German bicycle brand Bulls is now selling electric mountain bikes fitted with anti-lock braking systems as standard.
As far as we know, these models displayed at Eurobike 2019 are the first production mountain bikes to be offered with ABS braking.
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Bulls teamed up with Blubrake to provide the full-suspension bikes with an ABS system, which is almost entirely contained within the front triangle of the frame.
Bulls claims the system adds less than 600g to the weight of a complete bike.
How does the Blubrake ABS braking system work
The Blubrake system knows exactly when the bike’s front wheel is at risk of losing grip during braking conditions. This is thanks to readings gained from a speed sensor at the bike’s front wheel as well as a 6-axis inertial measurement unit mounted within the bike frame.
If potentially dangerous conditions are detected, the system’s control unit powers an actuator that sits between the brake lever and brake caliper.
This actuator then intervenes and modulates hydraulic pressure at the front brake in order to prevent skidding and provide smoother braking with increased stability. The system acts only on the front wheel.
Why not Bosch?
Bosch, who pioneered ABS systems in motorcycles, has had an ABS system for e-bikes for several years already. Bosch also provides the motor and control unit for Bulls’ e-bikes.
When quizzed on why the Bosch system was not chosen by Bulls, a representative from the company explained that the Bosch system was not developed for use on mountain bikes.
Bosch’s ABS also uses a rather unsightly control unit that could easily be damaged in a crash.
First ride impressions of the Blubrake ABS system
I had a quick spin on a bike equipped with the Blubrake ABS system on an asphalt track at Eurobike. With gentle stops I couldn’t distinguish this from a regular brake without ABS.
Being deliberately aggressive with the front brake of the bike I was unable to provoke any skidding or lift of the rear wheel, but repeatedly came to smooth, drama-free stops.
I did feel as if I would be able to stop the bike a little faster without the system, as if a small percentage of the brake’s outright power was not accessible.
With my injury waiver form signed I moved across to a gravel section to really see if I could upset the ABS.
It was possible to momentarily get the bike to skid when using the brake on gravel. I felt the lever momentarily stiffen as the actuator did its work, and it felt exactly the same way that a car’s brake pedal does when its ABS is triggered.
I think this system could be genuinely brilliant for inexperienced riders but remain unconvinced at its application for skilled riders who rarely lock up at the front.
I think the real place for this technology is likely the trekking and commuting electric bike sectors. This is something that Bulls clearly realises too because alongside its two ABS mountain bikes. it is also offering two full-suspension ‘hybrids’ for those who want to ride off-road and in towns.