Lowdown: Bulls Bikes Black Adder 29

Bulls Bikes is a German brand that was started in 1997. They make all category of bikes, but first gained notoriety in 2007 when their race team dominated the Cape Epic event in South Africa. They established a U.S. center for operations a couple of years ago, which is now based in Los Angeles. For the U.S. market they are using a direct-to-consumer sales model.

Although we recently featured the electric side of Bulls Bikes model lineup from Interbike, it should be emphasized that they are not an e-bike-only company. Their mountain bike offerings include XC, all mountain, trail, and enduro bikes, and Bulls even offers a full blown DH racer for their European market. Reviewed here is the Black Adder carbon 29, a race ready hardtail featuring RockShox's RS-1 inverted fork. We put this bike through its paces during a long term test. Find out how it fared in the full review below.

Intended use: XCWheel size: 29er
Travel: 100mm frontWheelset: SRAM X.0 hubs, Bulls/WTB rims
Weight: 22.55 pounds (size small) Frame: Carbon monocoque
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore XTPrice: $2899
Fork: RockShox RS-1 Rating:
5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
4.5 Chilis-out-of-5
Stat Box
In the same league: Trek Procaliber 9.7, Specialized Epic Hardtail Expert Carbon WC, Giant XTC Advanced 29 1, Santa Cruz Highball 29 CC, Niner Air 9 RDO, Scott Scale 930


Pluses

Minuses
  • Lightweight climber
  • Front wheel removal tedious
  • Stable at high speed
  • Skinny stock tires
  • Great parts spec for the price
  • No internal cable routing
  • Comfortable Ergon GA1 grips
  •  
  • RockShox RS-1 fork with lockout
  •  

Review: Bulls Bikes Black Adder 29

As direct-to-consumer bikes go, the Bulls Black Adder was shipped to us 95% ready to ride straight out of the box. After a quick bit of adjustment to the handlebars, stem and seatpost, and a pump up of the tires, it were ready to roll.

The bike is sharp looking. In a time when matte black seems to be the de facto standard, it was nice to see the white/black scheme with offsetting blue ano highlights. The standout component is clearly the RockShox RS-1 fork and the Black Adder is perhaps the most affordable way to experience this fork. That's combined with a Shimano XT 2x10 drivetrain, FSA SL-K cockpit (carbon bar, seatpost, alloy stem) and SRAM hubs with WTB rims. It's a quality build for sure.

The RockShox RS-1 fork is the spec highlight, as long as your bike transporting  doesn't require taking the front wheel off.

The RockShox RS-1 fork is the spec highlight, as long as your bike transporting doesn't require taking the front wheel off.​

The Black Adder uses a bit different geometry than many other carbon 29er hardtails. Instead of trying to shrink the chainstays as much as possible, this bike uses a longer wheelbase to provide a more stable ride without sacrificing handling.

Since buying consumer direct is now more popular than ever, we won't go into too much detail about the ordering process. Bulls ships the bikes in a well-protected box, and the bike comes ready to assemble with the need for just basic tools. The drivetrain was perfectly tuned, so it was just a matter of aligning the bars and stem, and dropping in the seatpost. It only took about 20 minutes.

At 22.55 lbs. for our size small, the Black Adder is a 29er hardtail that will not hold you back on the climbs.

At 22.55 pounds for our size small test bike, the Black Adder is a 29er hardtail that will not hold you back on the climbs.​

The black and white graphics are easy on the eyes, and the frame is monocoque carbon, providing plenty of stiffness. The frame has a huge bottom bracket shell and a large downtube that ensures no wasted watts. Indeed, this bike loves to climb.

The RockShox RS-1 fork is definitely a conversation. It proved to be a great match for the frame, providing just enough cushion (100mm), and the bar mounted lockout is a welcome feature. Kept to its intended use, we did not experience any flex or lack of stability from the fork. But when hammering out of the saddle, you'll want to use the lockout.

We were surprised to learn how much we appreciated the Ergon grips with just the right amount of material to provide better leverage for climbing and hand comfort.

