BIKE TEST: A TALE OF TWO BULLS: DAIL-E GRINDER vs. SIX50 E2 STREET

Two different commuter bikes with different styles and prices

 

Although best known for their mountain bikes, Bulls also makes some cool street bikes, and here we have a chance to try two of their 2017 models. The first is the new version of the Six50 E2 Street—a 28-mph pedelec. The second is a similarly spec’d but all-new model—the Dail-E Grinder.

“There’s so much power, you almost welcome stoplights!”

The Six50 is a commuter bike with straight bars, a Bosch Performance Speed motor and more priced at $4299. The Dail-E Grinder is a commuter bike with drop bars, the same Bosch Performance Speed motor and it’s priced at $6299. Hold the phone—why would there be a $2000 disparity in pricing for two bikes from the same company that seem so similar on the surface?

Guest test riders Rick Allison (left) and Ross Bosworth had a blast riding bike paths in Los Angeles.

WHAT’S THE SAME?

Both bikes have a 7005 aluminum frame, which has higher tensile strength than 6061 aluminum, and the new 500-watt-hour Bosch battery. The sturdy frame is useful for the forces placed on the frame by a motor powerful enough to assist up to 28 mph. What’s slightly different is that both bikes have the Bosch motor set on an angle more in line with the downtube and battery offering a cleaner look. Both have a suspension fork, hydraulic disc brakes, fenders, racks and Selle Royal racing saddles.

Both have very clean lines, minimal cabling that’s routed internally, as well as the charcoal gray finish with subtle Bulls logos on it. Both have lights.

 

 

WHAT’S DIFFERENT?

The Six50 E2 Street has straight bars, Shimano Deore components and Styx Ace of Pace tires which have a slightly knobby tread. Also spec’d is the SR Suntour fork with 120mm of travel, almost double that of the Dail-E Grinder. There’s a Supernova LED light on the back of the rear fender and a small lamp on the front.

The Dail-E Grinder has drop bars, Shimano Ultegra Di2 electric shifting, better tires (Schwalbe Marathon Supreme, as wide as the Six50’s, but with a slicker tread), and a Supernova M99 pro light up front.

Which one is better? Let’s examine these in detail.

 

 

DOING IT ON THE DAIL-E

Attracted by the drop bars and sophisticated components, we took out the Dail-E Grinder first. The Di2 system doesn’t tap into the battery; instead, it has its own controller positioned underneath the stem. We made sure to top it off before heading out. Charging only takes an hour or so, then they claim it’s good for up to 1000 miles of riding. Plugging it in was a bit of a kludge, though, as there’s a USB cable that has to plug into a breakout box that then changes it over to a proprietary plug. Why they couldn’t simply use a USB cable directly, we can’t imagine. It’s something else to potentially misplace, or something you have to carry with you on a trip instead of borrowing a simple USB cable from someone for a quick charge.

 

 

Once you’re charged up and on the bike, though, this bike is a rocket ship. Power swoops in to help you get up to 28 mph before you know it. The Shimano shifting is instantaneous and precise. You can even fine-tune it yourself without tools. The shift levers themselves are located on the right-hand brake lever, easily accessible from most hand positions. It can take a day or two to make knowing which of the two levers is which if you’re not a regular road bike rider, but it quickly becomes second nature. Though there’s a shift lever on the left brake lever, it isn’t used, because the Bosch system uses a 1x gearing with only one sprocket on the front.

 

 

The bar/lever combo makes for an aggressive riding position, which makes it feel even faster and, we think, more fun. Controls are placed in very ergonomic places, save for the odd placement of the bell on the top of the stem, which forces you to take a hand off the bars to actuate it. Most test riders would just yell at people instead of fumbling around on the stem to ring an alert.

 

 

The big tires are grippy yet provide only a little rolling resistance while also soaking up some of the bumps. The scant 65mm of travel on the Rockshox air fork is plenty, damping the bumps and making for a very comfortable ride. We did some long commutes on the Bulls, and the saddle fit us perfectly and was really comfortable. Being able to vary riding position with the bars enabled us to avoid fatigue on longer rides.

 

 

We found that Tour mode on the Bosch system is more than enough power for most everything, which can extend the range. The only time you’d ever want to go into Sport or Turbo is if you’re on the sort of incline that makes Hyde Street in San Francisco look like a moderate grade. There’s so much power, you almost welcome stoplights!

