Larry vs Harry Bullitt Hill Hauler, Back-to-Front Part 2

This continues the walk-through of my hill-climber Bullitt, starting with the mid drive motor installation and taking a close look at its BBSHD configuration.

Bullit II Build Series
Part 1
Part 2 (you are here)
Part 3
Part 4

So lets continue…

I’ll jump straight into the physical motor installation.

Mounting The BBSHD To The Frame

The install on this motor was almost exactly as I have already described for the Lizzard King. Its the same bike frame, after all. There were, however, some minor differences.

frame fitment was different

This frame just flat out did not want the BBSHD to fit. The cable boss under the bottom bracket was not quite in the same spot perhaps. Or dimensions on the frame were subtly different somehow. Either way, that cable boss blocked the motor. The proper solution to fixing this on this frame would have been to go to the motor and file back the forward bolt mounting ‘ear’ until the motor fits. Restated: sacrifice the mounting plate’s forward attachment point. Then give yourself the exact same motor attachment method that Bafang themselves use for the M625 – the upgrade to the BBSHD. It doesn’t have a forward bolt position either. What does it have? They do the Hose Clamp Trick (although not as well).

Above: What the Hose Clamp Trick looks like on a Bullitt if you glance down. Its been awhile since I built the bike so its a little grimy. 5 minutes with a toothbrush and some detergent would clean it right up.

This link goes straight to the motor clamping section of How To Build An Ebike From Scratch. While the description of the motor mounting and that Hose Clamp Trick is not on a Bullitt, the background info given, plus the detailed description of how to lock a BBSHD down permanently, so it can never shift whether it wants to or not, makes using that link and companion article the best way to describe what I did.

Based on other owner reports that came thru when I was building mine, there is variance from frame to frame that can yield an easier fitment, or a harder one. Naturally I got the harder one.

Shorter Crankarms

My Lizzard King used forged 175mm (Shimano Steps) crankarms. I had a spare set of the same arms on a shelf, in 170mm length. So I just used those. If I had to buy a set of crankarms, I would have tried to get hold of some 165’s.

Wire Tunnel

Once again I used a length of PVC for a protective wire tunnel on the top of the frame to run motor wiring forward. I used white furniture-grade PVC. Furniture grade PVC is more expensive than standard white Schedule 40 from the hardware store. But its shiny, pretty and a perfect match to the Milk Plus color and gloss finish.

The tube is held on with two industrial, giant-sized white zip ties. They’re overkill but don’t have that ‘zip tie’ look, because they are so physically large. The PVC is sitting on a bed of adhesive white foam to help hold it in place as bumps and bruises accumulate over time..

And that was it. Everything else was a carbon copy of the Lizzard King motor install.

The original Box Two 9s drivetrain, on a new and shiny fresh bike build. It will never be this clean again. The pedals are Funn Rippers with spring-loaded cleat engagement and yes, I do ride cleated in.

Motor Configuration (BBSHD Settings)

The BBSHD settings differences are not many versus my flat-land Bullitt, but the differences in performance are profound. On the Lizzard King, BBSHD pedal assist on level 9 – the maximum – peaks at a sustained 400-450 watts. That is a considerable power reduction that makes sense on flat land.

But in steep hills where the slope can go from zero to Uh Oh in about 30 feet, you are well-served to take it up a notch. I’ll cover all three screens here, but the changes that matter are almost all on the last one: The Pedal Assist Screen.

The Throttle Screen

This screen is almost my default. The only change is an evolutionary one: Start Current is reduced to 2%, so the throttle rolls on even more gently to the drivetrain. You hear a lot about how Bafang motors bang and jerk on the chain. 2% on Start Current completely smooths out that behavior. Also setting End Voltage to 4.2v creates a smooth throttle curve that makes it easy to modulate power output in very fine increments – the opposite of the default behavior.

The Basic Screen

Once again, this is pretty much my standard settings on this screen. It retains my speed limit graduations, which are meant to help cut power when my cadence gets high. Essentially what I did with the Speed Limit percentages was start at 100% on Level 9, and then work my way back in simple 5% increments down to the bottom Level 1.

The Assist 0 limits of 1 and 1 are there to preserve the normal function of throttle when you set the screen to Level 0, which disables Pedal Assist. This lets you pedal with no motor support without turning the motor off. Throttle remains available in case of an unexpected need.

I have strongly reduced the effect of the Speed Limit cutbacks via separate settings on the Pedal Assist screen. Since leaving these alone doesn’t hurt anything, and the fewer changes the better, I left my generic settings in place.

The Pedal Assist Screen

This is where the magic happens. The Hill Climber settings are based on my Surly Big Fat Dummy’s settings, which was my former ride in this area. I took what worked on that single-motor cargo bike, copied them to the Bullitt and then experimented a bit.

Since Bafang does not tell anyone anything about how these settings interact, we have to guess on some things. There is no way to set a specific power output level that is reliably sussed or documented.

The settings on this screen move the maximum steady output of pedal assist power to 900-950 watts. Thats a lot, and enables me to select assist level 6 or 7 and still get up the worst hills, with a safety margin available in 8 or 9. This turned out to be especially handy when I was hauling several 50kg loads of gravel for a landscaping project.

ABOVE RIGHT: the new Hill Climber. LEFT: The flat-land Lizzard King. Only Current Decay and Keep Current are changed. Small differences, big results.

NOTE: Version 2.2b of the open source BafangConfigTool has a graph that does a decent job of trying to explain how the settings interact and affect performance.

Start Current is very low at 2% for the same reason it is at 2% on the throttle screen: Eliminating jerky initial engagement (5% is what I used to use).

Slow Start Mode is as gentle as is confirmed to be safe for the motor’s controller. Lower numbers here = slower starting and 3 gives me the gentlest motor-safe slope to that curve.

Start Degree Signal is a fairly prompt 4. Once again the problem to beat is starting from a stop at an intersection while on a steep hill. Specifying a lower number of pedal assist signals to accept before the motor kicks in makes it start power delivery sooner, but I have also set Start Current and Slow-Start Mode so low this relatively fast engagement doesn’t cause any concerns with drivetrain strain.

Stop Delay remains as small as is safely possible to preserve the motor controller.

Current Decay (one of only two changed settings) has been set to the maximum of 8, which either minimizes Current Decay, or eliminates it entirely (Bafang isn’t giving anyone any help figuring out which, or when). Having high cadence reduce power assist makes a lot of sense on flat, paved ground, but when you are set in a granny gear and pedaling like mad to crawl your way up an excruciatingly steep hill, the last thing you need is for the motor to cut back power thanks to high cadence. It also looks as if this one setting is primarily responsible for the increase in peak sustained power.

Stop Decay remains at zero. The idea is if you stop pedaling, you want the motor to stop. I ran some experiments recently as part of an internet discussion. I found a suggested setting of a whopping 1100 ms (i.e. set it to 110) produced nothing negative. The cutoff still happened so fast I couldn’t argue it hurt anything. In steep hills, a long setting like 1100ms could actually smooth things out a bit if crawling up a hill and perhaps your cadence stutters accidentally. Not a setting I kept, but its worth noting.

