- A sporty looking, fairly comfortable speed pedelec capable of ~28 mph top speeds, it's running on an optimized geared hub motor design with heat pipe technology for maximum performance
- Unique mid-mount battery box fills the main frame triangle keeping weight low and centered while allowing the top tube to slope down aggressively for easier mounting and stand-over, bike comes in three sizes
- Premium components including a Shimano SLX ten speed drivetrain, 203 mm Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires, Ergon GA1 Evo locking grips, Rock Shox Revalation air fork
- Heavier due to battery capacity, stand-out design due to battery box and chainring, louder operation due to upgraded hub and geared motor, hardly any mounting points for bottles or racks, no lights
The Outlaw E45 is a standout in the Bulls line of electric bicycles. It doesn’t use the Bosch or Brose mid-drive system like the other 2016 / 2017 models and the battery isn’t as as standard (either built into the downtube or bolted on as a little pack). This thing looks completely custom with a triangular plastic box seated between the top tube and downtube powering a compact hub motor with special heat-sink plate in the rear. These systems combined are marketed by SR Suntour as “Human Electro Synergy Components” or HESC and the stated goal is to combine human strength with electro-mechanical support… like every other e-bike I test. For me, the proof is in the ride and I tried to go in on this bike without any kind judgement. Simply stated, I was impressed and delighted by the power, responsive pedal assist and touch points on the Outlaw E45. It’s a bike that, while heavier than some other speed pedelecs, delivers comfort through a 120 mm suspension fork and larger Schwalbe Moto X tires. It looks more like a mountain bike to me than an urban racer but that’s exactly what it is. I had no difficulty ascending steep hills despite the compact size of the motor and there was never an issue with it giving out or overheating thanks to a unique heat sink plate positioned just next to the rear disc brake… which is 203 mm in diameter! That’s extra large, both are extra large in fact. And while I mentioned the heavier weigth of this ebike earlier at ~57 lbs, it’s not as high as some of the Stromer models and others I’ve seen and you do get a sizable battery for increased range. Electric bikes tend to struggle with range as you top the 20 mph mark and this one is designed to easily hit 28 mph. My rides were all done going up and down hills and I definitely hit and passed the top speed going down but cannot speak as clearly on flatland performance. What I saw mostly was a bike that outpaced the Bosch speed mid-drive when climbing.
So far this review has been largely positive… the bike is well balanced, it’s priced fairly well given the higher end components, the motor is powerful while blending in because it’s so compact. But that’s whee some question marks arise. The bike itself does not blend in due to the plastic battery box and solid chainring design. People will definitely wonder what’s going on with the bike and you may struggle with storage because there are no bottle cage bosses to attach mini-pumps or water bottles and there are not rack bosses to add a carry rack. For a hardtail frame with city focused tires I’m amazed that they skipped on this. Without the ability to carry gear along this becomes more of a toy or recreational device than a mobility solution and that’s too bad. Yes, there are ways to overcome this with beam racks and bikepacking treking bags but they’re not as easy to connect and disconnect from and they can be bumped out of position easier… heck, they usually don’t carry as much gear either in terms of weight. This is a huge miss for me and I was disappointed to not see lights or reflective sidewall stripes on the tire because the bike is setup for urban riding… where cars go! What’s the purpose of such a large battery pack if you can’t use a tiny bit of that juice for convenient lighting? One area this is addressed is with a mini-USB port under the display mount. You could use this to charge or power a stand alone light but you’ll still have to plug and unplug, mount and dismount that light every ride vs. relying on a permanently attached integrated solution.
The bike works well, it provides a real sense of power and speed and it looks pretty cool even if it does stand out. I love the display panel which balances physical size with readability and is removable. The independent button pad mounted near the left grip is easy to use without taking your hand off and it blends in and seems durable. Perhaps the biggest question mark for many people will be, is this bike too loud? Both the Shimano SLX gear set with hub and internally geared motor produce an abundance of noise. The former buzzes and clicks anytime you’re not pedaling (or if you pedal backwards at standstill as shown in the video) which I believe has to do with the finer increments in the freewheel spinning by and perhaps the spring tension. The upside is that you can pedal and catch the hub more quickly than a lower-end hub but the noise really bugs me. As for the motor, being geared there is more friction and happening inside and running at 48 volts you can actually hear an electronic hum, much like a Toyota Prius or electric car. Unlike electric cars however, there’s no large frame systems or paneling surrounding the thing. Even at lower speeds, the motor is audible and may bother or distract some riders. I’m being a little tough on this system not because it’s a big deal to hear some humming but because other e-bike systems, almost all other systems, are quieter than this one. Take note when watching the video review, there’s a big difference when I mount the camera to the frame right next to the motor vs. when I’m holding it and looking back down. The actual sound to you as a rider and those around you is not as loud as the frame shots.
