I've mentioned it a few times already, but Evil's choice to give the Epocalypse a slightly steeper head angle compared to some of the competition (which mostly sits in the low 64s or even 63s) has been really interesting to me. However, even when riding the Epocalypse in its steeper setting, the front end never felt sketchy because the bike continually felt planted and stable thanks in part to the weight of the motor and battery, and the back end is short enough to keep the bike from feeling unbalanced.
Even without excess length, it feels best at high speeds, cruising through choppy lines compared to picking its way through low-speed tech. While it could hold its own just fine in the slower, twisty spots, it didn't feel quite as at home there and just took some effort to ride - as you'd expect from a 170mm e-crusher.
Despite the freight train feel of many eMTBs, it cornered surprisingly quickly, likely thanks to a combo of the shortish back end, moderate head angle, and well-supported but sensitive rear suspension.
It feels oxymoronic to call the Epocalypse handling "aggressively neutral," but that's kind of how it feels. The bike is ready for just about any trail, but doesn't lean too hard in any direction. It feels great pumped through compressions and pushed at higher speeds, it has excellent traction without feeling dead, it carries momentum and holds off-camber lines easily, and the length is medium enough to keep the twisty sections fun.
It's the same story in the air: the bike stays stable and will pretty much keep going wherever it's pointed. It has enough energy to pop off jump lips and side hits, but it's a calm enough handler to stay predictable.
The Shimano EP8 motor, like all EP8 motors before it, sometimes rattled a bit, but it seems like companies are finally figuring out how to build it into their bikes in quieter ways, and the noise level was actually much lower than on some similar bikes on the rough descents.How Does It Compare?
Compared to our current benchmark for eMTBs - the Specialized Turbo Levo - the Evil Epocalypse has 166mm of rear travel to the Levo's 150mm, a 630 Wh battery to the Levo's 700, and sports dual 29" wheels compared to the mullet setup. The Levo's motor is noticeably quieter, and the in-frame display is much more useful than the Shimano EP8 display. The Epocalype's extra travel does come in handy on bigger hits, although the Turbo Levo's wide range of geometry adjustments make it possible to give it more gravity-oriented geometry than the Evil.
For some closer comparisons in terms of travel, Epocalypse finds its home among the other long-travel, self-shuttle rigs out today:
The Santa Cruz Bullit sports 170mm of both front and rear travel and rolls on a mixed wheel setup, but measures longer than the Epocalypse - even in the chainstays despite the smaller rear wheel - making it an aggressive but less maneuverable package than the neutral-handling Epocalypse.
The Specialized Kenevo SL also has 170mm of travel front and rear, but in a much lighter, less powerful package with about half the torque and battery capacity of the Epocalypse. More in line with a normal mountain bike, the Specialized is longer and slacker than the Evil, though its low weight helps maintain maneuverability.
The Yeti 160E might be one of the Epocalypse's most direct competitors, an all-arounder with the same Shimano setup and a similar intended purpose and spec. The 160E, too, features a slightly longer rear end, and most notably a higher price tag by about $1000 for a pretty similar XT build.