- One of the stealthiest 28 mph urban electric bikes I have seen, the Bosch Powertube battery pack is completely hidden inside the downtube and the compact black motor casing blends perfectly with the matte black paint job
- The mid-motor is angled up to blend into downtube visually, increase ground clearance, and shorten the effective chain stay length for a snappy ride feel, Bosch makes one of the most reliable ebike motors according to shops I visit
- Impressively light weight at ~51.3 lbs considering the fenders, rear rack, lights, kickstand, and higher capacity 500 watt hour battery pack, the Urban Evo is only available in a high-step design but does come in three sizes
- Compact Bosch Purion display stays out of the way but doesn't offer Micro-USB charging, does not angle to reduce glare, and is not removable like the Bosch Intuvia, finicky battery port cover, no chain protector (just a chainring guard)
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The Urban EVO is a fast, utilitarian, relatively lightweight, electric bike, that would make for an excellent commuting platform. Priced at $4.4k USD, which isn’t exactly cheap in the broader world of all e-bikes, it feels like an excellent value to me because you get name-brand hardware, three frame size options, and the beautiful new Bosch Powertube 500 battery integration. This is one of the stealthiest mid-drive electric bikes around because everything is black and blended together. There is some noise produced by the motor and a bit of fender rattle on rough surfaces, but it’s responsive to ride and durable. Included stock are a sleek alloy pannier rack which supports the rear fender, two premium Supernova lights (the rear light goes bright when you pull either brake lever), and powerful hydraulic disc brakes with larger 180 mm rotors to help dissipate heat. Yes, this ebike looks great and rides well, but it’s also more comfortable and stable than average because it runs slightly wider 2-inch tires from Schwalbe, has a nice suspension fork, an upgraded gel saddle, and locking ergonomic grips. For those who are lighter, such as myself, it’s possible to reduce the air pressure in the suspension fork to optimize comfort… but the fork also has a remote lockout system, so you can maximize efficiency when climbing or cruising on very smooth sections of pavement. With the remote lockout, you don’t have to reach down and turn a lever while trying to ride and balance, or stop to make adjustments, you simply press a plastic lever, located near the right grip and it locks or unlocks. Before digging in too much deeper, I want to call out the narrower handlebar, which allows the bike to squeeze between cars in traffic. The two pairs of bottle cage bosses located on the seat tube and downtube to put fluids or accessories within reach. And of course, the full-length plastic fenders, which provide decent water protection… but don’t go quite as low as some competing products like those found on the Specialized Turbo Vado. I would love to see Bulls experiment with different fender options and add a short chain cover, such as the one used by Felt on their Sport E city ebike. This minor addition would not add much weight but would keep your pants cleaner when the weather or terrain gets messy. Still, Bulls has a sturdy alloy chainring guard in place here that provides adequate protection and chain retention. Overall, I was very impressed with this product and have developed a trust and appreciation for Bulls, a company that has been selling in the US since 2016 and has a growing network of independent dealers.
