- One of the most popular BULLS electric bikes, available in three frame styles and four frame sizes, fully-integrated Bosch PowerTube battery looks great and improves balance
- Powerful Bosch Performance Line CX motor offers high torque for heavy loads and capable climbing, software driven shift detection protects the chain and sprockets
- Integrated led lights, reflective tire stripes, rugged alloy fenders, a full plastic chain cover, and an integrated rear rack provide great utility for commuting or even trekking
- The new frame design costs a bit more than 2018, the battery pack isn't as easy to remove, the display panel isn't removable and doesn't have an active Micro-USB charging port, the wave frame may flex under heavy loads and larger riders
To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This in-depth review was sponsored by BULLS North America. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of BULLS products.
The Bulls Cross Lite model has been upgraded with an internal Bosch PowerTube battery pack for 2019, bringing it into the EVO family. Whenever you see EVO in a BULLS product name, it means that the battery (Bosch, Brose, or Shimano) is integrated and hidden. This design change improves aesthetics and also positions weight slightly lower on the frame, which improves stability and handling. Two trade-offs, however, are with price and weight. The new Cross Lite EVO costs roughly $300 more than the older version, which I reviewed in 2017 here, and weighs 49.9lbs vs. 49.2lbs. What sets this product apart from other feature-complete city bikes is that it comes in three frame styles (high-step, mid-step, or step-thru), four frame sizes, and is available through a vast network of dealers who can provide test rides and warranty support. BULLS is a international brand, based in Germany, selling products in the US, Canada, and many European countries. The Cross Lite EVO is priced at $4.4k, which seems like a lot in some ways, but packs a ton of high-quality accessories that will keep you dry, visible, and comfortable. Integrated lights (that run off of the main 500 watt hour battery pack), reflective sidewall stripes on puncture resistant tires, sturdy aluminum alloy fenders and a plastic chain cover, an i-RACK compatible rear rack capable of holding 55lbs of cargo, Ergon brand ergonomic grips, and a lightweight – highly adjustable air suspension fork are all very nice. When you look at this all-black ebike, everything matches and performs well. Hydraulic disc brakes, an adjustable kickstand that stays out of the way, a gel saddle, and even bottle cage bosses on the downtube for easy access while riding. It’s a high quality product that is approachable and should be reliable, especially with the Bosch battery, motor, and control systems.
Bosch offers three Performance Line motors at the time of this review, and BULLS has opted for the high-torque CX variant for the Cross Lite EVO model. The benefits are increased torque, a zippy ride feel, and a unique eMTB mode that responds with a wide range of power output based on pedal input… but there are some trade-offs. This motor weighs more, uses energy faster, and produces more noise at times. In some ways, this motor is overkill for people who just want to cruise through neighborhoods. It definitely adds to the cost of this electric bike, but could be a welcome upgrade for heavier riders, those who plan on hauling cargo or pulling trailers, and those who live in hilly areas. BULLS is not the only brand that has decided to go with the CX motor when the standard Performance Line or Active Line Plus might have worked. This tells me that customers appreciate the power and ride experience during focus groups or test rides. Remember, BULLS sells through a vast network of dealers and can collect feedback from sales people about what is working. As a sporty rider myself, the CX is a welcome addition… and it’s easy to dial down the power for those moments when less noise or slower power use is preferred. By contrast, you can’t really dial a weaker motor beyond it’s maximum output. So let’s talk numbers! The Bosch Performance Line CX is capable of producing up to 75 newton meters of torque vs. 63nm or 55nm on the two motors below it. It offers high cadence 120 RPM pedal support, vs. 105 and 100 respectively, so you can downshift when approaching and climbing steep hills without losing power. And, just like all Bosch mid-drive e-bike products, it offers shift detection to reduce wear on the chain and gears. I personally love how the motor looks on the BULLS Cross Lite EVO; tipped up and blended into the black frame tubing. A full-surround plastic chain cover will keep your pant or dress ends clean and snag-free, and there’s even a slap guard sticker to keep the right chain stay from getting nicked up. Mid-drive motors can be very efficient if you shift gears to empower them when climbing or riding at higher speeds, and the 11-speed Shimano Deore XT has been upgraded for this new bike. The older Cross Lite had an 11-42 tooth cassette whereas this one has 11-46 tooth. That’s four more teeth for getting started and climbing steep hills. The derailleur still comes with Shadow+, meaning that it’s tucked behind the cassette for protection and has a one-way clutch for tightening the spring; reducing bouncing. This is mountain bike level hardware that won’t go out of tune as easily and shifts very smoothly. Again, in some ways I feel that this hardware is overkill for an urban oriented electric bike… but it’s great for those who take care of their stuff and plan to have it last many years, or those who do occasional long rides or touring. As a final little note, the Bosch CX motor does introduce some reduction gearing drag because it uses a smaller proprietary sprocket that spins 2.5x for every pedal revolution. It’s a design that is unique to Bosch and allows for greater responsiveness, motor efficiency, and chain grab. If you pedal unpowered or beyond the maximum supported 20mph (or 25km/h in some markets), there will be a slight bit of friction introduced into your pedaling. The bike can definitely be pedaled without power, and I’ve easily passed 20mph on this and many other products with the CX motor, but it’s only fair to mention the slight compromise with this drive system compared to some others.