Keep Current (the second of two changed settings) is kicked up just a bit to 40% from the Lizzard King’s 30%. Frankly both settings are aggressive. The Current Decay of 8 is preventing this setting from engaging at all unless I am on flat ground, moving relatively fast (i.e. not crawling at 6 km/h up a hillside) and spinning my crankarms at high cadence.

Version 2.2b of the BafangConfigTool can be downloaded (entirely at your own risk) at the author’s web site. I make no representation of any kind as to its quality, lack thereof, your ability to avoid totally destroying your motor or cause a horrific accident of some kind as a consequence of using it.

Saddle and Seatpost

I used the same Ergon ST Core Prime saddle that I know my butt prefers. However, since the Kinekt post on the other Bullitt has a pogo stick effect at fast cadence, and I know the Thudbuster LT doesn’t: I put the Thud on this time.

That cable is a seat leash to add a few moments delay to a theft attempt. I covered the rear camera in the dashcam series.

Stuff In The Frame ‘Triangle’

I used a Blackburn frame bag just as on Godzilla. However, this one does not hold the front motor controller. It does hold the batteries for the front fork lights and COB LED strips. It also holds the mains power cord for the onboard charger, as well as the charger’s 15-foot/4.5 meter power cord extension. There is also a secondary charger connection to the battery in case I want to plug in an external Satiator charger or similar (we’ll get to the charger stuff in a future installment). Beyond that, there is space for wallet, sunglasses, phone and keys.

The zipper on the other side of this bag holds the power banks for the headlights, side light strips and a dashcam.

At the back of the cargo bulkhead are Velution’s Large bag solution, that uses Ortlieb large dry bags. These are much bigger than the Fahrer bags on Godzilla, and I like the Ortliebs a lot better. They hold all of my routine tools, spare inner tubes, patch kits, pump and so on. Because I need to routinely empty these bags when I go inside of a shop and leave the bike outside, I keep the contents in easily-removed cloth zippered pouches (two each side). That makes it easy to pull out the pouches and toss them into a carry bag.


For handlebars, this time I chose the Ergotec Space handlebar. Think of it as a Jones Bar in Junior size. Its backsweep is less than the Jones 45 degrees, but still comfortable. I installed short Ergon grips hoping to extend them longer than normal with segments from a Wolf Tooth Fat Paw grip, but I needed so much room to fit the shifter, I couldn’t. I ended up with a normal grip size.

Cockpit Version 1.0: At the shop on the night assembly was completed. Dual independent throttles, dual independent PAS settings … and dual displays. Not subtle.

Everything is in easy reach on the bars and – originally, at least, is a carbon copy of what I had already done on the Lizzard King.

Cockpit Version 2.0

A few months went by, and I decided to clean up the bars at the expense of information display, which I am not a fan of anyway (we got along riding bikes just fine for more than a century without all this data reporting).

Pretty clean handlebars – as far as 2wd bikes with a big dashcam go. Also Cockpit v 1.0 had the grips upside-down.
The DM03 Bafang Display

The DM03 is made by VeloFox for Bafang BBSxx motors. It is a small monochrome OLED screen. Sales ads describe it as an improved version of the SW102 display. The SW102 is most commonly known as what the EggRider v2 display/programmer uses. I only wanted an ultra-small, discreet display, not the extra EggRider functionality.

A big selling point of the DM03 was it supported 9 levels of PAS. An SW102 gives only 5. Additionally, the DM03 has larger buttons than the SW102. Since I also have an EggRider v2 on my Cyc X1-powered 29er, I can compare the two displays look-and-feel directly.

Knowing how visible my EggRider was in bright sunlight, I was under no illusions: The DM03 display is only just barely visible in bright sunlight. But I was after compact size, and I can do without a display. This is a perfectly functional PAS control unit for people who do not feel a need for an ever-present data readout.

If its foggy, in the shade or overcast, then the display is easily visible. You can also shade it with your hand and squint at it in the sun, but you’d better not do that while in motion. I only look at the thing to remind myself which PAS level I am in.

The DM03 Advanced Settings Code

Just like other Bafang-compatible displays, the DM03 display for Bafang motors has an Advanced setting, where you can edit things like wheel diameter, and make the all-important selection to support 9 PAS levels. The code to get into the DM03 display’s Advanced Settings screen is1657. I purchased two of them from two different vendors. Neither provided the code with the display, but both promptly gave it to me when I asked so I could finish setting up my bike.

Cockpit Version 3.0

As seen in both cockpit versions above, I used a KT-LCD3 display to pair with my KT front motor controller. I have used both for years and its a tried and true combination.

The KT-LCD4 is dirt cheap on Amazon with 1-day delivery for about US$35. If you want to wait a month you can save eight or nine bucks buying it on AliExpress.

As part of my de-cluttering efforts, I subbed in the KT-LCD4, which has the same features stuffed into a tiny package. KT used a backlit LCD so unlike the DM03’s OLED, this one is visible just fine in bright sunlight or black of night.

No big displays. DM03 on the left and LCD4 on the right. I also changed the grips (swiped from another bike in The Pacific Fleet).

If it weren’t for the dashcam and the front headlight, the bars would almost be considered clean. And considering this is a 2wd bike, the difference is amazing.

Carbon Fiber Steering Tube

I used the Velution one-piece carbon fiber steering tube. I found with the Lizzard King I moved the handlebars once to find my optimal height … and never moved them again. The Velution tube is a small fraction of the weight of the steel factory model plus the weight of the EasyUp is gone. You also get a MUCH cleaner look with the included smooth alloy spacer.

Heads-Up: If buying the Velution steering tube, be aware it does not come with a crown race (not their fault; they never said it did). Source one yourself. I used a steel Cane Creek 40.

Kinekt Suspension Stem

After going to all that trouble to lose weight on the steering tube assembly, I gave some back with this Sherman tank of a bicycle stem. For me it is worth it. My wrists have never been the same after a car hit me in 2017, and between the swept back bars and a suspension stem, this is what I need to be able to ride without pain getting the better of me.

I upgraded the internal spring to the extra-firm Orange version, which is not available unless you buy an orange 1.5″ upper seat spring directly from Kinekt. I also installed the damper upgrade kit. That gives you a stem so firm you can’t move it by hand. It only moves when installed. So I can use it with a full lean-over seating position and it will not bottom out on me.

The Cargo Bay

Here’s where all the work is, and this is where the build actually gets interesting. But given how long this post is at this point, its time to put a sock in it and save that topic for Part 3.

Larry vs Harry Bullitt Hill Hauler, Back-to-Front Part 1

A Bullitt has been my daily driver in all-flat terrain for more than two years. Now I need another for steep hills. Rather than just copy the original I will re-think my choices and make some cool upgrades.

My first Bullitt – the Lizzard King – was the basis for this bike build and written up extensively here. This bike is essentially a v2.0 of the same bike. There is much background detail left out of this current discussion (like drama-free AWD) since it was covered the first time around.

