LED Strip Lights – Quick and Easy Part 2

You thought the last post on LED strip lights for a Larry vs. Harry Bullitt was a quickee? Lets be even quickee-er for this followup.

This post is a continuation of this one where I did the full description of how I added low-power-consumption LED strip lights to my Larry vs. Harry Bullitt… In less than an hour and with no wiring skills. No skills at all in fact.

I Moved The Switches & Batteries

I could stop right there with that heading and just show off a couple pics, but lets do a little better than that.

When we last left off with this little project, I had put together a neat set of working strip lights in a very short time. However, since I just slapped it together, there was one glaring omission: The on/off switches for the lights were inside the cargo bay, just sitting in a little unsecured bag.

Figure 1: Not going to win any design awards with this one.

Considering the Bullitt is a really stable ride, this was not such a big deal. But I shouldn’t need to go into the cargo bay to turn the lights on. Gotta fix that.

Background

That little bag was already there, holding the battery packs for my two front-wheel-mounted headlights. So it wasn’t much of a stretch to just toss in the USB power bank for the strip lights, and run the on/off switches over to it. While we are at it, we’re going to move and secure the power packs for those lights as well, and eliminate this little brown bag completely.

Figure 2: Low-mounted headlights on the fork, which created the need for the little brown bag

As you can see in Figure 1 above, I lined my cargo bay with a sort of 1-piece tub of super-dense closed cell foam. It is bolted down at the rear but nowhere else. Its easy to just pull the ‘tub’ up and run the wires underneath it, back to the cockpit.

Lets Keep It Simple

This is going to be real easy: I already have a handlebar bag. It holds my front motor controller. That bag is not right for this job, but it is also a MOLLE bag, so I can easily attach additional bags directly to it. I had a small, cheap bag in my leftover parts pile. It will hold the power packs for both the head and strip lights, along with the strip light power switches.

Figure 3: My handlebar bag. In this ‘before’ pic, the bag mated to it (at an angle) via MOLLE straps on the front is small; barely big enough to hold wallet, phone and keys.

Now we need a way to connect the wires up front to the batteries in the bag. Since they are nothing more than USB 2.0 plugs on both sides, I used simple USB 2.0 extension cables. The ideal length is 2 meters and these can be had from Amazon via their Amazon Basics USB 2.0 cable in a 2-meter length. Its possible to use USB 3.0 cables, but those are quite a bit more expensive versus the 2.0 cables that run about $5 each. I needed 4 of them.

Figure 4: Each connection to each extension is wrapped in silicone tape to waterproof it and ensure they stay connected.

I connected one to each of my four plugs at the front. Two to the headlights and two to the strip lights. Then run the cables along the floor back to the rear… bulkhead or whatever its called.

From there, run the wires up the bulkhead, out of the cargo bay and up into the handlebar bag. For the top portion, I zip-tied the 4 cables together for the sake of a neat appearance.

Figure 5: Peekaboo! looking back under the installed tonneau, which has been lifted up. You can see the bundled cable running up from behind the padded wall at the back of the cargo bay.

There is a fair bit of extra cable, which works to my benefit as it let me route the cables into the bag at precisely the point where the zipper opens it. I bundled the wires together with some non-permanent velcro ties; again for neatness’ sake.

Figure 6: The wires once they come up out of their bundled exit from the cargo bay. Much more noticeable thanks to the camera flash. Even in daytime they aren’t really visible against the black cordura background.

Inside the bag, the battery packs line the bottom, ends-facing-up, so I can plug directly into them.

Figure 7: The switches simply sit on top of the USB power banks. They are wired together to always face opposite one another with a simple wire tie – like you’d find on a bread loaf – for now.

The USB on/off switches from the strip lights are stuffed in here rather than getting creative and surface mounting them on the bag via the MOLLE webbing. My thinking is I want them kept out of the elements.

Figure 8: The complete picture, post-assembly. The little bag sits just above the tonneau and doesn’t contact anything. I keep those pliers handy in case I collect a nail or worse in a tire. I can grab them and pull out the jagged offender and let my tire sealant do its work.

