Bike Test: Bulls Sentinel

The Los Angeles Police Department has been researching the possibilities of adding electric bikes to aid in patrolling for half a decade. Helping the process along was that the recently retired Police Chief Charlie Beck has been a big fan of electric bikes. How do we know? We’ve witnessed it firsthand when we went out riding with him.

In crowded areas, electric bikes will cut response times significantly while at the same time allowing officers to arrive at a scene still ready to perform whatever duties need to be performed. Also, more bike cops on the street mean more good interactions with the citizens.

HOW IT BEGAN

Last fall, Sergeant Sam Gong, who is in charge of the LAPD’s e-bike task force, went to Interbike (the big bicycle industry trade show) and spoke to several manufacturers and distributors about LAPD’s specific needs. They procured several samples from several manufacturers to test.

Bulls, via American distributor Fernando Endara, agreed to make some samples based on the tactical needs of the department. Endara ended up going to the LAPD more than half a dozen times to go over their requirements and what they liked and didn’t like from several different brands and bikes
they tested.

The beefier Pike fork was chosen for robustness and serviceability.

Prototyping and testing take a long time and Bulls is very strict about testing, so they decided to make the bike based on the SIX50 E 2 Street, a speed-pedelec (class 3, or 28-mph) bike, adding sturdier components per the  LAPD’s requirements. Like any other government agency, the LAPD has very specific needs. For example, their Ford Explorers used in daily patrolling have a lot of things that a civilian Explorer doesn’t have. They use industrial-grade components to be able to be driven harder and faster than a civilian car.

The bikes have to be built the same way; however, there was still some learning to do. When the LAPD said that front and rear four-piston brakes would be a requirement, Magura recommended against this, as 75 percent of the braking power comes from the front. Ultimately, a Magura MT Trail four-piston caliper was used up front and a two-piston caliper in the rear. Because the bikes sometimes get dumped when an officer is in pursuit or doing crowd control, brake levers break even on their traditional bikes. Magura’s blades are easily replaceable. This isn’t something that an officer could do in the field, however. They’re not allowed to do any maintenance; instead, the bike will be transported to an LAPD service facility.

Where many bike brands are lowering their stand-over height on many frames, LAPD wanted a higher top tube. It helps in crowd-control situations, and there are some tactics that involve bracing legs against the top tube for a better firing position in a shootout. Yes, that does sometimes happen, and they have to be prepared.

An air-ventilated Selle Royale saddle was chosen for comfort on long days, which is especially helpful in the summer heat.

Where the Six50 E2 Street uses an SR Suntour fork, LAPD wanted a RockShox Pike. The bike also comes with Wellgo platform pedals. They’re really basic but very sturdy. Officers have the option of replacing them with pedals for their own cleats if they
so desire.

“We got our hands on the first sample Bulls flew in, before it was delivered to the LAPD.”

Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires were the choice available, though Training Sergeant Matt Bygum said he would prefer something with a little more knob in case the bikes have to go off-road. He’s not found the right tire yet, because his favorites are only available in 26-inch sizes, not modern 27.5 inches. Super Moto-X tires are pretty sturdy, and with the air volume, it can easily go down or even up stairs when needed.

The Bosch motor was chosen for reliability and robustness, and the department wanted an external battery for easy swapability, so the PowerTube was out. A traditional 500-watt-hour Bosch battery is used.

We got our hands on the first sample Bulls flew in, before it was delivered to the LAPD. We didn’t get to ride it but merely just photographed it and see it in the flesh. The photos we took show the stealthy graphics, a placeholder bag similar to what the department uses, but no lights or LAPD graphics.

In case you’re wondering, you won’t be able to buy a Sentinel. There are no plans to sell the bike to the public, only to law enforcement. The LAPD started with a delivery of 20 of the Sentinel bikes. They have just been sent out into the field as of writing this. We’re interested in seeing how this evolves and how it affects policing duties around the country. www.bullsebikes.com


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