There is half a dozen low power torque sensing mid drives on the market right now that advertise themselves as being between 250 and 750 Watts. The one thing that all these ‘low power’ drive units have in common is that there is absolutely no way to program the drive unit to do anything much other than what it is set to do from the factory. The most frustrating part is that often they have built-in speed limiters that you have to install special defeat-devices to overcome. Many of these defeat devices plug-in between the speedo and the main drive unit and halve the speed that the drive unit thinks you are going at (so when you are going 20mph the drive thinks it is only 10mph). With the 1000W nominal Bafang Ultra Max drive unit all that has changed. Bafang has released a new beefy drive unit that can run at a variety of voltages with no speed limits and that programs using a similar cable and software as the BBS02 and BBSHD. This article is about understanding the programming for the Ultra Max and understanding how to change your programming to get the most fun factor out of your drive unit.
I tested a prototype 1000W Ultra Max about 8 months ago and found it a little too heavy and a little underpowered for my taste. That drive unit was several pounds heavier than the BBSHD and yet it still only seemed to produce about the same amount of peak power as a BBS02 (about 1400W). Although I liked the concept of a high power torque sensing mid-drive, I wasn’t crazy about the implementation. It felt too much like the BBS02 which is half the cost and half the weight of the stock 1000W Ultra Max.
When Luna got their first batch of production Ultra Max drives the first thing they did was hack the controller to put out 2500W of peak power. This turns the ho-hum 1000W Ultra Max into a real 40mph drive unit to be reckoned with.
To program the Ultra Max you simply need the same programming cable as you would use for the BBSxx series drive. Before you keep reading this article, you should reference this article on programming the BBSxx as there is lots of information on the cable and the quirks of the programming software. In order to program the Ultra Max, you will need the latest version of the Bafang programming software which you can download here. Thanks to Roshan from Biktrix for sending me these files. Biktrix is a Bafang mid drive focused dealer out of Canada that is selling an Ultra Max with their Juggernaut Ultra FS sold here for $3599. Biktrix has a very good reputation and the Ultra FS is sold with three different tire sizes and several fork options as well as numerous custom battery options 11.6Ah, 17AH & 20Ah that snap right into the frame. Programming your Ultra Max voids whatever warranty you think you might have on this drive. Do it at your own risk and don’t come crying to me when you break it (this is why we can’t have nice things).
I spent about 4 hours messing with the torque sensing variables on the Ultra Max drive as Lunacycle was having trouble with the drive unit producing way too much power from a standstill at the higher power levels. The settings I am showing in this article I’m going to call ‘Karl’s special sauce’ for the Ultra Max. It’s been trail tested and approved, even at the highest power levels with a 2500W peak Ludicrous controller. You can certainly program it differently so that it will put out a lot more power from a standstill, but it will feel pretty lurchy and not smooth and refined like I think that a torque sensing mid drive should feel. The best part of programming the Ultra Max yourself is that you can fine-tune the torque sensing system to get exactly what you want out of it.
This article is going to just breeze over the first 3 pages of the programming menu as most of the variables have the same effect as the BBSxx programming and are already outlined in this article. The only thing to pay attention to is on the first page the Limited Current(A) should be set to 30 amps if you have a Non-Ludicrous 1000W Ultra Max to get maximum power. With the Ludicrous controller the amps are doubled and it ships from the factory with Limited Current(A) set to 25 amps which really delivers about 50 amps to the drive. If you want to set the Ultra Max to 60Amps you can set the Limited Current(A) to 30, but you void your non-existent warranty with the Ludicrous controller and all bets are off (the drive is already pretty scary at 50Amps). If you like living on the edge then don’t let me stop you, but I tested this drive extensively at 50Amps and I can say that it is plenty powerful at that power level.
In order to access the program with the torque setting, you need to run the executable Controllerst_torque.exe inside the zip file. If you want to download Karl’s special sauce instead of entering in all the data manually then you can download this file and rename it from .doc to .el and then select FILE->LOAD from the Controllerst_torque.exe and then browse to find the .el file.
Pedal Assist Screen
On page 2 you will need to select the Pedal Type as “BB-Sensor-32” for the PAS to work properly. If you want more explanation on what these settings do, then you can check out the hacking guide which outlines each setting individually. I spent a lot of time messing with these settings and as near as I can tell the Ultra Max seems to ignore most of the settings on the Pedal Assist screen.
