Santa Cruz Bullit £999

Still hardcore after soft shape makeover?

BikeRadar score 4/5

We can see why Santa Cruz have left their makeover of the Bullit till last, as the original was an absolute classic for uncompromising big hill riders. But is it still the best aggro ammo around?

Ride & handling: slow speed fiend, though watch the fast and steep

While the new Heckler and Superlight have introduced a new lower, longer geometry, the Bullit is understandably cut from a more freeride-based cloth. In fact with a Totem plugged in it's almost identical in most geometry (except seat angle) to the Patriot, but the Lyrik makes it noticeably steeper.

This gives it tons of front wheel weighting which makes it a natural front tyre sticker, rear wheel drifter through steep, stacked switchbacks. Back home it's a natural on tight, slow speed shore-style stuff, changing direction more like a unicycle with a gear hanger stuck on the back than what's actually a relatively heavy freeride iron.

The downside is that it when you're hammering fast and steep you really have to push yourself back and hunker down on the bike to feel stable. We had one of our biggest test crashes ever after getting pushed too far forward in a rock field. On the bright side the Bullit was unharmed aside from having a lock on grip torn off, despite a 10m flight into particularly evil geology.

The high, forward pivot means braking jack is much more noticeable on stutter bumps too and if you're not weighting the shock by pushing back, it chatters and skips rather than sucking up hits. The back end really hung up on large square-edge hits too and we square-edge punctured it time after time in the Alps.

Pedal kickback is also very noticeable. It's great for kicking out of corners, and stomping short sprints in the big ring but not so clever on big drops or trying to pedal through rough sections, and it really lurches in the granny ring.

So good

  • Strong, simple, communicative and rider-reactive frame
  • An absolute switchback and slow speed fiend with the shorter fork
  • Lifetime warrantied bearings and replaceable dropouts

No good

  • No way to compensate for shorter fork means sketchy high speed/steep descent handling 
  • Pinch flat, kickback and jack prone high pivot rear end 
  • Dropouts can be vulnerable to some harsh damage and there's no Maxle option

Frame: plenty of show, but...

While the basic single pivot layout of the Bullit has been left alone, Santa Cruz have made the most of the latest Eastern building techniques in this tube-shaping showpiece.

The OnePointFive inch headtube handles the biggest forks and the whole front end is wrapped in various 'sticking plaster' gussets. An S-bend top tube adds standover, while a 'snake's belly' downtube bulge swallows the 20mm pivot axle and those lifetime-guaranteed oversize bearings. The pivot is quite high and forward, which has a big effect on the overall feel.

The swingarm spreads out from the pivots in smooth curves, webs and windows to join the two stout round section stays before tapering back down to bolt on dropouts with 135mm width QR or 12mm bolt-through tips in 150mm width. Unfortunately a single rock knock was enough to bend the thin dropout tip and make the axle immovable without filing. There's no way to move the shock to compensate for different fork lengths either.

The new seat collar is lovely though, ISCG tabs are all present and correct and there's loads of mudroom. You can get a carbon floating brake arm kit too, which we'd recommend for Alpine stuff.

Equipment: a sturdy selection

Jungle built up our demo bike with a selection of our long term Shimano Deore XT kit. Again, see our in depth XT report for full details of how we got on with various bits.

Santa Cruz set up the geometry with longer 180mm Totem fork than the Lyrik Jungle fitted which had a really noticeable effect on the handling. We wound on plenty of low speed compression to stop it feeling too steep under braking or through switchbacks. It still sucks up the hard and fast stuff really well when we were letting it fly.

Jungle also supplied the Syncros cockpit, which felt seriously sturdy and survived our huge smackdown intact. If you're doing much climbing we'd recommend a layback, rather than an inline, seatpost to get at least some breathing stretch in there.

The Syncros wheels and hubs held up fine despite the long run with a flat rear tyre, although the OnePointFive headset was starting to bind after a week of hammer.

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