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Teton Tested: Bulls’ Value-Focused Wild Cup 3 All-Mountain Bike

Yes, we know you have never heard of Bulls. The German brand does not yet make much hay in the States, and while they share the direct-to-consumer model of fellow Deutschlanders like Canyon, their bikes are nowhere near as sexy. However, they do present a good value (they also make pricier XC bikes, as well as e-bikes), and the oddly-named Wild Cup 3 (perhaps a copyright issue with a certain soccer federation?) excels at that, offering a 150 mm-traveled trail/all-mountain bike (basically, a bike meant to ride most everything, including technical downhill terrain) with very surprisingly plush and effective Rock Shox suspension, a KS Lev dropper post, and Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires. 

With bikes from outfits like Evil, BMC, and Devinci on tap, the Bulls was a bit of an outcast, but won me over with a suspension design as supple and smooth as many of the other bikes in our test.

Design and Components

There's plenty of components, and a plush suspension setup, to be psyched about with the Wild Cup. Bulls photo.

The aluminum Wild Cup doesn’t have some fancy patented and named suspension design, with a dual linkage you’re familiar seeing from brands like Giant and Norco. The rear is sprung by a more entry-level Rock Shox Monarch RL with 150 mm of travel, while the front end is held up by a Sektor TK Solo Air 150 mm fork that for whatever reason features a handlebar-accessible lockout. 17.3” chainstays are nice and short, with our only fit complaint coming from the relatively short 428 mm reach for our size medium frame. 

As far as components go, Bulls got it mostly right with the Wild Cup where it counts. For $2,400, you're getting extremely plush and well-matched front and rear suspension, a top-level KS Lev dropper post, solid Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires, and a pretty faultless Shimano XT drivetrain. 

There are a few things that could be changed to really make the most of the excellent suspension setup on the Wild Cup 3, though. For starters, the handlebar is pretty narrow and stuck way out in front with an exceptionally long stem by today's standards, and then laden with so many controls it'd give a single-speeder a heart attack. From left to right, you get a front brake, front shifter, dropper post lever, fork lockout, rear shifter, and rear brake.

The Wild Cup's cockpit is narrow, stuck way out in front, and loaded with far too many controls. Ryan Dunfee photo.

In an ideal world, at this price point, we'd rather see something like SRAM's entry-level 1x11 GX groupset so we can lose that front shifter, and a fork lockout on its own in a full suspension bike is frankly pretty useless. If anything, you'd want to start with one for the rear shock, but I personally prefer to keep the bars as litter-free as possible. For novice as well as experienced riders, simpler is better, unless you're racing cross country and really feel the need to lock out your suspension for fireroad climbs. It's just less to think about and less to do with your thumbs.

 Swapping out a wider bar and a shorter stem, and possibly jumping up a frame size in the process, would bring the Wild Cup's feel in line with that of today's proven all-mountain designs, which emphasize a long front end of the bike with a short stem and wide bar to provide stability at speed and neutral, confident handling when it gets sketchy.

RELATED: Testing Evil's game-changing short-travel 29'er, The Following

Keep in mind, as well, than buying a bike direct from the manufacturer - versus a bike out of a lineup that your local shop already carries - means you'll be paying full bore for fixes and support from your local bike shop, and that while Bulls has a decent warranty policy, it'll likely be a less seamless process dealing in case shit goes south on your new bike. But you'll no doubt be saving some money, too, in the cheaper initial purchase price.

The Wild Cup 3 On The Climbs

Plush and active, the Wild Cup keeps the wheels calmly glued to the ground on loose, rocky climbs. Athlete savant and former TGR Grom Contest champ Parkin Costain hammers it up a loose Big Sky climb. Ryan Dunfee photo.

With an active, plush suspension package and a relatively steep-for-its-travel-class 68 degree headtube angle (get closer to 66 or 65 and the bike becomes more primed for descending, with 66-67 being where most bikes with 150 mm of travel are sitting these days), the Wild Cup 3 makes smooth work of climbs, and won't be bucking any novices off the pedals any rocky climbs anytime soon. This is one space where the long stem helps, by keeping your body farther out on the front of the bike. 

The Wild Cup's suspension is active enough that you can justify reaching for the lockout levers on smoother climbs. Ryan Dunfee photo.

As you can see in the review video, the Bulls' suspension is moving almost continuously. This is one bike where you may feel the desire to use the switch on the Monarch rear shock to stiffen up the rear suspension, and you can completely lock out the fork on road climbs if you want, although, as we mentioned before, we'd rather just clear up space on the bars.

I could see this being a great bike for those riding terrain (East Coast!) where the technicality never quite lets up.

The Wild Cup On The Descents

TGR's Mountain Bike Editor-at-Large, Gunnar Waldman, finds the ride plenty plush in the Big Sky bike park. Ryan Dunfee photo.

Both up and down, we were surprised and impressed with how well the Wild Cup's suspension worked. Like the Trek Fuel EX we tested - which is nearly $6,000 more - the resonating feeling is one of plushness. The TK Silver fork is no hot-shit Pike with murdered-out black stanchions, but it performs far better than expected at first glance.

The Nobby Nic tires are a good match for what this bike excels at, which is slightly flatter, still technical and bumpy terrain. As the terrain steepens, the long stem, narrow bars, and steep head angle make it feel like all your weight is over the front of the bike, and you'll be finding yourself pushing back to get re-centered. And Shimano's Deore brakes, while actually doing a pretty good job, don't have quite the confidence-building stopping power of the brand's higher-level models when the going starts pointing steeper down the fall line.

Nonetheless, while competitors in this travel class have slackened and lengthened the front end of the bike to give it more steep descending prowess, the Wild Cup still holds its own on flatter yet still demanding trails. 

The Bottom Line

While the front end and cockpit of Bull's Wild Cup 3 feels more 2010 than 2016, if you were to jump up a size more than recommended and get a shorter stem and wider bar, you would be one stoked novice or intermediate rider. Despite not having a fancy, patented design, the Wild Cup's suspension platform was truly impressive, and as plush and effective at reducing trail chatter as other bikes in the test costing twice as much or more. 

If Bulls slackened and lengthened the front end of the Wild Cup, reduced the number of controls on the handlebars, put in wide bars and a shorter stem, and swapped out the Shimano double chaingring for a more entry-level 1x11 drivetrain, this bike would represent an incredible value for newer riders with an inkling to get rowdy.

As it stands, however, the Bulls Wild Cup 3 is a great option for those looking to get into the bike game with many of the buzzword components (dropper post!) that really matter and who would be riding somewhat flatter yet still technical trails. 

From The Column: TGR Tested

About The Author

stash member Ryan Dunfee

Former Managing Editor at Teton Gravity Research, current Senior Contributor, current professional hippy at the Sierra Club, and avid weekend recreationalist.