The September issue of Ride magazine featured a glowing review of the Evil Twin. And, it’s the perfect time to put it at the top of your consideration list with the 2017 route for the Absa Cape Epic having just been announced.
When Swift heeded the call of the Absa Cape Epic, and provided its sponsored riders with a dual-suspension machine to win an eight-day stage race, it was always going to be a fast machine.
We saw the first unbranded Evil Twin mules hammering the Western Cape trails a few years back, but it took founder Mark Blewett a couple of prototypes, some cracking input from Mr Pyga Patrick Morewood, and more than a year of development, to launch a bike that he was happy with, and that could carry Swift’s guarantee of stiffness, reliability and speed.
Sure, the ride is harsh and skittish compared to a 110mm bike, but the gap is way smaller than it should be, on paper.
Those first two are more than covered, with massively oversized, sculpted carbon tubing, a one-piece carbon fibre rocker that is super-stiff, and a short 90mm travel RockShox Monarch rear suspension unit. Some would argue that 90mm off-road is a waste of weight – minimal travel for the extra half a kilo, you might as well ride a hard tail – but they would be wrong. It helps the super-stiff frame maintain traction, both climbing and descending, and with the customised tune on the shock it soaks up the medium bumps beautifully, before ramping up to absorb big hits like a bike with 110mm of plush. Sure, the ride is harsh and skittish compared to a 110mm bike, but the gap is way smaller than it should be, on paper. The stiff 31.6mm seatpost is also an interesting choice – many firms go for a thinner, flexier 28.2, to help soak up ‘feedback’ from the trail.
But this is, first and foremost, a race bike. Speed is the priority, you can train for comfort.
But this is, first and foremost, a race bike. Speed is the priority, you can train for comfort. With that in mind, the remote lockout on the rear shock just about turns the Evil Twin into a hardtail, with a push of the button on the bars. Not that we rode it like that often – there is little suspension bob when pedaling seated, and you will want the lockout only if you are out of the saddle and really hammering. The 142×12 thru axle, and double-row pivot bearings all help stiffen things up tremendously, and we found the Evil Twin to be one of the more accurate single-track descenders we have ridden. On trails we knew, this was worth plenty of time – we could bomb with aplomb, knowing we could position the bike perfectly, every time.
We could bomb with aplomb, knowing we could position the bike perfectly, every time.
The acceleration out of the corners was superb, and climbing was even better, even though the Swift isn’t the absolute lightest bike out there. A race-bred geometry, and rider-driven development ensure a fleet ascender, worth a gear or two in the slow stuff (we happily ran a one-by 34-tooth set-up, without feeling limited while our legs were still fresh enough). On new trails, we didn’t find the same level of confidence descending, but that could be a product of our lack of bravery – the Evil Twin is more capable than us, there is just no margin for error at 90mm. We had to remind ourselves that it was a skittish race bike, occasionally, if we were to return it unscratched.
You will need to work a little on finding the right size for you – the long top tube and super-low stack height on the headset are pure-pro, and you might find yourself running a size smaller than normal (much like Swift’s road bike range). What the longer frame does mean is that you can run a short stem, which mates with the recommended 100mm front shock to offer super-quick handling and control. Swift hasn’t gone full- XCO on the geometry, though, so you will still feel in control when the fatigue of a multi-day race sets in – owner feedback we have received so far reflects that, and this is a good thing. We see far too many amateur riders hitting the big events on twitchy 90-100mm race bikes (just like the pros) and struggling to stay upright six or seven hours in (very unlike the pros).
Where the Evil Twin starts becoming the complete stage race package, though, is in the details.
Where the Evil Twin starts becoming the complete stage race package, though, is in the details. It can carry two 750ml water bottles, comfortably in normal cages (not side-access ones), thanks to tucking the shock directly under the top tube. This was one of the design must-haves, freeing riders up to run without a hydration pack. The set-up where the front derailleur would go if you didn’t feel brave enough to run a one-by setup has space to screw in two CO2 canisters. The frame is ready to retro-fit a dropper post, with all the cabling hidden away (dropper posts were not even a cross-country thing three years ago).
Replaceable threaded inserts in the disc mounts mean ham-fisted, tired Epic mechanics can get it wrong, and fix it without needing a new frame. But the masterstroke is the carbon sheet that bolts on to the underside of the down tube. At first glance, it looks like a full-length frame protector (it does serve that role, but stay with us), but it does more than that. All the cabling runs between it and the main frame. What this means is that cable maintenance and replacement is super-quick and simple – loosen the bolts that hold down the shield, work the magic, tighten them again. No more fishing for lost guides inside the frame. Genius.
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