Driving this bike is a powerful mid-motor from Bosch, offering up to 63 Newton meters of torque, that is geared for speed. Most of the mountain-specific ebikes I review that use a Bosch motor will have a 15 tooth chainring, many of the city ebikes that go 20 mph will go for 18 tooth, but the Bulls Urban EVO has opted for a larger 22 tooth chainring here. The larger chainring slows the cadence and provides a more comfortable pace at medium and high speeds while compromising a bit on low speed performance for climbing… That said, it really is just a little bit of a compromise, because the 10-speed Shimano Deore XT drivetrain offers a wide 11 to 42 tooth cassette compared the more common 11 to 36 tooth range. What you end up with on the Urban Evo, is a perfect range of gears to navigate almost any urban landscape at a wider range of speeds. And, because the Bosch motor controller measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque constantly when the bike is on, you get responsive and fluid performance. If you are pedaling and go to shift gears, the motor controller can actually sense additional strain in the drivetrain and tell the motor to ease back so the drivetrain components won’t be stressed. This is called shift detection, and while it isn’t perfect (I usually reduce pedal force manually when shifting), it does help. As mentioned earlier in this review, Bulls has done an excellent job with their motor integration, tipping the Bosch Speed motor up and blending it into the frame. The weight of the motor and battery are positioned low and center, and there’s good ground clearance (along with a sturdy skid plate below the motor). As with most electric bicycles, it is possible to manually pedal this bike around without turning it on, and it will freewheel efficiently just like a regular bicycle. It does weigh more of course, and there is some friction produced by the reduction gearing in the motor as you pedal. The reduction gearing converts the proprietary 22 tooth sprocket into a 55 tooth equivalent (what you would see with a normal chainring on a non-Bosch bike). I have been told that Bosch created this smaller sprocket reduction design to increase chain retention and I suspect that it also provides a mechanical advantage to the motor. Weighing in at roughly 8.8 lbs, the Bosch Performance Line motors are slightly heavier than Yamaha, Shimano, and Brose, but have earned a solid reputation for reliability and become one of my favorite offerings because of their pedal support up to 120 rotations per minute. As someone who comes from a road cycling background, I love spinning fast and have been disappointed by some other mid-drives which ease out support as I increase pedal speed. Some actually cut out around 100 RPM, so you simply have to switch gears more frequently to hit higher speeds and are left lumbering with slower strokes. For a bike like the Urban EVO, it’s really nice to get that wider range of support and pedal like a road bike. Bulls does offer another model with drop handlebars called the DAIL-E Grinder that is even lighter and more sporty for true road enthusiasts.
One of the most exciting new design features that Bulls has introduced for some of their 2018 models is Bosch Powertube 500 battery integration. In the past, Bulls has done a great job of matching and smoothing the external plastic Powerpack battery… but it still stuck up above the downtube and stood out. This design limited space for adding bottle cage bosses and required some compromise on rear suspension configuration. The Powertube, by contrast, is completely hidden up-inside the downtube and stays out of the way completely. This battery pack is encased in an Aluminum alloy shell and has a second layer of alloy protective covering bolted onto the bottom, to match the downtube design and paint job. I deduced that this metal shielding and bolt hardware adds nearly a pound of weight, which seems unnecessary since it’s mostly aesthetic. However, because the battery seats up-into the downtube, the weight is kept extremely low to the ground. Just like the older Powerpack batteries, the new Powertube can be charged on or off the frame, and Bosch continues to lead with their compact, lightweight, faster 4-Amp charger. There are definitely a few compromises and trade-offs with the Powertube, but they may or may not be important to you. As mentioned earlier, it seats into the base of the downtube and can be trickier to mount (often requiring two hands), it’s about one pound heavier overall than the Powerpack 500 (including the metal shield on the bottom), and it’s not as widely available yet, so renting or borrowing a spare could be difficult. The Powertube is longer than the Powerpack and doesn’t have a handle on top. Imagine trying to stick this thing into a backpack or pannier bag? It’s just not as compact or convenient… especially if you have to remove and re-attach the metal shield part to work with your bike. I’m not sure if this is a Bulls thing or maybe we will see different integration approaches from other companies like Haibike in the future. The 36 volt 13.4 amp hour size is about average for this buy cycle, and the Lithium-ion cells are above average in terms of quality and warranty support. For an efficient bike like this, you should get excellent range when riding up to 20 mph, and see some decrease at higher speed due to air resistance. Thankfully, the display panel has a dynamic range readout to help you gauge distance and plan routes to arrive at your destination with support (even if it is lower support).
Activating the electric systems on this bike 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 panel, 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 keeps the handlebars clean and may not get damaged as easily. This is a very popular display panel for electric mountain bikes, which often strive to go “below the radar” and limit fancy e-bike accessories that could get broken or attract unwanted attention. I have grown to accept it but have a few tips for use… The + and – button pads that raise or lower power for assistance click in at an angle. They are attached near the left edge of the control pad and pivot in towards the LCD. The right edge is their sweet spot, sometimes even the middle can be difficult to click in or just inconsistent. The screen itself glows faintly in white at all times, which shouldn’t draw much power, and is handy when it’s early morning or later at night and you need to read it. Once you get the hang of things, you really don’t have to look down at all because you can notice the clicks of the button pad and feel the boost in power. Holding the + button will turn the lights on and off. Holding the – button will cycle through trip distance, odometer, assist level, and range. This range section is dynamic, so you can see the bike calculate how far it thinks you can go based on the last mile of riding, your current state of charge, and the chosen level of assist. On the lower edge of the control pad, mirroring the power button, is a walk-mode button. Press it once and then hold the + button to have the motor slowly assist you when walking the bike. It’s useful for crowded non-bikeable areas, or if you get a flat tire, and not all companies have it enabled. I like that Bulls has left it open, and found that it’s useful even for climbing stairs with the bike.
