If you’re expecting the Evil Chamois Hagar to repair the chinks of your riding skill set armour, you’ll be left wanting. The bike will find your weaknesses and call out your laziness as it demands to be ridden with a level of competence and finesse that means only the most talented riders need apply. But if you do have the right skills remit you will be rewarded by an absolute thoroughbred of a bike, that has a wicked sense of adventure and will be up for anything you have the audacity to tackle.
Capacity to ride anything
Versatile riding capabilities
Laid back geometry for great handling and ride feel
Hill climbing prowess
Wheelset could be upgraded
Need to be a very skilled rider to make most of bike's abilities
Rear tyre clearance on muddy days
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Unless you have a secret gnarly side, the chances are that the bike brand Evil won’t be on your radar. And if you are a covert off roader, you’re probably slightly flummoxed wondering what on earth you are looking at.
The Washington State (USA) brand wholly known for its freeriding, go-anywhere, all day trail bikes, usually produces the sort of bike that typically spends 50% of its time in mid air, or getting thrown around some rocky jank gnar - or something.
We need to start at the start of the Evil Chamois Hagar gravel bike. It came from the imagination of the team at the helm of Evil, like the Hogwarts Mirror of Erised, but this time the item most desired by the visualizer actually became a real solid entity.
According to Evil Brand Strategist Cal Jelley the bike wasn’t even meant to exist. “It started life as just a frameset. Really it was something that Jason Moeschler, COO at Evil, thought up as a way of keeping fit” said Jelley. “Jason is an ex-cross country MTB racer, while the rest of the team at Evil are full on shredders he wanted something just to ride on a regular basis that wasn’t full on” Jelley continued. “There was Chamois Davis Jr a while back, but that was more of a town cruiser, single speed, which was good fun, but not really serious”.
It’s a conversation which explains the Chamois namesake, and gives an insight into the bikes genetics, which are far from the usual starting place.
“Most gravel bikes start life as a road bike and are converted into gravel” Jelley tells me “but with the Evil Chamois Hagar it’s definitely a mountain bike that grew into a gravel bike”.
Exploring the bike’s geometry, even by sight, and it clearly has mountain bike parents, with its super slack laid back, short tail end design. It’s what the brand calls ‘reverse engineering stoke’. Starting with a mountain bike, that Evil says it has speed and stability, but, according to the brand, maintains a lot of capability.
In terms of numbers, they're unprecedented on a dropped bar bike. The headtube angle is 66.67-degree, 80mm of bottom bracket drop, and it comes with teeny tiny 50mm custom Evil alloy Stem stem.
To put that in perspective, the Cannondale Topstone Lefty 3, probably the closest rival in the trail loving gravel bikes category, has 71.2-degree headtube angle, 61mm bottom bracket drop, and a stem length that can never be shorter than 90mm before you mess up the bike’s ability to be ridden.
The claim of a short back end isn’t too far out, again comparing the Evil Chamois Hagar to an equivalent sized Cannondale Topstone Lefty 3, you’re looking at 430mm for the Evil Vs 415mm for the Cannondale chain stays, while overall wheelbase measures the Chamois Hagar 116mm longer, 1126mm compared to 1010mm of the Topstone.
Other than the obvious geometry differences between the aforementioned bikes, the other contrast is the distinct lack of suspension of any form on the Chamois Hagar. Curious from a brand that specializes in big bouncers.
Out front, instead of any coil, oil or damper set up sits a pair of carbon forks. When you have a frame with such relaxed geo, there's no off the shelf picking, meaning that Evil custom made a set with a 57mm offset.
In the middle, the brand has opted for a Bike Yoke dropper seat post over any form of compliance.
There are a couple of build options for the Chamois Hagar, ours came with a Shimano 1x GRX set up. Doing away with a double chainring means that the left hand shifter is now a nifty GRX ST-RX810-LA dropper remote dropper post leaver.
With a 40t chainring and an 11–46T cassette that you'd generally only see on a mountain bike, there's another nod to the more trail like inclination of the stock build in the WTB Proterra Lite i23 wheelset, and 700x50c WTB Venture tyres.
The rest of the set up is a mix of brands, including a CaneCreek headset, Easton alloy bars, afore mentioned stem, and WTB Volt saddle.
All the geo measurements and angles add up to a bike that looks like something that could have rolled out of Orange County Choppers, so getting on board for the first time, I was prepared for it to ride like a cruiser…. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It’s here I need to add the disclaimer that there was more than one tester riding this bike and the reason being is that for a bike this outlandishly quirky - it needed more than one style of rider to have a go.
There is a lot about this bike I love, the slack angle belies the sense of urgency once the wheels are turning. I kept the set up with the same tyres throughout testing, so it certainly was more trail than road ready, but it didn’t stop it from shaving around 10minutes off a loop that takes me from out outskirts of Greater Manchester to the foothills of the Peak District on mixed paved, cinder and trail terrain that had previously only been capable on a mountain bike.