Bullit II Build Series
Part 1 (you are here)
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Before I get started, lets address why I need two Bullitts. When I built my first one, it was a bucket-list item I expected to last me forever… and its still going strong. But, here’s the thing: I split my time between two locations.

I work in Fresno California, where the land is all table-flat, and my job has for the last several years required me to essentially move there and set up a second residence. My actual home is in Pacific Grove, California… which has totally different terrain. Where Fresno is roasting hot in the summer and flat as a table, ‘PG’ is smack on the Pacific Ocean seashore, is only flat at the shoreline and has plenty of low but steep hills. I live at the top of one, in fact.

Recently I was finally able to start living at home again. My Surly Big Fat Dummy provided cargo bike duties, but I found something I didn’t expect: Having had a frontloader for a couple of years, now I knew what I was missing. I didn’t want to put up with the quirks of a longtail. I ended up describing the differences in detail. I found I was actually resenting the ride limitations, and putting off rides as a result.

Sneaking into Laguna Seca Raceway while it was closed for construction – I had the whole complex to myself. The Surly Big Fat Dummy was a joy to ride that day.

Screw that. Cycling is an integral part of my life. Its time to

Build Another Bullitt

As part of the build planning process, I needed to do a Build Sheet. Click the image below to go to the actual build sheet complete with links to almost every part in the build. I won’t discuss every bit and piece in this short series, but this list contains pretty much every part.

This image links to a Google Docs parts list with live links to the parts

So… how do I organize this writeup? This bike is at its core just an improved version of the one I already built and documented. There’s no point in doing that all over again, but at the same time its hard not to if I want to avoid making the reader bounce back and forth from one build description to another.

Lets just start at the back of the bike and work our way to the front. I’ll go into details where I think they are worthwhile, and be brief when I think I am on well-covered ground.

Rear Rack

This is a fairly common Axiom Streamliner DLX. Its got dropout extensions that move it well back for heel clearance, and a 50 kg weight limit. It is the identical rack I used on my first Bullitt, but oddly, this time the rack fit perfectly with none of the mods needed to get its dropout extension to fit. Apparently Larry Vs Harry have moved the threaded boss on the dropouts down by just a bit versus the ones they sold two years ago.

A standard-issue Axiom Streamliner rack with an extra-beefy front mounting bracket. No idea if this increases its capacity but factory stock its rated for a lot of weight already.

I also used a beefier center stay mount from one of my Axiom Fatliner racks and created a stronger-than-stock solution.

Similar to the ‘bobtail’ deck I made for the Lizzard King, this rack has a ‘deck’ made up of two components. One is a long strip of aluminum flat bar, 2″ wide and 1/16″ thick (sorry for the Imperialist units of measure but thats how its sold here). This flat bar is drilled and bolted to the front of the rack using existing holes. Holes drilled at the rear simply use a zip tie to attach it to the back of the rack. As previously, this thin aluminum bar is part of the rear fender solution.

The Kicktail

You’ll notice the deck bar is longer than the rack, and bent up in the back. I did these two bends by sticking the straight alloy strip in a big steel door and frame, and putting my weight behind it. With that bend in place, mounted on the rack, the deck now has a sort of kicktail… like on a skateboard. It doesn’t serve the same purpose though: The extended bit of deck catches water spray coming up off the tire. So its part of the ‘fender’.

The deck is extended in a second bend that goes up to vertical. In the back of this portion, I stuck some prismatic red tape – the same type as is used in municipal street signs – for a big passive reflector. Additionally, on the front – because why not? – I mounted a square of yellow prismatic tape for forward-ish reflectivity (my local laws prohibit the use of red, facing forward).

Lastly, at the top of the kicktail, you can see a short black strip. This is a narrow length of thick rubber mastic tape. It extends well past the deck’s edge and folds over onto itself, so it becomes an extended rubber bumper. I have learned from doing kicktails like this in the past that if you don’t cover the trailing edge in rubber, sooner or later you cover it in blood (even if you file the edges down).

Last time, it was a ‘bobtail’. Bent differently so it was a smooth curve. Executed a little differently this time to give me a tighter radius bend and a perfectly vertical section this time for the rear reflector.

The Plastic Sheet

The second component to the rack deck is a bit of thin flexible sheet plastic. It has been cut to fully cover the rack, and then slipped under the aluminum bar. Holes matching the top deck have been drilled thru it and as such it is affixed tightly and permanently to the rack. To mount a pannier, you only have to lift up the very thin plastic and attach the pannier’s hooks as usual.

The use of a narrow strip of aluminum, coupled to a flexible sheet of plastic that covers what the alloy does not, gives me full rack deck coverage while maintaining my ability to easily attach a pannier. Why bother? Because this is a part of the rear fender-that-is-not-a-fender coverage.,

Rear Mud Guard

The closest thing to an actual fender is a really big mud guard. It is a Mucky Nutz Fat Face Fender XL (They sell white ones on clearance dirt cheap). It is a front fat bike fender, put on the back wheel, and reversed. Then to extend it in back I added some white gorilla tape. It is bolted to the frame in front using the fender bolt and boss that LvH put there. This bolt pulls the mud guard forward to clear the 2.0″ Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tire.

Working together, the rack, rack deck and mud guard provide full fender protection without the use of a fender.

A little matching white extra wide gorilla tape, judiciously applied, extends the mud guard up to the rack deck – no water makes it onto the rider.


Same as I do on every one of my bikes: I am using 203mm wide, 2.3mm thick Tektro Type 17 rotors and Magura MT5e 4-piston calipers front and rear. The front brake cutoff is connected to the front motor and the rear cutoff is connected to the mid drive. It is not possible to cross-connect the cutoffs to the dissimilar motor controllers so either one cuts off both motors.

Rear Wheel (and Drivetrain)

The Lizzard King, my original Bullitt, has an 11-speed drivetrain and a 52T (!) front chainring, feeding an 11-42T rear cluster. I only use the middle three or four gears to maintain good chain alignment and high pedaling cadence.

This time I need to negotiate steep hills whose slopes vary, often on the same climb. So a big rear cluster is a given, strength is paramount and I need more usable gears to work with the varying terrain.

The Bullitt has short stays in the back. A BBSHD moves chainline outboard. So no matter what chainline angle will be a challenge. Its going to be tough to use the smallest and biggest cogs on the cassette.

Done… Then Re-Done
Drivetrain Plan A

My first setup was a 9-speed system. I used the Box 2 Extra Wide derailleur, an ebike-friendly Box 1 single-shifter, and its matching Box 2 12-50T cassette cluster. I have used this hardware in the past. It is a premium solution that is not the cheapest, but a lot less expensive than the upper tiers of the other Big S brands.

Pics or it didn’t happen: The Box derailleur can reach the 50T cog. The 12T little one can be reached too. But both of them are too far over inboard or outboard to be used meaningfully.

I labeled the Box Components drivetrain as Plan A. We’ll look at Plan B, and why there is a Plan B, further on.

Next in the drivetrain, there’s the front chainring. I have used the 40T Lekkie chainring and the smaller-than-stock motor cover it requires on my Apostate, and knew it worked well. The 40T ring also has a lot of inboard offset, which you need on the LvH frame.

