Bulls Bikes Black Adder 29 carbon hardtail review

Affordable and lightweight, race ready 29er with RockShox RS-1 fork

29er Cross Country
The Black Adder 29 from Bulls offers the most affordable mountain bike equipped with a RockShox RS-1 fork.

The Black Adder 29 from Bulls offers one of the most affordable ways to experience the RockShox RS-1 fork.

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.

Stat Box
Intended use: XC Wheel size: 29er
Travel: 100mm front Wheelset: SRAM X.0 hubs, Bulls/WTB rims
Weight: 22.55 pounds (size small) Frame: Carbon monocoque
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore XT Price: $2899
Fork: RockShox RS-1 Rating: 5 Flamin' Chili Peppers 4.5 Chilis-out-of-5

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 2×10 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 »

About the author: Gregg Kato

Gregg Kato studied journalism and broadcasting in college while working many different jobs including deejaying, driving a forklift and building web sites (not all at the same time). Kato enjoys riding local Santa Cruz trails. Besides being an avid mountain biker, he is also a motorcycle fanatic. Two wheels, one Passion.


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  • Don says:

    Could you elaborate on why you wouldn’t want to put a dropper on this bike? I guess it’s not routed for stealth, but for a bike like this where you might want a rigid for some courses and a dropper for others, you wouldn’t want one with stealth routing anyway. Is it 27.2 or something?

  • Tony says:

    Weirdly written review. Didn’t address the dropper post option. Have a dropper on my 2012 Trek hardtail and brother it works well. Also whats with what looks like a 110mm stem and no mention of the bars wisth. It’s as if review was done without the bike there.

  • BlackBean says:

    Asking about handlebar width and balking over a long stem though makes me think you guys like freeriding more and hence the issues about the dropper post? Typically freeride/trail bikes have wide handlebars, short stems and dropper posts. The author was talking to YOU when he said this bike might not be intended for you.

    I think the author means that people with droppers typically ride very aggressive freeride or downhill type terrain which typically includes a dropper post (more need for it when descending aggressive and technical terrain). And since this bike is not intended for those type of environment (although by all means it should be fairly capable of handling it), a dropper SHOULD not be required for most riders.

    This bike seems to hit most of the marks. Except for the narrow tires and the 2x drive-train.

  • sgniwder99 says:

    And now, apparently, 2.25″ wide tires are considered “skinny.”

    I just keep getting older…

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