In short, I love the BULLS Urban EVO electric bike. It’s just comfortable enough to enjoy at high speed, feels very safe with the upgraded lights and reflective parts, blends in with normal bicycles pretty well, and is lighter and sportier than many competing offerings. You get to ride faster but still have excellent comfort around for a hardtail design… and Bulls does offer a full-suspension speed pedelec, called the SIX50+ TR Street (built around a mountain bike frame), if you’re willing to spend more and deal with more weight. As someone who has had to lift bikes frequently to bring them up stairs in an apartment, it’s nice that this bike isn’t super heavy, and that the battery and wheels are easy to remove. Again, there’s a good range of tire pressure options, the suspension fork uses air and can be sagged to match your body weight, and you could always add a suspension seat post to approximate the full suspension feel of the SIX50+ model. Even though I prefer the Bosch Intuvia display panel, the compact Purion here works well enough. My biggest request to Bosch would be for them to enable the Micro-USB port that is already built into this display for power output so I could maintain my smartphone (often used for GPS) on the go. The integrated Supernova lights are built into metal housings and feel sturdy, the headlight is aimable, and the rear light is much larger and brighter than a lot of competing plastic parts (with five LED’s that are visible from many angles). The rear light also stays out of the way if you mount panniers. Consider purchasing a folding lock to mount to the second set of bottle cage bosses and be sure to use a long cable to secure both wheels and maybe a seat leash cable to secure the saddle since there are three quick release points… maybe even replace the quick release with locking hardware. This is all stuff that your local bike shop could help you out with, and I recommend working with them to find the correct sizing and maybe even getting a discount when you buy the bike ;) I want to call out that the Urban Evo comes stock with a unique carbon fiber oval shaped seat post that is lighter and offers some comfort beyond standard Aluminum alloy posts through vibration dampening. There’s a custom shim in the round tube that allows for the oval post to mount, and you want to keep good track of that if you do temporarily remove the post to use a different suspension design. I’d like to thank Bulls for inviting me out to their Southern California offices to test ride several ebikes back to back and make some deeper comparisons as they partnered with me for this post. As always, I’ll do my best to answer comments below and welcome you to connect directly with other customers and enthusiasts in the Bulls Forums.
- One of the stealthiest Bosch powered electric bikes I have seen, the new Powertube battery is completely hiddin inside the downtube and Bulls does a great job tilting and integrating the motor
- Lots of utility on offer with durable plastic fenders, a streamlined rear rack, and integrated lights (the headlight is very sturdy, bright, and aimable)
- I appreciate the remote lockout on the suspension fork for transitioning from bumpy to smooth streets without having to stop or reach down to the right side of the crown to adjust a compression lever
- It’s awesome to see a single set of bottle cage bosses on an electric bike because the motor, battery, and additional wires sometimes make it difficult for manufactures to find room for them… but the Bulls Urban EVO has two sets of bosses! so you could have water within reach as well as a folding lock, mini pump, or other accessory
- This is a completely purpose-built frame with excellent weight distribution, hidden wires, and matching accessories, and they are producing it in three sizes to maximize fit for a range of riders
- Considering that the frame only comes in one color scheme (matte black with some gloss black accents) I love that they included lights, reflective tires, and a silver accent on the side just to keep you more visible and safe
- Very comfortable touch points, the locking ergonomic grips are a step up, the Selle Royale gel saddle felt comfortable, and I love the suspension fork and Duraflex carbon fiber seat post (which dampens vibration), the tires are also a bit wider at 2″ which improves stability and comfort, you could always upgrade the seat post to a 31.6 mm seat post suspension and if you want to keep weight low, you can also get a carbon fiber suspension from Kinekt to use with a shim to fit