Powering the motor, integrated lights, and backlit display panel is a high capacity 482.4 watt hour battery pack from Bosch. The PowerTube 500 fits neatly into the downtube of the frame, clicking up from below. It weighs more than the older external PowerPack 500, but offers the aesthetic and weight distribution benefits mentioned earlier. This battery is encased in a sturdy aluminum shell and weighs roughly 6.3lbs on its own. BULLS has designed custom alloy covers that match their frames and further protect the battery, which brings the full weight up to roughly 7.2lbs. In many ways, I’m very impressed that the 2019 model only weighs ~0.5lbs more than the 2017/2018 Cross Lite. The only other trade-off with this battery design is that, because of the custom alloy shield, it’s not as easy to swap between different models. It’s also longer and bulkier than the PowerPack 500, which means that even if you tried to purchase a second pack to extend rides, it’s not as easy to carry in a backpack or bike bag. Frankly, it’s not easy to double up, rent, or borrow additional packs for this and most internal battery ebikes. Thankfully, Bosch offers one of the lightest, most compact, and efficient electric bike chargers! Instead of putting out two or three amps, their charger puts out four, which reduces charge times. Their proprietary plug is durable, and won’t get mixed up with other Bosch power tools and electronic hardware you might already own. All things considered, the battery performs very well and should last many years if cared for. I would probably leave the battery mounted to the bike, for convince, when charging and storing it… unless your storage space gets extremely hot or cold. In those cases, it’s best to store the battery separately because lithium-ion cells are sensitive to extreme temperatures. You can extend the lifespan of the battery by keeping it charged around 50% during extended periods of disuse. BULLS has improved their charging port locations and covers in recent years, but I found that the rubberized plug cover can still be tricky to seat at times and this plug location is still directly in the path of the left crank arm (so be careful moving the bike when it’s charging). The electronics themselves are well sealed against dust and water splashes, but this rubber cover should be faster and more consistent to press in. You can see this in the video review above, it’s a minor thing but worth calling out for such a nice product.
Activating the drive systems on this ebike is fairly straightforward. You charge and mount the battery then press the power button on the top edge of the little display panel, which is mounted within reach of the left grip. This is the Bosch Purion display, one of the nicer compact offerings on the market right now. It cannot be swiveled to reduce glare easily, is not removable for protection, does not show as many menus, and does not have an active Micro-USB charging port like the larger Bosch Intuvia display. However, it does keep the handlebars open, and may not get damaged as easily if the bike tips or is parked at a crowded rack. This is a very popular display panel for electric mountain bikes, which often strive for stealthiness to fly “below the radar” visually, but it’s also chosen for simplicity and cost savings in some cases. I have grown to accept the Purion, but do have a few tips for use… The + and – buttons, which raise and lower assistance, are designed to click in at an angle towards the right. They are attached near the left edge of the control pad and pivot in towards the LCD. With practice, I have found that the right edge is really the sweet spot for consistent pressing and I’ve noticed that sometimes the lower left and middle areas can be inconsistent or even non-responsive. The screen itself glows faint white at all times, which shouldn’t draw much power, and is handy during early morning or evening rides when light is limited. Once you get the hang of things, you really don’t have to look down at all, because you can feel and hear the clicks of the button pad. Holding the + button will turn lights on and off. Holding the – button will cycle through trip distance, odometer, assist level, and range. And, the range menu is dynamic, so you can see the bike calculate how far it thinks you can go before the battery completely drains based on the last mile of riding, your current state of charge, and the chosen level of assist. This helps to make up for the very basic 5-bar charge indicator on the top of the battery pack and the lower section of the display, which isn’t as precise as a 10-bar or percentage readout seen on some competing displays. On the lower edge of the control pad is a walk-mode button. Press it once and then hold the + button to have the motor slowly assist you when walking the bike (you must be in Eco, Tour, eMTB, or Boost for walk mode to work). It’s useful for crowded non-bikeable areas, or if you get a flat tire. For those who wish to have a center-mounted display with a larger LCD screen, the ability to completely remove the display, the addition of a 5-volt Micro-USB charging port, and more readout options (max speed, average speed, and clock), some shops will upgrade the Purion to Intuvia for ~$200.