I hope this paints a fair picture of the Bulls E45 and I hope we see more bikes with this and future SR Suntour drive systems. It performs well and I love the heat pipes and heat sink blade meant to keep it going strong. You’re paying a bit of a premium for some of these new systems and higher end parts but not nearly as much as some competing offerings and I feel like the comfort and style here fit my own preferences. I just wish it was easier to add fenders, a rear rack, lights and of course… I wish it ran quieter. Bulls is a company I’ve been really impressed with for the past year, they offer a number of models now in the USA (having only sold in Europe and Asia previously) and they tend to strike a balance between performance and price. The bikes look cool and are designed well. The Outlaw E45 is perhaps the one exception where there are clear areas for improvement. But at least it comes in three sizes and I love the lower top-tube design and that USB charging port, it could definitely work for those who enjoy faster riding and want one of the more powerful systems out right now… especially if you worry about the heavy shifting on many mid-drives. The motor system and pedal system are very separate here and compliment each other nicely. Big thanks to Bulls for partnering with me for this review.
- One of the most powerful geared hub motors I’ve ever tested (it’s the human electro synergy components line from SR Suntour), it propelled me up the hills around Palos Verdes California faster and more powerfully than almost any other mainstream drive system which really surprised and impressed me!
- The motor has a really neat external heat sink plate (that almost looks like a disc brake rotor) designed to keep it from overheating when you climb or max out the top speeds
- Custom battery design that keeps weight low and center on the frame while offering higher capacity and not compromising frame tubing strength, it’s an acquired taste visually but the pack works fine and is removable for separate charging or reduced weight during transport
- If you take the ~10 pound battery pack off this ebike it actually looks fairly normal and is fun to pedal around, I love how they created a really low high-step design with the angled top tube that’s easier to stand over
- I love the EnergyBus Rosenberger charging port on the side of the battery because it’s magnetic vs. friction based, if you trip on the cable or it gets pulled for some reason it will just unplug without tipping the bike or causing damage… one downside however is that the little cap cover for it is easy to misplace, maybe a string leash connector would help for future iterations?
- The ~$4k price point really impressed me, considering this is a speed pedelec capable of 28 mph with a brand new drive system from a well known brand with a good warranty and a huge battery and a nice suspension with hydraulic disc brakes etc. it seems pretty reasonable
- Really comfortable at speed and for longer rides thanks to the 120 mm air fork from RockShox and larger 2.4″ tires from Schwalbe, these are both quality name brand parts and the tires have GreenGuard to reduce flats
- Nice to see some serious braking power here given the weight and higher speed capability, you get two extra large 203 mm hydraulic disc brakes from Tektro
- The motor responds quickly and proportionally to how you pedal but won’t start unless you’re moving because it measures both cadence and torque, I found it to be more zippy feeling than some other torque sensors like the TMM4 and it didn’t misfire when the chain was bouncing or when I really pushed the frame on bumpy terrain
- The solid chainring looked a little funky to me at first but I love that it includes a guide so both sides of the chain are protected and staying on track (this means less chance of a dropped chain)
- Sturdy thru-axles on both the front and rear for improved stiffness and handling, love that they have quick release on both wheels as well! Easier to transport and do maintenance on the go
- I absolutely love the display! It’s compact but easy enough to read… has an integrated mini-usb charging port at the base of the mount and is removable so you don’t have to worry about damage or theft at a rack
- Lots of great information accessible through the display including battery percentage! This is much more useful than a four bar infographic… the button pad to control assist and navigate the display is easy to reach near the left grip but isn’t bulky or ugly
- It’s great that this electric bike has a kickstand AND that they positioned it way towards the back so you don’t have to worry about banging it with your crank arms when moving the bike around, the stand itself is sturdy and offers adjustable height
- The motor produces a distinct electronic wine when operating, especially at full power, that’s a bit louder than most others I’ve tested, you can hear it in the video review above when I strap the camera to the bike, note that it doesn’t sound quite that loud when you’re actually riding
- Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to switch the display to imperial units from metric, not a huge deal but did leave me a little frustrated… do you know how to do it? Feel free to comment below
- The pedals they chose are sort of meh, I don’t like the rubberized grip as much as metal pegs and the platform size is medium vs. a little larger but to be fair, they are tougher than cage style pedals and don’t add much weight thanks to the X design, consider swapping for Wellgos like these if you’re looking for a larger grippier surface
- I was really surprised and disappointed to find that the seat stays didn’t have threaded eyelets or bosses to add a carry rack… this is a hardtail speed pedelec that would be perfect for commuting but you’re forced to use a beam rack like this which can get bumped easier side to side than a bolt on rack like this, and beam racks raise your minimum seat height and take up space where an under saddle bag or seat post suspension or light might otherwise go…
- Because of the oversized battery this bike weighs a bit more at ~57 lbs but that’s still lighter than some of the Stromer models which are also speed pedelecs but use a gearless motor (which tends to be quieter and offers a bit of power regeneration)
- Some other areas that could be improved (but might raise the price) is if this bike had integrated lights (since the battery is so large anyway) and also some reflective sidewall stripes on the tires for improved visibility… maybe a way to add fenders too, like bosses on the fork and at the rear for those as well as a rack
- There’s a little on/off silver button on the battery pack but it didn’t seem to matter if I pressed it… the display was activated separately and stayed on