Santa Cruz’s Bullit CC S electric mountain bike has been designed to tackle the gnarliest trails with a focus on gravity and ‘smashability’, to use the American brand’s term. It’s equipped with mullet wheels (29in front, 27.5in rear), a CC-grade carbon fibre frame, 170mm of Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) rear-wheel travel and modern enduro-ready geometry. Shimano’s EP8 electric bike motor and 630Wh down tube battery feature, dampers are from Fox and RockShox and SRAM drivetrain components are fitted. Like all of Santa Cruz’s bikes, the frame and bearings are backed by a lifetime warranty. This helps to justify its rather lofty asking price and secures it a place in our electric mountain bike category of Bike of the Year 2023.
Santa Cruz Bullit CC S frame, suspension and motor
The Bullit uses Santa Cruz’s top-spec CC carbon fibre. The entire Bullit range’s frames are built from Santa Cruz’s CC-grade carbon fibre, the brand’s lightest, strongest material. Cables are routed internally via ports at the top of the down tube, while there are bottle cage mounting bosses inside the front triangle, with enough space for a 750ml bottle. Chunky chain-slap protection features on the driveside chainstay. It runs SRAM’s Universal Derailleur Hanger and standard Boost 148mm rear-axle spacing.
The Bullit uses Santa Cruz’s VPP suspension design. The 170mm of VPP travel uses two counter-rotating links to create a floating pivot point. The shock, that sits within a ‘shock tunnel’, is driven by the lower linkage. Santa Cruz claims the Bullit’s kinematics are suited to both coil and air-sprung shocks.
Shimano’s EP8 motor offers natural-feeling assistance. Shimano’s 85Nm 250W EP8 electric bike motor is powered by a 630Wh battery. This S version of the Bullit uses Shimano’s lower-spec SC-E7000 monochrome display, rather than the full-colour SC-EM800.
Santa Cruz Bullit CC S geometry
With loads of travel and slack, long and low geometry, the Bullit is a dream on the descents. Although the Bullit is offered in four sizes, they’re designed for riders who are 165cm and taller. The smallest size is a medium with a 450mm reach, extending to 515mm for the extra-extra-large. My size-large test bike has a 475mm figure. Each size has a 64-degree head tube angle, 449mm chainstay figure and 348mm bottom bracket, but no flip chip adjustment is present. The seat tube angle hovers between 77.2 degrees (M) and a marginally slacker 76.8 degrees (XXL). Despite the Bullit now being nearly three years old, its geometry is modern and enduro-ready.
|Seat angle (degrees)||77.2||77.1||77||76.8|
|Head angle (degrees)||64||64||64||64|
|Seat tube (mm)||405||430||460||500|
|Top tube (mm)||591.3||619.2||644.9||672.1|
|Head tube (mm)||100||110||130||155|
|Bottom bracket height (mm)||348||348||348||348|
Santa Cruz Bullit CC S specifications
SRAM’s GX Eagle drivetrain is an impressive performer, despite not topping the brand’s range. As the second most affordable bike in the Bullit range, the spec list of the S goes some way to justifying its still rather steep price tag. Up front is Fox’s 170mm-travel 38 Performance fork with GRIP damper, matched with a RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ shock in an unusual damper cross-branding. A full SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain is fitted, but with an ebike-specific single-click shifter. SRAM’s Code R brakes are matched with CenterLine 220mm front and 200mm rear rotors.
Dependable DT Swiss 370 hubs are laced to Race Face rims. Race Face ARC HD 30 rims are laced to DT Swiss 370 hubs and wrapped in Maxxis tyres, with a 2.5x29in Assegai MaxxGrip DoubleDown up front and a 2.4×27.5in DHR II MaxxTerra DoubleDown out back. Santa Cruz’s Di2 ebike handlebar is gripped by a Burgtec Enduro MK3 42mm-long stem. There’s a WTB Silverado Medium saddle and an SDG Tellis dropper post with 170mm travel. This size-large test bike weighs 22.81kg without pedals.
Santa Cruz Bullit CC S ride impressions
In Eco mode, Alex managed to hit 2,000m of ascent on a single charge. I tested Santa Cruz’s Bullit on the trails used for the UK’s round of the Enduro World Series in Scotland’s Tweed Valley, befitting of the bike’s big-hitting attitude. Conditions ranged from warm and dry to mid-winter slop, snow and ice.