End Result

  • Batteries and wiring are secure and out of sight.
  • Switches are easily accessible.
  • There is more than enough room in the bag, which is only half full at most.
  • Batteries are convenient to pull out when bike is left outside at a shop and I pull everything not nailed down and take it in with me. It is just as convenient to reconnect upon return.
Passes the everyday Easy test!

One Last Thing!

My LED strips have an extension soldered onto each of them from the factory. They were originally 1.6M long and both, at the same point in their length, have a visible solder joint where they were extended. Since this is open, unsealed solder, thats an open connection. I’m not sure if a bad thing would happen if water ended up bridging the gap between those bits of solder, but lets not find out. I used a narrow bit of that same 3M mastic sealing tape I described in the original article to cover that connecting point and waterproof it.

That little strip of tape makes no difference in the appearance of the light when its turned on.


Thats it! Pretty simple, right? Carry on.

LED Strip Lights – Quick and Easy

I knocked this project out in maybe an hour, start to finish. I’m doing the same with this quickee explainer post.

There is a Part 2 followup to this article detailing some improvements. See it here.

What It Is

Not too long ago I saw someone show off some LED strip lights lining the front and bottom of their Larry vs. Harry Bullitt. Since I am fooling around with and writing up bike lights recently, I thought this looked pretty cool, so I decided to spring a few bucks to do a simpler version of the project myself.

What I Did

I have a reputation for not taking the easy way out, with careful planning and meticulous execution.

None of that happened here. I just slapped this sucker together, kind-of. Actually the way it went down … I was mocking up a couple different layouts in the garage, a light bulb went off for a simple setup, decided “how tough can it be?” and from there did the complete installation in under an hour.

I will probably pretty this up at some point but for now I’ll just enjoy what I have and see how I like it as-is. Before I get into the strip lights themselves, I need to back up a step and describe a mod I made awhile back that led me directly to lining the side panels rather than doing the usual and lining the frame.

What I Did Before: Side Panel Extensions

Waaaay back when I first built The Lizzard King, I lined the cargo area with a sort of tub of a special, ultra-dense closed cell foam. It works great, but its 1/2″ thickness narrows the cargo box area just enough that boxy items can sometimes not quite fit. If I could get back that space I would gain back some convenience.

I only wanted to get back a little as the LvH tonneau cover won’t fit if I spread the panels more than a little. I settled on the following parts to do the job

I wanted to use the big countersunk washers and screws on all of the attachment points, but the front two don’t have enough room for the washer to fit so I just used standard socket caps.

Pictures of the parts installed will do a better job of explaining how this all came together than writing it up:

The spacers add 8mm of width and the skinny washers sandwiching it together give a bit of extra strength. They also add about 2mm total for a roughly 1cm widening of the panel mounting on each side (so 2 cm total width increase). The countersunk washers and screws give a nice flat facing, with broad contact to the mounting bracket. The socket caps worked fine too, so the expensive option of the countersunk washers can be considered optional although I think its a nice touch, and prefer the facing to the cargo area be nice and flat.

I could have gone a lot wider as you can see if you explore the site linked above, but that would spoil my ability to use my LvH tonneau cover. As it stands its tight but it fits.

On To The Light Show

So… coming into the game this is what I bought:

4000k LED Strip Lights
If you want something to match your typical bicycle headlight, choose a strip with a 6000k color temp. I decided to go a little warmer and it turned out to be a good choice, although I didn’t know why this was yet.

I chose this set of lights because it was a longer 1.5M (just in case), it used 3M adhesive tape for mounting – these kinds of lights are infamous for coming off after exposure to weather – and it had a simple, switch-free USB plug.

Inline LED Switches
I thought when I bought the parts that I might not use switches at all – I would just plug and unplug my lights from the power bank I planned to use (more on that later) or use the power bank’s on/off switch to do the same job without extra parts. If I had been thinking I would have bought the white ones to match the USB wire coming off the strip lights.

