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FIRST RIDE REVIEW

Riding the 2021 Santa Cruz Bullit eMTB

Words Cam McRae
Photos Adrian Marcoux
Date Nov 17, 2020
Reading time

I got an invitation from Seb Kemp, before COVID-19 again hit the fan in B.C., to go ride some trails east of Vancouver. An ebike to be exact. Winter was coming and I hadn't left town for quite some time so I welcomed the opportunity to ride bikes and maybe see some new trails in a COVID-safe manner.

Of course Santa Cruz was going to roll out a new eBeast after the well-received and well-executed 27.5-wheeled Heckler, and while I guessed it would be a burlier longer travel machine, I expected it to be a 29er. Instead SC went the Syndicate minus-Minnaar route with mixed wheels. Some object to the name mullet (but the party's in the front!) but I think it's appropriate. Smaller wheels are more fun, rowdy and maneuverable, which sounds like a party to me, while bigger wheels provide control, good roll over, and speed.

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Mixed wheel bikes aren't very photogenic, but they look fine in person.

Who championed the mixed wheels? The press pack for this bikes states: "After champion puzzler and downhill demon Loris Vergier talked us into a mixed wheel V10 DH sled, it was really just a matter of time before we brought that World Cup mindset to a broader use case."

Mulletted bikes tip into corners more willingly at steeper lean angles and are eager to get on the back wheel. In theory a smaller hoop is also stronger and more rigid while saving a little weight. So what's the downside aside from slightly poorer rolling performance?

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We got very lucky with the riding conditions and the light. Huge thanks to the trail builders. What a trail!

It may be that there are diminishing returns for larger riders, which explains Minnaar's dedication to large hoops front and rear. One of my riding buddies swears by the smaller rear wheel set up but when I have tried it back to back on the same bike, I've been happy enough to get back on the 29" rear. I'm just 6' rather than 6'2" like Greg, but I have no doubt that he did enough back to back runs on the mullet to discover which was fastest under him, as evidenced by his short but spectacular World Cup season. Still I saddled up the Bullit with an open mind and eager attitude.

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Chilliwack? I guess that sounds kind of fun. Now that COVID-19 has ramped up the Fraser Valley is off limits to us.

Otherwise there isn't anything too radical about the Bullit. It's got heaps of travel with 170mm on both ends, it's slack up front and the seat angle is steep. It's pretty clear this machine is aimed at aggressive riding on steep and challenging trails, which makes it perfect for our little MTB paradise in southern B.C.

Santa Cruz Bullit Highlights

  • 85 Nm Shimano EP8 Motor
  • 630 Wh Battery
  • 170mm Travel
  • 29/27.5 (MX) Wheels
  • Maxxis Double Down Rubber
  • 220 and 200mm F/R rotors
  • 38mm Fork Stanchion on all models
  • Coil Compatible
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Geo numbers look good but I'd like to see a longer rear end for the large and XL size frames.

I'm not sure how to explain it, but I've found setting up the suspension on electrified mountain bikes to be much easier than one that is powered by the beast. If someone weighing 30lbs more than me has been riding an eMTB we've had around, I generally give it a go and it works just fine. I'm not sure if it's the overall weight, or where it's positioned, but unless suspension components are undersprung significantly a wide range of settings and spring rates seem adequate.

That process was even easier with this model of Bullit because it came equipped with a Rock Shox Super Deluxe Coil in the rear, so I just needed to figure out some damping.

The front end was a little trickier. While I've spent a lot of time on the 2019 Fox 36, this as my first time on a 38, and I don't think my knob twisting reached nirvana on day one, and day two was spent entirely on the front wheel because of the steep terrain we were riding, so rebound and compression settings were less critical.

Day one was spent on the stellar trails on Vedder Mountain in Chilliwack B.C. Vedder attracts a lot of shuttlers but we had no need for a lift for our three laps. Like most Santa Cruz bikes I've ridden in the last few years, I was comfortable in relatively short order. The Bullit likes to lean into corners and has excellent stability in obnoxious terrain. What I didn't expect was how comfortable the bike was with quick direction changes in tight circumstances. Maybe I'm not too tall for a mullet?

