The other day I was riding in the woods in several inches of powder with my BBSHD and remembering all the times last winter where I had to walk back to the car pushing my BBS02 equipped efatbike because something failed. It amazed me that I could not remember a single instance in the last 3 months of 2 hours a day singletrack testing the BBSHD where I had to walk back to the car, not even once. With the BBS02 I’ve had catastrophic failures of the controller, nylon gear, a bent axle, and several stripped out crankarms. Am I riding the BBSHD differently than the BBS02? With the new ‘Karl’s Special Sauce’ PAS settings that won’t kill you in the woods, it does feel like I’ve been spending a lot more time actually pedaling and leaning on the throttle a lot less. However, when I get to a steep hill or I just get tired of pedaling it’s still all throttle, all the time. So what are some of the reliability differences between the BBSHD & the BBS02 and how does the BBSHD stack up against the Cyclone 3000W mid drive in the woods?
When I first received my 1000W BBSHD’s from China I was noticeably disappointed at both the weight and how overbuilt it was for just 30 amps (it could probably take 40 Amps). It has taken me about 3 months of constantly riding the BBSHD to turn around and really begin to believe that the BBSHD is actually an incredible drive unit. It has proven itself time and again to be perfect for soft sand as well as ragingly fun in deep snow. When stacked up against the BBS02 this drive unit really shines in its ability to produce massive amounts of torque in the slower pedaling cadences. The biggest difference I’m finding on this drive unit when compared to the BBS02 is the long-term reliability, even when taking the drive unit out and driving it at full throttle (over 1500 Watts) non-stop. This is something that you could never do on the BBS02 without courting a catastrophic failure.
The lastest batch of BBS02’s I ordered last year with my buddy Larry from Boxy Bikes in Ithaca. Larry is the one who got me addicted to ebikes and has become one of my close friends over the last 2 years due to our mutual interest. He was so impressed by my articles on the BBS02 that he was toying with the idea of moving away from selling hub motors and just selling the BBS02 instead. We decided to go in on an order of BSS02’s from a reputable vendor to save a little bit on shipping. The order took well over a month to arrive and in the coming months, Larry had a 100% failure rate on every one of the 4 BBS02 that he purchased, although this was not the vendor’s fault (the four I bought were fine). There were 3 controller failures (with the older pre-upgraded mosfet controllers) as well as one drive winding that melted. Everything that failed was replaced by the vendor, but the experience was enough to scare him away from focusing on selling so many BBS02’s in his shop and now he is back to hub motors again. Larry’s experience is not unique, the BBS02 at full throttle simply cannot be operated for any extended length of time, especially on hills. Try to tell an ebike rental customer to not be in too high of a gear and use full throttle on the hills, and it is the first thing that they will do. I’ve managed to mitigate the problems with the BBS02 by installing 34T chainrings on all my ebikes and not using full throttle when climbing up 20-degree or steeper grades, but that takes a level of technical expertise and restraint that your average ebike consumer simply does not possess.
Enter the BBSHD. Lunacycle.com is the largest BBSHD purchaser in the world right now and they have bought over 1/3 of all BBSHD’s sold by Bafang to date. Of the many hundreds of drive units that that Lunacycle has sold, they have had exactly one unit returned due to mechanical failure. There have been two drive units that have had controller failures (with the newer 3077 mosfets) in the 3 months since they have started selling their units. Don’t forget that not only is Lunacycle hot rodding their controllers with programming that doesn’t suck, they are also selling their drive units with 52v batteries which most sane ebike retailers will not even do.
Several competing BBSxx ebike resellers have gone so far as to say that if you run a drive unit that you purchase from them with a 52v battery from anyone else then you will void the warranty on the BBSHD. Eric from Lunacycle is taking the opposite approach and encouraging you to beat the hell out of his drive units with both the better programming and the use of 52v batteries. A 52V battery fresh off the charger is going to put out 59v with is only one volt away from the high voltage cutoff on the BBS02\BBSHD controller. Eric should be swimming in drive failures if the BBSHD was anything like the BBS02, but that is just not happening. Most of the returns on the BBSHD were because customers were having fitting problems with intrusive chainstays on their fatbikes, a problem that is easily corrected by swapping the drive unit with the next BB size up.
When I first got my BBSHD’s I lubed up the secondary gear reduction with MobilGrease 28 which may be part of the reason that I have been completely failure free. I have been testing this grease extensively on all my BBS02’s and my BBSHD’s with very good results. I suspected that my nylon gear failure was caused by the softening of the plastic due to the black moly grease from the secondary reduction seeping through the bearing into the primary reduction gear and it looks like I may have been right. I replaced the black moly grease on my BBS02 units with Mobilgrease 28 and I have not had any failures since I made that change.
One of the biggest changes of the BBSHD is the proliferation of new chainrings to choose from. You can now get a Mighty Mini 30T chainring $55, a 42T Luna Eclipse $99, or a 42T Lekkie Bling Ring HD $95. Any of these aftermarket chainrings is going to make your drive unit about 1 lb lighter, will probably fix and chain derailment issues you are suffering from and will look a hell of a lot better than the 44T steel POS that Bafang gives away free in their cracker jack boxes. The chainring that really shines, in my opinion, is the 30T Mighty Mini which will push your chain line 1cm away from the bike, but pays you back by offering torque levels that are simply inaccessible with the 42T chainrings without installing a 42T Sun Race monster granny cassette. Once you get your gearing on the BBSHD down, your life will never be the same again, it’s like a different animal entirely.
I have been experimenting with the 3000W Cyclone kit on singletrack extensively in the last week. I have to say that the Cyclone has a totally different feeling than the BBSHD, but with a 52v volt battery (2000W peak), the torque level is very similar. The extra 500 Watts is noticeable on steep hills where the motor will fly up the hill at much higher speeds, but for the most part on the trail, I just don’t really notice the extra power. I really notice the extra weight, and it’s hard not to notice the motor and frame flexing dramatically whenever I lean on the throttle. To be fair the Cyclone unit ships with a 44T chain wheel and for my singletrack testing I swapped it down to a 34T chain wheel which gives me ‘over the top’ power on demand. With mid-drives, it’s really all about the gearing. The lack of decent PAS, the inability to program the controller, the extra weight and the complete lack of stealthiness on the Cyclone make it a poor replacement for the BBSHD on the trails. Although I really like the Cyclone for road riding, I doubt that I will use it very much in the woods. With the BBSHD I can actually have the PAS in level 1 and it produces way more power than I need when pedaling. If there is another biker on the trail I can pedal past them with the PAS active and they actually can’t even hear the drive unit spinning. I love that, it makes me feel like a super sneaky secret agent.
The future of the BBSHD depends on Bafang now. What they choose to do with with this drive unit will really affect its success in the ebike marketplace. Although the BBS02, in my opinion, was an incredible drive unit for the price and weight, many of the mainstream public looked at it as a total flop due to its questionable reliability. Bafang has stepped up their game something fierce with the BBSHD and created a platform with the BBSHD that is incredibly reliable. They have also decided to start integrating the gear sensor plug into every new BBSHD that they sell (as of right now), which is a decision they should have made several years ago.
The future looks incredibly bright for the BBSHD, but time will tell whether it is a real winner in the marketplace.
After months of resistance, it’s finally won me over.
I love you BBSHD *sniff*, *sniff*.