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2021 Santa Cruz Bullit XT Air – first ride

Santa Cruz just released a new bike with an old name, the Bullit. This bike has got more suspension travel, a longer wheelbase and a slacker head angle compared to the Santa Cruz Heckler.

So, the Bullit is a burly bike. Head angle is 64* and suspension travel is 170 mm, front and back. It’s got the new Shimano EP8 motor, and unlike the Heckler it’s got the big 630Wh battery. The bike manufacturers can find it difficult fitting this long battery in the frame without compromising. Santa Cruz did not want to make sacrifices to the frame geometry. And they have not restricted the steering with some sort of headset block. Instead, Santa Cruz have dropped the smallest frame size. The bullit comes in sizes M, L, XL and XXL.

Santa Cruz Bullit geometry

Components

The Santa Cruz Bullit XT Air is well-specced. It’s got a complete Shimano XT 12-speed groupset and brakes. The shock is, as the name implies an air shock. A Rock Shox Super Deluxe Select+. There is also a coil shock version available. Fork is the Fox 38 Float Performance Elite. The wheels consists of DT Swiss 350 hubs and Raceface rims. They’re laced with sturdy Maxxis DoubleDown tyres. Up front is the Assegai 29×2.5″ Maxxgrip, then there’s the Minion DHR ll 27.5×2.4″ Maxxterra at the back. Which means the Bullit is a mullet bike. There is a lot of nice components on the test bike, we’ve got nothing to complain about.

At the bike park

We start the test off at Vardåsen Bike Park. The trails are mostly bare and frozen. This usually means fast conditions with lots of grip. But not this time. There are patches of ice, and the loose rubble over the rock hard base offers little grip. We make our way to the top, pedalling up the seriously steep hill. If the bike handles this climb, it has to be a very good climber. And the Bullit performs very well. We ride with a low cadence, and the Shimano EP8 motor feels powerful and responsive. The chainstay length of the Bullit is 449 mm. This is relatively short for a burly emtb. But combine that with a steep 77* seat tube, and the balance for steep climbs is very good. We’re not working hard to keep the front wheel on the ground.

The descent begins with a drop before hitting a mellow tabletop. Then we enter a section of rock hard berms. And the Bullit handles it all very well. We feel safe behind the big front wheel and long suspension fork. And the Bullit easily navigates through the sharp turns. We enter the straights with a surprising amount of speed. And we carry on into the next section of berms and jumps. The Santa Cruz Bullit feels both playful and confidence inspiring on these trails.

On the trails

But how does the Bullit perform on our regular trails? We’ve brought a 2020 Santa Cruz Heckler. This is a great bike for these trails. The Bullit is facing some serious competition now, and it starts off well for the new bike. The Bullit climbs the rocky hills perfectly fine.

But the real challenge starts on the flat sections. The Heckler is a nimble and playful bike that handles the low speed tech stuff with ease. And it turns out the Bullit is about just as good. It’s more than a kilo heavier than the Heckler, but that can’t be felt. And the longer wheel base doesn’t seem to be holding it back. The long suspension travel really isn’t a disadvantage on these trails. The Bullit pedals well. The Shimano EP8 motor probably deserves some credit for the lively bike feel. We’re under the impression the EP8 bikes tend to feel a tad more responsive and nimble compared to the older bikes with the E8000 motor. Frame geometry definitely deserves credit too. We think the length of the chainstay and wheelbase are good compromises. Both test riders are a little over 180 cm tall, and we found the size Medium test bike to be a good size.

Unsurprisingly, the Bullit handled the descents very well. Speed is high. Even though the bike feels burly and confidence inspiring, we use little force to handle it. Lifting the front wheel over obstacles and drops is easy. We don’t notice just how fast we are riding. But we realize we’ve been fast when we suddenly find ourselves at the bottom of the hill.

Conclusion

The Bullit is a capable and confidence inspiring bike. At the same time it’s surprisingly playful and fun. It’s quite impressive how such a burly bike can be so easy to handle. There is a down side though. The Santa Cruz Bullit XT Air is €9.699 / £8.699. The cheapest Bullit with an EP8 motor is €9.099 / £8.199. Most people don’t spend that kind of money on a bike. We hope Santa Cruz soon launch their emtbs with cheaper frame options, like the “carbon C” or an aluminium frame.

Specifications

Price: €9.099 / £8.199
Weight: 22,1 kg – claimed by manufacturer

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