In the spring of 2015 German bike brand, Bulls Bikes took on the unenviable task of breaking into the American market.
As a well known and seasoned European brand which had recently enjoyed impressive success in South Africa’s legendary Cape Epic MTB Stage Race as well as various European Marathon National Championships Bulls appeared to have a strong starting point from which to enter the US market.
However, Bulls brought with them a certain amount of kryptonite… an online sales model.
While the US consumer is happy to welcome foreign brands they are notoriously cold toward online sales.
The upside of the online model is lower price to the consumer due to less overhead. However, customers are limited in how they can tangibly preview and ride the bike prior to purchase. Would you buy something if you hadn’t done a demo ride? To combat any unease for the consumer Bulls offers a no questions asked return policy within 15 days of purchase.
But what about the bike? We will delve deeper in the the online vs. retail sales discussion in another article.
The Bike – Wild Edge Team 29’er
Bulls was good enough to give DirtTRI our first long term demo bike for review. We have raced it in XTERRA and MTB marathon events throughout 2016 and have done all we can to push it to its limits. Including a crash at the Snowmass MTB Fondo which resulted in a broken FSA handlebar although we did still win the race (not a Bulls issue but rather the fault of over aggressiveness on my part).
The Wild Edge Team features a monocoque carbon frame designed around a single pivot suspension design. Overall the general frame design is not revolutionary and can be found on various brands. However, Bulls adds a few details which we liked.
The Mud Worm concept hides the front derailleur cables behind the bottom bracket and uses a screw in ferule that prevents mud and debris from getting into the shift cables. Bulls also uses a massively asymmetric chainstay and beefy bottom bracket pivot assembly to increase stiffness around the bottom bracket in create a very stable foundation for improved suspension performance. The result is a responsive and snappy rear end which still rides well in the rough stuff.
The Wild Edge design also features a upper suspension pivot housed within the top tube which gives a cleaner look while again creating a stiffer pivot position for improved suspension performance over a pivot below the tube.
Finally, up front Bulls has a significantly tapered steerer which mates with ovalized top and down tubes creating a very stable and predictive front end.
The Full Bike
The Wild Edge Team 29 we rode was spec’d with full Shimano XTR, Rockshox suspension and FSA K-Force accessories. This is still the spec on the Wild Edge Team 29+ no featured on the Bulls site and shop. However, our bike had Stan’s No Tubes Crest ZTR Wheels with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires. The current Bulls offering features WTB Nineline wheels and tires.
Overall the package is top notch. However, many of you will have mixed feelings about the Shimano XTR 2×11 system vs. a 1×11 Shimano or SRAM spec. But, for the average rider we would say 2×11 is still quite relevant and offers a wider range of gearing with a minimal weight penalty.
Our bike came out of the box a just over 23.5 lbs. for a size large. We were able to get it to 22 lbs. for the XTERRA Pan Am Championships by making it a 1×11 and putting on Specialized Renegade tires.
So, the Bulls is certainly right in there with most top level XC race bikes in terms of weight.
Overall the Wild Edge Team rides very well. Its not a plush as some racers, but it is also stiffer and more responsive than most.
We found the bike was particularly strong on seated sustained climbing. Traction and pedal responsiveness were superior. For steep standing climbs we found the rear end was a bit slippy. However, we were on a large and really should have been on and XL (our own mistake) which could contribute to the standing performance.
We really enjoyed the bike on technical descents. The front end is probably the most stable and precise we have ridden and the bike inspired confidence in the rocky slower descents of Colorado. However, we felt like something was lacking just a bit on faster flowing descents. But, again this was due to the fact that we should have been on an XL and were riding a bit too short of a bike.
Having ridden the Bulls on a wide variety of terrain we found it to be in the top 1/3 of XC race bikes with a light, responsive ride which did particularly well in rough terrain.
- Price $5999.00
- Frame: Carbon Fiber, Monocoque
- Front Suspension: Rock Shox RS 1 Solo Air 29, 100 mm, X-Loc Remote
- Rear Suspension: RockShox Monarch XX
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR RD-M9000 DGS, 11-Speed, Shadow Plus
- Front Derailleur: Shimano XTR FD-M9025-D, Double
- Shifters: Shimano XTR SL-M9000-I
- Crankset: Shimano XTR FC-M9000-2, Press Fit, 36/26T
- Chain: Shimano CN-HG900-11, 11-spd
- Bottom Bracket: Shimano MTB Press Fit
- Cassette: Shimano XTR CS-M9000, 11 Speed, 11-40T
- Brakes: Shimano XTR BR-M9000 hydraulic disc, 180/160 mm
- Handlebar: FSA K-Force FLAT
- Stem: FSA OS-99
- Seat Post: FSA K-Force Light
- Saddle: Prologo X Zero II (our bike had a Fizik Tundra)
- Hubs: SRAM X.0
- Rims: WTB XC-21 (our bike had Stan’s Crest)
- Wheel size: 29″
- Tires: WTB Nineline 29 x 2.25 (our bike had Schwalbe Racing Ralph)
For more info on Bulls Bikes, head to their site…