Okay, I lied. This is not a review of the Crust Evasion. If you’re reading this, you are probably already in love with the idea of the Evasion and are looking for something to fuel your confirmation bias. To be perfectly honest, the Evasion is my bicycle life partner and I could no more do an objective review than I could review my wife (5 STARS WOULD MARRY AGAIN).
Instead, this un-review will take a look at the design of the Evasion which I think is really something unique and a godsend for cyclists that haven’t gotten on well with traditional adventure bikes. And since I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my Evasion build, I’ll spend some time explaining why I went the unusual route of taking a 26+ drop-bar dirt tourer frame and building it up as a 650B Jones-bar cruiser.
A quick note on my particular Evasion: as you begin researching the Evasion, you’ll notice that sometimes it sports an Evasion logo. Sometimes it has a DFL logo. Sometimes there is seemingly no logo (it’s hidden, but there). You might find a wishbone seatstay, hidden fender/rack mounts… or not. Maybe you’ll see one with a raked bi-plane fork… or a segmented fork with bottle cage mounts.
While you’re probably beginning to feel like this is a bike with an identity crisis, I can’t help but feel excited to see this kind experimentation and rapid iteration in the often-stale bike industry. It feels like every run of the Evasion has something new and cool to look forward to and I have a feeling that things are only just beginning.
The model I have is from the Fall 2016 release which I think we’re calling a v3 Evasion. It has Paragon Rocker-compatible dropouts and a straight-blade segmented fork with 3 bottle bosses. The seatstays are standard (not wishbone) and have hidden rack mounts midway down the stay. My frame is the Extra Medium size that was newly introduced with this revision.
Here’s where the Evasion really distinguishes itself. If you’ll indulge me in a bit of bike taxonomy, imagine a branching family tree of adventure bikes with two distinct ancestors.
The first, umm, genus of our family tree includes “gravel grinder” (I know, I know) bikes designed with drop bars in mind. This typically means the following:
- Shorter top tube and reach to accommodate the extra reach of drop bars
- A more horizontal top tube with larger main triangle
- Tire clearance typically ranging from 40mm to 53mm
- Braze-ons for rack and fenders
- Non-suspension corrected fork
- Lower bottom bracket
The next genus consists of fully rigid mountain bikes designed for flat bars, typically featuring:
- Longer top tubes and reach to accommodate shorter reach flat bars
- Compact geometry with a sloping top tube for more standover and a smaller main triangle
- Tire clearance ranging from 60mm to 76mm (2.4″ to 3″)
- Braze-ons for racks in some cases, but fenders can be an awkward fit
- Suspension-corrected fork
- Higher bottom bracket
For the past couple of years, these two categories have been fairly segregated. There’s been some minor overlap and component sharing- but too much commingling has been taboo. Then along came the Evasion, which has a truly mutant-like combination of features:
- Shorter top tube and reach to accommodate the extra reach of the drop bars
- A more horizontal top tube with larger main triangle
- 3″ Tire clearance
- Braze-ons for rack and fenders
- Non-suspension corrected fork
- Lower bottom bracket (depending on wheel/tire choice)
I’m really not sure what to call this new category that the Evasion sits in. What I can tell you is that the Evasion is more capable than a gravel grinder, more practical than a rigid mountain bike, and is one of the most fun bikes I’ve ever ridden.
As a guy with long legs and short arms (AKA the T-Rex build), I was ecstatic when I looked at the geometry chart of the Evasion. In the chart above, I’ve highlighted the 4 sizes of Evasion relative to other bikes in the bike geometry database. You’ll notice that the Evasion is way over on the left side of the chart, meaning that this is a bike with a remarkably short horizontal reach to the handlebars.
This is true when comparing to drop bar bikes (in blue) and even more so when comparing to flat bar bikes (in orange). The stack or vertical height to the handlebars, is well balanced so that a giant stack of spacers isn’t needed to get the bars up to a reasonable height, but those wanting a more aggressive position can still get the bars lower than the saddle. As of the writing of this review, the only mid-fat tire bikes with shorter reach than the Evasion are the Salsa Fargo and the Advocate Seldom Seen Drop Bar.
