BIKE TEST: BULLS SIX50+ E FS 3
A plus-sized bike for all-around riding
Our latest Bulls test bike is their all-new Six50+ E FS 3. Talk about a mouthful. “Six50” refers to the wheel size (as in 650b, aka 27.5 inches); the plus symbol means it has plus-sized tires (2.8 inches to be precise); the E, of course, is for electric; the FS is for full suspension; and the 3 means it’s geared towards all-mountain riding, placing it in the middle between their Six50+ E FS 2, which is more cross-country, and a full-fledged downhill machine.
The Six50 is powered by a Bosch Performance Line CX mid-drive with the new Bosch 500-watt-hour battery pack that offers 25 percent more capacity than the previous 400-watt-hour pack. Our bike didn’t come with the new Bosch e-MTB mode, but it will be upgraded/upgradeable by the time you read this. The motor is the same, but the way it fits into the frame, it blends in more than just about any other bike we’ve seen. Even with the covers and the skid plate, the motor is well integrated into the design and sits at an angle inline with the downtube.
The drivetrain includes Shimano Deore components with 1×11 gearing, an 11-42t rear cassette and a Deore XT rear derailleur. That’s the stuff that makes you go. Stopping you is a set of Magura brakes, a trail setup with an MT-5 quad-piston hydraulic disc set up in the front and an MT-4 dual-piston brake in the rear. Suspension duties are handled by top-level RockShox components with 150mm of travel.
The Bulls rolls on a pair of Schwalbe Rocket Ron 27.5×2.8-inch tires that offer incredible traction. We found the big meats could also help control your speed and braking, especially when running lower tire pressure where the high volume creates a massive contact patch on the ground.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR?
This is no beginner’s bike and is best put to use by experienced cross-country riders, especially those who like some speed and a lot of control, as well as options for a very customized ride that include tunable suspension damping and rebound with options on the grip via tire pressure. From rocky technical sections to step-downs and moderate drops, the Bulls is great on a variety of course types.
The Bosch CX motor is proven to help get up steep hills with aplomb. For those that ride rocky trails or anything with tree trunks or stumps to go over, note that there’s no exposed sprocket below the bottom bracket, motor and skid plate.
Setup of the suspension is easy for experienced riders. The RockShox Deluxe RT shock and Yari fork are pretty straightforward in adjustment for damping and rebound. Starting tire pressure at 20–23 pounds can be good for most surfaces, and the 2.8-inch size is great for loose-over-hardpack trails.
“We had the confidence to go in over our heads,
knowing we could rein it in if we had to.”
The Styx handlebars are a tad narrow for modern tastes, but they still work well at stock width, and that’s something that can be swapped per personal preference. Wider seems to be the trend these days. However, if you ride a lot of tight trails, the narrower bars may be an advantage to not catch on every tree or bush you pass.
The suspension is plush, and the single-pivot, trunnion-mount RockShox Deluxe RT rear shock provides great pedaling support. It blows through the travel for a smooth feel on big hits, and with their Counter Measure technology, it has great compliance over small bumps to keep the power on the ground. Ruts and roots just seem to disappear beneath the bike.
Power from the Bosch motor isn’t completely instantaneous, especially starting on steep climbs. It prefers to hit over 20 rpm on the cranks before engaging, which can equate to hard starts. When it does engage, power is delivered with a firm push. We found that it was as easy to change power levels and leave the rear gear in the middle for all but the steepest of hills.
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.
The quad-piston Magura MT-5 front brakes and a dual-piston MT-4 in the rear just plain work. There’s great modulation capabilities that experienced riders will appreciate. The faster the rider you are, the more you can take advantage of this modulation and the speed control and stopping power of the brakes and the plus-sized tires. We had the confidence to go in over our heads, knowing we could rein it in if we had to.
One of our test riders remarked that he felt the head tube was a tad steep for a bike with this much travel. It leaned in at 68 degrees, where many current bikes are closer to the 66- to 67-degree range. Not a huge leap, but for an experienced rider, it may feel ever-so-slightly steep. Overall, the geometry was balanced and the bike was easy to control and throw around.
The one thing everyone remarked on is the lack of a dropper seatpost. This is a good bike, but the fact that it has such long travel and is so capable, a dropper post seems mandatory at this level. Bulls isn’t known for putting droppers on their bikes, but we feel it’s about time they did. Most bikes in this price-point class have them.
We hit some fun and slightly technical local trails, and the Six50 soaked them all up. Even with dry, loose dirt, the tires and suspension worked perfectly together to deliver a sure-footed, fast ride on twisty downhill runs, and the power from the CX motor helped us grind up the steep uphills. Battery life was outstanding; we took it out on several medium-length rides, mostly in Turbo mode, and it easily handled every ride from a full charge.
Bulls claims that the range is 134 miles, to which they add, “With single charge under optimal conditions.” This is overly optimistic, unless “optimal conditions” means a 120-pound rider on a 134-mile-long smooth track with a slight downhill grade in Eco mode! Under real-world conditions, with a 150–200-pound rider riding up and down trails and toggling from Tour all the way up to Turbo, you can expect a more reasonable 25- to 50-mile range.
The bike is a solid performer. It descends quickly, and with the combination of the suspension and big tires, it corners like it’s on rails, even in loose, dry dirt. It really inspires confidence to go faster down hills, knowing how well you can control speed, and the bike just flattens out the bumps. It’s well balanced, easy to pick up the front end when needed and stays stable in the air with predictable landings. It’s a lot of bike for the $4699 asking price; we just wish it came stock with a dropper post.
SPECS: 2017 Bulls SIX50+ E FS 3
Motor: Bosch Performance Line CX
Battery: Bosch, 500Wh
Charge time: 4.5 hours
Top speed: 20 mph (with assist)
Range: Up to 50 miles
Drive: Shimano Deore SLX 11-speed, 11-42T
Brakes: Magura MT-5/MT-4, 180mm front and rear
Controls: Bosch Intuvia
Fork: RockShox Yari RC 27.5+, 15mm thru-axle
Frame: 7005 Aluminum
Tires: Schwalbe Rocket Ron Performance 27.5×2.6”
Weight: 50 lb.
Color Choices: Black/orange/blue
Sizes: 41, 44, 49cm