The oversized cassette made light work of even the steepest inclines - assuming that they're reasonably smooth.
However, what is swiftly apparent is that inadequate cycling talents can't be hidden.
The carbon forks refuse to absorb any lumps or bumps on the trail, so unless you’re pretty handy with your frontend manuals, you find yourself stopping dead like a skateboard hitting a stone.
A way more capable rider at the helm however, and the Evil Chamois Hagar had no issues muscling up even the steepest of kickers that terrain like Macclesfield Forest trails could throw at it, making light work of it all and revealing the bike’s true capabilities.
I’m slightly consoled by the fact that manhandling the bike without suspension is made harder still by the fact that your hand positions aren’t – unless you’re on the tops – like that on a mountain bike, making it tricky to pop the front wheel.
Riding on the hoods, however, does have a semi-payoff with the more stretched out position assisting in getting your weight over the front wheel, helping to keep it on the ground of really steep inclines, and allowing you to take full advantage of the huge gearing.
With the right rider, there isn’t much that the bike isn’t capable of, other than switch back up-hills. It really doesn't like them, finding the front end too heavy to get round tight turns without a bit of dynamic riding.
Upward trajectories are also where upgrades of the uninspired wheelset are mostly considered. I know that price points do need to be met, and that compromises need to be made, in this case it's a 'bombproof Vs price' predicament, but any realistic buyer immediately swap them for a much lighter set.
Part of me also thinks that once you've spent the price of a small car on a bike, another few hundred on wheels is lost in the noise. Upgrade to what is a good question, but possibly a custom job might be best, with a brand such as Stayer Gravel/ Adventure Disc wheelset that we spec'd on one of the Tech team dream builds comes to mind.
With a dropper post, and slack angles, the bike is exceptionally fun on swoopy down hill stuff. Even on the steepest stuff it’s a case of strapping yourself in, point and shoot.
The stopping power of the Shimano GRX brakes with 160 rotors was never in doubt, but it was clear that I never grew up riding the early mountain bikes of the 90’s where suspension was merely your elbows and knees. For me personally I struggled to delicately pick my way down the steep rocky bridleways that criss-cross the Peaks, there was a more than a few loud clatters akin to a Ferrari hitting potholes, leaving me wincing and wondering what collateral damage has just occurred.
On the flat the bike sweeps along, but it does leave you questioning the dropper post over a slightly more forgiving carbon seat post, which would have taken some of the constant road/ trail feedback out of the ride feel.
On a wet day, however the bike also sweeps up most of the trail. The the U shape transition between chain stay and lower than average bottom bracket, which is a real perk to the ride feel and handling, acts as a little bucket for claggy mud, and as it’s already pretty tight between the seat tube and tyres, it can soon become clogged.
Value and conclusion
So where does this put the bike in terms of value? Good question.
There’s a lot to this bike that I’ve not even discussed in detail, such as the multi water bottle mount layouts, for extra bottle or bike packing bags, build options or frame only.
It presses all the buttons. But there are two tales to this test ride.
For me it was like my first love all over again. I loved the bike so much that I wanted it to work. I knew it wasn’t right for me but I kept trying, expecting something to change, trying to change me, pretending it was ok, before finally admitting we just weren't meant to be together. It was never going to make me a better gravel rider, it just makes gravel way better for a very skilled mountain biker, and that just ain't me right now.
For my mate, who is handy on anything with two wheels, it was a different story. Over 500 miles on the bike and they grew together like some kind of childhood sweethearts. He loved its versatility, being able to ride out to the trails fast and still feel fresh enough to hit them hard when he got there, shredding more gnar on it than any dropped bar bike has and right to do.
It’s arguably not even a gravel bike, it’s a bike that 90% of the cycling population will be wasting their money on. But if you’re one of the 10% who spend most of their two wheel time on dirt bikes, downhill or all day trail riding, you’ll get a lot out of it. It’ll be that bike you end up riding more and more as you realise there’s not much it can’t do.
Although I started the review with the Cannondale Topstone Lefty 3 comparison, really the Evil Chamois Hagar is in a class of its own, un-categorisable even. You just have to convince yourself, or your parents, that the price tag is worth it to start with.
- Frame: Evil Chamois Hagar UD Carbon
- Fork: Evil Carbon Chamois Hagar Fork, 12x100mm Thru-Axle
- Groupset: Shimano 1x GRX (40x11–46t) 11spd
- Wheels: WTB Proterra Light i23, Tubeless
- Tyres: WTB Venture 700x50c TCS
- Weight: 9.26kg
- Sizes available: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Colours: Black only
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