Bike Review: Bulls E-Core EVO EN DI2
Bulls E-Core EVO EN DI2
There are trends in e-bikes, especially in the mountain bike segment. Over the past few years suspension travel has trended longer, and battery capacity and range have been climbing. When it comes to a simple cost/benefit ratio, many new bikes have been making big strides forward with their specs. Bulls has their own answer to this, and it has an impressive and polysyllabic name to go with it—the E-Core Evo En Di2.
What does that mean? “E-Core” is Bulls’ name for any of their bikes with a Shimano motor. The “Evo” designation means that the battery (or, in this case, batteries) is integrated into the frame. The “EN” stands for enduro, which Bulls uses for bikes with 160mm of travel and above. Of course, Di2 refers to Shimano’s electronic-shifting technology.
With its black-and-white colorway, the aluminum frame has a high-tech look, and the fact that it’s electric is all but hidden. The two batteries are integrated into the downtube, and you can leave one at home if you want. A serious skid plate protects and covers the motor and the bottom of the batteries.
The geometry is impressive, with a really relaxed front end; short, maneuverable back end; and more than a fair amount of distance between the bottom bracket and the ground.
The suspension is the highlight of this bike. A RockShox Lyrik RC Boost Debonair fork offers a massive 180mm of travel. It looks beefy, and it is. Instead of going with one brand for suspension, Bulls paired that fork with a Fox Float X2 rear shock, which also offers 180mm of travel and good adjustability.
This being a top-spec bike, it comes with a Shimano Di2 electronic drivetrain for fast and ultra-precise shifts, Deore XT-level components throughout and the biggest brake rotors they could fit to allow complete control.
A KS Lev-Integra dropper post has enough travel to let you sit high in the saddle for ascents and get the seat way out of your way for descents. When you’re going over steep terrain, you want that out of your way. Speaking of saddles, the Selle Royal Verve is minimally padded and not the best for day-long rides.
The bike comes set up with MonkeyLink lighting receivers on both the seat tube and under the stem already wired up. All you need to do is buy a set of MonkeyLink lights, click them in and you are ready to hit the trails at night.
This bike comes with a Shimano STEPS E8000 motor. We like this motor a lot. At 250 watts, it feels like it puts out more power than that, and it’s one of the smallest and lightest mid-drive motors on the market. It’s pretty quiet, with a small motor whine that we jokingly say sounds like a sewing machine.
The first thing we do with every Shimano-powered bike we get is to pair it with the e-Tube app and change the power settings. Eco is fine on the low end, while Boost is sometimes too much on the high end, but inexplicably the only intermediate power setting is Trail, and it always seems to be set at about 10 percent more power than Eco. It’s useless there, and Boost is way too big of a leap and is too powerful for most riding. We set Trail to be closer to around 40–50 percent, making it perfect for all but the steepest hills, meaning we might use Boost for a few seconds here and there. That change can ultimately save your battery power for longer rides.
Shimano seems very open to working with manufacturers on using a wide variety of batteries, not just the ones they’ve designed, and this comes into play well on this bike the way Bulls has configured it.
This bike has what Bulls calls “Twin Core technology”; in other words, the twin 375-Wh batteries equal a total of 750 Wh, about 50 percent more capacity than most 500 Wh batteries on the market. In fact, it’s even 100 Wh more than the one large battery that many Brose-powered bikes have.
Originally, the bike was going to be sold with only one battery, with the second as an optional extra, but Bulls decided to sell it only with both batteries, and we wouldn’t see why you would ever want just one. It gives you options to have both. You’ll save a couple of pounds of weight if you leave the extra battery at home, but you’ll halve your range. There’s a cover for the battery compartment that doubles as a storage area. We always preferred to have the extra battery, because sometimes you and your buddies want to see where that extra trail goes or just go farther on the ride than you’d originally planned.
“We rode more technical terrain than normal and bigger drops just because we could!”