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Smaller, lighter, more powerful, and less noisy in some ways, the EP8 drive system is a significant leap forward.

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The smaller silhouette is particularly noticeable on the non-drive side.

Shimano's New EP8 Drive System

The other star of the show was the new Shimano EP8 drive system The level of improvement between the previous generation is a reflection of how young this market is. Imagine a bike component losing over 10% of its total weight? Depending on who you ask, the drive dropped between 300 and 380 grams over the 4-year old E8000 version. Either way the new unit weighs 2.6kg, largely thanks to the liberal use of magnesium over aluminum. Shimano tells us the new unit produces 85Nm of torque at its peak, while the previous version maxed out at 70Nm. I can't say this was regularly noticeable but power was ample, and the bike responded better at a less than ideal cadence where the E8000 tends to lug.

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The display is discrete and well protected but provides useful information like the drive mode and battery remaining. Other information is available using the E-Steps app.

The biggest leap forward, again according to Shimano, is a 36% decrease in drag from the system. Apparently this is particularly noticeable when you exceed the legislated top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph) here in North America and have to pedal under your own juice. I didn't have an opportunity to experience this on the technical trails out in the valley but the real bonus here is improved efficiency. Another big difference is the drive's smaller volume, which has been mainly removed from the underside of the unit meaning more clearance and fewer contacts with trail obstacles.

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Seb Kemp showing us how it's done.

The difference in noise was an interesting one. Shimano E8000 drives tend to have a noticeable whine compared to the EP8. The new engine however has a clunk (sometimes a clack) that is both loud and unnerving. There was some discussion about this being an issue with the free hub inside the drive, but other testers have reported the same sound in response to consecutive hard impacts on the descent.

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Let the loaming begin.

On Trail

Seb had been preparing us for the second day of our pocket adventure: a climb of almost 4000 vertical feet where he seemed to think we'd need to ration our Watt Hours to make it comfortably to the top. I climbed much of the way in eco mode, more than happy with the level of assist. As we approached the summit I began to dip into trail mode because it was clear the 630Wh battery was going to be easily up to the challenge, and at the top I'd only used 20% of the total. The weather was dank and moody but it wasn't raining so it was just about perfect. Once we arrived at the top and had a snack it was time to check out the trail and loamy goodness was the theme.

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Just as we arrived at this corner the mist rolled in and Mr. Marcoux was a happy man.

Things started off low angle with a few climbs before we reached the real start to the trail, where it tipped down aggressively. After that it was endless steeps, often with abrupt catch berms before brief bench cut segments. The Bullit was well-equipped with SRAM Code RSC brakes paired with a 220 mm rotor up front and a 200 in the rear. Despite the extra mass, I was able to easily rein in momentum on the sustained steeps.

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This was a nice bit of forest.

The rubber choice helped in the confidence department as well with a Maxxis Assegai MaxxGrip up front and a DHRII in MaxxTerra in the rear, both with Double Down casings. It was nice to see a little creativity in the spec department with a very svelte but sturdy looking Burgtec Stem. Otherwise there is a lot of Gucci vanilla going on but it all worked great.

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The Bergtec stem is a nice bit of exotica on a build that is otherwise pretty vanilla Gucci.

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Gulp. The model that costs 10G in Canuck bucks has SRAM Guide brakes and an NX drivetrain and Shimano's previous generation E7000 drive system. We were riding the top of the line model that costs 5G more.

I was hoping to get more time on the bike on my local trails before now but it seems COVID put a damper on that, so my data is rather limited. I will say that this is my kind of eMTB. It goes up like a demon with lots of range, thanks to the new motor and the 630Wh battery and it descends with equally sinister intentions. If you are going to get an eMTB, and you live somewhere with challenging riding, it makes sense to get a bike that will handle all of it.

After you watch Loris Vergier get sendy on the new Bullit (below), head over to Santa Cruz Bikes site to check out the Bullit models and spec levels.