In conclusion, the BULLS Cross Lite EVO introduces some very nice upgrades while preserving the approachability and utility of the original Cross Lite. The weight isn’t increased as much as I thought, the battery design is beautiful… though not quite as flexible as before, and the wider gear range is always welcome. I personally would have traded back to a slightly narrower gear range if the cost savings could have been applied to the larger Bosch Intuvia display. While visiting the BULLS North America headquarters in Los Angeles, California, I ask why they chose the Purion and was told that people like how simple it is. As a tech-savvy reviewer, who is very comfortable with ebike technology, I recognize and respect this trade-off for mainstream consumers. Frankly, all of the other important hardware is approaching that overkill level, so the display is a minor thing. With powerful hydraulic disc brakes, you get control and safety. The fork can be locked out for efficiency if you’re on flats, and if you want even more comfort… consider swapping out the rigid 31.6mm seat post for a suspension post like one of these. Another consideration to make is which frame is best for your ride style and physical abilities. The deep wave frame is the most approachable, but weighs more and isn’t as stiff as the mid-step trapez or high-step diamond. If you’ve got sensitive knees or hips, the step-thru might be your only choice… but increased body and cargo weight can introduce frame flex and even speed wobble at higher speeds. I usually opt for the mid-step, but BULLS has told me that the step-thru wave is their most popular seller. These are each very purpose-built frames with strength and ride stability in mind, notice how even the wave model has this extra support arm near the bottom of the downtube and seat tube. This adds strength :) As always, I welcome feedback and comments below, or you can chime in at the BULLS forums to share videos, pictures, and make friends with other owners.
- With three frame styles and four frame sizes to choose from, this product adapts to a range of users and use cases, it’s one of the most popular BULLS products
- 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 roughly 50lbs, the 2019 version of the Cross Lite EVO is nearly the same as 2017/2018 but has a completely internal battery pack and wider gear range
- 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 to blend into frame tubing and the all-black color scheme hides wires and seams nicely
- The battery pack is removable and both wheels offer quick release, making the bike lighter for transport and easier for tuneups
- The alloy fenders and plastic chain cover keep you dry and clean in varied conditions, they don’t rattle very much and they do provide good coverage while blending into the frame nicely, there’s even a sturdy alloy skid plate protecting the base of the motor
- 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 as easily since they’re wired in
- 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 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 these
- The drivetrain is overkill, but a welcome addition for heavy commuting or touring, you get 11 gears and a durable mountain bike level derailleur with one-way clutch to reduce chain bounce and rattling in rough conditions, just click the gray lever up to tighten the derailleur spring (click it down when removing the rear wheel or doing drivetrain maintenance)
- Large hydraulic disc brakes provide smooth, powerful stops, the levers offer adjustable reach for those with smaller hands or gloves, the brakes 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 from Ergon
- 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 larger paddle can shift four steps with one long pushing motion
- The Bosch drive system allows for walk mode, 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 spokes are black, so they match the rims, hubs, frame etc. and I appreciate how BULLS used thicker 13 gauge wire for the rear wheel, to make it sturdier
- In addition to bottle cage bosses, BULLS has produced a frame with additional rear rack bosses, so you could use your own rack if you decide to change the fenders or do something custom
- The battery isn’t super easy to remove and because of its heavier design and larger physical size (with the alloy shielding added by BULlS), I don’t think it makes sense to buy a second one, it won’t be easy to rent or borrow a pack either
- The proprietary Bosch chainring spins at 2.5 revolutions for each crank revolution, and this introduces some pedal drag when the motor isn’t enabled, it’s minor in my own experience
- The price jumped several hundred dollars from the older 2017/2018 model, but BULLS has grown the number of dealers in North America and completely redid the frame for the internal battery, you’re paying for premium hardware here
- I love how approachable the wave step-thru frame is, but it’s just not as stiff as the mid-step or high-step and could suffer from frame flex and speed wobble if the rider and cargo are heavier
- The headlight is mounted to the suspension fork arch which travels up and down when you go over bumps, the light wouldn’t rattle as much if it was mounted to the crown of the fork, the headset, or handlebar stem and it would probably be more visible too
- The Bosch Performance Line motors are larger and weigh more than competing products from Shimano, Brose, and Yamaha… this motor is roughly 8.8lbs vs. 6lbs or 7lbs, but they are known for being very reliable