0.4″ (10mm) -wide 3M VHB Double-Sided Tape
VHB – aka “3M red body tape” is a weatherproof, super-durable rubber tape available in a variety of widths and thicknesses. The bigger stuff can literally be used to stick smaller body panels (trim pieces and such) permanently to a car. Most modern car badging uses this stuff to stick on the vehicle make and model logos. Its strong and weatherproof. I had a roll already in my garage. Use the link above to get yourself some.

My idea was to lay down the VHB on the bike frame, and then stick the lights to the VHB – essentially: stick tape on the lights to tape on the frame. It’ll never come off.

Anker 13000 mah USB Power Bank
I already had this power bank in a drawer. It has two USB output ports and works perfectly to power both strips. Looks like it will last for a full week (I recharge all my stuff once a week).

Configuration

I started out trying to rig something up by running a USB extension up the steering tube to the handlebars where I have a bag already. I could have mounted the switches on the bags. This meant I would need to run the USB connections from the lights from the rear of the frame, and hiding that connection wasn’t going to happen since the light strips only bend on one axis. Plus I’d be gaining two more wires running up the steering tube and more visible wires are never a good thing.

While I was pondering that, I realized I had an overhang created by my side panel extensions. This gave me a rubberized surface to stick my base layer of VHB, which will only make for a more firm connection. Also this would bring the wiring up further away from the ground, splashes and shield it from ground impacts.

After poking at it a bit more from this panel-mount angle, I realized I could run the power connections from the front, directly into the front of the cargo box. Since I already had a small bag located there holding two power banks for my lower front headlights, I could just add this to the bag that was already there.

Dang thats good enough to just get it done in a few minutes. I can mess with cleaning up the wires later if I feel like it. And so, here again I’ll use pictures to show the install result:

You can see the light strip is sitting directly on a ‘bed’ of thin black rubber. That is the 3M VHB, which I laid down first as a complete strip, front to back. From there I peeled and stuck the lights atop that. Since I was sticking sticky tape onto sticky tape I had to be careful to get it right the first time, but it wasn’t difficult. The light strip can be cut at specific, marked spots along its length and it was easy to do that.

You can see on each end there is a rubber cap. This is 3M 2229 mastic electrical sealing tape. Essentially its tape-shaped rubber goo. You cut a thin strip of it and lay it over what you want to insulate. Then you work it a little like clay until its formed into a shape that gives you a watertight seal. Mastic is one of those things everyone should have in their tool box. There is a thinner version – 3M 2228 – that is commonly available in big box hardware stores in the USA (much cheaper than found on Amazon).

And yeah I know that bag just sitting there is kinda cheesy, but it was already there holding the power for the two fork-mounted headlights. Thats a spot where my lock is always sitting (in that black bag) so its not taking up space I use for anything else.

Whatsit Look Like Turned On?

Well, before you scroll down to see the pics, know this: The camera gives you a false impression of how bright it is. It is nowhere near as blindingly bright as you see in the night time pics, and its brighter than it seems in the daytime pics.

At night, mounting the strips on the panels – which thanks to the mods I did create a narrow overhang ideally suited to mounting these lights – the effect is to light up the frame as if it was a billboard. Its bright and legible and really cool looking. The camera makes it look like its a blinding washout of light and thats the camera, not reality. Also, the 4000k warm color temp I chose meshes perfectly with my green frame. Different color frames (Moondog – navy blue – comes to mind) might take better to a 6000k color temp, and I bet Pepper (hot red) would like 3000k better than 4000k.

The bike jumps out in the night, which is the idea insofar as visibility in traffic is concerned. Also, the lights face downwards and illuminate the ground in a nice big circle around me. Thats useful to me in a minor way (whatever I smash into will be brightly lit up), but also helps increase my visibility to oncoming and overtaking traffic. The forward facing lights provide a minor benefit to illuminating the road close up.

During the day, the effect is minor but on a cloudy day the bike does look a bit ‘brighter’ from the side, and for sure the forward facing portion of the lights provide a daytime running light effect. On sunny days? No idea I just did all this last night.

