BIKE TEST: 2018 BULLS AMINGA E TR 1

The women’s-specific e-bike market has a new entry 

Last issue we reviewed the Liv Vall-E+ Pro, the first women’s-specific e-MTB to hit American shores. Now, Bulls has stepped up and is bringing one of their women’s-specific models to the U.S. for 2018. It’s their first full-suspension bike designed specifically for women.

THE BIKE

The first thing you notice is the colorway. The bright teal with pink accents definitely speaks to the feminine side.

This is an entry-level bike, so it’s spec’d for price more than for performance. The level of suspension can be locked out or fully open, but there’s no adjustment/middle ground on-the-fly.

There are MonkeyLink connectors on the stem and seatpost clamp to make it easy to add lights or mud guards in just one click. It features a magnetic interface that is pre-wired for lights. We’ve not yet tried the system, as there aren’t enough lights, etc. available yet, but the concept is definitely good.

The 120mm of travel, front and rear, worked well for the smaller riders this bike is designed for.

The suspension components (Suntour XCR-34 air fork and UNAir TR LOR shock) provide a balanced 120mm of travel. This isn’t a lot in the age of 180mm+ travel bikes, but an XC setup to fit a more petite demographic, especially if it had that much travel, would fit far less riders.

Boost-width wheels come tubeless-ready, but from the factory you’re getting 27.5×2.6-inch Schwalbe Smart Sam tires with tubes. We’d suggest going tubeless right away, as we pinch-flatted more than once with the tubes on rocky trails.

THE MOTOR 

This bike is spec’d with the tried-and-true Bosch Performance Line CX motor, a 250-watt mid-drive with 75 N/m of torque and four levels of assist (Eco, Tour, e-MTB and Turbo). The e-MTB mode replaces what is normally called “Sport,” and it allows the system to automatically add power from Tour (120 percent) to Turbo (300 percent) based on rider pedal torque input. The harder you pedal, the more assistance you get. It’s like an automatic transmission for the motor, and torque and cadence readings are read by the controller 1000 times per second for fast response.

Some CX motor setups on bikes have an upper pulley to clear the chainstay. This bike doesn’t, so the chain comes off the small front sprocket and is just an inch or so above the chainstay, increasing the potential for chain slap and damage to the finish.

The motor itself is mounted in-line with the downtube, offering a cleaner look than if it were horizontally mounted. The bike does come with Bosch’s highest-capacity battery at 500 watt-hour, which we’ve found offers good range.

WHO IT’S MADE FOR

At this price the Aminga is aimed at women riders in need of a true bike with off-road capabilities. The 4 inches of suspension travel is more cross-country-oriented and will limit the amount of big-drop riding. The two sizes fit many riders, but smaller riders with shorter inseams may have to swap or cut the seatpost to fit.

THE RIDE

Riders shorter than 5-foot-2 may not fit, unless they change or shorten the seatpost to allow the saddle to rest against the seatpost clamp. There’s a limited range of adjustability, because the shock sits in the middle of the bottom of the seat tube. It’s a great way to protect the rear shock, but not awesome for adjustability. And speaking of seatposts, at this price point, a dropper post would’ve been a nice feature.

Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors provide ample stopping power and good modulation, and the lever reach is adjustable to fit a variety of hand sizes. The handlebars aren’t super wide, but the ergonomic grips were really comfortable.

The rear shock is protected by the design of the seat tube.

Suspension was better than we expected. The SR SunTour XCR fork and UNAir shock are on the more affordable side, so they don’t offer some of the adjustments that a more expensive set would offer. Both can be locked out if a firm ride is what you might find yourself in need of.

The Shimano Deore 1×10 drivetrain was reliable and worked well, and nobody ever ran out of gears in either direction. The Bosch CX senses shifts and cuts the power for an almost unnoticeable amount of time. Powering up hills we still felt the strain put on the KMC e-bike-specific chain. It took everything we threw at it and never complained.

Bulls claims the range at “134 miles (single charge at optimal conditions).” We’ve rarely had range anxiety riding anything from Bulls or with a Bosch motor, but this is overly optimistic. A 95-pound rider using Eco on flat ground might see this (and we do mean might), but since when is flat ground where you’d want to spend time on a full-suspension mountain bike?

The stem and seatpost clamp come stock with MonkeyLink attachments to add MonkeyLink-compatible lighting. They’re pre-wired and ready to go.

Realistically, we think 20–40 miles is a reasonable range to expect from this bike based on our previous experience with e-MTBs with Bosch CX motors.

Most of our test riders rode in e-MTB or Turbo mode most of the time just to maintain the fun factor. On technical terrain, when you have to pause pedaling to get over rocks, the extra push you get from full Turbo can be handy. E-MTB seems to offer a more controllable ride for most other types of terrain.

Because the Bosch CX has internal reduction gears and the sprocket spins 2.5 times as fast as the cranks, at full clip the motor makes significant noise. Not the kind that makes you want to put in earplugs, but the kind you can certainly hear.

We found the SR Suntour suspension to be supple and very easy to adjust to rider preference.

On the quieter side, on times when we had to walk the bike up a section, the motor is equipped with a “Walk Mode” that allows it to be self-propelled at walking speed to help negate the weight of the bike as you walk up a hill, perhaps past a section that’s over your head. We used it a few times and it’s really helpful. You push a button on the bottom of the Purion display, then press the “+” button when prompted to engage the mode. It can help up to 4 mph.

Both wheels use thru-axles, and while the front wheel has a quick-release lever, the rear axle requires an Allen key to remove, so make sure you take one with you in case you suffer a flat tire (a fate we suffered and had to wait trailside for someone to ride by with a multi-tool).

The Schwalbe Smart Sam tires themselves, right on the cusp of plus-sized at 27×2.6 inches, have big knobs and are made of Schwalbe’s soft Addix compound and offered grip for days. The combination of the aggressive tread and grippy rubber made for more confident, faster runs.

THE VERDICT

Priced north of an entry-level price, we came away impressed with how much performance and versatility is included in a package aimed specifically for women riders. It’s a quick, capable bike that likes cross-country riding and can handle really technical terrain in the hands of a skilled rider. It can be customized and upgraded to grow with the rider’s abilities. The Aminga comes with a two-year comprehensive warranty for both the motor and the bike.

SPECS 2018 BULLS AMINGA E TR 1

MSRP: $4199

Motor: 250W Bosch Performance Line CX

Battery: 36V/13.4 Ah/500 Wh

Charge time: 4.5 hours

Top speed: 20 mph (with assist)

Range: 134 miles (claimed)

Drive: Shimano Deore RD-M6000 1×10, 11-42T, Miranda crank arms

Brakes: 180mm Shimano hydraulic disc brakes

Controls: Bosch Purion

Fork: SR SunTour XCR-34 Air Boost, 120mm

Shock: SR SunTour UNAir TR LO-R

Frame: 7005 Aluminum

Tires: Schwalbe Smart Sam Performance, Addix, 27.5×2.60

Weight: 53 lb.

Color choices: Teal

Sizes: 41/46cm

www.bullsebikes.com


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