Bulls Grinder EVO - Initial Thoughts

Amazer98

Member
I just bought my first bike, a Bulls Grinder EVO, so I thought I might as well take a few minutes to review the bike and introduce myself, since up til now I’ve been lurking about this forum in order to learn a bit about Ebikes and what to expect from them.

I’m 66 years old, live near the coast of Maine, just north of Portland. My wife and I have been riding pretty regularly on road bikes. for the past 12 years or so. Our typical rides are 20-25 miles and it’s pretty much what we do in the warmer months (for you non-Mainers, that means July) to keep in shape. In the winter, it’s cardio penance or yoga at the Y. A month or two ago, one of my buddies who has a lung condition bought a Cannondale Synapse Neo ebike. Up to then he really hadn’t been able to keep up with us on his old road bike because of his limited lung capacity. But the new e-bike changed the equation, and we’ve taken numerous rides since then and he more than keeps up with us… on the hills we have to push to keep up with him, and he’s far from working the ebike to its max.

I was curious to check his Cannondale out, so I borrowed it for a 25 mile ride. The power assist of the Bosch motor was a hoot on hills, but I found the 19mph assist cutoff (yes, I know Class 1 Ebikes are supposed to assist to 20mph, but this one didn’t and I know others experience the same) to be very annoying. Maybe I’m a bit a speed demon... at least, when I’m coming out of a descent, I want to keep my speed up on the flat and it’s a drag to feel like you’re fighting a very resistant motor to eke out an extra 1 or 2 mph.

As I rode my friend’s Cannondale, I felt like I wanted to work hard to maximize my speed both on the flats and during climbs. At the end of the ride, I was sweaty and felt I had had a good cardio workout with an extra dose of fun. But the ride also convinced me that were I to buy an ebike, I would definitely choose a Class 3 speed pedelec with power assist up to 28mph (or 27mph in reality). There’s just no benefit to having power assist cut out early!

Frankly, I’m surprised that Cannondale saddled its Synapse EVO models with Class 1 limits. BMC did the same with its sporty-looking ebikes. For me, if all e-bikes were limited to Class 1, let alone the 15 mph limit on most European models, I wouldn't buy one. I like to feel I can move quickly on a bike, and the Class 1 limits are just too much of an impediment.

Another reason I was tempted to get an ebike was that a neighbor in our condo community is an amateur racer. He’s very fast and reliably trashes me on the road. So I thought that with an ebike, we could do some hilly rides together and I could draft him on the flats.

Without going into all the boring why’s and wherefores of why I was intrigued by Ebikes, I started defining the bike I wanted. It had to be Class 3 of course, athletic-looking, almost definitely with drop bars, widish tires (38-44c) for New England’s sub-stellar pavement and the ability to ride dirt roads, and a battery of at least 500wh.

I narrowed my choices to a Giant Road-E Pro with a Yamaha motor and Ultegra components and the Bulls Grinder EVO with a Bosch Performance Speed motor and a SRAM Apex groupset. The Giant had some advantages, in that it was sold and could be serviced at the LBS just down the road and furthermore had the very-well regarded Yamaha and buttery smooth Ultegra shifting.

On the other hand, the Giant had two chainrings and a front derailleur, which struck me as unnecessarily complex on an ebike. More problematic were the many comments posted by owners on this website that flagged creaky motors (bad motor mounts?) and defective head tube bearings as endemic problems with this model. I had no interest in contending with these potential issues.

So… I decided to take the less travelled path and contacted eBikes of New England, a 90 minute drive away, to order the Grinder EVO sight unseen. It arrived 5 days later and I drove to southern NH to pick it up last weekend.

My first impression was that this was one serious machine. Its seemingly anodized gray finish created the illusion that this was a piece of military hardware. The suspension fork combined with the overall appearance of a road bike made it look like it could tackle any terrain short of a technical mountain trail.

After several rides of about 25 miles each, I thought I’d offer some initial impressions of the bike. First, it rides very comfortably. The 700x40c tires are smooth and cushy, especially compared to my 25c road tires. Surprisingly, the Schwalbe G-One Raceguard tires roll very quietly, unlike the wider 47c tires on the Synapse Neo, which thrummed noisily at all speeds. The suspension fork absorbs pavement irregularities and dirt road bumps, and has an easy to use switch that lets you lock the fork for smooth road riding, or select intermediate dampening levels for further fine-tuning.

