This is the second generation Cross Lite E model to hit the States from Bulls, a widely respected European brand launched in 2010. Now, the step-thru design makes it easier to mount and stand over for people with short legs and I love that they haven’t called it a women’s model… even though that’s likely the target audience. You can get this in a slightly stiffer, high-step in medium and large but the step-thru shown here comes in three sizes with a small 45 cm that I was testing in the photos and videos. As a 5’9″ male, I felt very comfortable on the bike and appreciate the unisex coloring, satin black with minimal metallic bronze accents. The handlebar is bent up slightly and the stem reaches out at a higher angle to position riders upright, allowing them to spot the road or chat with friends. To me, this e-bike would make an excellent commuting or trekking platform. You get one of the most powerful, highest RPM, most efficient motor systems with an upgraded battery pack, an eleven-speed drivetrain with mountain bike level derailleur, integrated LED lights, alloy fenders, a premium rack, and a mini-pump. The price point is a bit higher than competing models at $4,099 but you get your money’s worth… name brand comfort saddle, ergonomic locking grips, and premium puncture resistant tires are just a few highlights. As a lightweight rider myself, I appreciate how the drive systems have been mounted low and center on the frame and that despite having sturdy fenders, a chain cover, and rear rack… the weight is kept down with an air fork. Almost every other commuter electric bike I have seen with similar specs and the same motor+battery setup weighs in the 52 lb range. Bulls achieved something special with the new Cross Lite E Step-Thru by making it light but still sturdy and versatile. A tapered head tube keeps steering stiff and stable, quick-release wheels are easy to fix if you’re on the road, say bikepacking, and the tubeless ready wheelset could help you shave off even more weight if you decide to convert from stock inner tubes.
Driving the CrossLite E is a Bosch Performance Line XC mid motor. This is the most powerful, high torque, offering from Bosch and I usually see it on mountain ebikes. Instead of a peak 63 Nm output, you get up to 75 Newton meters and that makes for zippy starts, excellent climbing ability, and easier load carrying. The rear rack is rated up to 55 lbs and has pannier blocker side rails, consider Ortleib or Axiom panniers (or other clip-on models) for maximum convenience and water protection. I tend to use a single trunk bag for daily rides into the city and often bring the charger, a set of tools and a mini pump… but this bike already has the pump setup on the rack. A folding lock could also be handy and you can get it keyed to match the battery locking core using the code listed with the ABUS keys because AUBS also makes premium locks. Following on with most of the other European electric bike brands, Bulls has really thought this thing out, opted for the best hardware, and allowed you to adapt appropriately. One final callout on the motor is how nicely it is integrated into the frame tubing bottom bracket area, I love the vented metal skid plate on the bottom and the rubber charge port cover, which stays put and is easier to use than some of the others I’ve seen.
Filling the battery pack is quite simple and fast thanks to the Bosch 4 Amp charger. This can be done with the pack mounted to the back (to reduce drops and save time) or separately. If you do take it off, the battery is easy to carry by hand using the plastic loop at the top. Weighing in at 5.7 lbs, it’s only 0.3 lbs heavier than the older Bosch Powerpack 400 but gives you 25% more capacity to maximize range. Amazingly, both battery sizes fit into the same casing and the mount is backward compatible. If you own an older electric bike that also used Bosch, you can still use that pack… or you can buy a second pack in either 400 or 500 watt hour sizes and stow it in your trunk bag to roughly double range. It’s a great setup but one that doesn’t blend in visually quite as well as the custom Brose batteries found on some other Bulls models. Given that the Cross Lite E Step-Thru is a Class-1 20 mph electric bike, blending in is probably not as much of a concern as it might be for mountain bikers and some Class-3 speed riders. This bike offers the most common and widely accepted performance, pedal assist only. But that’s not to say it isn’t fun to ride. You’re really optimizing range by reducing air resistance at lower speeds and the high torque motor makes those lower speeds feel zippy. On my test rides, I was able to pedal the bike up to 23 mph comfortably, even without motor support. Those eleven gears are easy to click through, the shifting mechanism is crisp and the levers are comfortable. One additional benefit of the motor is how smart it is in sensing when you shift, reducing drivetrain wear and again, maximizing the power that the battery offers so you can go the distance.
Tracking how much battery is left can be a challenge on some entry-level electric bikes with basic battery management and control systems. With the Cross Lite E, you get premium hardware and software that shows you dynamic range estimates. Once you charge and mount the battery, power on the display, and press the i button a few times, you should see a range readout. This displays an estimate for how far the bike can go in the selected level of assist based on the remaining battery level and your ride performance over the past mile or two. Perhaps you’ve got a heavy load or the tirers are low, maybe the wind is blowing against you or the terrain is steep… this range readout becomes a much better indicator than the five-bar battery infographic (also shown on the display and side of the battery pack) and it sets the Bosch system apart from others. The display is removable, just like the battery, for safe storage and reduced weight during transport. I like how large it is, the fact that you can angle it forward or back to reduce glare, and use it as a power source for your own portable electronics. Built into the right edge of the display is a Micro-USB port offering 5 Volts at 500 milliamps which is enough to maintain most smartphones and small portable electronics. Before I finish off with the display, I do want to mention that you can lock it to the mount by using an included set screw. This can be installed at the base of the mount before it is secured to the handle bar. The demo bike I was riding for this review actually had the display locked on and many companies do this before demo events to keep parts from walking off or getting mixed up. The display is backlit, can be switched from metric to standard by holding reset and the i button for a few seconds (to enter settings) and has all of the other information that you might expect (current speed, odometer, assist level, power output, clock, etc.). I appreciate how easy it is to interact with, even without looking down or taking your hands off of the grips. Simply reach over with your left thumb to click plus or minus to increase or decrease power. The same i buton is replicated on the pad, positioned in between the plus and minus, to allow for display menu changes. You get a tactile click signaling a successful change and a noticeable power boost.
