Andi received one of the first 2021 Santa Cruz Bullit eMTB’s to test ahead of launch and watching this review we think be might be in love.
The last time I rode a Santa Cruz Bullit it was an alloy, single-pivot bike with 26in wheels. I owned one for a short time, it started life as a single crown freeride/enduro bike, but ended up with a Boxxer and floating brake linkage, it was a versatile bike: one that could be ridden uphill (slowly) and raced downhill.
For 2021 Santa Cruz has resurrected the Bullit name and while it follows the same versatile big travel recipe its grandfather was, this new Bullit is totally… er… new.
Video: Santa Cruz Bullit Review
2021 Santa Cruz Bullit Frame
The elephant in the room is the motor hanging from the new Bullit’s frame and hulking great downtube that houses a 630Wh battery. Just like the Heckler, Santa Cruz has taken an old name and built an eMTB from it, but like the Heckler, it’s a new platform, new material and new wheel size.
The carbon fibre frame is a Santa Cruz CC weave meaning a top of the line construction manufactured to keep weight to a minimum and strength to a maximum. Of course, this frame is designed around the same VPP suspension platform as the rest of the Santa Cruz range featuring a low shock position, but the Bullit’s frame has been adapted to fix an EP8 motor and 630Wh battery. Even the smallest medium-sized frame can hide the Shimano BT8036 battery inside and still have room for a bottle cage. What’s more, the battery is easy to remove and swap too.
Like the old model, the new Bullit is aimed at the Freeride/Enduro crowd and so Santa Cruz’s designers have bestowed 170mm of front and rear wheel travel to this monster and because we’re living in the future, this eMTB rolls on a mullet wheel setup. Santa Cruz prefers the MX moniker for its mismatched wheeled bikes.
For this review Santa Cruz only had two bikes that I could choose from, one was a size XL bike in a Matte Copper finish and the other this Medium bike painted Gloss Lavender. In theory, I could ride all sizes of Bullit, even the largest XXL bike, thanks to the low standover and short seat tubes, but I went for the Medium, which happens to be the smallest frame option, with 450mm reach.
2021 Santa Cruz Bullit Geometry
2021 Santa Cruz Bullit CC X01 Coil Reserve Build
The bike that I have been testing, to give it its full title, is the 2021 Santa Cruz Bullit CC X01 Coil Reserve. It’s the fanciest build of all, and it costs a small fortune! While testing the bike I figured that it must be in the realm of £10,000 and the official RRP for this model is a cool £10,499.
For this price, you do get a really lovely build including a pair of Fox Factory 38 forks with Kashima coating, a RockShox Super Deluxe Coil rear shock, and Fox Transfer dropper post. The carbon frame gets matching carbon fibre Santa Cruz bars, and fancy Santa Cruz Reserve carbon rims laced on to DT Swiss hubs. The groupset is from SRAM’s X01 range giving a huge 520% range and there’s an SRAM eMTB specific gear shifter installed to prevent multiple shifts that might damage your drivetrain due to the extra strain from the motor.
Being an eMTB with 170mm of travel and designed for speeding down gnarly terrain, Santa Cruz specs a pair of powerful SRAM RSC disc brakes, a stout Burgtec enduro stem and Maxxis rubber. An Assegai 29in x2.5in, 3C, MaxxGRIP, Double Down, TR on the front and a Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5in x2.4in , 3C, MaxxTerra, Double Down,TR at the back.
Obviously, this is mega-money and unfortunately, each of the Bullit builds, 4 in total, are expensive with the most affordable coming in at £6,899. More details here.
Riding The Santa Cruz Bullit eMTB
When I hopped on the new Santa Cruz Bullit for the first time I had an ‘oh, no’ moment. I chose the size medium bike with 450mm reach as I’ve enjoyed eBikes with similar geo of the past 12 months, but the new Santa Cruz felt really short. Luckily this was a passing feeling and only magnified as the previous few bikes I’ve reviewed (non-e-bikes) have reach figures approaching 500mm. After a few minutes of riding, adjusting and hopping about, my ‘oh no’ switched to a ‘phew’.