As near as I can tell, power usage is minimal. I was unable to dent the battery in my testing and trials. We’ll see how that goes after a week of daily use.

Down the road, I may play around with USB extensions and move the switches back towards the rear – I can run them behind the padding that lines the box – so I don’t have to open the tonneau to switch the lights on. I have a couple extension cables and smaller power banks without a job that may work well in this regard. We’ll see. For now this is quick and dirty and pretty slick.


EDIT:
I cleaned this all up and got rid of that stupid brown bag altogether. See what I did in Part 2.

Mid Tail, Long Tail or Front Loader (which cargo bike do I choose)?

I never planned on building three different classes of cargo bike, but I did. What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Prologue

As I write this, its been about two years since I received my first cargo bike in a box: A dirt-cheap $750 Mongoose Envoy. I planned from the beginning to completely tear it down and only use the donor frame. The Envoy is what you would call a midtail. Not huge, but still pretty big.

The Mongoose Envoy in action (2019). Still with the small tires and factory fenders.

I found I liked the cargo bike concept so much, I wanted to go bigger. Next I built up a Surly Big Fat Dummy (BFD). That bike is as big as they come in terms of a side-loading (panniers) cargo bike. Its a longtail.

I ran around for about a year on the BFD, putting about 1600 miles on it. I used it for an everything-bike: cargo, shopping, commuting and even mild-difficulty offroad trails. As oversized as it was, I found it fun and practical and had no plans to leave it behind. I could have stopped here.

The BFD in 2020. 48T chainring, Bluto suspension fork, stock wheels and tires: Set up for cargo and street commuting

But I do love a project. Almost on a whim, in early 2021 I called a USA dealer for the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt and asked if they had frames in stock. They did. So I built a third, completely different kind of cargo bike: A frontloader. also commonly known by its Dutch name of bakfiets (“box bike”).

The Bullitt, late 2021 @ Costco. The bag under the cart holds panniers and everything of value not nailed down on the bike, plus helmet.

The Bullitt is my newest arrival in the stable … but I already have over 1300 miles on it. What does that tell you?

SO!

Which do I prefer, and why? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Where are the hidden gotchas? Being in an unusual position to have experienced them all directly, and to have them all still in front of me, here goes nuthin’:

The Mid Tail (Mongoose Envoy)

Envoy: Recent past. Titanium flat bar with bar ends and RevGrips Pro grips (its Jones bars were given to the Bullitt), 77L (each) bags converted to the 2.0 mounting method, heat sinks on the motor. 2.8″ tires on super strong 30mm internal-width rims.

What Was I Thinking?

I wanted a cargo bike without spending big money for one. I wasn’t sure I would like the idea. Cargo bikes are crazy-expensive. Cheaper ones are only really expensive. This one was downright reasonable.

In the DIY ebike community, a Mongoose bike is considered a great donor if you are looking for a strong, reliable frame as the foundation of a build. The Mongoose Dolomite borders on legendary in this regard. Great bones, so to speak.

The Envoy is exactly this. It presents as a low-cost bike complete with included big panniers and wideloaders, so it can effectively be put to work right out of the box. You can do exactly that, although some parts are in sore need of an upgrade (the brakes, in particular).

So in the end, I built myself a very capable bike with top quality components. Lets focus on the resulting platform advantages/disadvantages rather than getting hung up on those components. I wrote a whole series on that build so we can let it stand separately.

What Is It Good At?

If you are on a budget, this is perhaps the best way to start

A mid can be a lower cost to buy into. Cargo bikes are notoriously expensive so this may be a deciding factor. You can do as I did and buy into the Envoy as a donor platform; then upgrade incrementally as time and budget permits… but the frame is the frame so if you find yourself wishing for more capacity, thats the hard limit of a mid tail. Still, even after a complete rebuild with top components I ended up spending half or less of what a more grownup cargo bike would have cost me.