The Lekkie ‘Pro’ 40T chainring, which only fits over top of the Lekkie motor cover. Note the smaller chainring teeth that are 10-12 speed compatible. No 9s.

But I need as much offset as I can get. Lekkie makes a ‘Pro’ line of chainrings, and they have an additional 2mm of offset. I wanted that extra 2mm as I will ride this bike on the bigger, inner cogs. Complicating things: the Pro rings are not 9-speed compatible. They have a different tooth profile meant for 10-12s systems.

I got around this by using a SRAM EX1 mid drive chain, which is compatible with 8, 9 and 10s systems, so I’m still good.

By using the Pro chainring I gain 2mm. If I perform an optional modification to the Bafang motor casing, I gain another 2mm. With those two mods I moved the chainring a full 4mm inboard towards the seat tube.

Shave off some of the BBSHD motor housing, just behind the Lekkie motor cover. This lets you do without a 2mm spacer to gain that much more offset. Done in about 15 minutes with a hand file.

Drivetrain Plan B

After I built the bike, and ran it for a couple of hundred miles, I was not happy with the Box Components drivetrain. The matched set of components are every bit the butter-smooth, high quality system I expected them to be. However, chainline considerations kept me from using three of the gears on the 9-speed cluster. Since I am a pedaler and not a throttler, I still benefit from lots of gears despite the electric assist. A 6-speed leaves room for improvement. I was missing my 11-speed on my other Bullitt.

Contemplating this, I had – sitting on a shelf unused – a Microshift Advent X 10-speed drivetrain looking for a home. It looked like a solid alternative that might give me a couple more gears, with no meaningful penalties. Here’s a comparison I put together while I decided what to do:

My real comparison was between the top two choices, but I also threw in the Microshift Advent 9-speed steel cluster on the Box 2 derailleur (I use that on my Apostate) just to see how it lined up.

In the chart above, the red cogs are too skewed to use. The yellow are livable if I must and the green are good to go. This chart told me

  • If I am limiting myself to my 3rd-from-the-top cog to be absolutely safe, both clusters are giving me the same 34-tooth big cog.
  • The next cogs down on the Advent X give me as-good or better higher gearing.
  • I get more gears to work with – two more – on the Advent X.
  • I never want to use the smallest cog anyway on any mid drive build, so I don’t care about the little one on either choice.
  • It looks like the Advent X is going to give me smaller cogs for when the ground is flat.

The saying goes that ‘Steel is real’ when it comes to tough bike frames. The same is also true of a cassette cluster that gets flogged by a mid drive motor.

Here are some known issues that aren’t on the chart:

  • I’m going up steep hills with 100+ lbs of load on the bike, not counting my own self and my extra heavy locks (2 meters of boron steel noose chain and two motorcycle U locks). This puts severe strain on the drivetrain and demands a conservative limit on how skewed I run the chainline.
  • The Microshift Advent X cassette is ideal as beefed-up mid-drive-friendly clusters go. It has all steel cogs and is permanently pinned together on all but the smallest cogs, so force is distributed across the entire cassette body rather than having one cog dig in at a time.
  • My handlebar layout made space a premium. The Box One shifter surprised me: Shifting often required the full throw of the shift lever, so it needed more space on the bars. SRAM shifters only require a very short throw. So there was something else I was missing.

Chainline on the inside, middle and outside. Even though I can get to the 48T cog, chainline is too skewed for a hi torque uphill slog.

with 250 miles on the odometer, I changed the drivetrain for the Advent X. It has worked beautifully. Shifting has been great all across the gear range. When I need a new cluster, I’ll be replacing a US$40 part.

I also followed a tip from a Youtuber and put an 11-speed chain on this 10-speed system. 11s chains have identical inner dimensions to 10s. They are just a hair narrower on the outside. Using an 11s, you gain an absolutely silent drivetrain. I didn’t realize how loud my SRAM chain was until I switched and… blessed, complete silence. It runs as quietly as a belt.

I used a Wipperman Connex 11se ebike chain on sale at JensonUSA for a whopping US$23.94 rather than the usual US$106.95. After seeing how well it performed, you can bet I bought enough spares at that price to last me for the foreseeable future.

On the innermost cog, which we’ve already established is not usable, the limitations of a mid-length cage versus the Box 2’s extra-long cage are apparent. Its a smaller cog than the Box 50T, but the derailleur is pulled far forward thanks to its lesser ability to wrap chain. Right picture: Three cogs down – the one I consider the max on really steep, loaded climbs – the derailleur is in a happy place.

I still love the Box Components drivetrain. I’ll move the 12-50T cluster to the Apostate, which can use the bigger cogs. The derailleur and shifter… I’ll find a use for them someday.

Drivetrain Plan C

Update – July 18 2023: Figuring out the ideal drivetrain for this bike reminds me of why I wrote Musical Chainrings back in 2020. I got great results from the Microshift Advent X rear drivetrain and Connex chain, but I wanted to do better. The Plan B cog diagram with the 40T Lekkie chainring shows the 40T rear cog in yellow. That is because it skipped occasionally under severe load (steep hill, loaded with cargo). To get 100% reliability I needed to be down on the 34T ring.

Thinking I needed more offset, I decided to swap in a Luna 42T Eclipse chainring – swiped from my Mongoose Envoy, which got a new/fresh Deruiz 42T chainring that I had socked away as a spare.

The Lekkie 40T ring, in conjunction with the fancy motor cover and the filing mod I described above in Plan A, delivers 22.25mm of inboard offset. The Luna Eclipse on the other hand delivers 24.8mm. An inboard shift of just over 2.5mm. I expected that to do me no favors on my lowest 11T chainring… but since this bike is a hill climber, I’m OK with that. Plus, since I was going up to 42T from 40T on the front ring, I expected to get some of that lost speed potential back on the next cog up.

After and Before: Plan C at top, Plan B at bottom.

What ended up happening was a better result than I expected, and for a reason that is obvious now, after the fact. Sure, the increased couple of millimeters helped with my big cogs in back some, but the real benefit came from the different tooth profile.

Lekkie Pro rings have different teeth than other chainrings in their product line. The Pros are 10-12S compatible, rather than 9-11. The Pro teeth are noticeably smaller, and it turns out that is the real problem causing the skipping. The smaller teeth simply are not well suited to cargo bike duty in steep hills.

By contrast, Luna Cycle’s Eclipse uses what they call a ‘wicked’ tooth profile designed to aggressively prevent chain drops under severe circumstances. It turns out the ring creates a bit of chain noise, but otherwise it works noticeably better across the board. Chain engagement is largely skip-free at the extremes of low and high gears, and even the 11T cog I expected to be shut out of is usable on flat ground for unloaded speed runs.

Those chainring teeth sticking up and out past the height of the chain… maybe they are kinda wicked at that.

The increase to 42T from 40T has not been a problem since I can now get to much bigger cogs in the back. The extra gearing has actually proven to be a benefit on flat stretches where I’m not loaded and want to go a little faster.