The handlebars are not conventional road bike bars, in that they flare out a bit at the drops. They remind me of Salsa’s Cowbell bars, which are very comfortable. The bars are a little on the low side, even with all the included spacers in place, but the ergonomics of the bars and the nice-sized ‘horns’ of the Apex shifters have so far enabled me to feel comfortable and planted on the bike, so I’m not really feeling the need to move to more of a riser stem.

The Apex shifting with the 1x11 gearing is businesslike and effective. It’s not buttery like my Campy road components; gear changes are effected with a definite ‘click’ sound. But I like the Apex ‘doubletap’ design, with which you use one paddle to shift both up and down. It’s easy to use and reliable, which is basically what you want.

By the way, I like that this bike ships with thru-axles, as opposed to simple quick-release ones like the Giant. They seem more secure. And the hydraulic brakes are fantastic— lots of modulation for precise control, and they can stop the bikes on a dime if you need to.

I was concerned about some of the comments on the Performance Speed motor, which criticized it for lacking oomph when starting from a stop and claimed you had to really spin the pedals quickly when climbing in order to extract power from the motor. Consequently, I had somewhat diminished expectations.

In fact, I am impressed by this little workhorse. It spins right up and makes acceleration easy from a stop. It emits only a faint hum when you’re underway. Obviously, good riding practice requires that you not be in a very high gear when starting. On hill climbs, the motor definitely hits its sweet spot when you’re pedaling at 60 rpm or faster, but in real world cycling, that pedaling speed does not seem inordinately fast. You definitely don’t have to spin at 90rpm to enjoy the motor’s power… but you can if you want to.

On this bike, I find myself working just about as hard as I do on my road bike. I almost always keep the assist on ECO, though sometimes on hills I'll switch on Tour. The extra speed that this bike delivers is the payoff for the work, so it's a lot of fun.

A couple of things about the Grinder Eco seem silly to me. It comes with wiring for a headlight and taillight, but the wiring is connected to plastic fittings called MonkeyLink, which enable the headlight and taillight to be snapped on and removed very easily. My problem with this is that the proprietary headlight looks cheap and plasticky and is not particularly bright, and the rear MonkeyLink light is mounted on the seatpost, which is not a great place for it if you want to install a rack and use a trunkbag, as I do. The MonkeyLink headlight/taillight combo costs $170, which is ridiculous considering they are basically toy lights.

The other thing that’s a bit absurd is that, though the bike ships with fenders, the rear fender is largely supported by a rack that you can’t mount a trunk bag onto. The top bars of the rack are lower than the top 8 or 10 inches of the fender. I think all the rack is good for is installing a left and right pannier on. So I had the bike shop remove the fenders and rack, and connect a proper B+M headlight to the fork. I installed a conventional Blackburn rack and crimped a Supernova taillight to the wiring in the seatpost. It was easy to disconnect the MonkeyLink fittings, put them in a Ziplock bag, and bury them in a box in my basement!

The Powertube battery is beautifully integrated into the bike’s downtube, but I have to say it’s a bit finicky when it comes to removing and installing the battery. It’s definitely easier to charge the battery on the bike, but I remove the battery when I carry the bike on our car’s hitch rack. The few times I’ve taken it off and installed it definitely required care and patience.

The first time I rode it, the Purion display estimated my range in ECO mode to be only 43 or 45 miles. I was concerned because I had expected more like 80 or 85 miles, based on the company’s spec sheet. However, after a few charge cycles, it looks like the motor and battery are delivering closer to 58-60 miles in range over moderately hilly terrain (I weigh 200 lbs). Maybe this will further improve over the next several charge cycles.

On a final note, The Grinder EVO has a most excellent kickstand. The saddle is meh; I’ll replace it with either a spare Brooks leather saddle or maybe pick up another Brooks Cambium like my road bike has. The pedals the bike ships with would be OK to ride the bike back home from the LBS and then take off. They are small and basic. Better to use a nice platform pedal or go clipless.

