Empire Cycles MX6 Evo First Review
Being a fan of the single pivot frame for many years now and loving the riding characteristics they offer I couldn’t say no when I had the opportunity to have a cheeky preview ride on a new frame design. My experience of single pivot bikes over the years has been quite varied, having purchased and ridden many from different companies my knowledge has grown considerably and as technology in frame designs, materials and shocks have increased so has my passion for them. The Empire MX6 Evo epitomizes these improvements and proves that you don’t need the latest and greatest multi-link, aerospace carbon fibre to have an incredible ride and at almost half the price of most frames it is a serious contender in the enduro market.
Knowing we had a long drive ahead of us to reach the Empire headquarters we left DC Cycles in the early morning hours so we had adequate time to arrive at our destination, but this was also a downside because it gave me stupid amounts of time to think about the bike and being told it rode differently to anything else out there made me want to ride it even more!
My first thought when arriving at the Empire Cycles was WOW! This place is impressive, with CNC machines everywhere, industrial sized lathes, worktops covered with sharp drilling heads and enough specialist machines and materials that could produce an aircraft, it’s no wonder why they chose this place to call home.
After a brief but valued tour around the site we headed to the local trails where Chris gave us 2 bikes, one having the bigger 650b setup and the other a 26inch wheeled setup. A massive bonus with the ex6 evo frame is that with the further occurring wheel size standards the frame can take both 26 and 650b sizes, this being an added attraction over certain frame designs and all that is needed to swap the wheels over is a different shock mount and lower headset cup to correctly adjust the geometry. The back end can take a 135mm hub and also the wider 142mm hub with the use of a simple spacer kit which attaches using 2 small grub screws which can all be supplied by Empire or a local Empire distributor.
The frames infamous rear chainstay is made from a single piece of aluminium which produces a very stiff and stable pedalling platform combining this with high end Japanese needle roller bearings in the main pivot you get a frame with hardly any horizontal flex from the bottom bracket area and back end, meaning this bike excels with power and doesn’t have the un-predictive motions some frames can suffer from when exiting corners or high speed compressions. Whilst some may not agree with the principles behind this unique setup but with the likes of Honda, KTM, etc, proving it works on their motocross bikes then I’m sure it will be good enough for a cycle frame.
Bringing the stiff chainstay together with a rockshox monarch plus shock and you have a bike which offers a very good pedaling platform and an incredible amount of control and grip from the rear wheel and back end. You feel manly and in charge especially when the terrain gets challenging and rough and with the rapid terrain change on more natural downhill tracks, it gives you huge amounts of confidence that makes you want to push the limits every time.
The MX6 Evo oozes potential and has many sneaky features which have been highly developed and thought about to make it one of the most versatile bikes out there. The front triangle is spaced and drilled for an iscg old and 05 chain device so no un-needed expensive hassles of buying a new chain device plate. The front mech bracket is easily removable via 2 bolts. The underside of the top tube has mounts for a reverb using some simple yet effective cable guides which can also be easily removed using an allen key. A top tip for anyone wanting to fit a stealth reverb is to use a hope 90 degree connector to the hose which gives a very clean, pro looking connection to the post. There are 2 allen key bolts fitted to the inside of the downtube for a small water bottle cage, space is limited so only a smaller bottle will fit but everything is kept nice and tight so no worry of your water bottle flying out mid race.
Researching a frames geometry and trying to figure out if the frame will be an adequate size for you, I always end up getting slightly annoyed because the frame looks impressive on paper but after forking out thousands of pounds just to feel that sickening feeling of not liking the angles or sizing makes me want to quit riding, I absolutely hate it!
Something I love about Empire is that they offer demo bikes which can be easily arranged from your local supplier.
Being a tall rider I was a bit unsure if the large would be long enough and give me adequate cockpit room to feel comfortable enough to move around not having the crunched up feeling. Fitted with a 50mm stem, body position and transfer felt good and I had a good amount of room to move around when getting over the front and attacking. If the bike was fitted with a shorter 35mm stem it may have been a bit cramped but Empire are currently in production of an xlong size which will be 30mm longer in the reach which will give riders the extra security and length if spending long amounts of time riding alpine terrain where faster speeds will be more frequent.
The frames bottom bracket height is spot on and I wouldn’t change a thing, not too low you feel further over the back and not too high you feel like you are hanging over the bars, weight and position is central giving the perfect mix of stability and pedalling performance which is better suited for enduro where pedalling is just as important as descending.
Empire have decided to design the frame around an 18inch seat tower for every size which I personally like because if you need to slam the saddle for those dh days it’s a simple job and for more of a pedal fest at a trail centre then a quick adjustment to higher the post is all that it takes, No crazy 21 inch seat tubes which limits the drop of the saddle is present here and gladly missed too.
Something which I liked even before trying the bike is that empire use the same chainstay length on each model, at 435mm it measures an average size but fitted with 650b wheels it feels nimble enough but still stable at high speeds. The back end of this bike really shows its full potential on fast rough terrain. Offering generous amounts of amazing traction and predictable control the back end maybe the heart of the bike.
(We would say put this on full screen and turn it up!!!)
I can only say positive things about this bike and after spending a good amount of time riding it with no major problems testing has gone exceptionally well. The MX6 Evo frame is continuously progressing and being tested to fill the demanding needs of all enduro riders out there that require the best.
One thing I can honestly say is that if you have ridden single pivot bikes before or may not have been impressed with the ride some may have offered do not judge or pre assume what this bike will be like until you have ridden one for yourself. From the first moment I rode one my presumptuous thoughts were completely blown out the water and I was surprised in an outstanding way. From flowing singletrack, uphill mountain climbs to steep rough alpine world cup tracks, the MX6 Evo has passed and exceeded every situation it’s been in.
Words By Adam Chant
Photos By Darren Alford
Videographer: Luis Arnold