Plan C has been on for a few hundred miles and I expect this is finally the setup I’ll stick with.

Build a Wheel

The final drivetrain item is the construction of the rear wheel. I originally wanted to duplicate what I did on the Lizzard King, but the almost-indestructible SunRingle MTX39 rim was unavailable. The DT Swiss FR560 downhill rim is at least as strong, half the weight and twice the price. I’ve used them before and they are awesome so thats where I went.

I stuck with my usual DT Swiss 350 Classic ratchet engagement rear hub, with added ebike/tandem 24pt ratchet and steel cassette body upgrades. I’d have preferred a DT 350 Hybrid that includes these upgrades on a beefier hub, but just like the MTX39’s, they were nowhere to be found at the time. Spokes are Sapim Strongs with brass nipples.

The rear wheel is shod with a Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour, which has a near-knobby articulated tread. Our local bike paths get covered in sand whenever the wind blows, which is a lot here.

This is a paved path about 15 feet wide and the main local urban cycling thoroughfare. It was buried in sand the day before when the wind kicked up. I need knobby tires year-round here.

The next step from the back of the bike forward is mid drive motor installation and (drumroll) configuration. That is a big enough topic to make this a good time to wrap up, take a breather and continue the story in the next post.

DIY Bicycle Front (And Rear) Dash Cam, Part 3

Here is a quick wrapup on DIY, ultra high-resolution bicycle dash cameras. We look at sharing between bikes and issues that go with routine daily use.

This is the conclusion of the topic introduced in Part 1, where started out by looking at the rationale and parts needed for a high-quality DIY front and rear dash camera solution.

Odds and Ends

I originally wrote most of what you see here within the Part 2 Installation and Config post, but for clarity and brevity’s sake its better suited to a short, separate treatment.

There are only a few things you will want to stay on top of when living with your dash cam setup. Lets go over them now.

Long Term Maintenance?

Camera Settings

Every once in a while, the camera will have a brainfart. One morning you will fire it up and it won’t work right. Investigation may lead you to discover it has reset itself to factory defaults. Thankfully, it only takes a couple of minutes to redo them – especially now that you have a guide to use to knock them out quickly.

What I usually see is a message telling me “Memory card is full”. Which should never happen, because the camera is doing loop recording. It is supposed to automatically records over the oldest recording on the Micro SD card. So the card can’t fill up. But it did.

That is a sign that loop recording has shut off. Enable it again and you solve that problem, but if that setting reverted, very likely you will find they all changed. That includes both the video settings changes and the overall system settings. Literally this morning I just had to re-enable all of the video settings, and then also had to go into the system settings and a) redo the date/time formats and b) enable the date/time timestamp… but the camera still remembered the correct system time, so it wasn’t a total loss of memory (still, check the system time just in case) or a full reset.

Riding daily and thus needing two runs per day with the cameras – to the office and back home again – I find this happens about once a month with my older camera models (the one that balked this morning was an older Akaso V50 Elite, which I would not buy again now that the V50x is available). It has not yet happened with one of my V50x’s.


Over time the battery loses capacity. Not a big surprise as that is normal for a li-ion pack. Hooking up the camera to an external power source is a big help for this. The power source just keeps the li-ion pack inside the camera topped up… almost. It doesn’t replace it.

When the camera starts getting old, you start seeing a situation where even if the camera is connected to an external power supply, it still dies mid-ride. That is because running the camera at this high resolution and frame rate means it eats a tiny little bit more power than the power feed can pump back in. As the battery ages, this slight disparity catches up with the camera.

The solution: every week or two on an old camera I need to turn the camera power on and let the camera sit, turned off, and charge its battery. Then its good again for a couple weeks. This can be done while I am charging the bike so its no big deal. Also, since these cameras come with two batteries, switching them one for the other on occasion puts wear on both of them and staves off this issue for quite some time.

I have never had a battery get so worn I considered replacing the camera. So this is an issue but its not the end of the world.

Sharing Cameras Across Multiple Bikes

I shared a parts list in Part 1 already, but lets do another, slightly different one and look at project cost for one bike, then two.

front + rear cameras for single Bike:

Action Camera    US$90.00 x 2
SD Card             20.00 x 2
Front Camera Mount  18.00
Rear Camera Mount   12.00
27000mah Power Bank 30.00
USB Cables (2 pak)  11.00
Total Cost         291.00
Cost Per Bike      291.00

Front + Rear Cameras For Two Bikes:

Action Camera     US$90.00 x 2
SD Card              20.00 x 2
Front Camera Mount   18.00 x 2
Rear Camera Mount    12.00 x 2
27000mah Power Bank  30.00
USB Cables (2 pak)   11.00 x 2
Extra Scuba Box      13.00 x 2
Total Cost          358.00
Cost Per Bike       179.00

What we’re doing above is buying two of everything to mount the cameras, but just one power bank and one set of cameras.

To move from one bike to another we just pop the cameras and power bank off of the one bike (remember the scuba boxes make for quick-detach) and right back onto the second bike in literally just a few seconds.

US$291 sounds like a lot until you look at your alternatives. Tally up the features you won’t have when buying a commercial bespoke solution, versus this one. We went over the alternatives in detail in Part 1. If you add to it the fact that it is easily made portable, works for two bikes and gets your costs down to US$179 per bike… you are way ahead of the game.

Extrapolate this out to as many bikes as you please. For three bikes, you come up with a total of US$425, which yields a per-bike cost of to US$142.

Video Editing Software

Recording your travels, you might want to look them over (or maybe you had an accident and need to show it to the cops or your lawyer). How do you dig the files out?

First, the easy (and almost useless) way: View them on your camera. You can scroll thru the vids and tap on one to run it onscreen. But the screen is like a 2-inch diagonal TV set, which can’t show any level of detail. You need to export the file to your PC to view and zoom in on a big screen monitor.

When you bought the camera, you also bought a MicroSD card to hold your files. Remove that card from your camera and plug it into a MicroSD card reader. This is one of the ones I have, so I know it works.

Plug that card reader into your PC. It will come up as a USB drive. Like a thumb drive. You will find files in three types.

THM files

These are Thumbnail files. These are merely the thumbnail images you see when scrolling thru the video list on your camera.

LRV files

These are Low Resolution Video files. I mentioned earlier a recorded file in 4K30FPS is enormous. An LRV file is a playable low res version. If viewing a video on the tiny camera screen, this little file is used. Otherwise, these aren’t going to be of any use.

MP4 Files

This is your high resolution recording. That will be obvious when you see the enormous file size. MP4 is a format this is a bit nebulous in terms of its use of standards, but you should be able to load it into common video software/freeware.

Copy the files to review to your PC’s hard drive. Load them into your video software. My Windows 10 PC came with Microsoft Video Editor pre-loaded. I use that to expand the video to full screen and play it back. I can pause it and click thru frame by frame until I can read a license plate of a car going by. If I am viewing the upside-down rear camera view, a couple of mouse clicks rotates the view to right-side-up.

Finally, once I find a still image that displays what I need, I can store a screen shot to hand over to a lawfully interested party.

