Is this nut job of a blogger really starting a build thread for an ebike he calls “My Little Bronie”? You bet your sweet ass I am.
This was the bike that started my love of singletrack riding 15 years ago. It was also the first e-bike that I ever built that wasn’t a total piece of crap. There were other DD & geared hub builds that I had done, but none of them felt the way that I thought an electric singletrack trail bike SHOULD feel. “My Little Bronie” forever changed the way I looked at riding in the woods, for the better. I remember the first time we got 8 inches of powder last winter I took this build out onto my front lawn for several hours and did nothing but ride around on flat lawn in circles kicking up powder everywhere with a giant grin on my face. The bike went so fast and was so completely out of control on the snow that I was totally hooked on the BBS02. I was laughing like a madman and spinning out everywhere while my best friend and Muni-cycling buddy Gregg just looked on shaking his head in an interesting combination of amazement and disgust.
As the snow started to get deeper and deeper it became obvious that a skinny bike tire was going to be useless for most of the winter. The more I started building other fat bikes and tested them this bike got pushed to the back of the bike shed to be mostly forgotten. I would bring it out to test it against other fat bikes in the spring slop, but for the most part, it just sat unused and unloved.
This is a real shame because the reality is that almost any decent full suspension bike can easily be converted into an awesome single-track machine that essentially turns the entire trail into a downhill track. It’s like having your own personal lift everywhere that you ride. The bike that this build was based on was a Pricepoint Sette Ace 2.0 (this frame gets 4.5 chilis on mtbr.com user reviews here). The Ace had X7 components and hydraulic brakes for under $1000 which was a really good deal about 14 years ago. I’ve trashed on this bike for thousands of hours, and although the shocks and brakes have given me some issues, for the most part, it has been a very solid bike. My biggest complaint was the spoke nipples were all aluminum which would seize up and break over time. I ended replacing them all with brass which is a much smarter choice. The amount of weight that aluminum nipples save over brass is totally negligible and I would never recommend them. Fleshy nipples beat them all, especially when they are in my mouth, yum.
The biggest problem that I’ve had with this trail bike is that I end up riding it so fast that I seem to run through rear brake pads surprisingly fast. Pro Tip – When they start grinding really bad you should swap them out before you throw the pads and grind through the calipers (true story). If you want to run the tires at lower pressure without having to deal with pinch flats all the time I can strongly recommend that you go ghetto tubeless. Going tubeless on all my bikes has greatly increased my enjoyment of single-track trail riding all my bikes as well as cutting way down on trailside maintenance.
Chainring size selection is critical for single track trail riding. The biggest you should ever consider ever going is with a 42T Lekkie Bling-Ring. Most of my trail bikes have a 34T or 36T front ring which will allow you to climb almost any incline without trashing your drive unit. I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. You should also try to get a steel cassette with the biggest granny you can get. This build has a 36T granny which works very well with the 42T chainring. There are custom 44T grannies you can buy on ebay, but be aware that they may not be compatible with many of the derailers on the market.
Do I need more power?
What a silly question, of course you need more power, you always need more power. However, a properly configured BBS02 with a small chainring and decent programming is already more fun than a barrel of monkeys and is a total wheelie machine. If you put a more powerful motor on your trail bike you start running into a lot of issues.
- Weight : The BBS02 is the lightest most powerful mid drive around. There are lighter ones like the crappy Bosch that put out 400 watts, but 400 watts is not enough. The BBS02 weighs in at around 10 lbs with all the hardware which is about the most weight you can add to a bike and still preserve the singletrack experience.
- Questionable legality : Let us be honest here, if you are riding an ebike on almost any trail in the US the legality of it is in question. If your motor rating is sold with a 750 Watt nominal rating at least you fall under HR 727 which is oriented towards ebike retailers but can also be used whenever harassed by cops or other trail riders to show that, yes in fact, you are sort of legal. Print out and carry a copy of it wherever you ride. Even the new law in California only mentions dedicated bike trails and does not include any language for riding singletrack so you are out of luck using that as justification.
- Power : A larger drive unit is going to eat way more power which means bigger battery and controller etc, etc.
- Less Stealthy : If you don’t use your electric motor on the trail when other people are around (and you shouldn’t) and have a backpack battery then most people will not even know that you have an ebike. It sounds crazy, but 95% of the people I encounter in the woods have NO IDEA that I’m riding and ebike. They just say stuff like ‘WOW great fat bike’ or whatever and I slog past them pedaling as fast as I can on the right saying nothing but ‘Hi’. I used to talk to everyone I met on the trail and ask them if they were lost and where they were from and worked as hard as I could to be a good trail ambassador. When I am riding an ebike I just say hi and keep right on riding. For tips on building a stealthy ebike check out our article here.
- You’re going to get us all banned : I personally have decided that I’m not riding motors with over a 750W nominal rating on my favorite trails because I don’t want ebikes to get banned where I ride. E-bikes have already gotten banned at Moab and lots of other places that people like to trail ride, if you act like a turd then they will get banned everywhere. IMBA is doing a survey right here to see how much the bike scene hates on ebikers and you should totally take the 2 minutes to fill it out and advocate for us. If anyone is going to get eMTB biking accepted it will be IMBA, there is no one else. There is more hate that you can possibly imagine in the cycling world (and I can imagine a lot of hate) it’s up to you to change people’s hearts and minds about ebikes.
You might be wondering about how to get into riding electric bikes on your local trails without pissing off all your buddies. The biggest suggestion I have around this is to go riding eMTB first thing in the morning when no one is out. Mountain bikers never seem to make it to the trails before 9:00AM regardless of the circumstances, at least I never did for the last 15 years of riding. I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about what other people think, because they are all just pretending to like you anyway. If you go riding with your non-ebiking buddies then ride your bike without a motor. You should always keep at least one bike around without a motor so whenever you feel guilty about how fat and lazy you are getting on ebikes you can take your old trail bike out and slog around.
Riding in any real snow is not going to work that well with tires this skinny, so if that’s your game then you should opt for an electric fat bike instead. 4″ or wider and mandatory and wider is always better, check out the new Snowshoe 2XL, 5.5 inches baby.
If you are tired of slogging up all the hills in the woods and want your riding to be more about the riding, then you should consider taking your crappy overpriced trail bike and strip out the crank and front derailleur and throw on a 750W BBS02 with a backpack battery. Your trails will suddenly go from 50% slogging and 50% fun to 99% fun and 1% slogging.
My Little Bronie – Getting the slog out of your fun-hog.