Instead of a standard Shimano charger, Bulls has instead chosen a custom Rosenberger-style plug that is proprietary for just that bike. The cap for the charge port isn’t attached; rather, it’s a plastic plug with a magnetic insert that lets it stay plugged in. It stays in fine, but it can be very easy to lose if you aren’t careful.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The E-Core is made for experienced riders who want an enduro or all-mountain bike with really long travel and better-than-normal range. With 180mm of plush travel, a slack front end and otherwise nimble geometry, you can go faster and ride more difficult terrain on this bike. It’s overkill for less experienced riders.
We started off the ride with suspension sag set up at around 30 percent. Easy on the Lyrik fork, since RockShox puts markings on the stanchion tubes.
We set the tires a little higher than usual, since it’s easier to back it off in the field than add more. The Schwalbe Magic Mary tires are some of our favorites, as they’re right on the edge between standard and plus-size tires, with aggressive knobs that retain contact over almost any terrain.
Not only is the suspension really plush, but it takes almost nothing away when climbing. We never felt the need to lock out the front or rear while climbing. The bike loves to go up fire roads at 13–15 mph. It even scales steep trails quickly, and we did use Boost for the steepest.
With a head angle of 65 degrees (one of the slackest we’ve ridden) and 180mm of travel, forgiving almost doesn’t begin to describe this bike. We rode more technical terrain than normal and bigger drops just because we could! There was nothing that fazed this bike, or us, when we were on it.
Bottom bracket height, partly because of the travel, is high enough that we had little to worry about in regard to pedal strikes. Interestingly, despite the 11.5-inch-tall bottom bracket height, it didn’t feel like it sat too high (i.e., it didn’t set the center of gravity too high where we might feel uneasy).
There’s a little dance you have to do with Shimano bikes—that is, you have to start it up and let the sensors fully zero out before you move the bike or touch the pedals; otherwise, you’ll get an error message and no power and you’ll have to turn the system off and on again. Also, since this bike has integrated Di2, you have to have the bike turned on to shift. It’s unlikely that you’d have an e-bike and leave it off while riding, so this shouldn’t be problematic. Even if you drain the battery and the motor cuts, there’s likely enough juice to still shift so you can still pedal home.
With the motor and battery mounted in the middle of the bike, cornering is easy and confident, even in tight switchbacks. You can throw the bike around, and getting air over small hits and even bigger jumps is fun because the weight is so well-balanced.
Bulls claims that the range is 62 miles, to which they add, “With single charge under optimal conditions.” We’ve seen some bike claims like this in the past, leading us to believe that it must be a 110-pound rider with a tailwind on flat ground, but after riding this bike for a while, we think they’re actually nailing this. We got over 40 miles out of a charge, on dirt with lots of climbing, weighing in at 160 pounds with gear and water, and we never used Eco mode—not even once. With both batteries in, you can ride all day. You’d be lighter by a few pounds if you left one battery out, but where’s the fun in that?
On trails where we were used to seeing a battery bar go away at certain points, this one had much longer lasting bars. We had the confidence to take longer rides on this bike.
This bike is a ton of fun and very capable in the hands of an experienced all-mountain rider who wants the best in components, forgiving geometry and suspension, and is ready to take on almost any terrain imaginable. Yes, the bike is expensive, but it is a lot of bike for the money, with class-leading range and just about everything you might want in one package. This is definitely one test bike that we didn’t want to give back.
BULLS E-CORE EVO EN DI2
Motor: Shimano STEPS E8000 250W
Battery: Twin Core 36V/10.4 Ah/750 Wh (375 Wh x2)
Charge time: 3.5 hours
Top speed: 20 mph (with assist)
Range: Up to 62 miles (claimed, under optimal conditions)
Drive: Shimano Deore XT Di2, Shimano Deore XT CS-M8000, 11-speed, 11-46T
Brakes: Shimano BR-M820 hydraulic disc brakes, 203mm rotors f/r
Controls: Shimano STEPS
Fork: RockShox Lyrik RC Boost Debonair, 180mm
Frame: 7005 aluminum
Tires: Schwalbe Magic Mary Snakeskin, TLE, folding 27.5×2.6”
Weight: 50.5 lb.
Color choice: Black and white