Throttle Handle Screen
The throttle screen seems very similar to the settings for the other Bafang mid drive units. To check what the settings do then check out this document. I didn’t spend much time messing with this screen’s settings. One of the issues with the Ultra Max is that if the speedo magnet stops working then the drive AND the throttle both stop working. This means that if you are miles from home you’re going to be stuck with cycling the power on your ebike so you can get 1 minute of riding then continually cycling your drive unit every minute the entire way home. I messed with some of the settings to keep this from happening, but I could not fix the problem. Luckily the Ultra Max has a much more powerful magnet that can be several centimeters away from the sensor instead of just a few millimeters. Incidentally, the prototype version of the Ultra Max did not have this problem and continued to function even with a non-functional speedo, go figure.
The Torque Screen
Keep in mind I am by no means an expert in Bafang Ultra Max programming, I’m just some guy who got my hands on the tools and spent a couple hours messing around to see what happens when you change variables. Before I get into this a note on safety.
The Bafang Ultra Max is an extremely high power torque sensing drive unit which means that if you mess with the programming wrong and then put even the slightest amount of pressure on the pedals then you can suddenly get a 4hp motor with a chain that will chew through your fingers like a hot knife through play-dough. I say this in all seriousness, as I have seen at least 5 gruesome pictures on facebook of fingers that have been mostly chewed off and then sewn back on from people not being careful enough with their high power mid-drives. Treat your ebike like it’s a chainsaw and you’ll probably be OK (assuming you aren’t a chainsaw juggler). Normally I’m a funny guy, but I’m not being funny about this, your fingers belong on your hand, not stuck in between your chain and your chainring. *ouch* Remember, safety fourth.
Before you start messing with the settings you should click on the CONTINUOUS GET button on the bottom left and then push down on the pedal. It’s interesting to see what the TqVoltate(Mv) shows depending on how hard you push. As near as I can tell the torque sensor on the Ultra Max is pretty accurate and seems to sample at a pretty high rate (although not as high as the Bosch mid drive system which samples several thousand times a minute). What the software does is takes this mV (millivolt) input and maps it to kilograms and then the rest of the settings use the kg variable NOT the mV input. The mapping of mV ranges to kg is what happens on the top 1/3 of this page.
Base Voltage: I don’t know what this does, I would leave it alone
Error Voltage Min \ Max: I suspect that these numbers are what will throw an error code if the torque sensor for whatever reason falls below or above these numbers. You can see when using the CONTINUOUS GET button at the bottom that the range of numbers from the torque sensor stays between these numbers. I would not change them.
Delta Voltage: I messed around a bit with these numbers and they are a way to change the sensitivity of the torque sensing unit along ALL the speed ranges of the motor. I believe the way it works is that the program splits up the incoming voltage so that is it changes by a certain amount then it assumes that there is that amount of pressure on the pedal. By lowering these numbers you make the torque sensor more sensitive and responsive to foot pressure, by raising them you make it less sensitive to pressure (so you have to push harder to get the same results).
0 Speed Boost time: Unknown, I wouldn’t mess with it.
SPD0-SPD100: These columns represent the % of the highest RPM ability of the motor that it is currently spinning. Do not think that it has ANYTHING to do with the speed that the wheel is turning because it just doesn’t.
The Ultra Max spins at different speeds based on what voltage you’re driving it at. I tested the drive at 52v but according to Bafang’s website, it will work between 48v and 60v nominal (I have not tested it with a 60v nominal pack). There are two different RPMs listed on the website n0 RPM which I assume is the max RPM using throttle only and nT RPM which I assume is the max RPM using the torque sensing only (no throttle). Since the optimal pedal cadence is around 90 RPM for human beings, these numbers make sense. The pedals and the chain wheel on the Ultra Max are ‘locked’ and spin at the same speed. This is unlike other lower powered mid drives like the Bosch & Yamaha where you can have a slow pedal cadence and the tiny chainring can spin very fast.
