This article goes over some of the highlights of what happened in 2015 and what we can look forward to in 2016 with Electric Fatbikes.
Bafang’s BBSHD 1000W middrive kit was released for 68-120mm bottom bracket bikes
For the last 2 years the only way to get a BBS02 on most fat bikes (other than ones with 68mm bottom brackets) was to buy a 100mm kit already assembled (from Lectric, Biktrix or Cali ebike) or get a 100mm axle kit from California eBike or Biktrix and install it yourself. Rumors of a BBS unit that would run at higher power and work with a variety of BB sizes abounded, but getting any real information out of Bafang is next to impossible.
Finally in September Bafang posted images of the BBSHD on their website with little fanfare and started shipping them to the states in November. Although my initial impressions of the BBSHD were disappointing, this drive unit had grown on me. Now that I’ve spent some serious time behind the handlebars of the BBSHD I have to admit that it is hard for me to go back to riding the 750W BBS02. Although the extra 5 amps of power is not that noticeable, the BBSHD can be operated safely at much lower pedaling cadences which means you can get a lot of power out of the drive unit while still keeping it spinning slow enough to pedal along with. This makes ebike singletrack feel more like mountain biking and less like ultralight motocross. The BBS02 had serious heat and controller issues with running it at a normal pedaling cadence on anything steeper than about 10 percent grade and overheated quickly if you beat on it really hard at lower RPM ranges under load.
The BBSHD seems to really excel at riding in soft sand and deepish powder which are perfect applications for electric fat bikes. With single track riding on a normal 26″ wheel the BBSHD is an out of control kind of fun and can actually be a little hard to keep it pointed straight in the mud. The worst thing about this drive unit kit is the 558 gram steel chainring, but Lunacycle has released their aftermarket Luna Eclipse ring (240g) $99 which is a must-have for any BBSHD owner. A Lekkie prototype BBSHD chainring is also on its way to me right now and I’ll do a review article on it as soon as I get it and can test it. I predict that the BBSHD unit will continue to make huge inroads in the ebike world and will eventually completely obsolete the 750W BBS02 drive unit even though the BBS02 is several pounds lighter and several hundred dollars cheaper.
Sondors Ebike Crowdfunded campaign delivers on his promises
There is nothing else as important to 2015 with electric fat bikes as the Sondors Ebike campaign was. Ivars Sondors has singlehandedly sold $7.3 million dollars worth of electric fat bikes to thousands of satisfied customers with more on the way. My friends that didn’t get their ebikes from the first campaign complained loudly to the Sondors people, and now every person that I know of that bought a Sondors ebike with on first Indiegogo campaign has the bike that they were promised. No matter what happens with Ivars in the future, I can say with some confidence that he did a good job at fulfilling his promises even though I felt his bike was just a little underpowered when I tested it. It’s nearly impossible to go from riding 1300W-1500W mid drives geared very low for extra power to a 350W geared hub motor wound for speed and not be totally disappointed.
Eric from Lunacycle.com has embraced the Sondors ebike & community and made a dedicated section on his online store dedicated to Sondors ebike owners with parts and high powered upgrades for that bike. I have decided to avoid supporting crowdfunding ebike campaigns for the simple reason that I feel like it is a dangerous way for people to shop. It is clear that crowdfunded ebikes are here to stay and there has been a lot of new players on the scene in 2015. Just do a search on any crowdfunding site for ‘electric bike’ and you’ll see what I mean.
We are in the middle of a Lithium battery revolution for those that haven’t noticed yet. The newest batch of 18650 cells are doing a better job than ever at providing tons of range OR tons of power (but not really both). I finally broke down and purchased a NCRb 18650 52v 13.5Ah shark pack from Lunacycle.com and have been extremely satisfied with the performance of the pack. Although it gets hotter than I feel comfortable with when beating on it with a 1000W BBSHD it seems to be a good match for the lower powered 750W BBS02 as long as I’m not riding in deep powder or sand. The NCRb cell was based on the very successful NCRa cell that a little car company named Tesla used in some of their electric cars.