Shimano Deore disc brakes provided plenty of stopping power, even with smaller-diameter discs than the Six50’s. When the daytime running lights are on, there’s an LED taillight that lights up, then gets very bright on braking, which we found to be a great safety feature. The Supernova M99 Pro light is a blindingly bright 1100 lumens—plenty to light your way home.

 

 

SIX50 E2 STREET

The Six50 E2 is a good-looking commuter. Throwing a leg over, grabbing the wide mountain bike-style bars and pushing forward on the pedals feel great. The controls are at your fingertips and intuitively placed.

 

Both bikes are now designed with the Bosch motor more in line with the downtube, making for a much cleaner look.

 

As it was with the Dail-E, the Tour mode on the Bosch system is more than enough power for almost any ride and any grade of hill. What wasn’t quite enough was the gearing. We found ourselves running out of gears faster than we were getting up to the neighborhood of 28 mph. The acceleration to get near that speed was very fast, but getting all the way to 28 was tough and keeping it up there was even tougher. It’s not just the difference between the Dail-E Grinder’s 11 gears and the Six50’s 10; the latter is simply geared too low.

 

Bosch’s Intuvia display is the old standard—all the information you need on the removable screen.

 

The mechanical shifting with the Six50 is not nearly as precise as the Di2, nor as quick. On its own, it seems fine. But in comparison, it’s the response difference between driving a Toyota Camry with paddle shifters and then driving a Ferrari with paddle shifters. The former takes longer and makes a bit more noise, while the latter clutches, rev-matches and then re-engages almost imperceptively fast. The Six50 is also sometimes very clunky with shifts, and sometimes you have to let off your own leg power for a second so the derailleur can actually perform the shift.

 

The fenders are attached to a pannier system that’s set up for easy attachment.

 

The riding position is more upright, and it’s more comfortable for longer rides. The wide bars allow precise control, and both the ergonomic grips and the Selle Royal saddle are really comfortable.

 

The Shimano Deore derailleur was great, until you compare it to the Di2 system. The cassette had a great range of gears; we never spun out.

 

Braking on the Six50 is accomplished by Tektro Dorado hydraulic disc brakes, with massive 203mm rotors and long four-finger levers. This kind of setup could launch you over the bars if you grab a handful of the brakes, yet they’re very easy to modulate. There are motor cut-off switches on the brakes.

 

 

THE VERDICT

Both bikes are fun and comfortable to ride, and both feature the Bosch Performance Speed motors to provide assistance up to 28 mph. The Dail-E Grinder looks better, feels better (at least for shorter commutes), shifts faster and more surely. But, is that enough to make it worth two grand more? We think so. That extra money gets you top-of-the-line performance, lighter weight and overall a better ride. But, if the extra money isn’t in your budget, you’ll be quite happy with the Six50 E2 Street.

Dail-E Grinder

MSRP: $5999

Motor: Bosch Performance Line Speed, Gen 2 350W, 28 mph

Battery: Bosch 36V/13.4 Ah/500 Wh

Charge time: 4.5 hours

Top speed: 28 mph (with assist)

Range: 50–70 miles (tested)

Drive: Shimano SC-5800 11-speed, 11-32t

Brakes: Shimano Deore XT hydraulic disc brakes w/ 160 rotors

Controls: Bosch Intuvia

Fork: RockShox Paragon Gold Solo Air, 65mm, remote lockout

Frame: 7005 aluminum

Weight: 48 lb.

Sizes: 48/52/56cm

Color choices: Matte gray

SIX50 E2 Street

MSRP: $4099

Motor: Bosch Performance Line Speed, Gen 2 350W, 28 mph

Battery: Bosch 36V/13.4 Ah/500 Wh

Charge time: 4.5 hours

Top speed: 28 mph (with assist)

Range: 50–70 miles (tested)

Drive: Shimano 10-speed, 11-36t

Brakes: Tektro HD-M285 hydraulic disc brakes 203/203mm

Controls: Bosch Intuvia

Fork: SR Suntour XCN-DS HLO Coil 27, 120mm, lockout

Frame: 7005 aluminum

Weight: 54 lb.

Sizes: 41/46/51/56cm

Color choices: Matte gray

www.bullsbikesusa.com