Apostate! A Classic MTB is Re-Animated … as an Ebike.

Cast aside and forgotten. Sold cheap at online auction. This 1999 Intense Tracer frame rides again, as something entirely different and, well… maybe a bit unholy.

a·pos·tate /əˈpäˌstāt,əˈpästət/ noun
Sort of like a heretic. But worse.

The Apostate is the subject build for my how-to series How To Build an Ebike From Scratch

I Need Another Parking Spot

Its been awhile since I have added another ship to The Pacific Fleet. Its not that I don’t like building bikes. That is a sickness I hope is never cured… but I ran out of room to park the things, and more importantly I had bikes to do every job I needed doing.

I’m not generally a recreational rider, so my bikes all have jobs like commuter, general runabout, Costco hauler etc. Since I built the Lizzard King, it has become the bike I like for everything, and so has cut way down on my use of other bikes. Presently I’m only regularly riding that bike when I am working and living in Fresno CA. When I am at home in Pacific Grove, CA I ride the Mongoose Envoy as my general shopper and around-town runabout. For recreation at that beautiful coastal area, I have been riding 2Fat on remote beaches devoid of tourists and humans (which are not quite the same thing).

Recently it became clear I have a need for a bike I don’t have. My cargo monstrosities are too big to fit into a car, and my current 4-wheeled ICE transport does not have and cannot be refitted for a trailer hitch. So my motorcycle carrier or even a small trailer are out.

Time to Downsize (i.e. make a normal bike)

I need something relatively small and self-contained, that I can toss into the back of a station wagon and easily haul back out. From there, go ride and come back. Another big time need is for when I drop the car off at the shop for service. I can ride myself home; then back again to pick up the car when its ready.

You’ll notice I said “self-contained”, which sounds kind of odd. I have been using my Guerrilla Gravity Smash recently for these tasks and, while it works, that bike is a 29er with a size L frame. Those wagon wheels on a big frame make it a chore to stuff into the car. Also, it has a backpack battery (thats where “self contained” comes in) which affects convenience and ease of use. It also makes it tough to loan the bike to anyone else to ride, given the realities of getting used to a backpack battery.

So… small and self-contained. Check. ‘Small’ means 26″ to me – I’m not interested in a scaled up 20″ BMX frame. Self-contained simply means the bike has to have space on it somewhere for a mounted battery. And since I am going to put in a mid drive motor, I need a down tube that doesn’t curve down into the bottom bracket… so that frame design and wheel size means I’m more likely to find what I want in an old-school frame.

And since I am looking for something on a smaller scale, I need a frame thats just a touch the smaller side of what I usually ride (a Size L or XL; I ride a 59cm road bike frame). I can size up for my body with the right seatpost and stem, within reason.

Frame = Heart + Soul

After a fairly long online search, I sort of hit the jackpot when I came across this Intense Tracer frame (which has an effective 18.5″ seat tube, measured Center of bottom bracket to Top of seatpost hole). Some after-purchase research reveals it to be from 1999 – the first year of the Tracer’s long production run. It had the full suspension I wanted for comfort (yeah, yeah… I know: suspension is about traction. blah blah I want full suspension for comfort. Remember: Apostate).

The original top decals were trashed. This is the good side. We’ll have to come up with something else to put here.

Down tube: Nice sharp angle into the bottom bracket. Perfect for an external mid-drive.

This is a v1.0 Wolf Pack with the external XT60/XT90 plugs. hmmm. With no battery bag what am I going to do about hiding the motor harness, shift sensor and battery cabling?

Battery space: Holy cow. It almost looks like it was made with a Wolf Pack from Luna Cycle in mind. And sure enough it was. Early fitment was with a Wolf v1.0000 borrowed from the Stormtrooper. Final fitment was a 2022-manufacture wireless Wolf v2.0.