In all, the Grinder EVO seems to be a nicely designed, specced and constructed ebike. It’s one of a very few that met my criteria. The Trek Domane+ certainly looks to be a wonderful ride, but I didn’t want to spend $7K.

Despite its 52 lb weight, the Grinder didn’t ride like a tank. It seemed agile and planted— not quite as nimble or quick as my 20 lb road bike, but very smooth and enjoyable. I think this would make an excellent commuter bike for anyone who is comfortable with drop bars.
 
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Ebiker01

Active Member
Nice read, congratulations on purchasing this amazing piece of technology called ebike..
With a moderate investment in lighter parts You can lower the ebike weight by 10-12lb and also change to 28c tires, it will give you at least 25% extra range
It’s a great choice. I am waiting for the Domane +to go on sale. Bmc also has one very nice 28mph road ebike...
 

Amazer98

Member
Ah, that would be a sweet ride— you should call Barney Franco at Bulls (844-442-8557) and ask them to import that model!
 

Amazer98

Member
So.. since the Grinder Eco is not that common, I thought I'd post a few pics of my latest ride. As I wrote earlier, I removed the OEM rack and fenders and installed a Blackburn rack with the 8L Ridewell Trunk bag (nice design, not too big). I installed a Supernova E3 Taillight 2 (where do they come up with these names?) and the LBS wired in a Busch & Müller IQ-XS E headlight. By the way, the headlight works OK, but I wish I had sprang for the brighter IQ-X E for an extra $60. I ordered the B&M light from Peter White Cycles in New Hampshire... a great source for some hard-to-find components.

Wiring the taillight was pretty straightforward. First I mounted the taillight onto the back of the rack and zip-tied its power cable along the rack tubing until it reached the Monkey Link fitting on the seat post. Then I snipped off the excess wire.

Next, I snipped the power supply wire on the bike where it was soldered onto the Monkey Link fitting on the seatpost and pulled up an extra inch or two of wiring (which was snaked up through a groove in the seat tube) from the innards of the bike. I cut through the rubber sheathing that enclosed the black and red power wires and cut the sheath back an inch to I could better access those wires and remove a few millimeters of their sheathing. Then I slid on a 4-inch piece of heat-shrinkable rubber tubing onto the taillight wire, crimped the ends of the power supply wires to the ends of the taillight wires, heat-shrunk the crimps, and then heat shrunk the rubber tubing to creat a hurricane-proof water seal.

What else? I mounted a Blackburn road bike mirror this morning, so I've yet to test it out. It looks good on the bike, though. I got a Happy Swede anodized aluminum bottle cage (2 for $10!). I swapped my uncomfortable OEM saddle for a Brooks C17, which I had on my winter road bike in the basement... I have a feeling it's not going back!

So the bike's in fine shape now. Liking this ride more and more with every outing. Looks like I'm getting a reliable range of 60 miles in ECO, now that the battery is settling in.


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BBassett

Active Member
For me.... No racks (the rack on the back is too light to carry 40 lbs of gear for long without failing), No rear suspension, the battery is too small and not well located, No fenders, open gears, you have to use their motor and their battery (both too small), drop bars have their place but not on this (again... for me). She's pretty and I am sure fun to ride... but.
Cheers
 

Amazer98

Member
The bike actually does come with racks and fenders, but the OEM racks could accommodate only panniers and not a trunk bag. I didn’t need a heavy duty rack, so I installed the Blackburn… I was just looking for a place to mount my tail light and a rack to support a trunk bag.

The motor is plenty strong enough for me… I usually ride in eco mode anyway. And the battery is good for about 60 miles in the rolling terrain where I live, which is good enough. But of course a bigger battery would be even better!

I guess the Takeaway here is that everyone has their own criteria for what they’re looking for in an E bike, and it’s good to be mindful of what you’re looking for before you buy.
 

BBassett

Active Member
... I guess the Takeaway here is that everyone has their own criteria for what they’re looking for in an E bike, and it’s good to be mindful of what you’re looking for before you buy.
Absolutely. That's why I always suggest people build their own ebike with a Bafang mid-drive add-on motor. You can find/build the perfect bike for you, turn it into an ebike that has more power, more range, is easier to get repaired when necessary, and it can all be removed and/or reused as you like. Enjoy riding while it's dry and remember to study up on lithium battery storage for the winter.