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae

Age - 54

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 165lbs/75kg

Ape Index - 0.986

Inseam - 33"/84cm

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Fifth Horseman

Bar Width - 770mm

Preferred Reach - 475-490mm

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Comments

DaveSmith
+1 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae Beau Miller
Dave Smith  - Nov. 17, 2020, 8:22 a.m.

ideal conditions

Reply

LoamtoHome
0
Jerry Willows  - Nov. 17, 2020, 9:03 a.m.

Dankety Dank Dank

Reply

xy9ine
0
Perry Schebel  - Nov. 17, 2020, 9:29 a.m.

had to double check the attribution on that first pic.

Reply

shoreboy
+7 4Runner1 Cr4w jaydubmah mrraulduke Mammal twk Beau Miller ChocolateThunder E-wok
Shoreboy  - Nov. 17, 2020, 8:25 a.m.

Wondering if the weight is on par with the 2000's Bullits that were freeride legends on the Shore?

Maybe its just me being nostalgic, but I find myself disappointed to see these iconic names coming back as E-bikes.

Reply

DaveSmith
0 Pete Roggeman Beau Miller
Dave Smith  - Nov. 17, 2020, 8:43 a.m.

I had that same pang of e-dread but all things change and all things are made new eventually. It looks like a fun e-bike. 

Re: OG B-weight. There were some great builds that walked the shore back in the day. Ever the weight-weenie, I built my Bullit up as ~32lbs in one single-crown iteration before moving the parts over to a ~30LB Blur4x build.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Tim Coleman Pete Roggeman Beau Miller
Cam McRae  - Nov. 17, 2020, 9:14 a.m.

I had several Bullit iterations but one was a dual crown beast that I raced DH on weekends and pedalled on the Shore the rest of the time, using a dual bash and granny. Good times!

This one is more fun.

Reply

xy9ine
+4 Tim Coleman mrraulduke Dave Smith Pete Roggeman
Perry Schebel  - Nov. 17, 2020, 9:27 a.m.

had a similar do-everything bike built around a super-8 (with monsters). i think my low gear was 32x32, and I still (somehow) pedaled up nearly everything. those days were... something.

Reply

Timmigrant
+2 Pete Roggeman Zero-cool
Tim Coleman  - Nov. 17, 2020, 10:26 a.m.

And I had a similar do-everything bike built around a first gen V10 with a Dorado (because carbon). Low gear was 42 - 32, with a telescopic seat post that was so slack it was basically a recumbent. I LOVED that bike.

Reply

xy9ine
+2 Pete Roggeman Tim Coleman
Perry Schebel  - Nov. 17, 2020, 10:59 a.m.

haha, beast mode. also had an OG v10 - with an xvert (also because carbon) - that saw lots of trail use. silly kids.

https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipP1GMDbQJXY8c2HSIhZqXoHsD3vYrdEVim5NHt2

Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - Nov. 17, 2020, 7:19 p.m.

Perry your photo didn't work. Mine originally had an Xvert Carbon as well, which was later upgraded to a Dorado! 

http://www.timcoleman.ca/gal-show.php?img=img/gallery/Bikes/2004/004.jpg

Timmigrant
+1 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman Beau Miller
Tim Coleman  - Nov. 17, 2020, 10:30 a.m.

I like bringing back the old Santa Cruz bike names. I also think Santa Cruz has done an incredible job with the industrial design. I think it looks gorgeous. And who knew that brown as a colour would look awesome on that bike?

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Tim Coleman E-wok Beau Miller
Cam McRae  - Nov. 17, 2020, 12:50 p.m.

I like the violet as well actually. Scratch that. This is clearly gloss lavender.

Reply

DaveSmith
+1 Tim Coleman
Dave Smith  - Nov. 17, 2020, 1 p.m.

The first gen colours are usually on point from SC.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+2 Beau Miller Cam McRae
Pete Roggeman  - Nov. 17, 2020, 1:15 p.m.

Didn't they make a Root Beer Bullit back in the day?

Reply

sandy-james-oates
+3 Beau Miller Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
Sandy James Oates  - Nov. 17, 2020, 4:18 p.m.