- For commuting situations, it’s nice to have a slightly higher top speed, and this ebike is geared to pedal comfortably up to ~28 mph with a larger 22 tooth chainring and wide 11 to 42 tooth 10-speed cassette, the derailleur has a clutch (the little grey lever) that will reduce bouncing and drops by tightening the derailleur spring when pushed into the up position
- Bosch electric bike motors have sensors that detect gear shifting and tell the motor to ease off or cut out, this extends the life of your chain, sprockets, and derailleur… especially with a Performance Line motor like this which provides more torque
- Excellent hydraulic disc brakes from Magura with integrated brake light switch, you get large 180 mm rotors and lightweight but adjustable-reach levers for comfort whether your hands are large or smaller
- Bulls is sold through a growing network of dealers in the USA and have been doing well here since 2016… but are a bigger player in Europe with a wide selection of bikes, they support a 2+ year warranty
- You get a faster four-Amp battery charger that uses the same plug interface whether you’re charging on or off the bike, it’s relatively compact, lightweight at ~1.7 lbs, and quiet compared to many other chargers
- The Schwalbe Evolution Line tires have a puncture protection lining which should reduce flat tires, be sure to keep the pressure between the recommended PSI levels (30 to 70 PSI) to avoid pinch flats, if you do have to change the inner tube it’s going to be easier because of the quick release skewers and mid-motor vs. a hub motor
- The rear rack is narrow and sleek, I love how it supports the rear fender to reduce rattling, but it doesn’t have a flat top section for carrying a trunk bag so you’ll need side-hanging panniers… it does look like the seat stays have rack bosses so you might be able to use a more traditional rack on this ebike, but I’m not sure how this would impact the rear fender
- The pedals that come with this bike aren’t my favorite, this is a minor gripe but the plastic with rubber just aren’t as grippy and the platform isn’t as stiff or wide for people with lager feet… consider a nicer Magnesium pedal with adjustable pins like this
- The Bosch Powertube 500 battery looks amazing and keeps weight very low and centered on the frame… but the alloy casing weighs more than the plastic Powerpack 500 and the metal shielding below adds even more weight, that said, I feel that 51.3 lbs is not heavy for a bike with this many great accessories
- The Bosch Performance Line Speed motor is responsive and powerful but also draws energy faster, produces more noise, and weighs a bit more than some competing products like the Brose TF
- Because the motor uses a reduction gearing system with a smaller 22 tooth chainring (which spins 2.5 revolutions for each crank revolution), you end up with some friction if the motor isn’t assisting, this adds just a touch of work if the motor isn’t turned on and assisting you, or if you try to exceed ~28 mph
- It takes some real effort to hit the max assisted speed on this ebike and would be very difficult to pedal beyond that due to air resistance and bike weight unless there was a tailwind or hill helping you, the bike may run through the battery charge faster when you ride above 20 mph
- Compared to the Bosch Intuvia display panel, the Purion cannot be angled to reduce glare without a tool, is not removable, and the buttons don’t click as consistently (they pivot in towards the LCD screen so press higher up for best results), there’s also no active Micro-USB port to charge your phone or other electronics on the go
- It seems like the Bosch Powertube batteries aren’t going to be as easy to swap out on the go (like if you ship your bike to a new state or country to ride) because of the metal shielding situation, you might have to unscrew that shield and bring it along… there also just aren’t as many Powertubes out in the wild yet
- Getting the powertube off the bike is a two step process that feels safe, but the battery does come downwards and lacks a handle loop like the Powerpack, so it might require some extra finesse and hand strength to manage carefully
- The drivetrain is pretty clean, keeping your pant leg protected and the chain on track with a little alloy chainring guard, but I love what some other companies like Fuji and Felt are doing with a short plastic chain cover (from Hebie in this case)
- The rubber cover that protects the charging port on the left side of the downtube can be tricky to re-seat, I also feel that this plug position is vulnerable due to the left crank arm (which could rotate by and snag or bend the plug if you move the bike while charging)