The last 2 weeks I traveled south and got to ride in a handful of states with my Sun Kiss single speed fat ebike. I haven’t actually done much trailriding with electric fatbikes other than in snow and was actually amazed at the difference. I grabbed my massive 20 lb 22Ah battery today and rode for 3 hours straight in the spring slop switching back and forth between bikes to see which I liked better, the results really surprised me.
My full suspension bike is a Sette Ace XC which I bought 6.5 years ago from Pricepoint for about $1000, over the years I’ve added about $600 in parts and replaced the drive train a couple of times before electrification. The front fork has never had issues, but the rear shock has been rebuilt twice, once under warranty and once out of pocket. The Avid Juicy 3 brakes have been a headache and I’ve bled the rear one at least 8 times. The bike was too small for me at 20.5″ so I rode it for about 18 months then upgraded to a 22″ Razzo 29er hardtail which I beat on for 4 years until I discovered ebikes about 8 months ago. When I started experimenting with the BBS02 last summer the first bike I installed it on was my old Sette Ace as it had sit mostly unused for several years. Nothing is worse than a bike that doesn’t get ridden, except for maybe a bike getting crushed under the wheels of a large truck.
The SunKiss Singlespeed was built out of a Deadeye Monster from Bikes Direct. I got it for $300 from Bike Island because it was beat to crap in shipping (it’s even worse now). I upgraded the brakes with Avid BB7’s for about $70 from fleabay and threw a Lou on the rear and a Dillinger 4 on the front as well as upgrading the tubes. The fatbike also sports a Thudbuster LT which takes a lot of the beating out of your ass. I am convinced that the Thudbuster LT is mandatory upgrade on any singletrack fatbike that isn’t full suspension.
Both bikes have a stock BBS02 from China that I got for about $500, the Sun Kiss has a 68mm bottom bracket that will fit an unmodified motor. With the motor but without batteries I estimate I have about $2000 into the Sette Ace (41.8lbs w/o battery) and about $1000 into the Sun Kiss (42.8lbs w/o battery). So which one is better?
The Sette Ace bounced around the tree roots and slid around in the mud. I often thought the rear tire was flat it slid around so much, but it never was. It also did a lot more damage to the trails than the fatbike did, and I really am the kind of guy who stays up at night feeling bad about trashing trails when it’s wet. Tree roots and rocks felt like a washboard and the faster you went, the worse it got. That being said, the suspension was more predictable over large obstacles with the rebound absorption dampening of the shocks. The bike got bogged down pretty bad in the mud and without the motor I’m not sure I would have even wasted the time going out it would have been so hard to slog around. The chain requires a lot of finesse, and at least once or twice an hour the chain would slip off the front ring. It was nice to be able to set the gears and pedal along, but the motor runs much hotter when you do this. If you spin the motor much faster than you can pedal the temps in the controller usually stay about 10 degrees lower. The Sette can go over 25mph in the highest 11T cog, although on singletrack I never went over about 15mph which is the top speed of the Sun Kiss.
The Sun Kiss was a startling contrast. The brakes were better than the Juicy 3’s mostly because the 8psi Lou has a MASSIVE contact patch that seemed to grip on everything and almost never spit out. When the front tire would wash out in a large puddle of mud it would really wash out and I’d have to put a foot down or else I’d bite it. The faster I went, the more fun I was having, the giant tires seemed to just eat everything up with the Thudbuster taking care of anything the tires couldn’t deal with. While riding the Ace felt like work, I was having a BLAST on the fatbike. The large tires created a huge amount of rolling momentum and it felt like I was doing a massive downhill (without the liftride) the entire time I was riding. I took a hard rimstrike off a jump on the front tire which had gotten down to about 6psi (due to poor tire inflation maintenance) but I didn’t get a pinchflat so I just kept on riding. The only problem with the singlespeed is that it is useless to pedal unless you are climbing a >20 degree grade. The BBS02 spends all its time spinning at a far higher cadence than you can ever keep up with. That being said, the lack of shifters alleviates almost all the chain issues of the Ace assuming the chain tension is properly set. Without a suspension I am hesitant to hit jumps with any speed as the landings can be quite bouncy and a little unpredictable.
Conclusion? The full suspension Ace is a maintenance nightmare. Having to check shock pressures before every ride, having to bleed the Juicy 3’s twice a year and dealing with broken chains and messed up drivetrains the Ace really represents any typical full suspension bike with a BBS02. By contrast the SunKiss is a snap, with easy to adjust cable brakes, the no-maintenance Thudbuster and the giant BMX singlespeed chain that never seems to fail. The only thing you have to really watch is the tire pressures to make sure they don’t get too low. I usually ride 9psi in the rear and never less than 8 in the front on singletrack. Be aware that tire pressures can change quite a bit with temperature changes.
It’s time to move over mountain-bikes, there is a new kid in town. The sub $1000 electric fatbike. It’s the most fun you can have in the woods with your pants still on.