Although basic on paper, the GRIP damper feels amazing on the trail. Following Santa Cruz’s online setup guide, I inflated the shock to the recommended 180psi, giving 31 per cent sag. During testing, I increased pressure to 198psi to provide a little more support in high-load situations. I left the single factory-fitted purple volume-reducer spacer installed. I inflated the Fox 38 to 99psi – the recommended pressure – and left the three stock volume-reducer spacers installed. This gave 19.41 per cent sag and remained unchanged for the duration of the test period. During the setup process, I found the left-hand brake lever and dropper lever MMX adaptor fouled the Shimano mode selector when set in a certain position. I had to compromise on the position of the mode selector and dropper lever to get my brake lever in my preferred position. Some riders might not have this problem, however.
Santa Cruz Bullit CC S climbing performance
It proved to be a proficient and comfortable ascender. Although the Bullit’s top tube length (619.2mm) and seat tube angle (77.1 degrees) suggest it should have a compact and upright seated feel, out on the trail it’s a little more stretched out and places you lower to the bars compared to other bikes with similar on-paper figures. On the climbs, this trail bike vibe eggs you on to push harder, unlike the upright riding position winch and plummet gravity-focused descenders nurture. Its seated position certainly isn’t a negative, and many will like how it feels, but it is a little at odds with just how well it descends (more on that shortly).
A Burgtec stem and Santa Cruz bars help give the Bullit a premium feel. If this is a deal breaker for some, the position can be tuned to be less aggressive by angling the saddle’s nose down and pushing it forward on the seat post’s rails. This essentially shifts your hips further above the bottom bracket and closer to the handlebars. Generally, though, the Bullit is incredibly composed uphill, where only the steepest inclines require forward weight shifts to keep the front wheel from lifting up. Equally, subtle movements are needed to keep the rear Maxxis Minion DHR II tyre digging into the ground and driving forward.
The RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ has been tuned impressively. The rear shock’s impressive smoothness augments grip and performance further. It is extremely supple on small hits, ironing out high-frequency trail chatter with total aplomb. In fact, the Bullit is a true plough bike in this sense. You can speed headfirst into technical ascents with almost zero finesse, and the Bullit will deliver grip, composure and comfort in spades. On the steeper gradients, as my weight pivoted rearwards, along with the shock’s air spring and suspension kinematics, it provided plenty of support to maintain the bike’s geometry. Overall, the Bullit’s a massively comfortable bike to ride over longer distances or use as a shuttle rig to get you back to the top of your next descent.
Motor performance and battery life
The basic monochrome display is fitted. Thanks to the relatively low-friction duo of Maxxis tyres and a reasonable weight figure, I found it was possible to squeeze out 2,000m of climbing on a single charge of Shimano’s 630Wh battery in Eco mode. Use the higher-powered modes and that drops quickly, with 1,400m to 1,600m being a reasonable target for Trail. Stick it entirely in Boost mode and you’d be lucky to comfortably pass 1,200m. Compared to Bosch’s Performance Line CX motor, the Shimano feels down on power, but its assistance is arguably more natural.
Santa Cruz Bullit CC S descending performance
Letting the Bullit rip was confidence-inspriring. When gravity is on your side, the Bullit is an impressive performer, offering great handling on a wide range of trail types and excelling when things get particularly rough, fast and steep. Its suspension contributes significantly to that handling, offering a predictable and grip-rich ride. Thanks to a supple and well-controlled beginning stroke, it smoothes the trail’s imperfections impressively, ironing out even the worst rock gardens with ease. Larger impacts use more travel, but the rear suspension enters its mid-stroke gently rather than hitting a wall of progression and kicking back through the pedals. This keeps things feeling smooth and predictable. The rear suspension combines with the top-performing GRIP damper on Fox’s 38 fork. This feels smoother and more supple than the choked GRIP2 found on more expensive Fox forks.
The Fox 38 chassis is robust and dependable. Both front and back wheels track the contours of the ground to stabilise the bike, reducing fore and aft pitching, and helping to keep the bottom bracket and handlebars in line with the horizon. In this respect, the Bullit feels stuck to the floor, delivering masses of grip even on greasy, slimy terrain. The Maxxis MaxxGrip front tyre and MaxxTerra rear only increase traction. This impressive suspension combines with well suited geometry, deepening how natural and easy it is to ride.