We were surprised how much we appreciated the Ergon grips with just the right amount of material to provide better leverage for climbing and hand comfort.​

The geometry of the Black Adder is quite a bit different from most current 29er hardtails. While most other brands are touting short chainstays, Bulls goes a different route with a longer chainstay (455mm) the produces an overall longer wheelbase. The 70.5-degree head angle and 73-degree seat angle are more traditional numbers. The result is a ride that is extremely stable at high speed without sacrificing much in the nimble handling area. If you've been riding 29ers for a while, this bike will make you remember why you started riding them in the first place. The big wheel "freight train" effect is in full force.

Bike weight was 22.55 pounds, an impressive number considering the RS-1 fork is not the lightest on the market. This bike would make a good choice for the person who likes to enter more than the occasional XC race, but also wants something that is all around trail-worthy.

Continue to page 2 for more on the Bulls Bikes Black Adder 29 and expansive photo gallery »



The Black Adder can handle a wide variety of trails and will have you setting KOMs in no time.

The Black Adder can handle a wide variety of trails.​

Parts Mix

As already mentioned, suspension duties for the Black Adder are handled by a RockShox RS-1 inverted XC fork with 100mm of travel. It is a great tracking fork that provides a confidence inspiring ride. Would we say it performs any better than traditional style forks? No. But it looks awesome. The only drawback was when our bike transporting required us to remove the front wheel. The issue is that the fork legs of the RS-1 flop around, making it hard to line up the legs for re-installing the skewer.

Other upside down fork makers have addresses this issue by adding a slotted key to the inside of the legs, to prevent side-to-side movement. We expect the next generation RS-1 to incorporate a similar design. Like any bar-mounted remote, the easier it is to use, the more you will use it. Such is the case with the bar-mounted lockout. As active as the RS-1 is, the lockout is a necessity on extended smooth climbs.

The drivetrain, while not 1x, is more than adequate. The Shimano Deore XT 2x10 worked. Same for the Shimano XT brakeset with Ice-Tech rotors. No issues at all. The cockpit is FSA SL-K, and the Ergon grips were definitely a standout. But we can't say the same for the Fizik Tundra 2 saddle. While not painful, it was not as comfortable as some of our old standbys (WTB Volt).

The Black Adder has a solid parts spec at an amazing price. Full XT drivetrain and brakes work as well as you've come to expect from Shimano.

The Black Adder has a solid parts spec at an great price.​

As on any 29er, the wheels are an important spec. The Black Adder rolls on Bulls branded WTB rims with SRAM hubs. The 2.25" Schwalbe Rocket Ron Evolution tires make sense if you are planning on heading straight to the races. They roll fast and provide plenty of grip.

What We'd Change

If you don't plan to head straight to your local XC race, we'd recommend swapping the stock skinny tires for something with a bit more meat. This will help open up the capabilities of the bike a lot. The only other thing we'd change is the Fizik saddle, but saddles are very subjective (and easy to change). Dropper posts work on some hardtails, but if you are thinking of putting a dropper post on this bike, than you probably should look for a different ride. Other than the two small nitpicks cited, the bike works great as is.

The 2x10 Shimano XT drivetrain worked flawlessly during our entire long term test.

The 2x10 Shimano XT drivetrain worked flawlessly during our entire long term test.​

Bottom line

Bulls has done a great job of paying attention to the details and the end result is a bike with a great price and amazing parts. If you are interested in the RockShox RS-1 fork but aren't sure if you want to pull the trigger, the Black Adder offers an inexpensive way to find out how it really rides. The long wheelbase and big hoops provide a stable platform, especially through the choppy stuff, and the carbon monocoque frame is stiff and light in all the right places.

Bottom line, if you are looking for a budget friendly bike that is XC race-ready right out of the box, the Bulls Black Adder is it. But if you are the type that installs dropper posts on all your bikes (including hardtails) then this is not the bike for you.

For more information visit: www.bullsbikesusa.com