To program ‘Karl’s Special Sauce’ the ONLY numbers I modified from factory settings were MinCur%, MaxCur% and KeepCur% in the Spd0% and Spd20% columns. The changes I made corrected some very lurchy startup behavior with the 2500W peak Ludicrous controller (the stock Bafang controller is only 1000W nominal and 1500W peak). At the factory, the MaxCur% was set to 100 across the board and the MinCur% and KeepCur% for the first two-speed settings were much higher. Although these settings are probably fine with the stock 1000W Ultra Max, they were set way too high for the Ludicrous controller. This is what I suspect these settings do based on several hours of testing.
Start(Kg) : When this amount of pressure is on the pedal the power will start to flow in and you will get the MinCur% amount of power (based on the Limit Current% variable from the first page based on your current power level) to the drive unit which will steadily be increased based on the amount of pressure until it hits Full(Kg) as shown below.
Full(Kg) : When this amount of pressure is on the pedal you will get the MaxCur% of total power based on the speed that the crank is rotating.
Return(Kg) : No idea, but my guess is once the bike is moving and you stop pedaling it takes far less pedal pressure to get it moving again. It certainly feels that way. This variable could be a replacement for the Start(Kg) when pedaling is briefly interrupted and then restarted again.
MinCur(%) : This number must be less than MaxCur(%). This is a percentage of the Limit Current% from page one based on the current power level setting on the PAS display that will be applied when the Start(Kg) pressure is applied to the bike based on the speed that the crank is currently turning (Spd0-100). I lowered the numbers from the stock Bafang programming on this variable in both the Spd0 and Spd20 column.
MaxCur(%) : This is a percentage of Limit Current% from page one based on the current power level setting on the PAS display that will be applied when Full(Kg) pressure is applied to the bike based on the speed that the crank is currently turning (Spd0-100). This is the number I changed most drastically from factory settings. I changed the setting from the Spd0 column from 100 down to 6 which greatly reduced the jerkiness of start in the highest power levels. This variable is very finicky if I set it higher than 6 it was noticeably worse (even at 7 and 8) and if I set it lower than 6 it didn’t start out as powerfully as I thought it should. I set the MaxCur% in the Spd20 column down to 50 (from 100) because once you started moving there was a noticeable bump in power at about 3-4mph instead of a smooth transition like I thought there should be.
KeepCur(%) : This number must be equal or less than MinCur or the software throws an error. I suspect that this is the amount of power that the drive unit will put out if you clown pedal along (turn the pedals without pushing at all on them). I lowered this slightly in the Spd0 and Spd20 columns from the factory defaults but only because it threw an error when I dropped the MinCur% below this variable.
CurDecy : I didn’t mess with this setting but it is probably Current Decay which is how fast the power drops off as you start pedaling faster and the crank spins faster.
StarDegree : I messed with this variable pretty extensively and I could not find that it really changed anything.
About Tq : This box allows you to get the settings from the torque sensor one time using the Get button or use the Continuous Get to keep a constant sampling. This is a good way to get an idea of what kind of power the Torque sensor is putting out at different pressure levels. It works best if the ebike is on the ground or if it is on the stand then you should secure the back wheel so it doesn’t turn when you push on the pedal. You need the back pressure in order for the torques sensor to properly register voltage.
The Ultra Max drive unit with the Ludicrous controller is simply put one of the most amazing drive units ever built. When you start pedaling it you feel like Superman and as you go faster and faster the power just keeps coming till you hit about 40mph. Going over 40 mph on a bicycle is pretty terrifying, but this is the first and only torque sensing mid-drive on the market right now that will put out this kind of power that I know of. It sucks that you have to build a custom frame for it or buy an expensive custom frame for it like the Apex, but such is the price of this kind of awesomeness. If it was easy then everyone would be doing it, right?
Although Lunacycle guards their 2500W BBSHD Ludicrous controllers pretty closely (gotta buy a whole damn bike), they have decided to offer the Ultra Max Ludicrous controller and drive unit to the public and it is available right now here for $750 + $250 for the Ludicrous upgrade. You can also get the aluminum mounting bracket for $40 which you can weld to any aluminum bicycle frame like I did with my old Sniper frame. It will be a little extra work, but I can assure you that the results are worth it. The pride of ownership of something that you built and programmed yourself is something that you will never get with anything you just purchase outright.
Do the work, make something awesome.