The new-generation of Santa Cruz bikes, be them eBikes or not, all have much more progressive geometry than what we’ve seen in the past, and Santa Cruz leads the way with having some of the shortest seat tubes on the market. This medium bike has a seat tube length of just 405mm so this meant that I had to pull the dropper through quite a lot more than how it was sent to me. I highly recommend getting this correct at home rather than on the trail as I did manage to lift the dropper height and pull the inner cable from the Fox lever on my first ride. Because of the way cable is routed in the frame it’s not enough to simply push the outer into the frame by the head tube, you also need to drop the battery and ensure that the cable not kinked or stuck. It’s easy enough to do at home but a faff on the trail.
The seat tube angle on the Bullit is 77.2 degrees, on the medium frame at least. As you move through the size range (M-XXL) the seat angle reduces with the largest bike having a 76.8-degree seat tube. The seated positing is comfortable and gets your hips where they need to be for efficient climbing, but really who are we kidding? With that Shimano EP8, motor and 85NM of torque to play with you could happily climb a modern eBike with a much slacker seat angle.
Although comfortable on the medium frame, if I were to purchase one of these (a substantial lottery win would be needed) I would choose a large bike for a little more room. This said I never experienced any front wheel float when climbing the Bullit and the bike constantly impressed with sure-footed climbing agility and immense traction.
The motor is a major advantage here, but the choice of 27.5 x 2.4in rear tyre certainly helps dig into soft trail conditions. We see plenty of mullet e-MTB’s here at STW but they tend to arrive with 2.6 or 2.8in rear tyres, and in the mud, this is a bit of a headache. This 2.4in Minion DHR rips through the slime and finds traction beneath the mud.
Santa Cruz has fitted the Bullit with a RockShox Super Deluxe Coil rear shock, this aids the VPP platform in tracking the ground both up and down. The coil shock is also fitted with a climb lever, a feature I found completely redundant. This bike is fitted with a motor so I don’t need ultimate efficiency, I have battery power to mask my level of fitness.
As already mentioned the EP8 motor has 85NM of torque on tap and you might feel that this is enough to leave an E8000 and its puny 70NM of torque breathing in your dust as you disappear up the trails. In reality though, there isn’t much in it between the EP8 and E8000. For example, I spent most of my riding time with my brother who I am sure will agree isn’t quite as fit as I am, however, if we race uphill E8000 vs EP8 (in off the shelf tune) the E8000 will happily stick with the EP8.
Range and EP8 advantages
Normally I would delve into how a bike descends after speaking about climbing, but as I’m on the topic of motors, let’s discuss range. Now that I’ve been able to ride various EP8 equipped bikes I’ve got a better idea of the range, and the pros and cons of this motor and how it compares to an E8000 unit.
Before I go into the details I want everyone to know that all of the EP8 bikes that I have ridden so far have come with an updated BT8036 battery with 630Wh and my comparison is against E8000 equipped bikes fitted with a 504Wh battery.
First things first, Shimano only claims the EP8 is more efficient when your ride in Eco mode. Riding aggressively in Trail or Boost will drain your battery quickly on an EP8 because you have more torque, but as you’ll probably have a larger 630Wh battery you probably won’t lose range, but then again you’re not going to see a huge increase. When riding with my brother the 504Wh E8000 powered bike will lose bars earlier in the ride, but the EP8 system won’t be too far behind.
Interestingly, the older E8000 can be tuned in a higher power setting to the EP8 and only see a slight reduction in battery efficiency and range. This means an EP8 rider in a lower power setting will have to work just as hard as an E8000 rider on the climbs and will only see a very slight improvement in battery life. Run your EP8 in a higher power setting and you’ll be quicker than the E8000 bike but likely won’t see a benefit in battery life at all.
So where do we see clear EP8 advantages? Well the EP8 motor itself is around 200g lighter than the E8000 and it’s more compact, however, you will be lugging a larger battery around. So whatever weight advantage there might be it won’t be huge. The EP8 is quieter though, I mean it’s quieter when pedalling and sounds less like Robocop in the Olympics than the E8000, but it’s hardly silent. On rough terrain, the EP8 has a known rattle that isn’t exclusive to the Bullit and many reviewers have observed a similar sound.