Root Beer was the colour of my 2003 SC Bullit. It changed my fear of steep trails in Nelson B.C.

Reply

heckler
+1 E-wok
Sven Luebke  - Nov. 17, 2020, 6:55 p.m.

Root-e-beer?

Reply

heckler
+2 Beau Miller ChocolateThunder
Sven Luebke  - Nov. 17, 2020, 6:54 p.m.

*not e-bike hate*

Did you ride the motorbike trails?  Mtb trails cover 1/4 of Vedder, dirtbike trails cover the whole mountain.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Nov. 17, 2020, 11:10 p.m.

We definitely rode trails. On some portion of the mountain.

Reply

mike-wallace
+3 Agleck7 Andy Eunson Beau Miller
Mike Wallace  - Nov. 17, 2020, 7:25 p.m.

A 27.5” rear wheel isn’t really about better cornering.  Although it technically does corner better that is not the reason DH racers use them.  They can corner just fine on a 29” rear.   And having a tighter turning bike is the least of their concerns on today’s tracks. 

The 27.5” rear wheel gives the riders more room to move around.  They can get lower on steep plunges without running out of space.  They can more importantly run their seats lower without having the rear tire hit/buzz the seat.  At the very least they get a bigger range on where they can run their seat height.  

At a certain height (say 6’1” +) then this is no longer a concern as the frame is larger and there is simply more room for bike to compress.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Nov. 17, 2020, 11:11 p.m.

#notadhracer

Good points though. Nice to know my theory has some backup as well.

Reply

gregster77
+2 Cam McRae Beau Miller
gregster77  - Nov. 18, 2020, 11:24 a.m.

Really interesting how low end components are making it into ($12k bikes DT 370 hubs?, NX drivetrain on $10k)

If you google profit margins (I came across giant), seems ebike is better at margin (meaning lower "value" for consumers).  Not unique to santa cruz here, I've been seeing poor brakes likes guides, NX drivetrains on pretty darn expensive Ebikes as i'm shopping around.  

Of course you can't compare ebike to normal bike prices, but still doesn't feel right.  Would be great to be able to just buy frame for decent price, and spec your own parts, and this is probably an opportunity for nerd brands per Andrew's article here.   The market is what the market is, but hopefully we'll start to see some disruption here.  

Was not able to see a good breakdown of real cost of e-components to create an apples to apples comparison.

Reply

shoreboy
+1 Cam McRae
Shoreboy  - Nov. 18, 2020, 1:40 p.m.

Im not sure if anyone else noticed this, but the entry level R' version (a mere $10K), doesnt even come with the EP8 motor. It comes with the E7000 which is a downgrade from even the E8000.

Reply

xy9ine
0
Perry Schebel  - Nov. 19, 2020, 9:22 a.m.

a bit interesting that frame only ebike options don't appear to exist. that said, perhaps not too surprising as a $10k complete is (probably) an easier sell than what would work out to maybe $6-7k for this frame on it's own (yikes) based on that spec.

Reply

Sebov
+2 E-wok Cam McRae
Sebov  - Nov. 20, 2020, 5:26 a.m.

When it‘s really steep in the Alps - it‘s switchback time. Almost got crazy on a 25kg Rallon this year - test ride. Ended up buying a Levo SL with 36 and X2. Excellent for commuting and biking. Great rig. 

But last weekend I saw already a rider towing up his kids to the bike park trails during lock down - on the new bullit. That looks like an awesome combination :-)

Reply

Sebov
0
Sebov  - Nov. 20, 2020, 5:26 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - Nov. 20, 2020, 8:57 a.m.

That is an expensive bike. Some will point out that there are lower spec ebikes available which may be heavier but the motor takes care of weight concerns. I suspect that the increased mileage though will cause more serious riders to upspec pretty quick as they wear out parts sooner than expected. 

For comparison my 2019 Remedy 9.9 cost about $8000 and the similarly speced Bullit is $15,000. Big difference. To be fair, at the time a similar speced Bronson was already about $2000 more.

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