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Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV review

Bullit is back but is Santa Cruz’s Shimano-powered, mixed-wheel 170mm travel play bike on target for tearing up the rowdiest trails with the biggest grin?

Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

The Santa Cruz Bullit returns as a hugely versatile and capable e-MTB that has a precise and playful character out on the trail thanks to its mixed wheel size and dialed suspension

For

  • Fantastic agility/stability handling balance
  • Super stiff, lightweight chassis
  • Interactive yet impact melting suspension feel
  • Super positive pedaling
  • Ample ground clearance
  • Lifetime frame, bearing and wheel warranty
  • Excellent armoring and servicing details
  • Shimano EP8 motor
  • Full-size 630Wh battery

Against

  • Premium price
  • No smaller sizes
  • Unproven motor

Bullit was the big-travel fun bike in Santa Cruz’s range from 1998 to 2011. A decade later it’s fully loaded with the latest Shimano motor, Santa Cruz’s signature VPP suspension and mixed sized wheels to hit your favorite trails over and over again. If you can afford the premium price it’s one of the best e-MTBs with a truly outstanding, full-throttle playful character.

Design and geometry

The Bullit follows the now well established Santa Cruz template with shock sitting low and horizontal and connected to the lower VPP linkage through the straddling seat tube. A massive down tube encases the 630wh Shimano battery and powers Shimano’s new impressively neat and compact EP8 motor. The frame only comes in premium CC carbon composite and the motor saves over 300g compared to previous STEPS E8000 units so despite having 170mm of travel our XL sample came in just over 22kg.  

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Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV

The Bullit gets the same low-slung VPP suspension system as the rest of Santa Cruz's bikes (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV

Shimano's new EP8 motor is lighter, smaller and more powerful than the previous model (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV

The bike comes with an Rockshox Deluxe Ultimate air shock although a coil shock can be fitted (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

By designing the bike as a mixed-wheel (Santa Cruz don’t want you using the phrase ‘mullet’) machine from the start effective chainstay length can be kept to just 449mm while still giving plenty of tire clearance. You’re getting fixed rather than chip switchable geometry too, but that’s fine by us as the 64-degree head angle and 77-degree effective seat angle suits its self-uplifting, gravity grin character perfectly. While reach is mid-length (475mm on a large), short seat tubes mean you can easily upsize even with long-stroke seat posts and we had no trouble getting on an XL with a 495mm reach. There’s room for a bottle on the down tube and lilac and metallic bronze paint options too although it’s worth noting there are no size options smaller than medium.

While their prices might be exclusive, Santa Cruz loads its frames with a more extensive benefits package than almost anyone else. The frame is fully lifetime warrantied, as are the suspension bearings. All bearings are mounted into the linkages rather than the frame so letting them rot too long won’t kill the carbon side of things. You even get an injection nipple on the lower link for flushing fresh grease through. The cable routing is fully plumbed for easy servicing, the battery is removable with an Allen key or can be charged in situ and there are rubber armor sections on all likely impact points. The Rockshox Deluxe Ultimate shock is shielded by a short fender, and the suspension kinematics work with coil shocks (which is an optional upgrade on this X01 RSV build).

Components and build 

The Bullit line up starts at £6,899 with the SRAM NX, Rockshox Zeb-equipped R model which is powered by a Shimano Steps E7000 motor. The S model gets an EP8 motor with Fox 38 Performance fork and SRAM GX Eagle for £8,199, the Shimano XT version gets a Fox 38 Performance Elite fork for £8,699. We tested the £10,499 XO1 RSV spec that gets a Fox 38 Factory fork, Fox Transfer Factory dropper post and lifetime warrantied Santa Cruz Reserve carbon wheels with a 30mm 29er front rim and DH strength 27.5 rear. Tires are Maxxis’s legendary grippy MaxxGrip 29 x 2.5WT Assegai upfront and a DHR MaxTerra 27.5 x 2.4WT rear, both in reinforced DD carcass. SRAM Code RSC brakes run 200mm rotors front and rear and all bikes get the neat Santa Cruz 800mm wide carbon E-bar that is grooved and ported under the grips to take wiring internal.  

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Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV

Up front is Fox's burly 38 forks (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV

Up front the 29er Santa Cruz Reserve wheel is fitted with a Maxxis Assegai tire (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV

Out back is a 27.5 wheel with with a venerable Maxxis Minion DHR II (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Ride, handling and performance 

Shimano has taken its time and also gone through serious teething troubles getting the EP8 to market. This was our first ride on the motor but initial impressions are excellent. Peak power matches Bosch at 85Nm but with the Trail mode being such a versatile and powerful setting we only used Boost mode to check it was even dafter than ever. It’s very quiet unless you’re absolutely rinsing it up a brutal climb and it seems super frugal in terms of battery life. While the excellent display unit and two-way toggle switch are unchanged, the walk mode is far more useful and there’s a full range of motor output and mode tuning options via the E-Tube app.