In terms of the rest of the geometry, the Evasion is in well-tread territory. It has medium trail of 75mm (82mm for the Small) which is a bit higher than most road bikes and a bit lower than most rigid mountain bikes. It is stable yet nimble and feels perfectly balanced. The main triangle is fairly tall with little rise in the top tube which gives it a great, classic look and huge storage capacity with a frame bag. Just be sure to check the standover height because it comes scarily close to zero clearance for me (85cm pubic bone height without shoes on).
The Cockpit Setup
Okay, this is the exciting part. The Evasion is ostensibly a drop bar bike (Crust calls it the Satanic Rando, after all)– and I’m sure that it excels in this configuration– but throwing some mountain bike bars on the Evasion unlocks something truly magical.
For some perspective: I generally think it’s best to run bikes with the intended bar type. I am not an advocate of putting the wrong bars on a bike just to fix a poor fit. More often than not it will ruin the handling of the bike. But I was curious to see how extreme I could go with respect to shortening the handlebar reach, so I decided to give Jones Loop H-Bars a try instead of drop bars. This would shorten the reach to the point that if you drew a line between my hands in their primary position, it would just about bisect the stem cap/head tube.
To my surprise, this has become not only my most comfortable bike cockpit, but one of the best handling and fun setups in my stable. The Evasion tracks steady through fast, sweeping turns and is rock-steady on straightaways, but the wide Jones bars and shorter stem give me enough leverage to toss the bike around even when the front is loaded down with gear. When it’s time to hammer on a flat stretch of road or fight a headwind, the forward position afforded by the Jones bar lets me get my body a bit lower with little arm fatigue. I’m hearing similar praise for the Jones bar build from fellow Evasion owners, so I trust this is not all in my head.
26+ vs. 650b and the Mid-Fat Blues
I love the idea of 26+. Consider the advantages:
- Stronger, lighter wheels
- Greater tire clearance
- Less toe overlap
- Less compromise in frame geometry for smaller frame sizes
The Evasion was designed around 26″ x 3″ tires with a sidenote that it will work equally well with 27.5″ x 2.5″ which is about the same diameter. When deciding on which route to go, I charted out some of the tires that I was interested in:
This chart is a little difficult to follow since it’s using some arbitrary measurements from my existing bikes, but the idea is that I’m looking for tires that fall into the safe zone in the center of the chart. In other words…
- Too high up on the chart and the already tall standover of the Evasion might crush my nuts
- Too low down on the chart and the bottom bracket height starts to get too low for my tastes
- Too far to the left of the chart and I am risking toe overlap from a larger diameter front tire (likely dependent on frame size)
All of this is pretty conservative and it’s probably not going to be a disaster if you pick a tire a little into the red zone. The takeaway here is that there are really only two 26+ tires that fall in that sweet spot: the Surly Knard 3″ and the WTB Ranger 3″. In the 27.5″ space there are a few more options and likely more coming since 27.5+ is the new darling of the industry.
But 26+ is cool, so I first built up a set of 26+ Velocity Duallys with 3″ Surly Knards. However, when running a 11-speed SRAM drivetrain, the chain rubbed the tire when on the largest (most inboard) cog. This is an unfortunate side effect of tires this wide and the only real solution is to increase front chainline by spacing out the cranks or chainring. I don’t particularly like this option since it means more wear on the drivetrain, wider q-factor (which is already a bit wider than I prefer at 167.5mm with my setup), and the chain jumping cogs when backpedaling. Most people are going to be just fine with this option, but I am a perfectionist and just couldn’t live with it.
The obvious design solution to this might be for the Evasion to go Boost (148mm hub) in future iterations, although I understand why Crust didn’t want to go that route and I’m ultimately glad that they didn’t because this configuration is perfect for 27.5″ x 2.8″ with reasonable q-factor and heel clearance.
The Evasion sporting massive 27.5+ 2.8″ Schwalbe G-One All-rounds.