If you are running this battery with a BBSHD I recommend the higher power pf cells as an option which will cut your range back a few Ah to 11.5Ah. A review of this pack is coming soon, but in a word all I can say about these new shark packs is … WOW just wow. 13.5Ah out of a 7lb 11oz pack that looks incredibly sexy and exceeds all of my expectations for a pack of this size. The 52v packs are glued together and the 48v shark packs have the plastic battery holders which are a little better for durability and cooling.
Lunacycle.com comes out of nowhere and blows everyone away with their offerings and pricing
Eric Hicks, owner of electricbike.com, decided to start lunacycle.com after he basically got tired of getting fleeced every time he wanted to buy e-bike motors or batteries. In August of this year I stumbled across his website at the recommendation of one of my readers. I contacted Eric before I went to press with the article on his website and we became quick friends. In the last 6 months I have worked hard to help him promote lunacycle.com and it has paid off. Lunacycle.com can claim to be the biggest reseller of the BBSHD in the entire world and has created a very good relationship with Bafang. I have had no problems with the batteries and motors I have bought from Eric and although our relationship is sometimes something of a roller coaster ride, I can say that he is an honest guy who stands behind his products. Just try to get support from most (but not Paul) Chinese ebike dealers and you find out how hard it is to get help once they have your money. Not gonna happen.
I was worried that working with Eric would create a lot of stress and problems in my life, but the opposite is true. Eric is a true believer and is willing to do whatever it takes to move the industry forward. He has spent a lot of energy promoting the BBSHD, developing his own chainring for the BBSHD and designing and selling high power ebike batteries for a fraction of a cost that you would be paying anyone else. He does it all with insane volume that most small ebike dealers will never be able to compete with. I want Lunacycle to succeed even though it doesn’t mean any profit for me because I don’t see any other dealer being able to take the DIY ebike world to ‘the next level‘ other than Eric. For all you other dealers that hate what Eric is doing, remember that competition drives down prices and that is good for everyone. It also seems that the more your frame pack resembles a phallus, the more frame packs you will sell so e-bike dealers take note, if you want to sell more batteries, then make sure they look like a giant pen!s.
Bluto Front Fork is released and others follow behind
The Bluto fat bike fork (review here) has forever changed my riding style and the performance I expect out of a fat bike. Now that I have been riding it on a regular basis on single-track it is pretty hard to go back to riding a fixed fork fat bike unless I’m running 5.5 inch tires on snow at 5-6psi. The feeling of floating and flying along is truly incredible and a suspension fork makes jumping the bikes far more predictable as well as turning rooty nasty terrain into a magic carpet ride.
That being said the Bluto has been plagued by cold weather problems with lots of users complaining that air gets trapped in the bottom chamber when riding in below freezing temperatures. There are now a few other options for fat bike forks including the inexpensive Renegade RST fork (you can get a decent spec full fat bike with this fork for only $700 here) and the Wren inverted fork available as a $700 add-on to the 2016 Biktrix Juggernaut. Suspension forks on fat bikes are here to stay, it will be interesting to see who manages to figure out the cold weather problems first. This application might make the most sense to switch to using spring forks and forget about air compression entirely, as it is nearly impossible to get air suspension forks to work properly in very cold temps (I ride in -20 degrees F because my blood is made of thermal coupling grease).
VeeRubber releases the SnowShow 2xl even though it is too fat to fit almost any fat bike on the market
There is no doubt that the tire that made the biggest splash in 2015 was the VeeRubber 2XL (my review is here). Who knows what the hell VeeRubber was thinking when they designed this tire, but I’ve tested it pretty extensively and I can say with some certainty that it works
pretty well fricking awesome. This 5″ ACTUAL width tire is like nothing else I have ever ridden and turns fat biking into a sport that feels a lot more like flying than biking. The performance of these tires on soft sand is absolutely incredible and they seem to do well on snow too, but as a front snow tire, it leaves a lot to be desired.
The 5-year-old Surly Bud is still the gold standard for front mounted fat bike snow machine tires. I don’t understand why someone else doesn’t just copy their design and sell if for cheaper. In 2016 look for more frames that will be designed to fit the new ‘5.5 inch’ (5″ actual on a 100mm rim) tire standard as well as more 5.5 inch tires on the market from other tire vendors who don’t want to get left behind.
