The Lunacycle Apex : The Best Torque Sensing Ebike (a lot of) Money Can Buy

The Apex exceeded my expectations on the street and was a decent single track trail ebike to boot

Ever since I started getting into ebikes I’ve wanted to build a high power torque sensing ebike. The main problem is that the more power you want to put through your motor, the more sensitive the torque sensing system needs to be. Although the ebike markets of the world are flooded with 250-350 Watt Torque sensing motors, there is nothing on the market that even comes close to comparing to the new Bafang Ultra Max drive tricked out with a Lunacycle 2500W Ludicrous controller. Eric has been slaving away for months to bring what he considers to be the ultimate ebike to market, and the Apex does not disappoint. When deciding what to equip the Apex with, they really spared no expense with the optional $1800 Rohloff IGH and $600 carbon fiber rims. Riding the Apex on the street feels like what you think a $5000+ ebike should feel like and pedaling the Ultra Max drive really makes you feel like Clark Kent. Please be aware that the Luna Apex is not even remotely street legal in any state. Although it can be neutered to be made street legal, you absolutely would never ever want to do that.

An unnamed reviewer from the leading ebike review site offered to review the Luna Apex for the cool fee of $750 and a free ebike. To me this seems downright dishonest. How can you possibly produce an objective review of a product when you’re getting the ebike for free and $750. This reviewer is not making money off the advertising, he’s making a killing fleecing ebike companies for crappy review after crappy review. I’ve driven from NY to LA 3 times in the last 2 years on my own dime to hang out at Lunacycle and spend a few days thrashing on his newest ebikes. If I try a product I don’t like then I simply don’t write about it. Although I was skeptical of the Apex, I can say with some certainty that The Apex is an ebike worth writing about. My reviewing fee? How about a $5 Burrito and a slap on the back (great job … sucker). Did you know that I’m so poor that as of Jan 1st, 2018 I now qualify for Medicaid?

The highlight of every trip of mine to LA is trail riding with Curt and his son Josh. Backup just a little more for the picture, just a little more, just a little more … aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh ….. thump

Lunacycle had been having a lot of issues getting the programming on the Ultra Max drive right and it seemed like even the Bafang engineers didn’t know what the settings in their own firmware programming does. Without any knowledge of what any of the settings on the new Bafang Ultra Max drive did I spent 4 hours tweaking the settings to get them just right. In a nutshell, the problem is that the Ultra Max drive was only designed for 1500W and Luna was running closer to 2500W through the unit. Not only did the startup at higher power levels feel insanely sketchy, they were burning out nylon gears left and right at high speeds. After a lot of head banging and cutting the power of the drive unit down to 1/20 of the original power from a standstill I ended up getting a drive unit that performed the way I thought it should. Luke and Kyle tested the bike pretty extensively and they agreed. I found the tweaking of the setting on the Ultra Max drive invaluable and I got a pretty good understanding in those 4 hours of what most of the parameters do (the programming guide is coming soon).

Loading this heavy monster on your bike rack without scratching it is my least favorite part of riding the Apex

The Apex was transformed with the proper programming from an ebike I would probably never buy (too sketchy) to something that was really fun to ride. I tested the Apex extensively both on the streets of LA and on some gnarly intermediate single track and it was clear after 2 days that while the Apex really shines as a street commuter, it is only a so-so trail ebike. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the biggest one is weight. The Apex is simply too heavy and when riding it on the trails it sits right on the edge of the boundary between eMTB and electric motocross. The torque sensing system worked well while trail riding, but whenever I stepped hard on the pedals the rear tire would frequently start to spin out, especially on steep inclines at low speeds. I think this is because at 2500W the Ultra Max is almost too powerful and the rider needs to offer a little restraint.

The Ultra Max drive’s main weak point is undoubtedly the nylon gear. The ebike I tested had a prototype steel gear replacement and it seemed to work flawlessly. Although it was slightly louder than the nylon gear, it was not annoying like the Cyclone and Tangent drive systems are. At 2500W you are guaranteed that any nylon gears are going to peanut butter. My understanding from Eric was that every Ultra Max that left the Lunacycle factory would have steel gears installed in it. The gear reduction ratio on the Ultra Max is quite a bit different from the BBSHD and you can feel that it wants to produce a lot more power at much lower pedal cadences. This produces way more pressure on the primary reduction gear which can cause premature nylon gear failure. I predict that Bafang will sell very few of these Ultra Max drive with the nylon gears while Lunacycle will probably sell tons of them with the 2500W controller and an aftermarket steel gear.

