THE WOODS ARE CALLING
Time certainly flies. It seems like just yesterday that I tossed my leg over the Evil Following for the first time. If you’ve read my review on the Following, you’ll know that I am quite a fan of that bike, and it still remains to this day one of my all-time favorites. It’s been nearly two years now since the release of the Following, and in that time, Evil has launched three more bikes. The 150mm travel, slack-geo 27.5” Insurgent, the 161mm travel monster truck Wreckoning, and now, the Calling. In true fashion, the Calling is very similar aesthetically to the rest of Evil’s bikes. But it’s what lies under the hood that sets this bike apart. Having logged significant ride time on all the Evil bikes, I set my sights to the Calling to see what it’s all about.
Looking at the numbers, we’ve got 131mm rear suspension travel and classic Evil geometry. Slack angles, low BB, and super short chainstays. You can reference the geometry chart here if you’d like exact numbers. That’s all what we’d expect, but when it comes to wheel size, this is where things get interesting. While many companies have opted to go for the 29”/27.5”+ dual-purpose bike, Evil took a different approach. The Calling is compatible with 27.5” tires up to 2.5”, and 26” tires up to 2.8”. Yes, you read that right: 26”+ is here. Before you break your screen, hear me out on the thought process behind yet another wheel/tire standard. To be fair, 26”+ is not entirely new...Surly has been doing it for a couple years. However, it is now going to be a mainstream trend, and you’ll be seeing most major bike manufacturers following suit with 26”+ compatible bikes. So here’s the reasoning, in a nutshell. The folks at Evil know they already have a killer 29’er bike with the Following. Slapping 27.5”+ wheels/tires on that bike would kill the nature of the bike, and much of what makes the Following such a rewarding ride. Most 27.5”+ tires in the 2.8” range are going to have a similar effective diameter as a 29” x 2.3” tire. While there are certainly gains in traction, you’re going to lose agility and increase rolling resistance. 27.5”+ is great for lots of people, and it certainly has it’s place - but not on a bike like the Following. With the Calling supporting 26”+ tires, Evil aims to offer a dual-purpose bike without overshadowing the Following. Using similar logic, 26” x 2.8” tires will have nearly the same effective diameter as a regular 27.5” tire. So again, you’ll gain some extra traction with the plus tire, BUT it’s still going to feel fairly light on it’s feet and quicker to respond than a 27.5”+ bike. So in theory, you’re getting the best of both worlds...the traction of plus tires without as much loss in agility compared to 27.5”+ tires. Head spinning yet? Yea, mine too.
So you have the reasoning, and many of you are probably wondering how it all translates in the real world. I’d like to say I’ve had the opportunity to ride the bike with both 27.5” and 26”+ tires, but unfortunately I have not. The Calling is one of the first mainstream mountain bikes to support 26”+, so tire and rim options are fairly limited at this time. We currently carry two 26"+ rim options from WTB, and the Surly Dirt Wizard 26"x2.75" tire, which are loaded up in the bike builder, should you choose to go 26"+. The standard as a whole coming in hot, and all major component manufacturers are quickly developing parts. The Calling ridden here is built up with 27.5”x2.5”, and is what I’ll base my thoughts on. For those that are curious about 26”+, that option will certainly become increasingly available as more tire and rim options come to light. You can also check out the video below, in which Dan gets out in the snow to try our Calling with a 26"+ set up.
A bike that loves to play in the woods, just like you
After my first few rides on the Calling, I can say with certainty that it’s a pure-bred Evil, through and through, with strong similarities to the Following. Some of you may have shied away from the Following due to the relatively short 120mm travel and 29” wheels. If that’s you, then the Calling may be your ticket. The Calling does feel a tad more forgiving when mistakes are made, thanks to the increased 131mm travel. While I’m still a huge fan of 29” wheels and the benefits they offer, I do see the reasoning behind this bike. I absolutely LOVE to pop around and have a good time when I ride bikes. Naturally, any bike that allows me to do that is going to appeal to my riding style. The Calling is a bike that loves to go play in the woods just as much as you do. I found the bike to be right at home on fast, flowy trails with lots of pop. By pop, I mean any jump, root, rock, or stump that you can turn into a feature. Compared to the Following, the Calling is a bit snappier overall. The Following will still hold momentum over chatter and bumps a bit better due to the larger wheels size though, making it a better bike for bigger all-day types of rides. At this point, you probably know what type of rider you are, and whether the Calling will suit your riding style. Maybe you’re a BMX-turned-mountain-biker looking for your next ride, or perhaps you’re a wheels-on-the-ground rider looking for some encouragement to pop.
When it comes to pointing the bike uphill and putting the pedal down, I found the Calling to be the best climber of all the Evil bikes. Not ground-breaking climbing performance, but given the nature of the bike, it does quite well. If you’re going to be doing a fair bit of climbing, I do recommend running the bike in the higher geometry setting. This will give you a 74.8° seat tube angle, which puts you in a comfortable position when the seat is up. Some folks have griped that Evil’s seat angles are too slack, putting you too far in the backseat when climbing. The Calling does have a steeper seat angle compared to the Following and Insurgent, which should put that concern to rest.