Wrapping It Up

With any luck, all you will do with these cameras is install them, turn them on at the beginning of every ride and off at the end.

But if you ever need a witness after an accident, a super high-resolution, 170-degree forward and rear-facing, image-stabilized record of the event is there for you – and if you ever need them, they will be more than worth the time and effort it took you to set them up.

DIY Bicycle Front (And Rear) Dash Cam, Part 2

This installment will focus on the installation and configuration of an ultra high resolution (4K and 30fps) DIY front and rear bicycle dash camera system.

This is a continuation of the topic introduced in Part 1, where we went over the rationale and parts list needed for a high-quality DIY front and rear dash camera solution.

Lets Get Started

We’ve purchased and received our parts. Lets install them and get everything set up. This article is going to be rather straightforward and by-the-numbers, as we already went over the reasons for rolling our own dash cam solution in Part 1.

Before we start bolting everything on, we will modify the scuba box.

The What?

Yes I said ‘scuba box’. Pretty much every budget action camera comes with a waterproof box as an included accessory. It lets you take the camera to the bottom of your swimming pool or lake or whatever. Putting the camera into the box makes it waterproof (and somewhat crashproof, too). Thats great, but what we really want is to make it easy to remove from the bike.

Most cameras have a threaded hole meant to interface with a standard 1/4″ camera tripod fitting. You can use that to screw the camera down onto a mount directly.

We don’t want to do this. When you are routinely using a camera on a daily driver bike, you need a quick and convenient way to take if off.

Why Take The Cameras Off?

It was literally just yesterday when, at my local Costco, I was beginning my process of locking the bike. A curious onlooker leaning against his parked car asked me “You aren’t going to leave those GoPro’s on there, are you?”

“Hell no” I Replied

“They go inside with me, and back on when I come back out.” I showed him how I just opened the scuba box door, disconnected the USB power cord and into a little go-bag they go (I re-use the bag that holds my bike lock), along with my removable taillights, tool bags and power banks. I also noted they are not expensive GoPro cameras. But still, two of them would be a pretty nice haul for sticky fingers.

And THAT is the real reason for the scuba box.

But its not quite ready yet. When I first started using cameras like this, I relied on their internal batteries for power. I quickly learned it was a pain to recharge the battery so frequently. Besides, battery life could be insufficient to get through a single ride.

The solution is to plug the camera into an outside power source. The camera still runs on its internal battery, but that battery is constantly topped up by the power source you connected. It (almost) never runs out and you can forget about it. More on this below.

So plugging the camera in is great, but we encased it in a watertight box, so you can’t plug anything in. Unless you…

Take A Drill To The Scuba box

The V50x camera – and every other action camera I have used – has a USB Micro-format combination data and charge plug. To get to that plug, we need to drill a slightly oblong hole in the box (speaking of which, when buying USB cords do not pick one with a big blocky plastic guard around it, or you’ll need to drill a huge hole).

In the left picture above, the hole is bigger than it needs to be. Oops my bad. But even so, an oversized hole like this should not cause a problem in even a heavy downpour. Still, you should be more careful than I was.

I said ‘oblong’ hole. To get that, I a) drill a round hole and then b) press against the side of the hole with the running drill. That grinds away just some of the top and bottom of my once-round hole. Then I incrementally test-fit and expand the hole some more until the cable fits snugly. There’s usually more hole than I need, but it never is so much it compromises the box’s structural integrity.

My Milwaukee step drill bits (I have this set) go thru the boxes cleanly in hot-knife-thru-butter fashion. So its easy to over do it. I have never ruined a box, but still be careful.

This set is part number 48-89-9222 and is the cheapest step drill set Milwaukee sells from what I see.

You can also use a simple old school drill bit and work it from side to side. Conventional bits are more difficult and leave more mess in terms of shavings. Once you get the hole drilled the rest is pretty simple.

Mount The Front Camera

First, this mount is more-complex than necessary. But it is what I consider to be a more ‘evolved’ method. I use a handlebar extension to raise the camera up high. This makes it more obvious to cars around me. I am using the following components, from the top down:

This thing is really up high but is not in my way
  • The Akaso V50x camera, inside of its scuba box. You can see the USB Micro wire coming out of the side connected to the USB port of the display, providing continuous power.
  • The adjustable forward camera mount. I added a red adjuster knob to it.
  • The camera mount is attached to a short handlebar extension, angled up to about a 2 o’clock angle. This helps because I need to mount a special light there, thanks to the particular setup of that bike. For your needs we only care about the extension because it raises up the camera. Zoom in. You can see it has two mounting arms (the product sells with just one). I had an extra. If you don’t, buy a second one and use the arm that comes with it. You could also buy a longer extension as those come with two arms, but I wanted to keep it small.
Step back from the bike a bit. That camera – raised up by the handlebar extension – really sticks out. Which is totally the idea here.

If you don’t have to mess with the added complications of a display and a light sharing real estate with the camera, you may still want to use that extension to raise the camera up. It is solid, doesn’t jiggle and helps make it obvious to others a dash camera is in use.

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

I have done a lot of these with a simpler mount – no extensions. The bottom-most picture below is an almost identical bike with the same displays and even the same funky light. That time I mounted the camera to the side.

For all of these bikes above, I just bolted the camera mount directly to the handlebars

If you are going this simpler route, it may be smart to put the camera on the left side as you face forward, where it will be more visible to neighboring vehicles. I hadn’t figured this out when I did these bikes.

Mount The Rear Camera

There is much less going on in back than on the front mount. I’ve only found one ‘best’ way to do this:

  1. Attach the saddle rail camera mount.
  2. Attach the scuba box to the mount, with the camera inside.
  3. Attach the right-angle USB cable that feeds power to the camera.

Pretty easy. You will spend more time routing the USB cable to your power supply so it stays tidy.

Above: That short cable running thru the frame and seat rails is a seat leash, which, coupled to the dual-bolt seatpost clamp, makes it more time-consuming to steal the saddle and seatpost.

What Power Supply?

There are a few different ways you can go here.

Use the Internal Camera Battery

This is the way I did it for the first couple of years I used these cameras. At the end of a commute into my office, I pulled the camera from the scuba box and plugged it into a USB charger. At the end of my workday at home I did it again.

This was before I started drilling holes into the boxes, but we’ll get to that. When going this route, it is the least convenient because of the charging, but it is also the easiest to install with no extra effort.

Use An External Power Bank

Charging the camera twice a day was a pain on a daily driver bike. So I moved to an external power source. Since I still needed that scuba box for ease of removal, I drilled a hole in it so I could plug into the camera.

This is where my power banks go on both of my Bullitts

One power bank can easily power two cameras. A big power bank can do it for a long time. I like to recharge them once weekly, every Friday. I use a big power bank, but that big bank also powers other lights, so for just a camera you can use something smaller. Your mileage may vary.

My project parts list includes two options, both of which I use personally. One is a high-quality name brand. The other is a low-cost, no-name product with good reviews that is working just fine for me.