The rear swingarm is a single pivot design which works better than most single pivots I have ridden

Although I am not a fan of carbon on ebikes, the Apex frame seems solid. Unlike my wobbly crap-ass $1500 Bikes Direct Sniper which I have decided to totally scrap for parts, the Apex carbon frame has almost no discernable flex in the rear swingarm. To test the strength of the rear swingarm Eric filled it with potting material and then ran it over with his ridiculous 30 ton 16 wheeled army truck from hell. It didn’t break.

Riding the Apex was my first experience with the $1800 Rohloff carbon IGH and I have to say it was love at first ride. I will probably never own one of these IGHs because I’m just too damn cheap, but I have to say that you would be a fool to order this ebike without this hub. The amount of range you get is incredible and the Rohloff allows you to shift from a standstill and has a nice feature of locking out the shifting when the hub is under severe load. Shifting under load is what ends up destroying most of my IGH and I have to admit that it’s hard to restrain myself sometimes. The Rohloff allows you to comfortably pedal along at 35mph+ as well as have a fast pedaling cadence when riding up a 30-degree slope from a standstill. It is hands down the nicest drive mechanism I have ever used. On top of that Luna has a $100 guarantee that if you damage your $1800 IGH you can send it back to Luna and they will rebuild it for only $100. I don’t know of any other ebike company that is willing to take those kinds of risks.

The Rohloff costs more than most of my ebikes do, but it really is worth every penny

Normally going 40mph on an ebike is pretty sketchy. The lighter the ebike is and the skinnier the tires the worse the feeling gets. If you don’t have decent brakes and big rotors you begin to feel like an accident waiting to happen. The Apex is the first ebike I’ve ridden at over 35mph on the street that I was not afraid of. The bike felt more stable and secure on the road, almost like a super lightweight motorcycle. The Rohloff hub allowed me to always pedal along at a comfortable cadence which further added to the illusion of this product as a bicycle. When the pedal cadence is too high at high speeds, it always triggers that fear reflex in your mind, like maybe you really are going too fast. When you have the torque sensing system responding to your every foot pressure it adds to the illusion of control. That really is what high power ebiking is, the illusion of control.

The carbon battery case is removable with 2 hex screws and has a magnetic charging connector

On the trails, the Apex did better than I expected it to. I was able to climb up even the steepest and sandiest slopes without using the throttle and without putting my foot down. I wiped out once at low speeds but that had much more to do with the fact I was riding pretty sketchy stuff with street tires and not so much with the quality of the bike. I still smashed the drive unit once or twice on rocks and logs even though it is up pretty high. The case on the Ultra Max is stupid thick metal so I’m quite certain that the drive unit can take repeated bashings onto rocks. I didn’t try jumping the Apex and in all honesty, I can’t recommend that. I was also incredibly paranoid about smashing and breaking the carbon rims by bunny hopping curbs. The bike is too heavy and the shocks are not high enough quality to bunny hop. If you really want to bunny hop then get an Anthem 2 instead (actually any of the Anthems are pretty awesome, the Anthem 1 has an insane titanium 46T granny).

The handlebars are relatively uncluttered and the color display is easy to read

While trail riding we noticed that the Ultra Max tended to get much hotter than it’s BBSHD cousins on the exact same trails ridden at the same speeds. Whether this is because it has much higher gearing ratio on the motor, or poorer cooling I just don’t know. One of my biggest complaints about the Ultra Max is the chainring adapter. There are several different versions, and although I like the 4 bolt BCD 104 pattern, most of the newer Ultra Max’s seem to have the much larger 5 hole BCD 110 pattern which means you’re not going to be able to mount anything smaller than a 40T chainring on it. Almost all of my snow bikes are running the BBSHD with the 30T or 36T chainring options which produce over-the-top torque. There is just no way to milk these Ultra Max motors for the kind of torque I want when the front chainring is so large. As a side note, when removing the mounting ring for the chainring adapter it is backward threaded to righty loosy and lefty tighty. You also cannot use the standard Luna removal tool to get that ring off as it is inset inside the chainring adapter, but I am assured that a new tool is coming.