The Bulls Cross Lite E Step-Thru is an incredibly capable electric bike, one that I would highly recommend as being reliable and durable. Even though my ride test for this video review was limited in length and distance, I have enough experience with the Bosch motor, Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus drivetrain, and other hardware in place here to trust it. If you plan to use your electric bicycle like a car, daily, and live in an environment where the fenders and lights will come in handy… the value is there. The seat post was a little short on the model I tested but that may be due to the smaller size (I was on the small, 45 cm frame). All Bosch motors produce a high pitched whirring noise at full power and high RPM but are more capable than their rivals for starting and stopping quickly and supporting high cadence. I tend to pedal at high speed because of a knee injury, it’s more comfortable than low-speed lumbering pedal strokes… and the motor keeps up with me. On this particular ebike, the motor isn’t as loud sounding and I think that’s due in part to the surrounding chain cover. Note that the 18 tooth sprocket on the chainring spins at 2.5 times per every crank arm revolution. This is unique to Bosch and was designed in part to increase chain grab and reduce drops. I have never had a chain fall off on a Bosch ebike and that’s a big deal if you do end up commuting further or taking this thing out onto the open road for some touring. Big thanks to Bulls for partnering with me on this review and inviting me to their headquarters to explore the full 2017 line. I welcome feedback and corrections in the comments but do all of the measurements myself by hand, striving for accuracy :)
- The mid-step frame balances frame stiffness against approachability, it’s a great option for sportier rides and fits people who have shorter inseams, I love that they included bottle cage bosses on the top tube for those who want to add a folding lock or water bottle
- Because Bulls used ABUS for the locking core and includes the key code, you can get a folding lock to match which will use the same key and reduce clutter
- At just over 49 lbs, the 2017 version of the Cross Lite E Step-Thru is even lighter than the prior model even though it has a larger battery pack! This is due in part to the higher-specced drivetrain and upgraded air suspension
- Bosch produces one of my favorite motor, battery, display sets and I love the way Bulls has integrated it into the frame, the motor is tilted up and built into the frame along with the battery which blends in with the black paint
- Both the battery pack and display panel can be quickly removed when parking to store and charge separately,
it’s also good to remove the battery when transporting the bike to reduce weight
- Both wheels offer quick release which makes fixing flats and doing other maintenance easy, also good for transporting the bike if you’ve got a van or station wagon and plan to put it inside
- The alloy fenders and plastic chain cover keep you dry and clean in varied conditions, they don’t rattle and provide good coverage while blending in with the sporty look
- Integrated LED lights help you see in dark conditions but also keep you safe, I prefer these to aftermarket lights because they will turn off automatically when you power down the bike and cannot be stolen since they’re wired in
- Amazingly, the latest Bosch Powerpack 500 battery is only 0.3 lbs heavier than the older Powerpack 400 and yet has the same form factor (the mount is even backwards compatible), I love that the charger is also a fast charger delivering 4 Amps vs. 2 Amps on many competing products
- The motor senses pedal speed, pedal torque, and rear wheel speed one thousand times per second to deliver fluid assistance, it never feels surprising or out of control
- The Bosch CX motor offers eMTB mode in Sport level which acts as more of a torque sensor giving low and high power vs. just one limited range, you can basically leave it in this mode for sporty riding and skip the +/- clicking required on other models
- A premium gel saddle from Selle Royale compliments the air fork and slightly wider road tires to smooth out the ride and keep you comfortable, for those who want even more support, consider a 31.6 mm seat post suspension like this
- The drivetrain is overkill but a welcome addition for heavy commuting, you get 11 gears and a durable mountain bike level derailleur with one-way clutch to reduce chain bounce and rattling in rough conditions
- Large hydraulic disc brakes provide smooth, powerful stops, the levers offer adjustable reach and only require one or two fingers to actuate
- Nice adjustable kickstand and basic flick bell for added utility when commuting, I also like the locking ergonomic grips
- The trigger shifting mechanism is upgraded, the paddles feel solid and the tiny one (used to shift into higher harder gears) can be pushed or pulled which allows for different hand positions
- The Bosch drive system allows for walk mode on the Bulls ebikes, this is handy if you’re chatting with a friend and have the bike loaded, you won’t have to push so hard to get it moving and go up hills etc. (just press the walk button then hold the plus button to activate)
- The suspension fork matches, is light weight, and has lockout… but you don’t get compression or rebound adjust, it’s plenty good for commuting, I was just surprised that it didn’t have more clicker options
- The shift detection on Bosch motors is a nice feature but it’s not foolproof, you can still grind gears if you don’t ease off while pedaling just a bit, expect a bit more wear on the chain, sprockets, and derailleur with any mid-drive ebike
- The price jumped several hundred dollars from the older 2016 model, but you do get a larger battery, nicer drivetrain, better fenders, and some other little upgrades
- Bosch battery mounts are designed to let you tighten the pack to reduce rattling but this one felt extra tight to start, I really had to push down hard to hear it click into place and if you don’t do this, the pack could fall off and get broken (that’s a big deal considering batteries are ~$900 a piece)
- The seat post that comes with the bike is a bit short, it was only 270 mm long vs. the standard 300 or 350 mm and perhaps that’s because I was on the small sized model? A shorter post does save weight but for people with longer legs,
it can be too short, pay attention to the minimum insertion height marking on the tube and don’t let those show or it could be up too high which could be dangerous or bend your seat tube