Cables are routed via ports in the side of the down tube. Stoop up, the hand-to-feet relationship – like a lot of Santa Cruz’s mullet bikes – is biased with a taller front end and lower bottom bracket. This is dictated by stack and bottom bracket heights, but also the rear suspension’s softer-than-normal optimum setup window. Its higher front end makes total sense, though, creating a natural-feeling ride. To keep the Bullit on-line, minimal rider inputs and weight shifts are needed, helping elevate control and stability. When trails steepen, the high front end increases confidence. Loading the bars doesn’t feel perilous or as if you’re going to pivot over them. Driving grip and creating control through the front wheel is intuitive.
Good spec, great geometry and forgiving suspension help make the Bullit one of the best ebikes on the market. Initiating a turn is easy and repeatable with the same body movements, and the Bullit switches direction quickly and responsively. Once in a turn, it sits squat in its travel, bolstered against the air spring’s ramp, shock’s damping and VPP’s kinematic. Flying in the face of how supple and smooth it is in the rough, there’s enough progression and support on tap to push against to initiate the next turn, giving the Bullit a lively feel in successive corners. The mullet wheels contribute to this. There’s a great mix of stability and manoeuvrability, but without sacrificing straight-line and high-speed stability.
How does the Santa Cruz Bullit CC S compare to the Orbea Wild M-Team?
Orbea’s Wild M-Team scooped our 2023 eMTB Bike of the Year title. Although Orbea’s Wild is down 10mm on Santa Cruz’s 170mm of VPP travel, it feels just as planted in the rough stuff, offering similar amounts of progression and chassis-stabilising suspension control. Off the top, it’s just as smooth, too. The extra adjustments on the Float X2 Factory rear shock should make the Wild more adaptable for different riders. Contrary to this, the Bullit’s 38 Performance fork with GRIP damper feels better and is way smoother out on the trails compared to the GRIP2 version found on the Wild. Some will appreciate the extra adjustability of the more expensive fork, however. The Orbea’s customisable spec is also a big draw, and as a consumer you can adapt the bike to your specific needs. In my case, adding DH casing tyres to the Orbea pushes it ahead of Santa Cruz’s DoubleDowns.
Santa Cruz has specced grippy Maxxis rubber on the Bullit CC S. Spec-wise, it’s a battle of loyalties. SRAM’s GX Eagle and Shimano’s XT M8100 drivetrains are roughly comparable in terms of weight and performance, but the XT M8120 brakes have more power than SRAM’s Codes, even when fitted with smaller disc rotors. The Orbea is over £500 more expensive, but its parts feel more premium compared to the Bullit’s. Neither offers incredible value for money compared to Nukeproof’s Megawatt. The Bosch motor edges the Wild ahead. That extra power, and now, after software updates, increased battery life, means there are few reasons to opt for Shimano’s EP8 over a Bosch-equipped bike. On the descents, the geometry is relatively comparable. Both bikes feel confident, stable and intuitive to ride regardless of how tricky the terrain is. The Wild’s steeper seat tube angle makes it more capable and more comfortable on the ascents, meaning you’ll get to the trailhead less fatigued.
Santa Cruz Bullit CC S bottom line
Its geometry meant hitting higher speeds wasn’t a fraught affair. Addressing the elephant in the room, there’s no denying the Bullit CC S doesn’t offer the best value for money, with on-paper spec compromises. Out on the trail, however, the GRIP-damper 38 fork is arguably better than the GRIP2 forks, and the Code R brakes – if bled correctly – can be as good as the RSC versions. It has rebuildable ratchet freehub DT Swiss hubs, albeit laced to Race Face rims. SRAM’s GX Eagle drivetrain might not have electronic shifting, and isn’t the lightest, but it is reliable.
Masses of travel made the Bullit very comfortable on rough terrain. Out back, the Select+ Super Deluxe shock doesn’t have as much adjustment as an Ultimate model, but its tune is spot-on. Where it matters on the trail, the Bullit CC S is likely to outperform bikes fitted with top-spec parts, suggesting Santa Cruz has been canny with its choice of components. The Bullit is capable, comfortable and controlled going both uphill and down, with its natural-feeling ride boosting confidence and speed on even the toughest, gnarliest trails.