The carbon rims are supposed to be nigh-indestructible, but I was too afraid to really thrash on them

The Apex is the perfect ebike for picking up women for any man suffering through a midlife crisis. Just tool around town on this beast and you will look and feel like a superman. I would shine it up and throw on a tuxedo just to complete the image. What this ebike says to the world is “I don’t care how much it costs, I absolutely must have the best”. Throw the optional Lauf Carbonara Carbon Fat Fork on the bike for an extra $200 and the $500 carbon rims and it suddenly becomes a beautiful work of art. Personally, I feel guilty about thrashing this work of art on the trails, but maybe you care a little less about destroying expensive ebikes. My personal favorite for riding in deep snow is still the cheapo $1000ish Sunkiss Deadeye Monster with a BBSHD Ludicrous controller, 30T chainring and a Nexus 3-speed IGH. Tons of torque and I don’t lose any sleep if I break the frame in half.

Pros:

  • Only 2500W factory built torque sensing ebike on the market
  • Rohloff gives insane gearing range 526%
  • Lots of different options to choose from when you order it
  • Custom built in the USA
  • Not your parents ebike, nothing on the market looks like this bike
  • 28Ah custom carbon ebike pack with a potted BMS and potted 21700 format cells

Cons:

  • Weight (too heavy) – Bike tested with carbon Luna front fork (not recommended), carbon Rolhoff, 28Ah pack and carbon rims
  • Better as a commuter then as a serious trail bike
  • 2500W Ultra Max feels almost too powerful on the trails
  • Carbon seat is way too hard
  • Super expensive
  • Warranty? What warranty? If you want more than 30 days then you need to pay extra $350/6 mths $700/1 yr

It might not look pretty but the Apex has an entirely new battery construction technique that promises to revolutionize ebike pack construction for years to come

The last 5 cars I have bought have all been <$500 and I tend to get about 3-4 years out of them before they really need to be junked. I have a hard time watching perfectly good cars go to the junkyard and they become kind of like the uncared for pets of a pet hoarder as they sit and rust in my yard. When you can buy perfectly good cars for <$500 it’s hard to justify spending $5000+ on an ebike, but the Apex is the first ebike I’ve seen in that price range that is actually worth the money. The Apex is available here for $5,500 with the stock options.

  • Don’t order this ebike with anything other than the 2500W Ludicrous mode (+$250). Just don’t.
  • Don’t expect to keep the beautiful carbon fiber seat, it is an absolute ass buster.
  • Don’t order this ebike without the Rohloff $1800 option. It’s awesome.

The Apex is the first ebike I’ve ever ridden that I would classify as ‘serious transportation choice’. If you’re thinking of turning your crappy traffic stalled LA commute into a leisurely ride along the Strand every day, then the Apex is the kind of ebike you would feel good about selling your car and using as your only form of transportation. Riding it on the street was pure joy and it got lots of attention from people. That being said an ebike like this is going to attract bike thieves like nobodies business, so I would not leave this bike along and unlocked for even a second. It screams ‘steal me’ like nothing else I’ve ever seen. If you want to see what you can get away with on the streets and on bike paths then this ebike is a perfect choice because it looks enough like a bicycle that even at 35+ mph as long as you’re pedaling along, everyone will pretty much ignore you.

Break the law, get away with it.

The Apex.

Ride On.

 

25 thoughts on “The Lunacycle Apex : The Best Torque Sensing Ebike (a lot of) Money Can Buy

  1. I’m in New Zealand and am changing my old 250W Tongsheng torque sensing 36V system into a Bafang Ultra Max 1000W 48V one. I’m just about to slice the old bottom bracket off and weld on the aluminium motor bracket so that’s daunting but it seems from your excellent article that I’m making the right choice.

    I decided last week to go full out and use an IGH and have been looking at the Shimano Alfine 11 speed with Di2 electronic shifter or the Rohloff Speedhub with the new E14 electronic shifter. Because of the high price of the Rohloff I was steering towards the Alfine but did wonder if it would be OK with the motor, but now I’m thinking of spending the extra and getting the Rohloff.

    I’m getting old, heavy and well past the mid-life crisis stage (I think) so this is just so I can get up hills, period. I’ll keep it stock for now but am very interested in what you said about the ability to tweak it and also about the replacement steel gears. I’m wondering if Luna will sell those as after-market spares in case I need to repair mine sometime in the future?

    Thanks for your article. I love your blog.

