FIRST RIDE: BULLS E-STREAM EVO CARBON 3 27.5+

Pre-production plus performance

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We love to get to play with something before anyone else. It’s a perk of the job. So when Bulls offered us up a first look at their 2017 E-Stream Evo Carbon 3 27.5+ bike, we jumped at the chance!

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This bike features a one-off hand-built carbon frame—not because all of them will be hand-built, but because they didn’t have production set up in their new factory. We were delivered the pre-production model, which is exactly like the production model, save for some blemishes in the finish. We didn’t care; it looked so fun sitting there that we were dying to ride it!

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Shimano hydraulic brakes with big 180mm discs are very powerful and very easy to modulate.
Shimano hydraulic brakes with big 180mm discs are very powerful and very easy to modulate.

SHOW SOME PATIENCE

The palpable lightness and stiffness of the bike, combined with great geometry, make the bike easy to traverse difficult trails and obstacles. You can easily throw it around. The tubeless-ready, Schwalbe plus-size Nobby Nic tires help damp any minor bumps.

Shimano Deore XT components with the 11-speed cassette that offers really precise control.
Shimano Deore XT components with the 11-speed cassette that offers really precise control.

We love Brose motors, especially when they come with the big 650 Wh battery that house 50 cells inside. We got impressive long-range performance compared to the other manufacturers’ batteries. However, the claimed 137-mile range under optimal conditions must be based on a 100-pound rider riding flat ground and some downhill sections. That’s overly ambitious from any riding we’ve done. It’s a mountain bike, so riding steep climbs is part of its job. We’d estimate the range is closer to 37 miles than 137. Still, 37 miles off-road with significant climbs is impressive.

“We didn’t care; it looked so fun sitting there that we were dying to ride it!”

With the battery built into the downtube, there’s still room on the top for a water-bottle cage. Little details like that are what make the bike user-friendly.

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THE RIDE

When we finally got to ride the E-Stream Evo Carbon, we weren’t disappointed. Our first ride was a late-in-the-day run on a favorite trail, and had it been a non-electric mountain bike, we’d have never finished the ride in daylight. There is about five miles of climbing and about five of descent. It was the perfect test of the bike’s speed and range capabilities. We took off and hammered. We were able to average almost 12 mph on the five-mile uphill, allowing us to finish the ride before dark—just.

We’re not sure about these pedals on this level of bike, but most hard-core riders have their own pedals already.

We’re not sure about these pedals on this level of bike, but most hard-core riders have their own pedals already.

Everything on the bike feels solid, well, except the fork, and we don’t mean that it didn’t work in the way it was intended. The RockShox Yari RC air fork was anything but solid. In fact, it was downright plush. It has a mechanical lockout for those times when you might prefer a rigid bike, but also 120mm of bump-eating travel when you need it.

We think the new tiny Brose display is really cool. It isn’t in-your-face like many other controllers. It is its own rocker switch. You press the top and bottom to change the power level
We think the new tiny Brose display is really cool. It isn’t in-your-face like many other controllers. It is its own rocker switch. You press the top and bottom to change the power level

As for the Bull’s performance with assist, level 1 provides very little assistance. Level 2 has decent power and is comfortable at speeds of 12 to 15 mph, such as low speed and fun, flowy trails without big climbs. There was little difference in power from level 2 to level 3 in those same conditions. Level 3 shines best when you’re pushing a good cadence in the 15–18-mph range. Power falls off quickly right at 19 mph. You can feel it fighting you when you’re pushing it over 19 mph. The only time we got it over 22 mph was freewheel descending. The front end feels very light and playful, and you can easily pop it over small obstacles, such as ruts, rocks and small jumps.

Oh, there’s a front derailleur? We hadn’t noticed, nor did we need it.
Oh, there’s a front derailleur? We hadn’t noticed, nor did we need it.

A DEFINITE PLUS

Though still relatively a new category, plus-size tires have quickly grown to become a staff favorite. They are the perfect tire, hitting that sweet spot between a 2.1-inch traditional mountain bike tire and an oversized fat tire. On a 27.5-inch wheel, they’re nirvana. We dropped the pressure way down at the top of the descent—more than we were comfortable with, it turns out. But then they were so grippy, they kept grabbing every twig we rode over. They also grabbed the trail and held on tight, providing traction unlike anything else. Tight turn? No problem. Gravel? Still no. Off-camber turns? Roots? Mixed surfaces? Still no issues. Part of this is because they allow lower tire pressures, and with the wider tire to begin with, they can offer up to 67 percent more surface area for grip.

The Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires are among the grippiest tires we’ve ridden.
The Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires are among the grippiest tires we’ve ridden.

They grip well to move the bike along, but they’re also great for braking. Add the Magura brakes to this equation and you have incredible stopping power, and the ability to modulate them precisely to either slow slightly or stop on a dime.

THE VERDICT

We’re huge fans of plus-tired bikes, especially when it’s on a bike that’s really fun to ride, inspires confidence and is made of exotic materials. With the Brose system, it has an incredibly long range. The short rear end allows you to throw the bike around easily, and the relative lightness garnered by using carbon fiber for the frame helps with that.

The ultimate question is if it is worth $4599? We were split on that question. Some riders were unequivocal: “When they get a bike this right, it is!”

Looks fast just sitting there, doesn’t it? The graphics on this bike are some of the best yet.

SPECS

MSRP: $4599

Frame: Bulls Evo, carbon fiber

Fork: RockShox Yari RC Solo Air, 150mm, 15mm through-axle

Motor: Brose 250W mid-drive

Battery: Li-ion 37V 17.5 Ah/650 Wh

Charge time: 5 hours

Top speed: 20 mph

Range: Up to 135 miles, depending on riding style, load and terrain

Wheels: Bulls ASYM i35 rims, Formula hubs

Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic

Drive: Shimano Deore XT RD-M8000 GS 11-speed

Brakes: Magura with180mm rotors

Controls: Brose

Weight: 49 lb.

Sizes: Small (41cm), Medium (44cm),  Large (49cm), XL(54cm)

Color choices: Black

www.bullsbikesusa.com