Use The USB Port On Your Display

This one is kind of a no-brainer. It makes for the cleanest setup. You can select options on the camera so when you turn the display on and off the camera goes on and off with it. Also you can skip the weekly power bank charges since you are using the main ebike battery.

However, not every display has a USB port. None of them have two ports to accommodate a front and rear camera. I have 2wd bikes with two displays so I can cheat, but thats true for almost nobody else.

You may want to just hook up one camera to your display and one to a small power bank. Or if you are handy with electronics, wire in a USB buck converter to your main battery for multiple USB ports.

Camera Settings For Dashcam Use

There are a variety of ways to fiddle with settings. In particular the power-on options to make the camera turn on and off automagically when you plug it in, power up your ebike display or turn on your power bank. I have found the most reliable method is where I manually start things up and shut them down. Letting the camera manage it, I’ve had one too many experiences where it has decided to take the afternoon off and shut down mid-ride for no apparent reason.

Driving Mode vs. Video Mode

Driving Mode is one of the 9 main modes that the V50x camera has for startup. Driving mode is a dedicated dashcam mode that – in theory at least – helps makes the camera completely automatic. When it senses power, it powers up the camera and immediately begins recording. When external power is no longer fed to it, it shuts down. That means if your ebike display comes on or shuts off, so does the camera.

That sounds great but in practice on these cameras, it literally does not work for some reason. What happens is the camera powers on exactly as expected, but then within seconds (before I have a chance to climb on the bicycle and start moving) it shuts off. Its not motion-activated because riding the bike does not trigger it to start back up again. If there is a way to make it work as advertised, the instruction manual is completely silent on it.

I prefer to use simple Video Mode, where I use the on/off and recording start/stop switches myself. Done that way it always works with no surprises.

For the settings below, if I do not list something that is on the menu, the setting is left in its factory default state.

Video Settings

This is the best setting for getting clear readings on a moving car’s license plate.
Image StabilizationOn
You need this for jiggle-free video
According to the manual, this is the same thing as Image Stabilization. I turn them both on for the smoothest possible recording.
Loop Recording Time3 minutes
This sets how long each video snippet is. You want short loop recording time. A 3-minute video in 4k running at 30 fps will be well over 1 gigabyte in size. A longer loop sounds like a great idea until you try and work with a two gigabyte file in your video software.
Audio recordOn
It can’t hurt to have sound to go with your recording. Audio will be muffled thanks to the scuba box encasing the camera.

System Settings

Soundsall enabled
This just turns on all audio feedback to your touchscreen presses.
Distortion CalibrationOn
According to the manual, this is a helper for Image Stabilization. It narrows the field of view slightly.
Angle170 degrees
The widest angle possible. Since we’re trying to gather evidence in case of some sort of traffic accident, more is better.
Diving ModeOff
Do not mistake this for “driving mode”. It compensates for the lack of red light while diving under water.
WDR (Wide Dark Range)On
Allows greater detail in shadows when an image contains both bright and shadowed areas.
Auto Power OffOff
The camera can be set to power off during inactivity. Turning this off prevents the camera from deciding it needs a vacation.
Screen Saver1 minute
This just shuts the screen off to conserve the battery
Date Formatyyyy/mm/dd
Personal preference. The format used for the onscreen date stamp
Date StampDate and Time
This sets the recorded onscreen stamp to show both date and time.

Wrapping It Up

With any luck, all you will do with these cameras is install them, turn them on at the beginning of every ride and off at the end.

But if you ever need a witness after an accident, a super high-resolution, 170-degree forward and rear-facing, image-stabilized record of the event is there for you – and it will be more than worth the time and effort it took you to set it up.

We’ll cover odds and ends, which includes video software to extract your little home movies, in Part 3.

DIY Bicycle Front (And Rear) Dash Cam, Part 1

You know dashcams create a record of evidence. Surprisingly, they are also visible to nearby drivers, and become a deterrent just by being in plain sight.


I have been using inexpensive action cameras (i.e. GoPro clones) for years as dashcams on my urban commute and cargo ebikes. Going DIY, I get much higher video quality and spend a lot less money. Once you figure out how to set them up, its an easy process.

I started doing this after I was run down (a T-bone SMIDSY) by a negligent driver in 2017. The police report worked hard to blame the victim (me) for traveling at low speed (about 15 mph in a 40 zone), with three headlights on, in the designated on-road bike lane. I even made eye contact with the driver while she stopped before pulling out and into me. I found out the hard way the driver was looking through me, not at me.

What the hell is a SMIDSY?

At least the police report conceded the driver was the cause of the accident – and tried to take it back a bit by stating that the safe speed for a bicycle “may have been 3 mph”. Yes, thats right… three.

Unfortunately, experienced urban cyclists will recognize the problem. Motorists often get every benefit of the doubt when they run down a cyclist, regardless of the consequences of the motorist’s inattention. I was carted off in an ambulance.

Cyclists Need an Irrefutable Witness

Over the years, I have learned a few things about what kind of camera is well suited to this job, how to best install it, and how to configure it so it is as easy as possible to use on a routine basis. During a recent online discussion on the subject, it occurred to me this would be a good topic to lay out for people all in one piece.

Lets make a centralized parts list right off the bat, so its easy to come back to. We’ll get into what each item is and why it is on the list further on:

What About External Perception?

As alluded to in the lede above, having visible cameras does more than just preserve an evidence record (I tell people who ask about them – only half jokingly – they are there to tell the police who killed me).

My v1.0 mounting of my front camera on my white Bullitt. This is the best, most functional layout of the light, (placing it up high) and the camera.

Something I have experienced has been echoed to me informally by other cyclists: People treat a cyclist differently when the camera is there, blinking its little red “I’m on” light. Drivers behave with a bit more civility. Is this a scientific observation? Nope. Is it a universal benefit? Nope. But it does look as if, when people know that Little Brother is watching, they are less inclined to brush you back or run you off the road.

Camera mounting v2.0 happened not to get better performance out of the camera, or the front headlight, but to make the camera stick out more obviously visible to nearby drivers.

Once I realized my own perception of that phenomenon was not unique, I decided to supplement front cameras with a second, rear-facing one. Yes I want to get video of an oncoming vehicle that may do a bad thing. But even more so, I want that driver to maybe see the camera and … sober up a little?

Worth mentioning: Cameras like this have been used for years by motorcyclists, and I think motorists have grown somewhat used to them as a result. I have yet to see a volatile reaction by anyone getting mad I am recording them as they go by.

However, I do respect others’ privacy, and I will not be showing any stills taken from my cameras that show clear license plate views (which is the high standard we are going for here).

What About Turnkey Products?

Turnkey solutions exist for cyclists right now. Perhaps the original is the Cycliq Fly. One look at the price for front and rear cameras may give you pause. But if protection is afforded, price is secondary.

Instead, when evaluating them dig a little deeper at the camera resolution. The front camera provides a best resolution of 4K @ 24 fps, with 6-axis electronic image stabilization. That is pretty good but – in 2023 – unremarkable. The rear Fly6 on the other hand gives you a 135-degree view at a resolution of either FHD (1080p at 30fps) or HD (720p at 60fps). Their rear camera provides no mechanical or electronic image stabilization.