Youtubers that have changed the DIY ebike landscape for the better
I never spent much time thinking about youtube at all until I stumbled across Bruno’s Youtube channel (user ElectricBike located here). Bruno has spent an exorbitant amount of time and energy documenting everything he can think of that has to do with the BBS02 and BBSHD as well as reviews on lots of other ebikes. He is a wealth of knowledge and information and more important than that – his video’s won’t put you to sleep. It seems like there is some e-bike manifesto that every ebike video must be rated G and so boring that they are literally painful to watch. Bruno changes all that and his energy and enthusiasm are incredibly infectious. I watch every video he releases religiously and I think you should too. We correspond regularly on issues with BBSxx units and in about a month I will do an article indexing all his amazing repair and maintenance videos in one place.
Another Youtuber who deserves your precious viewing time is Damian Rene from Madrid, Spain. His youtube channel is located here and for anyone who is thinking of picking up a spot welder and risking their life & limb building or repairing Lithium packs you will find his videos amazing to watch. Set to very relaxing music and with engaging storylines and editing, each one of these videos tells a story in itself of what it means to love what you do and to do what you love. He works like a man with a purpose and I enjoy every video he releases. Damian’s ES username is Nobou and he started this thread as a repository for all his knowledge about spot welding 18650 cells. I just rewatched this one and it almost brought tears to my eyes *sniff*, just remember that when you are working with Lithium cells always wear eye protection. If you are working with a high voltage pack then using insulated gloves are a really good idea too. Resist the urge to lick the battery to see if its on. Bad idea because they are always on.
Ferrofluids for large DD motors could allow high amounts of cooling with only a few ml of fluid
This could potentially completely change the e-bike world allowing large DD motors to take insane amounts of power and still be able to shed the head effectively. A layman’s article describing what Justin at Grin is trying to accomplish can be found here in case you are living under a rock and somehow managed to miss this revolution. If you like to install and beat on oversized DD motors like the MXUS then you need to be all over this.
A variable voltage & amperage e-bike charger that won’t burn your house down is released and sold for only $79 with battery purchase
Eric from Lunacycle.com likes to live on the edge so he ordered 2,000 ebike chargers sight unseen (he is a crazy man) from the biggest and most reputable ebike charger manufacturer in China. His gamble has paid off, because now he is the only vendor in the US to have 48v or 52v high-quality ebike chargers that charge at 3 or 5 amps and to 80%, 90% or 100% for less than $100. My house nearly burned down when a large capacitor on a $30 Chinese ebike charger blew up last week and I’ve decided to use nothing but the Lunagizer from here on out (except at my wife’s house, don’t worry it’s insured).
I was absolutely horrified when I took my $30 failed plastic charger apart and saw the second capacitor hot glued to the transformer and just floating around in the middle of empty space with bare wires everywhere. The aluminum cased Lunagizer is priced at $99 sold alone (52v one here or 48v here) or as a $79 add-on with any Lunacycle battery. If you have more money to spend then Grin Tech’s Cycle Satiator will do everything the Lunagizer will and more for $295 retail and is available here direct from Grin Tech in Canada or from lots of different US dealers.
So what awesome stuff is coming in 2016?
The all new Cyclone 3000W kit – A possible Bafang BBSxx killer?
The Cyclone 3000W kit boasts 1/2 the price at $389 and twice the power of the Bafang BBSHD (1500W peak) and is available now at lunacycle.com right here. The kit looks to have no instructions and is more of a pain in the ass to install, but there are plenty of DIY cheapskates that are going to find this deal too good to pass up. The kit comes with almost everything you need and will fit any BB from 68 to 110mm and is throttle only (no PAS). Eric has shipped the first 100 preorders and one of them is on the way to me as we speak. I’ll be installing it on a Sturmey Archer 3 speed IGH on a Polished Metal Soul Stomper Cruiser and doing a build report in the coming weeks.
If the Cyclone kicks as much ass as I think it will then it might earn its own place on my site with lots more articles to come on it. If it sucks then I’ll just pretend I never gave Eric my hard-earned dough
and we’ll just stay friends. Right now there is no other kit that provides that much power for that price point in a mid drive kit, so I’m pretty excited about this motor. Bruno is getting one too that I’m sure he’ll install on a skinny tire road bike and try to kill himself within the first week by breaking all the e-bike land speed records.