Room to spare above the battery was ZERO and, with the early-release-from-Luna ‘improved’ magnet mount strip in place instead of the even-stronger 2022 version, I still have a concern about tearing out the (factory rivnut!) bottle bosses or the mount itself with one too many removals. So the battery is intended to stay put, with one two-inch and two three-inch velcro cinch straps holding that sucker down in place as firmly as possible.

This old shock was an explosion waiting to happen

The original Fox Float RC 6.5×1.5 shock was done for. I tried having it rebuilt but the shop Fox recommended to do the work must be too cool to respond to customer inquiries. So I ended up replacing it with a current-manufacture Fox Float DPS Performance.

The only sign this fork came out of the box was a pipe-fitter cut to shorten the steerer to 230mm, and the star nut inside. Maybe it was cut but never installed? No blemishes where there’d have been a crown race. Manufacturer stamp is from 1999. Model year on exterior is 2000.

I scored big time with a period-correct 2000 Marzocchi Bomber X-Fly Z1 fork (about the only other thing on this bike that is period correct). It is holding air like a champ and is pretty plush, with only a bit more than the manufacturer’s initial 36 psi (2.5 bar) in each of its twin air chambers (Apparently its max is 45 psi and I am at about 40 now).

That fork was a real find – stored for two decades; you have to look closely to confirm it was ever mounted and wasn’t stored in an airtight bag for 22 years. I managed to get hold of replacement seals, as well as the original service manual. So even though the original seals are holding up just fine, we’re going to do an oil and seal replacement… as soon as I bring the bike back from its real maiden voyage… to the Grand Canyon in late April of 2022.

Intense Tracers of the day used Specialized rear suspension design, used under license. They were arguably a bit of an upgrade over the various flavors of Stumpjumper FSR.
Motor test fit. Qapla’! Also the red silicone tape on the top tube is a pretty close color match. Seatpost is an old, sturdy Kalloy Uno 31.8 x 350mm

Much More to Come on This Bike

The Apostate is the backbone of my upcoming series: How to Build An Ebike From Scratch. A couple of installments have already been posted; More are completed and on a set publication schedule.

Assembly, End of Day 1: Wheels/rotors, headset, fork, stem, handlebars, derailleur and saddle on. The crankarm and chainring are just sitting there for the photo.
Assembly, End of Day 2: Cranks and chainring are on for real this time
Assembly, Day 3: Test rides. Everything is done but the grips, bar ends and cable management.
First real ride: April 11 2022. In the rain of course. Quick take a picture before the water dries and you can see all the dirt. It’ll never look this clean again.

So I’m not going to say a whole lot more about the bike here other than to toss out some pics and note today’s first real ride, not counting its various tests at my workshop, went great. I rode into the office in the rain no less. Its butter-smooth, which is by design. Its Schwalbe Pickup tires are tough as nails but articulated enough to let me navigate the soaked streets with confidence.

Not the sort of shoes it was ever meant to wear. But remember: Apostate.

oh… and then this happened (and yes, one step too far just behind the bike and its a lonnnnnng way down).

Stay tuned.

Author: m@Robertson

I'm responsible for the day-to-day operations at my place of business: Leland-West Insurance Brokers, Inc. We do classic and exotic car insurance all across these United States. I'm also an avid auto enthusiast, a born again cyclist (i.e. an ebiker) and participate in medium and long range CMP and NRA sanctioned rifle competitions.

12 thoughts on “Apostate! A Classic MTB is Re-Animated … as an Ebike.”

    1. m@Robertson – Pacific Grove, CA – I'm responsible for the day-to-day operations at my place of business: Leland-West Insurance Brokers, Inc. We do classic and exotic car insurance all across these United States. I'm also an avid auto enthusiast, a born again cyclist (i.e. an ebiker) and participate in medium and long range CMP and NRA sanctioned rifle competitions.
      m@Robertson says:

      It is genuinely silky smooth. Which it was never meant to be:-) I can put the tires at 60 psi for minimal rolling resistance on the street, and a small air compressor fits into the front bag so I can lower the pressure if needed and take it back up mid-ride.

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