The Cycliq product also incorporates an app, and each version also incorporates a light.

Garmin makes a bike camera system as well. Its rear-facing Varia is a combination of rear light, camera and actual radar. The radar senses an approaching auto and warns you of its approach. Rider discussions I have seen report the radar really works. Insofar as the camera is concerned, its best resolution is 1080P @ 30 fps. There is no front camera option.

Bottom line: A turnkey solution for both front and rear is going to cost rather a lot of money. It may or may not provide a video solution that allows resolution and stability that will capture a legible license plate. I consider that license plate essential as it may belong to a vehicle that left the scene long before you are carted off in an ambulance.

In my own personal experience, I have tested the video resolutions and frame rates described above on cameras and consider them failures in the license plate reading game. They will be fine for capturing what happened, but if the car leaves the scene, law enforcement officials won’t be able to identify the vehicle from the plate number.

What About DIY?

It turns out ‘generic’ action cameras have all the features you need to make a dashcam. You just have to know how to set it up, which is not difficult. They will give you a highly detailed, electronically-stabilized screen resolution (you cannot take stabilization in all resolutions for granted and have to carefully review camera specs to confirm this).

High up is where a front camera usually goes on my bikes. Thanks to the 170 degree lens angle on my preferred camera, putting it a bit over to one side or the other on the bars is a non issue.

I have bought a number of cameras over the years. Some have been expensive (GoPro), some have been really cheap (low end Chinese GoPro clones) and some not so cheap. I will skip any further mention of that learning experience and just jump right to the one that works best for me now – in 2023.

The Akaso V50X Action Camera

  • In 2023 as I write this, this model has been around for awhile. I bought my first one in early 2021. So it has a feature set that is not state-of-the-art.
The camera, shown inside its waterproof scuba box, mounted with the front mount in our parts list. The red knob kajigger is some extra added bling. The wire sticking out? We’ll cover that in Part 2.
  • In 2023 as I write this, this model has been around for awhile. That means it is not a premium priced product. I bought my most recent two on sale for US$79.99 each. MSRP is US$99.99.
  • The camera uses a native 4k resolution with a native 30fps frame rate. There are other rates available going up to 60 fps, but in side-by-side testing, the 4k/30fps with image stabilization enabled gives the best license plate readings. Note I said ‘native’ above. That means there is no on-board interpolation to up- or down-rate the image. Since ‘interpolation’ means ‘adjustment’ and ‘approximation’, native processing modes should give the camera’s cleanest end result.
  • No proprietary software is needed to play or process the video. I use the movie software included with Microsoft Windows 10 to view and edit the files.
  • Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) differs in effectiveness from brand to brand. EIS on the V50X is very effective. I almost can’t see how it could work better. I have tested it on potholes and curbs and the video remains steady.
  • Settings are available to loop record, which is a critical feature for a dashcam application. The camera records in short time-loop intervals (shorter is better… we’ll discuss why later), then starts another file. When the SD Card storage fills up, it records over the oldest files, so you never have to flush it clean when it fills up.
  • Settings are available to turn the camera on as soon as it receives power. A driving mode makes camera startup and recording automatic, although I prefer not to use it.
  • Out of the box, the V50x comes with a zillion accessories. Way more than you will ever use. The one accessory that is critical is included: the waterproof scuba box (not needed for waterproofing… we’ll get into that later). You can buy a second box cheap on Amazon to share a camera across multiple bikes.
  • Its got a slightly bigger battery than other models in the Akaso line (which I also own). We’ll discuss a setup that bypasses the battery later.
  • Having had a V50x in service since 2021, and other Akaso cameras since before then, I have found the brand produces a reliable product.

A shorter version of the above is:
the V50x is cheap, durable and does everything you need for a bicycle dashcam.

SanDisk Extreme Pro Micro SD Card

You need this for the camera to store its video files. No camera comes with them and they have to be purchased separately. With a 200 mbps write speed, this is the fastest card you can get your hands on right now. You need big write speed to support the 4k/30fps mode on the camera. And since Micro SD cards are cheap, a relatively gigantic 128GB card is only US$20.

According to the instruction manual, the V50x camera only officially supports 64GB cards, but the manual also says some 128GB cards will work. This one works. I use them due to the fast write speed, not the storage size.

The Front Mount

I’ve tried a few mounts and, once I settled on this one, have stuck with it for years across several bikes. It is all alloy, no plastic, and mounts rock solid on the bars. Over time it does not loosen up, and keeps the camera in place regardless of bumps and bonks as I go down the road.

It does rotate on its horizontal axis by design, but there is a strong detent in place so it can’t happen accidentally. This rotation lets you put the same mount at different positions on a swept-back bar and it still points straight forward.

The Rear Mount

I have only recently started doing rear cameras and this mount was exactly what I needed to make it happen. It is all aluminum with stainless bolts, and mounts solidly to the saddle rails. It doesn’t move over time. Its easy to mount the camera to its GoPro-compatible mount.

With this seat rail mount, the camera in its waterproof case tucks right in under the saddle where you’ll never know its there.

This mount does make it necessary to mount the camera upside-down, but all of the video-editing software I have ever used – and I always use something simple and free with minimal features – allows you to easily flip the video right side up. The time stamp onscreen will be upside down but we aren’t trying to be Cecil B. DeMille here … its just a dashcam video.

The saddle mount positions the camera so it sits with plenty of room to clear the Kinekt and Thudbuster seatposts I have used it with.

The (Optional) Power Pack

There are a few ways to power your DIY dashcam solution. One way is to just use the in-camera battery. Another is to run a little USB cable from the camera to your ebike display’s USB port. That will give you a constant power supply that never runs out. If your display does not have a USB port available, the next best step is to fudge it and use a USB power bank. I have found it is much more convenient to use a big power bank and charge it, say, once weekly, than it is to use the in-camera battery that is going to need recharging after every single ride. I’m including links to two different – and big – power banks.

I do not use power banks this big to run just my camera. These banks have three USB outlets. I use all three – two to power my LED COB light banks and one to power one of my two cameras. I have a USB display powering the other. So for a more normal bike, one such power bank could power two cameras no problem for a week of long, daily commutes. A much smaller power bank would probably be fine, too; especially if handlebar bag space is at a premium.

I am linking to one Anker power pack that is a top quality item and priced accordingly. I’m also linking to one much cheaper and – on paper at least – is just as capable and 1/3 the price. I can’t be sure if it is as reliable as the Anker but for twenty bucks versus almost seventy… I figured it was worth a shot. I have only been using it for a few weeks so far.

Misc USB Cables

There are a half-dozen different ways to wire these things up. If you are doing a direct wire to a power bank or display on a rear camera, a long-ish USB cable with a right-angle plug at the camera side is a good choice. If doing a front camera mounted to the bars and tied to the USB plug on your handlebar display, you can get away with using the short freebie cable that comes with the camera. If things are lined up just wrong on your display, you may want to use a short 45-degree USB extension. We’ll go over a few variations …

when we tackle camera installation and configuration in the next installment. 🙂