When I first tested the BBSHD on a skinny tire road bike I was completely underwhelmed. It took me a long time to get over the fact that the new Bafang mid drive unit was 4 lbs heavier and hundreds of dollars more than the 750W BBS02 I had come to know and love. As I disassembled the drive (video here), I found that it was massively overbuilt for 30 Amps and it looked as though it would easily take 35 or 40 Amps of power without breaking a sweat. This winter I have ridden the BBSHD almost every day with my Phat Phuk build for around 2 hours in the woods and this article is the culmination of what I have learned riding the BBSHD in the snow, slush, ice and deep powder.
Now that I have gotten used to riding the BBSHD in the snow it’s become quite difficult for me to go back to using a BBS02. The biggest problem is the difference in the peak power bands. With the BBSHD you can get a lot of power at normal pedaling cadence speeds, but with the BBS02 you spend almost all your time with the motor moving at cadence speeds you could never keep up with pedaling. This is mostly a problem with how the motor is designed and the reduction ratios.
A mid drive unit like the 3000W Cyclone seems to generate a lot more power at much lower rpms, but also the max RPMS of the crank is much lower. If you gear the mid drive down more then you generally end up getting more power at the lower RPMs. The BBS02 & the BBSHD are both geared down the same amount, but the BBSHD has a very different motor which generates much more power at lower RPMs.
If you want more power there are several ways to do it
- Install a Luna Mighty Mini 30T chainring ($55) instead of the 46T crap Bafang ships with the unit. This is the cheapest & lightest option.
- Purchase and aftermarket 42T chainring like the Luna Eclipse or the Lekkie BBSHD Bling Ring for ~$100.
- Get a monster 42T granny steel rear cassette ($58).
- Do both item 2 & 3 together (recommended).
If you want to use the BBSHD for singletrack trail riding in the snow I can say with some certainty that you are NOT going to be happy using a normal cassette (even one with a 36T granny) and the lead-sinker 46T Bafang chainring on a fat bike. Although that setup might fly on a 26″ tire normal tire ebike, with a fat bike tire (especially the 5.05″ actual Snowshoe 2XL) your tire diameter is HUGE making your gearing much higher than it should be (bigger tires cover more ground per rotation than small tires).
Plowing through several inches of soft fluffly powder does not really take a lot of extra power, but plowing through several inches of crunchy crusty crud takes an insane amount of power. With the BBSHD I can lean on the throttle and put 30 Amps through the unit all day long and it barely gets warm unless I’m going on a steep uphill through crusty snow. The BBSHD is designed to take much more power than what you can put through it and in that way it is absolutely nothing like the BBS02. With the BBS02 you can use the throttle, but you can’t lean on it full-tilt on steep extended hills or keep it all the way down even on the flats. If you feed your BBS02 too many watts, for too long, it will die. Deep powder has an insatiable appetite for watts, and when the conditions call for it, I can only ride with a 20+Ah pack if I hope to be out for more than an hour.
Having proper traction on the front tire is incredibly important. It’s common to lose traction on the rear tire when the throttle is hit and trying to keep things together and keep the bike pointed in the direction you want to go is all part of the fun. When you are in a turn and the front tire kicks out, then it suddently stops being fun and starts being dangerous. On my normal trail bike, I often ride with studs on the front tire year round because nothing I’ve found grips wet slippery logs like studded fat bike tires. Although the studs are less desirable on rocks and often tend to rip out, I find the benefit of being able to have more grip on log skinnies or log piles to be a worthwhile benefit.
Having a lot of traction on the rear in incredibly important in the snow, nothing I’ve found yet compares with the traction of the Snowshoe 2XL tires at around 6 psi. These tires put down an incredible amount of rubber to the snow and the tread pattern is almost identical to the Surly Lou, the mad king of fat bike tires. For front tires, nothing I have found yet seems to hold traction in the corners like the Surly Bud, Lou’s evil step cousin. The Bud\Lou combo has been around for over 6 years now and it’s a minor miracle that no one else has knocked them off and is selling cheaper versions.
My recommendation for rear tires is to get the biggest width tire you can find that will fit in your frame and in the wintertime run it with ghetto tubeless at the lowest pressure you can get away with and not trash your rims. The front tire can often be run at even lower pressures than the rear since almost all the weight is in the rear. If your front tire bottoms out when hitting a log then your tire pressure is too low.
The PAS programming the ships with the BBSHD is also completely unusable for trail riding. After tweaking the settings for many hours, I’ve finally come up with settings that I really like which kind of turns the BBSHD experience into something more like a ride on a torque sensing Bosch unit, only with 5x as much power. I generally ride with the PAS set at power level 2 out of 5 and often if I’m starting from a standstill on steep hills I have to start off by using the throttle a little. When you consider that the BBSHD has 5x the power and is a tiny fraction of the cost of the Bosch, the payoff is clearly worth it.
Riding in the deep powder with a BBSHD and the Snowshoe 2XL is an incredible feeling. I spent 10 years obsessively skiing in the woods, mostly at Jay Peak in northern Vermont about 8 hours away. There is something about fat biking in the woods that is eerily reminiscent of skiing in fresh powder through the trees. I often feel like I’m barely in control and often the bike does what the bike wants to do and I’m just along for the ride. When I’m throwing the bike down steep 30+degree grades at high speed it feels just amazing. I can go out in the woods and ride all winter long without dealing with anyone else, without it costing me more than the price of my bike and pennies for the electricity to charge it.
No lifts, no people, no lines and I can ride every day in my own backyard without driving 8 hours each way.
What could possibly be better?