Every now and then I have a brief encounter with a bike that I can't get off my mind. Last year at our Bible of Bike Tests in Bentonville, Arkansas, the mint green Evil Calling was that bike. And that came as a total shock if I'm being honest. When I heard about Evil's new short-travel 27.5 bike, I only had one question--why? It seemed like such a ridiculous concept. With the modern trend of progressive trail bikes pushing the boundaries of big travel with big wheels, why would they produce a bike that essentially did the exact opposite? What was even more puzzling about this bike was that Evil had arguably one of the most exciting long-travel 29ers in our test with the Wreckoning. So yeah, why make the Calling?
It was the first bike that I rode at last year's Bible. Subconsciously I think I wanted to be the first to ride it so that, when my Bike mag colleagues asked the inevitable question, 'So, how was it?' I could back my argument as to why this bike was a dud. That didn't happen.
All the attributes that I was so convinced that I would hate were put together in such a way that all I could do was love the thing. The snappy, short-travel Calling turned the low-grade flow trails in Bentonville into a playground. It gave me what I love about the big-wheeled big-travel bikes in the long, low, and slack department, but in a short travel package that created a type of bike that I had never ridden before. All I wanted to do was jump, jib and generally just mess around at every opportunity. It was a childlike experience that put a grin on my face from ear to ear.
Fast-forward and I now find myself living just a stone's throw away from Bellingham, Washington's Galbraith Mountain trail network. This perfectly manicured and maintained web of trails are tailor-made for a short-travel shredder, and ever since my tires hit dirt in the northwest, I haven't been able shake the question of what would the Calling do to these trials.
With this dream build, I'm giving the short-travel movement a cautious embrace. First off, I've given the 130 millimeters of rear travel a coil upgrade with the Rock Shox Super Deluxe Coil RCT. It's sublimely supple off the top, but still ramps up quickly and has plenty of support to dig your heals into for jumping and jibbing. I also bumped up the fork travel from the recommended 140 to 150 millimeters of travel with the new Rock Shox Pike RCT3. Those subtle changes have eliminated any doubts as to weather the Calling would be capable on mulitple types of trails. Sure it's not a full-on enduro racer, but it sure ain't scared.
Like all Evils, the Calling has two geometry settings with the flip chips in the D.E.L.T.A. system--low and extra low. Before I even got the bike on the trail I switched it into extra low, a setting I hadn't actually ridden yet. It's a pedal-smashing 330 millimeters, perhaps a hair higher with the longer travel fork. It's certainly noticeable how much lower this is compared to more moderate geometries. But for me, it only adds to the unique flavor that the Calling has to offer.
Another standout from the last year was the e.thirteen TRS Race tires. I'm a creature of habit when it comes to tires, and it may take just one bad ride for me to write off certain treads or compounds. My first experience on the e.thirteen rubber was in wet and greasy conditions, exactly the type that can make me hate a tire, but the TRS Race tires were shockingly confident in the wet--a perfect match for a bike in the Pacific Northwest. I have them matched to the e.thirteen TRS Race Carbon Wheels with a 31-millimeter hookless inner rim profile. The vertical compliance on these wheels makes for a supple ride without sacrificing lateral stiffness. Be warned though, these wheels are talkative. The freehub body won't let you sneak up on anyone, but perhaps that's fitting on a bike called the Calling.
By looking at the Hope Tech 3 E4 brakes, you might think that these are all raw on-off power, but the control and modulation is second to none. What sets them apart for me are the lever controls. They're precise and assertive and really allow me to fine-tune the lever throw.
To make sure the short-travel Calling still has a tall stance I'm running the 38-millimeter rise Deity Blacklabel bars. Add 10 millimeters of spacers under the Deity Copperhead steam, and I'm sitting in a similar position to a much longer-travel bike. With the bars at 800 millimeters wide with a stubby 35-millimeter stem, I have all the leverage and snappy steering characteristics that really make the Calling come to life.
After punishing the same Eagle drivetrain for an entire Northwest winter, it was a no-brainer to spec the Calling with the magic bird--it's truly remarkable how durable it is. Even though I rarely if ever drop a chain with an Eagle front ring, I do appreciate the integrated Evil top chainguide. Matched to a custom e.thirteen lower bashguard, it's prepared to handle anything the low-slung Calling can smash into.
I'm still not sure if I can categorize what kind of bike this Calling is. It seems to break down the barriers of labels and categories to its purest form. It's all about having the most fun, and for right now this Calling is just that, the most fun.