So what exactly are the advantages of the EP8? Well, it’s more modern, handles heat better, and in Eco, is 30% more efficient, but the only Real World improvement I’ve found is the ability to set profiles, and fine-tune the performance of the motor.
Descending and having fun
The Bullit is clearly aimed at the rider who wants to session their local trails as much as possible but hasn’t access to an uplift, and Santa Cruz has nailed it. I want to own this bike!
This Gloss Lavendar mullet bike is giggle-inducing. It’s not going to surprise anyone that with 170mm of front and rear wheel travel, the Bullit is going to be amazing downhill, but because this bike is fitted with some of the best suspension kit money can buy it’s not only good, but it eliminates all fatigue when hitting the really chundery lumpy stuff. You’ll feel fresh on the way up, fresh on the way down, fresh on the way up and fresh on the way down again. If you want to hit every downhill in a day with it feeling like your first, the Bullit is the way to go.
Mullet wheels on the Bullit are a welcome addition. Santa Cruz does sell the Heckler as an MX bike now, but it only has 140mm of travel. When a 170mm eMTB feels so agile, why not just go for the Bullit? I’ve got a lot of love for mullet bikes, and every eMTB I’ve ridden with a smaller rear wheel has impressed in its ability to rail a corner, but the Bullit is on another level. The smaller rear wheel isn’t the only component to making the Bullit so good in the corners, that super active VPP suspension platform and coil shock track the Earth so well that no matter what mid-corner nasties lay in wait, the Bullit tips in, rips around and shoots out of every corner.
On faster, wide-open downhills I was concerned that perhaps the smaller Medium size frame might feel less planted, but that excellent suspension combo, modern slack front end and on-trend MX wheels ensured this was a non-issue.
3 things that could be better
- Santa Cruz has worked on making a quiet and effective 170mm travel eMTB, it’s just a shame the EP8 motor rattles.
- The VPP suspension platform and chain guide create a lot of ledges, nooks and crannies for mud and dirt to hide in, so it takes a little longer to clean than most other bikes.
- The price. I want one, I really really want one (please Santa Cruz) but it’s way out of my price range.
3 things that I loved
- The colour. You might not like it, but I think it’s amazing.
- The build. Yeah, it’s expensive, but just look at those components! Is there anything that you would want to change really?
- I love riding corners on this bike, it’s an absolute riot. Anything that makes me giggle when riding is alright in my book.
The Bullit is expensive, it really is a huge amount of money, but it’s sooooo good. I love how it looks, I love how it climbs, and I can’t get enough of how well this thing can be thrown around corners.
I don’t play the lottery, but I might have to start.
2021 Santa Cruz Bullit CC X01 Coil Reserve Specifications
- Frame: Carbon CC Mix 170mm Travel VPP™
- Rear Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate
- Fork: FOX 38 Float Factory E-Tune, 170mm, 29″
- R. Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle, 12spd
- Shifters: SRAM X01 Eagle Single Click, 12spd
- Cassette: SRAM XG1295 Eagle, 12spd, 10-52t
- Chain: SRAM X01 Eagle, 12spd
- Chainguide: E13 E-Spec+ AL
- Headset: Cane Creek 40 IS Integrated
- Rear Tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5″x2.4″, 3C, MaxxTerra, Double Down,TR
- Front Tire: Maxxis Assegai 29″x2.5″, 3C, MaxxGRIP, Double Down, TR
- Front Hub: DT Swiss 350, 15×110, 28h
- Rims: Reserve 30 Carbon (29” F, 27.5” R)SpokesSapim D-Light
- Rear Hub: DT Swiss 350, 12×148, XD, 32h
- Rotors: Avid Centerline 220mm/200mm
- Brakes: SRAM Code RSC
- Crankset: Shimano EM900 HollowTech Crank Arms,165mm
- Handlebar: Santa Cruz Bicycles Carbon Di2 Riser
- Stem: Burgtec Enduro MK2
- Saddle: WTB Silverado Team
- Seatpost: Fox Transfer Factory
- Grips: Santa Cruz House Grip
- Battery: Shimano 630Wh Integrated
- Drive Unit: Shimano Drive Unit DU-EP800
- Display: Shimano Display Unit SC-EM800
- Price: £10,499