Impressively low weight for a long-travel bike, steep seat angle, plenty of ground clearance and the power flattering VPP suspension kinematic with its precise pedal to trail feedback means the Bullit is great for gaining height on. The smaller back wheel with 2.4in tire and mid compound carcass noticeable boosts acceleration when you’re blasting out of corners or surging over a crux climbing move. The motor overrun isn’t as pronounced as a Bosch though so you’re still basically doing the hard heaves on your own.

Where the smaller rear wheel and shorter back end really helps is the agility and ‘brightness’ of the bike. While the wheelbase of our XL was only a fraction under 1300mm and the stability and precision of the front end is incredible, the Bullit never felt like a straight-line plow. While Santa Cruz lists a lofty 348mm bottom bracket height, our bike actually measured a more planted 338mm. While it obviously takes more to break the inertia onslaught of an e-MTB offline compared to a conventional bike, once you adjust to that mass and get your body working, the back end can be foot forced and hipped through ‘Scandi flicks’ and roost explosions with eager ease. The massive linkages and single-piece rear end mean awesome stiffness and clarity from the back wheel in terms of traction too and the 2.4in tire is narrow enough to cut to the grip if you’re really cranking the bike over. DD carcass and DH wheels let you run low tire pressures without flinching through every rock garden so grip is uncompromised, too.

While the sprung-to-unsprung weight ratio inherent in e-bikes always flatters suspension, the rear end of the Bullit is stunning. The RockShox damper comes with the high-flow compression valve as standard, completely removing the big hit slap that plagued some of its first low-shock/long-travel bikes. The rearward axle path also helps melt monolithic impacts so while the smaller rear wheel shouldn’t run as smooth as a 29er, it certainly never felt like it was getting hung up or choking however hard or fast we hit stuff. Santa Cruz provides really accurate and well-judged starter guidelines too and, once dialed in, we never strayed far from the stock setup. Even when we tweaked for the sake of it we failed to really upset what’s inherently a brilliant balance of precise rider to trail interaction that unfolds easily into serious flat out speed sustain. If you out pedal the statutory 25km/h (15.5mph) motor limit then the new EP8 has 36% less drag than before so you won’t suddenly die if you’re sprinting. 

Higher speeds and more aggressive lines are where having a 29er front wheel is a big advantage too. Having regularly surfed - successfully and unsuccessfully - front washouts on the 27.5 x 2.6in front tire of Santa Cruz’s Heckler e-MTB, being able to lock the sharper tracking and more securely stable 29er Assegai into a sketchy black, deep-rut situation make a massive difference to feet-up, brakes-off confidence. The Fox 38 is an excellent match up front, with a super plush initial stroke, merging into seamless mid-stroke control and a progressive bottom out for the most seismic of situations. The interplay between the two different characters at each end of the bike, while you stand centrally in the eye of the storm, is what makes it such an involving and entertaining ride rather than just a no brainer steamroller, too.

Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV

Santa Cruz offers lilac and metallic bronze paint color options (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

Santa Cruz’s latest e-bike isn’t just an impressively versatile climb and descent crushing long-travel trail slayer. Optimizing it for a mixed wheel setup has also injected an addictively playful and involving aspect whether you’re hustling rolling singletrack or snaking down near-vertical black runs. The suspension kinematic means the extra travel is always a bonus and never a precision- or power-sapping wallow and with the impressively low weight it’s as grin splittingly fun on an epic ‘all the best trails’ day out as it is throwing it down in the park without waiting for an uplift.

Obviously, while the range pricing starts where some brands position their flagship bikes, the lifetime warranties, rubber armoring, grease injection, cable management and Santa Cruz’s ‘Rider Support’ pledge are all welcome rewards for the premium price tag. While it’s early days for our time on EP8 we’re seriously impressed by its power, economy, minimal drag and user-friendly operation on this bike at least.

Tech Specs: Santa Cruz Bullit XO1 RSV  

  • Discipline: Trail/Enduro/DH
  • Price: £10,499
  • Head angle:  64-degrees
  • Seat angle: 77-degrees
  • Frame material: CC Carbon  
  • Size: XL
  • Weight: 22.21kg 
  • Wheel size: 29x2.5in front, 27.5 x 2.4in rear 
  • Suspension (front/rear): Fox 38 Factory 170mm travel, 44mm offset/RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate 170mm travel 
  • Components:  SRAM X01 Eagle 10-50T 12-speed gearing and shifter. Shimano EP8 motor and a 630Wh battery. SRAM CODE RSC brakes with 200mm rotors. Maxxis Assegai 29 x 2.5WT MaxxGrip front and DHR MaxTerra 27.5 x 2.4WT rear tires on Santa Cruz Reserve 30mm and DH rims. Santa Cruz 800mm bar and Burgtec 42mm stem, Fox Traverse Factory 170mm dropper post, WTB saddle

Test conditions

  • Temperature: 6-12 degrees
  • Surface: Wharncliffe and Stainburn red and black trails