Oh yea, here’s another new standard…
You thought you were getting off that easy? Think again! Joking aside, this is something I'm actually pretty excited about: metric shock sizing, and the Calling is the first of the Evil bikes to go this route. The idea behind metric is to simplify shock sizing and improve shock fitment in bike frames. As you may be aware, shock sizing has gone off the deep end over the last decade or so. There are a dizzying number of shock sizes that seemingly make very little sense. And let's not even talk about mounting hardware sizes...that will make your head hurt. With the shift to metric, shock sizing is being standardized, offered in just six eye-to-eye and stroke lengths in units that the entire world can understand. Rock Shox is behind the movement to metric sizing, so naturally, the Calling is spec’d with their flagship metric rear shock: the Super Deluxe RC3 Debonair. Rock Shox has reached deep into their pockets for the transition to metric, and being that it's an industry-wide shift requiring new frame designs, they had better bring a pretty convincing shock to the party. As air shocks go, the Super Deluxe is damn impressive. At lower pressures, the shock will initiate its stroke simply under the weight of the bike it’s mounted to. While not unheard of, there are very few air shocks with stiction that low. Part of that low stiction can be attributed to the new sealed bearing mounting hardware. Rock Shox has developed the Trunnion mount, which is a new way to mount the shock to the frame. Instead of a traditional DU bushing eyelet at the upper end of the shock, there are now two mounting ports on either side of the actual shock body that attach directly to either side of the Delta System linkage on the frame. Additionally, there are bearings housed in the frame linkage where it mounts to the upper end of the shock, reducing friction significantly compared to a standard DU bushing and traditional mounting hardware. The lower end of the shock uses a traditional eyelet and DU bushing. The Trunnion mount also effectively reduces the overall length of the shock pretty significantly, giving engineers more room to play with when designing frames, which is a big plus and will benefit us all in the long run.
Riding the Super Deluxe is a pleasure, leaps and bounds ahead of the Monarch in our book. I could go on to say a bunch of cliché things about how supple and responsive the shock is, but all you really need to know is that the Super Deluxe will not disappoint on the Calling. Don’t get any pipe dreams thinking it will perform as well as something like a Push ElevenSix - it doesn’t. But it also doesn’t add $900 to the price tag of your bike. While there’s still an argument to upgrade to a Push shock from the Super Deluxe, the argument is not quite as convincing as it was when we were upgrading from a Monarch. This brings up my next point of discussion. Some of you may be curious about alternate shock options. Can you just toss a non-metric shock on the Calling? The answer is no, you cannot. It’s an all new standard, which means the bike won’t accept any non-metric shocks. While there's nothing available yet, many other suspension manufacturers such as Fox, Push and DVO are all working on metric sizing and Trunnion-compatible mounts, so expect to see more options in the future.
I didn’t go crazy with this build. Sure, I love all the fancy stuff just much as the next guy or gal, but for all intents and purposes, I wanted to review this bike with a more attainable build. The Fox 36 is always my go-to fork, I love the adjustability and the feeling of the RC2 damper. I went with 140mm travel to compliment the 131mm rear suspension travel. You can go up or down 10mm from there depending on the nature of build you’re going for, but Evil says 140mm is the sweet spot. I did splurge a bit on the drivetrain with the SRAM Eagle setup, but given it’s the only 12-speed drivetrain out there right now, I thought it would be good to get it in the mix. So far Eagle has performed flawlessly, and the increased gearing range is a welcome addition to the new drivetrain. I started with a 32T chainring up front to start, but quickly realized a 34T was a better match for most scenarios. As with most Evil bikes, the oversized chainstay on the Calling gets quite a bit of chainslap with smaller front chainrings, and the 34T did a great job of alleviating that annoyance. Even with the 34T up front, I have plenty of gear for the climbs. For the wheelset, I opted for the Ibis 738. Not super light, but very reliable and stiff. I wanted to have a wider rim to mount the Minion DHF 2.5” Wide Trail tires on, and the 738 proved a great match. I can easily run the tires below 20 psi, lending lots of traction and little risk of burpring. At 5’7” I’m on the cusp sizing-wise on the frame, but I did what Evil recommends and sized up to a medium with a short stem. The 33mm Renthal Apex is one of the shortest stems with a 35mm clamp diameter, so I went that route, along with a Renthal Fatbar 35 alloy handlebar. The Fox Transfer 150mm dropper just barely fits my dimensions on the medium, but it does fit nonetheless. I have about ½” extra room to play with on the fixed portion of the post. Those who need a bit more freedom might consider a 9point8 Fall Line or KS Lev Integra, both of which have shorter overall lengths on the 150mm travel models. I rounded out the rest of the build with Race Face Turbine cranks, Spank Oozy Trail pedals, Chromag Lynx DT seat and Chromag Squarewave grips.
Your new best friend
As I sit here finishing up this review, I’m finding myself chomping at the bit to get back out on the trail with this bike. It is a gas to ride, and has certainly given me the extra motivation to get out on our mucky, nasty, sloppy PNW trails that we’re known for this time of year. Looking for something to get you out on the trails when everyone else is staying inside? The Calling is your new best friend.