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  2. I think the Apex sucks, too me fat bikes are not bicycles when you put a motor on them, they become a light motorcycle, fat tires are so impractical – they just yell puncture me – as if it’s so hard to puncture a normal tire and don’t get me started about rolling resistance, maybe you think the FAT size helps justify the exorbitant price – not when it’s priced out of the general market, Luna cycle gained a great reputation for value – not with this motorcycle that out strips the cost of most electric bikes and petroleum equivalents (motorcycles). I like the ideas behind the Ultra Max but look how many Bicycles out in the market are available with it – hardly any. For me this bike flops because you built a monster truck out of a SUV when it should have been a ferarri

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    • I test drove Kyle’s Fusion Roam with a 34Ah pack when I was in LA. It was also heavy but a surprisingly stable ride at 35mph+ with only 2″ tires and no rear susp and you can get it for about 1/2 the price of the Apex. Probably the nicest skinny-tired road bike I’ve ridden with unheard of speed and range. It also has the potted battery.

      https://lunacycle.com/roam-fusion/

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      • I do like the Fusion and it closely reflects my current build, only thing is – does the Max motor offer better torque, speed, power usage or anything else that make it worthwhile purchasing over a BBSHD.

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    • A monster truck might suck in city driving, but a Ferrari sucks on bumpy gravel roads. All the roads around me are county gravel roads or rough BLM dirt roads. I love the fat tires for riding that terrain. The Apex is exactly what I want.

      As far as price goes, I personally didn’t want to spend that much but the only other e-bike that ever got me really excited was the decked out Optibike. That’s $14,000. So I do see great value in the Apex. Considering that Optibike has been in business for years I’d say that there is a market for higher priced e-bikes, and considering a few people in this thread, myself included, bought an Apex I’d say that there’s a market for that too.

      Maybe Luna will make a road bike with the 21700 battery pack, a Rohloff and the new Bafang motor and we can both be happy 🙂

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  3. How does the sound / stealth compare to the BBSHD? I don’t want to scare joggers or other riders with a noisy motor.

    Is 1500w powerful enough and quiet enough for most city commuting ?

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  4. Why spend US$5,000 on Apex when you could buy from China with half the price with Bafang Max Ultra? 1,500 watts is more than enough. My custom built was with Hardtail aluminum frame, dual suspension add another US$200.
    SRAM EX1 system, Magura M5TE with 203mm disc, 27.5 2.3′ Maxxis tire, with 36 stainless steel spook 13 gauge, brass nipples, 46V 17ah Panasonic battery, Derailleur Gear Sensors etc.. In Alibaba you can get the Ultra kit under US$600 instead at Luna for US$1,000. A steel gear shouldn’t cost a price difference of US$400 with nylon gear.

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    • I’ve tested the 1000W stock Ultra Max. I was under impressed. The BBS02 is a better drive unit and has about the same power for 1/2 the weight and 1/2 the cost. If you go with Ultra Max then the Ludicrous is the only way to go.

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  5. To anyone considering the Rohloff : suck it up, and just buy the damn thing, they are worth every penny. What mine does for me on my Montague (yes, the hub cost almost twice as much as the bike) I carry in my LSA plane is give me a bike with a 38 mph top speed, while I can still pedal along in the mid 30’s. PLUS, a good enough trail bike to be able to go off road, way off road. The tires are the only limit, the lowest gear is so low, torque is never an issue. The only problem with the Rohloff is riding my other two bikes with conventional derailleurs kinda sucks in comparison.

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  6. Thanks for the great review. I ordered an Apex about 6 weeks ago and now have a better understanding why it is taking so long to build. (Steel gears and programing issues) The Rohloff was simply out of my budget so I am hoping the derailleur works out.

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    • Be patient, you won’t be disappointed. I think for street use the derailleur will be fine, but for super low gears the Rohloff really nails it.

      I tend to run the Nexus 3 but geared way the hell down so the bike tops out at <20mph for the trails. With the Rohloff you have super low end range as well as pedal along at 40mph.

      Nothing else I've tried even comes close, even the X12 with the 48T granny!

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      • Pavement/gravel/dirt roads for me. Do you think a NuVinci Hub could handle this bike, or is the Apex too much for the NuVinci ?

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      • I’m in the same boat. Ordered it on announcement day thinking it’d be ready in 20 days like it says on the Luna website. Honestly, I was nervous giving this much money to a company that I haven’t had any previous business with but watching Eric’s videos and reading this review definitely helped. Hopefully they get everything sorted out. I’m really looking forward to using the Apex. Got the Lauf fork + rohloff option.

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  7. Sounds like a very pricey beta bike with issues. I m still riding a 33 mph rear hub ebike for about 1/2 the price, totally solid descending at 40 mph on a Tidalforce S aluminum frame. And damn quiet.

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  8. Another great article Karl. I love how frankly you describe the bike and it’s pros and cons. The Apex is the perfect bike for someone, and not for others. If you love it, buy it. If not, don’t. Kudos to Luna for continuing to push the envelope and advance the industry.

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