I’ve been riding a Bullitt for about a month now and I thought I would put down a few thoughts in lieu of a short review.
I should perhaps start with a disclaimer. I’ve never been particularly discerning about the bikes I’ve ridden. All this talk of stiffness or flexibility of frames leaves me a little nonplussed. But what I can do is let you know something of what a Bullitt is like to use on a daily basis. I am also rather tall – about 6′ 2″. I can therefore only speak for how the Bullitt is to ride as a reasonably fit and strong male. (Note for future Blog post when we have a lady ride one for a while).
I have been riding a Bullitt with 8 speed Alfine hub gears, with Alfine disc brakes front and rear. The bike is equipped with a large box on the front, which at something over 20kg actually weighs more than the bike itself. Thus, I have been riding a lightly loaded Bullitt most of the time.
The design of the Bullitt is beautiful. The aluminium frame is curvy and appealingly substantial. Placing the load at the front allows a fairly normal back end, with 26” rear wheel, which in turn allows for a great deal of flexibility in rear mech and tyres etc. The maximum carrying capacity is apparently 180kg, which I assume includes the rider, but allows for a total payload (in my case) of at least 100kg.
The linkage between the handlebars and the front 20” wheel takes a little bit of getting used to. When I first rode a Bullitt, I found it a little strange to steer a bike about a pivot point a metre ahead of the handlebars. This was further complicated by the fact that the cargo box completely obscures the front wheel, and the handlebars were not lined up accurately with the straight ahead position. This made signalling quite tricky as there was a tendency to adjust to the straight position when I took one hand off the handlebars. Once I adjusted the handlebar alignment, it became a lot easier and within an hour of riding around I was riding accurately and confidently.
The Alfine hub gears just work. Uphill or downhill, moving or stationary, the gear changes are smooth and reliable. The lowest gear has been sufficient to climb the gradients that I have come across in Leeds city centre (maybe up to about 10%) and in the higher gears I have been able to ride confidently in busy city traffic. Acceleration isn’t great, but perfectly acceptable, though this is more likely to be due to the overall weight of the bike and rider.
After the initial period of getting used to riding the Bullitt, I have come to quite enjoy it. Although longer than a standard bike (its 2.43m long) this obviously has no impact at higher speeds, and there is a certain sense of satisfaction leaning into a turn at speed. Occasionally I have felt the back wheel sliding out from under me when taking turns at speed on greasy roads, but while a little disconcerting, this has not led to any mishaps, and I suspect that I will soon get used to it.
As I described above, my bike is equipped with a 20-25kg box, so while I have not carried any large loads, the bike is always moderately loaded. At speed it has not seemed to affect handling too adversely, but when wheeling the bike it can prove a little unwieldy. The biggest drawback of carrying the load on the front is that climbing kerbs can be quite difficult. It is possible to lift the front wheel from the handlebars, but the added weight in front of the handlebars makes this difficult and I have sometimes found it easier to combine the lift with a push at the kerb. Similarly, dropping down kerbs is best accomplished partially dismounted, pulling on the handlebars to avoid a heavy drop.
Even with the cargo box, the bike ‘scoots’ easily when I ride one pedal in pedestrianised areas, or over short distances. The stand built into the frame is solid and is nicely balanced, allowing the bike to lift onto the stand with just a little pull backwards, and sliding, rather than dropping onto the front wheel with a gentle push forwards.
Although the cargo box is about 70cm wide this is not dissimilar to the width of the handlebars, so it doesn’t feel especially wide, or unwieldy. I have tended to avoid narrower gaps between stationary vehicles, but these are probably the sort of gaps that aren’t the safest to exploit. The additional size also provides confidence when cycling in the middle of the lane with following traffic. It does feel like vehicles give the Bullitt a little bit more room than they would a normal bike.
I am sure that over time I will have more useful comment, but to summarise my experience over the past month, I am very happy with my Bullitt. I hope to do something of a comparison between the Bullitt and the Mike Burrows designed 8-frieght at some time in the future.