So I broke down the 26+ wheels and built them up with 27.5″ Duallys. The Evasion has an insane amount of clearance in terms of diameter and width, so fitting up to 27.5+ 3″ tires should be fine (with the above caveats of standover and toe overlap in mind). But I think the sweet spot is from 2.5″ to 2.8″ and happily there are a number of 2.8″ tires out there– I suspect because manufacturers know they play nice with stock drivetrains. I’ve tried a number of tires on the Evasion (more on that later) and settled on the 27.5+ 2.8″ WTB Ranger Tough which measures out a bit small at 2.65″ and is great tire in all respects except perhaps weight.
The Value Proposition
In case any responsible adults are reading this, I feel compelled to address the value proposition of the Evasion. At the time of writing, the Evasion frame and fork is $875. That’s a lot of money for a frame built in Taiwan that you probably won’t get to test ride at your local shop. And if you follow Crust on social media, you might be forgiven for having some doubts about whether this is a legit company (key marketing initiatives for Crust involve not giving a shit about marketing and posting pictures of naked dudes on bikes). I don’t think I got a warranty card with my frame, although I did get a signed love letter from the Crust CEO.
In response to this, let me relate a few observations.
- The Evasion is an immaculately finished bike. All the welds are neat, the threads are clean, the tubing didn’t require facing, and the steerer and seat tube were nicely reamed. The finishing touches like the Crust logo seatstay bridge, the custom shaka-symbol seatpost clamp, and the hidden fender/rack mounts are all a cut above your standard production bike. Easiest bike build I’ve ever done.
- And then there’s the paint job. Photos unfortunately can’t capture the luster of the paint and the “stealth sparkle” glitter that explodes in the sunlight. Just take my word for it that the paint is amongst the best you’ll find on a production bike. Also not seen in photos- the black ‘Evasion’ logo on the top tube that is only visible in sunlight. Details, man.
- At this point in time there really aren’t any other options for a production bike that checks all the boxes that the Evasion does. Getting a full custom frame and fork is really the only other way to go and you can easily spend twice as much going that route. Innovation carries a premium and Evasions seem to be selling out as quickly as they can make them.
- Crust is the real deal. I had a minor issue with my Evasion but within 30 minutes of sending a note to Crust, I had a response back and they have bent over backwards to get me taken care of. In the process, I’ve gotten to chatting a bit with Crust folks and found them to be the most down-to-Earth, genuine folks you can imagine. Crust seems to be a labor of love and they stand behind their products. Despite their best intentions, these guys are pros.
The end of the Honeymoon Phase
I’ve been riding the Evasion in all sorts of conditions for the past three months and can say with confidence that it’s the most capable all-purpose bike I’ve ridden. There’s a school of thought that says bikes are best when they do one job and do it well, but I feel like I could be perfectly happy having the Evasion as my only bike. Road touring, offroad touring, commuting: this bike is beyond just “good enough” for any of these tasks.
Chatting with Matt at Crust shortly before I really began to put the Evasion through its paces, he asked me what I thought of the Evasion and if there’s anything I would change. For lack of better feedback, I said maybe Boost spacing and maybe triple bottle cage mounts in the triangle. I’m not convinced that the fork configuration is the best out there, but it strikes a reasonable balance between looking nice and having every conceivable form of braze-on like the latest comically over-engineered Surly Troll/Ogre forks.
But aside from the nitpicking, if there is any legitimate complaint to be directed at the Evasion, it’s probably weight. This shouldn’t come as any surprise, but this is a heavy bike once built out (I haven’t bothered weighing mine) and you will not be getting many KOMs. Lighter tires would help but I have yet to find any in the 27.5″ x 2.5″ range that I really like. If weight is really a concern for you, dear reader, check out the Crust Dreamer which is like a more svelte, USA-made cousin to the Evasion.
But all the hand-wringing about weight and build components and chainline and braze-ons and… whatever else I can find to write about melts away when riding the Evasion. I guess I could have saved us all some time by saying that this bike gets the job done and never fails to put a smile on my face. What more could I ask for?
5 STARS WOULD MARRY AGAIN