grin, though. This bike is the absolute bollocks.
Something about the sloped top tube or triple butting up front gives it a remarkable forgiveness and bump absorption that's a welcome relief from typical alloy hardtails. That fat top tube still keeps steering super precise though, with pin-sharp traction feedback and snap responses that somehow kept us upright on super sketchy 'log flume' singletrack and autumn cobble and wet leaf descents.
The low centre of gravity makes it super easy to sideslip and flare the bike out from underneath you with just a twitch of the comically hair trigger 28in bar/70mm stem steering setup. It'll pop up either end without fuss too, and all round balance is fantastic, even in the long chainstay setting.
Unsurprisingly, every ride turned into a manic headlong charge, surfing the very limit of control well beyond advisable velocity. Yet despite the sensation that a huge crash was inevitable at any moment, the Sovereign always kept us a hair's breadth ahead of disaster before spitting us to safety with a howl of nervous laughter.
Although our chain device and Diabolus cockpit-equipped model was definitely downhill/freeride oriented, it scampered up climbs with a real eagerness and agility despite an overall 30lb weight. The amount of fun we knew we were due when we got to the top certainly helped, though.
The Sovereign comes as just a frame, but copy kit that's similar to what Silverfish laid on and you won't go far wrong. You could save a bunch of weight from stem and bars though, and it's gagging for bigger, stickier tyres.
There's some sort of strange alchemy going on here with the pipe diameters and layout that just makes every ride an absolutely insane riot. Pricing is certainly high, but then it truly is a standout ride with useful adjustability to boot.