More public acceptance of electric bikes and more ebike laws that actually make sense
It’s happening slowly but surely, ebikes are making inroads to being accepted by several mainstream bicycle organizations (like IMBA). It’s a tender time for ebikes in the USA and it’s important to remember that YOU are an ambassador for the sport. If YOU tear up trails and ride like an @sshole then it’s going to suck for everybody. Don’t be a jerk, don’t use your motor to power past other riders and don’t do burnouts. Ride responsibly and respectfully and you’ll make life better for everyone. California led the way in 2015 with the first ebike law that actually makes sense and it looks like many other states will soon follow.
More, cheaper better fat bikes
Fatbikes have been insanely expensive for far too long and it’s time for that to end. There are several brands that have begun to introduce affordable fat bikes like the Framed Minnesota 2.0. Bikesdirect has also led the way with selling fat bikes that don’t suck for <$400 shipped like the single speed Deadeye Monster now sold with a 100mm BB and 80mm rims. This bike is the donor for one of my favorite builds, my Nexus IGH 3 speed Sun Kiss. My build only has the older 50mm rims and a 68mm BB but I still believe that if you are looking for the cheapest most awesome singletrack fat bike to build, then this frame with a Nexus 3, a BBSHD and a pf cell shark pack is probably your best bet and will set you back less than $1500 shipped for the whole shebang.
Last year Bikesdirect tried to release a full suspension fat bike under the ‘Quigley’ name but were plagued with frame failures and discontinued it. This year they will be selling the same frame under the Sniper name for $1500 here and hopefully will have solved their frame failure problems by heat treating the frames. If people don’t complain about broken frames in the first few weeks of the release then I’ll probably buy one and test it with a BBS02, assuming I can beg borrow or steal the cash for that fancy ass bike. (the most I’ve ever paid for any bike is about $1000 shipped cause I’m
Torque Sensing 6000W mid drive powerhouses – Hells yeah!
I predict that there will be a surge in torque sensing e-bikes as people realize that they can have the best of both worlds. They can enjoy the ability to exercise at the level of their choice and to still be able to hit maximum speeds on their e-bikes. I still ride around town on my crappy old 350W overvolted Giant Twist not because I don’t have e-bikes that go 3x as fast and have 5x the power, but because I love the torque sensing throttle-less power system that forces my lazy ass to actually pedal to get around. I’ve been waiting on a Lightning Rods Big Block for 6 months now (I am a VERY patient man, hurry the hell up Michael) that will be installed on a Lunacycle cargo fat bike with a torque sensing system and paired with a N171 CVT. I see a huge appeal to a mid drive system that can put out 3000-6000W and still have torque sensing without a throttle. Think of it like a 8hp scooter that you have to pedal to make it go. The LR BB kit on a Luna Cargo bike is the ideal setup for this because the drive system is isolated from the pedals and there is a dedicated chain that goes between the motor and the pedals which you can put a torque sensing gear tensioning system on. It could be awesome, or it could be another waste of my valuable time and money. Only time will tell.
Everything will get cheaper, a whole lot cheaper
The competition in the e-bike world is very fierce right now and the margins will get even thinner before the year is out. Dealers will have to make up their shrinking margins with increased sales, which with the increased interest in e-bikes should not be too hard. It’s hard to know exactly what the future will bring, but most likely it will be more power & more range for less of your hard-earned dough. 14 months ago if you wanted a BBS02 with a 100mm BB your only option was one from Cali e-bike for $1300, now Doug is selling the exact same unit here for only $795, that is a $500 price drop in just over a year. Insane.
Fat bikes are here to stay
Bike dealers thought fat bikes were just a fad, but they weren’t. Fat bikes aren’t going anywhere and will probably end up eventually becoming as popular as snowboarding has become. People who love to bike want to ride all year round, and now they can. It’s way more fun if you add a little help from an electric motor. The right balance of power from the motor and drag from the snow can create an experience that is truly unlike anything else you will ever experience. When you take the time to get outside and ride it’s all about the fun and electric fat bikes allow you to maximize your fun without compromising your morals in the process.
Morals? What morals?