I broke the frame while thrashing hard on my Aluminum framed Phat Phuk last year so I decided it was probably time to switch to steel. There are several steel framed fatbikes that will fit the 5.05″ SnowShoe 2XL, but the one that I could find the cheapest was a Bikes Direct Lurch NOT currently available for $1099 here. I got mine from Bikeisland.com last year for a mere $750 shipped with some scuff marks and a missing front fork. I got a bunch of take-off front forks from Lunacycle for about $25 each so I was able to build my favorite ebike yet for just $750 : fatbike + $25 : fork + $250 : pair of 2XL PSC tires + $700 : BBSHD + $55 : Mighty Mini chainring = $1780 without the battery. Although there were some pretty quirky things about the Lurch build, the frame is solid and I have an entire riding season under my belt with this build without any serious issues.
Although the initial build of this bike only took me a few hours, there were some serious issues right from the beginning. On my first ride, the rear tire came off when I hit the rear brakes hard on a white-knuckle descent. The Lurch sports nice horizontal dropouts which allow you to fine tune the rear tire alignment and placement so it can fit the 2XL without rubbing. The downside with horizontal dropouts is that they have to clamp REALLY hard to keep the QR hub from not pulling out the back of the bike when you slam on the brakes. Think of the forces involved when your fat ass is propelling this bike down the trail at 20mph and you slam on the brakes. The wheel really wants to keep turning, and with normal dropouts, it just can’t because the axle pushes backward and hits the frame. With horizontal dropouts, there is nothing keeping the wheel on but the tightness of the QR skewer.
No matter how hard I clamped down the stock quick release I could not keep it from coming out during hard braking on steep downhills. I actually bent the locking lever on the skewer using vice grips and it STILL released under heavy braking. I eventually ended up buying a Hope Fatsno 190mm QR skewer from ebay for $25 shipped. This was a much higher quality skewer than the stock one that I lathered Carbon Fiber friction paste on, which worked surprisingly well. If you wanted to replace the QR skewer with a bolt on axle that would probably work too, but you would lose the QR capabilities and it would be a pain when you get flats.
The Lurch is a great frame, but the chainstays are super wide. There is plenty of clearance for the 2XL tires, but you simply cannot make a 100mm BBSHD fit on this frame. Even with the 120mm BBSHD, I still had to use an offset crankarm on the non-drive side to clear the chainstay. I recommend that you use spacers on the drive side of this setup so that the drive unit is not pressing against the drive side chainstay on installation. I’m not sure if it would break a steel frame, but I have had an aluminum frame break at the contact point. I make sure that I can slip a piece of paper in between the secondary reduction housing and the chainstay.
The stock Lurch comes with a steel fork, but my bike shipped forkless. I installed an aluminum fork that was a takeoff part from a KHS 3000 Four Seasons bike. The fork felt much stronger than the aluminum fork I bent when I hit a tree, but since the fork was only $25 I just don’t care if it gets destroyed. There was a bit of looseness in the bearing set I used, but not enough slop that I worried about fixing it. Since most of the time, I’m only riding in deep snow and can’t really control where the bike is going anyway, a little bit of slop in the steering is always good.
My wife and I have planted over 1000 trees this year and have a pretty big orchard going on. I use this ebike as a tool to help us transplant 100 trees a day from our nursery out to the orchard. The madness goes something like this,
- I drive the bike at high speeds into the nursery and she gives me a 5-gallon bucket with 2 trees in it and a bunch of dirt around the roots. On a small piece of paper is two letter/number combinations like F35 or K73
- I tear away on my shovel-wielding ebike like some kind of post-apocalyptic jouster and drive to the letter row and then rip down the row counting trees till I get to the right number
- I throw down the bike, pull the shovel out of the PVC pipe and start furiously digging at the spot the new tree will live
- Once the tree is planted I hop back on the bike and go to the second location and plant that tree as well
- Then I tear back up to the nursery to grab the next bucket
The entire process generally takes about 5 minutes a tree.
Since our orchard is planted over several acres if we had to walk down to the nursery to the tree locations and back we could probably only do 25 trees a day. Since we have the ebike to help us I was able to transplant 100 trees in a single day. Have I mentioned that I am completely obsessed with (re)productivity?
As for the front chainring, I would not use anything bigger than the 30 tooth mighty mini if you want to go through more than a couple of inches of snow or soft sand. The stock bike has an all steel PG-1030 steel cassette with a 36T granny which is a great setup to have. The rear hub looks much higher Novatec quality than most of the no-name rear hubs that ship with Bikes Direct fatbikes. When no-name aluminum rear hubs fail I tend to replace them with the DT Swiss 350 Big Ride rear hub which seems bulletproof (article coming someday).
I run this build with a 30Q 12Ah Luna 52v pack which magnetically attaches to the bike. When there is any real snow I tend to switch over to my homemade ‘Lego box’ 25Ah GA 52v pack which puts out 50amps continuously with ease. I get a bit more voltage sag with the 30Q pack, but that is no surprise considering that it is 1/2 the size. The drawback to the bigger battery is that I have to huck it in a backpack and carry around an extra 12lbs while I’m riding, the advantage is that the bike feels a lot more nimble without a battery attached to the frame. I tend to prefer backpack batteries until I take a bad spill and wish that I wasn’t tethered to the bike.
I wish I hadn’t put off writing this article for a year. I really wanted to break this bike so that I could tell people to buy something else. My love affair with Bikes Direct has come to its natural end, but I have to say that having the Lurch be the last build I do with any Bikes Direct bike at least doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth. The bike was quirky and came without a fork, but for $750 I’m certainly not complaining. It was lighter than I expected from a steel frame and I was stoked that the seat post was a standard 27.2mm so I could use a normal-sized Thudbuster without a shim. All of my aluminum framed fat bikes have weird seat tube diameters, so finding a fat bike with the standard size was a nice surprise.
After a season of thrashing, I still couldn’t break the bike. There can be no higher praise than that.