It has surprisingly good cargo capacity

This may be more true if you go and roll your own cargo bags the way I did. At about 77L each bag, my Great Big Bags are quite a lot larger than the ones included with the Envoy. Bags the size of what I built are darn near the biggest out there (Yuba makes 80L bags guaranteed only to fit their own bikes).

Big bags mean big volume, but not big weight capacity. Your wheels and frame will dictate that. Different bikes have different specs so be sure to find out what the bikes you are considering can carry, both for cargo and total system, which is the weight of the bike, rider and cargo. You have to do some digging, but Mongoose publishes a 130-lb maximum cargo capacity for the Envoy (they do not publish a system weight limit). They break it down to 90 lbs on the center rear rack and 20 lbs each for the wideloaders.

Reality is a pannier load will hang off the center rack and be bolstered by the wideloaders, so the lower number for the side rack is not worrisome. Especially since I added some extra bracing to enhance the wideloaders’ strength.

Speaking of strength, If you are looking to stretch any bike’s carry capacity, look to beefing up the wheels. In particular wider rims so you can fit larger tires.

Mongoose developers employed by the company who posted in internet forums at the time of the Envoy’s release stated these limits were not, strictly speaking, upper limits and represented what Mongoose had safely tested during product development. If I hadn’t done a bunch of research I would not have known this. So do some digging on Facebook cargo groups and look for online forum posts (this is true no matter what bike platform you are considering) for details and experiences on the bike you are researching.

I was carrying two double-wide sleeping bags and pillows so this is not the heavy load it appears to be.

It is not supersized

A midtail Is bigger than a regular bike, but its not enormous. Its a LOT easier to manipulate around a crowded garage. The mid-size nature of it also makes it easier to ride in tighter spaces. Please note that my midtail IS 8 feet long thanks to the 46″ longboard deck I put on the back. I highly recommend the skateboard deck as a cool mod, but remember moderation is not always a dirty word. My first, shorter 33″ deck may be a more sensible choice.

Given the limited garage space at the Envoy’s new home, I may pull off the 46″ deck (left image above) and go back to the original shorter deck. I’d need to re-mount it one set of rack bosses further inward. Or something.

Skinny, flatless tires, or mid-size? I stuck with the big poofy ones due to their increased load capacity and amazing difference in ride comfort.

What Does It Suck At?

Its not a truly heavy-duty cargo bike

…in the sense that its not the right bike to repeatedly, regularly use the kind of available extra space I have given the bike, with its upgraded panniers, front rack etc. If you are planning to go truly XXL on your cargo bike’s duty cycle, a midtail is probably not the smart choice.

Balance is a serious challenge

Balance while riding when loaded heavy can be a significant effort. The nature of a mid-tail bike means you are hanging stuff off the sides to carry along with you. As in: Panniers. Maybe even supersized cargo-bike-sized panniers (plus more bags on the front rack). When you start getting to be really serious about your loads then balance naturally becomes an issue.

I’ll bet balance under load is the reason Mongoose sells the Envoy with large – but inexplicably narrow – panniers. Only a lawyer working for the manufacturer could love a bag like that.

While I haven’t personally experienced this, I have heard many smaller women state that having kids on the back of their bike is not a great situation. In addition to kids being kids (squirmy and fidgety) their weight is very high up in back which can make the bike a challenge to safely balance when standing still. This is all dependent on the individual rider and the size of the child or children.

Does my mid-tail have a place in my stable?

Yes it does. I am lucky enough to have two homes, one of which is in a very hilly area where distances are short, the climate is mild and my shopping needs are lighter. Despite many steep hills its a lot easier place to ride a bike around. The Envoy is my shopping bike at that residence. Being smaller than the other two behemoths discussed below, it also fits better in my smaller available garage space.

Eat fresh egg sandwich or go riding? Sandwich wins. Then we ride.
Is it an auto replacement?

Not quite. I still have and need a car to supplement this bike. If I wanted to pack 50 lb gravel bags home 1 at a time, I could use the bike. Or take the car and bring home 8 of them. The mid tail is good for maybe 90% of my local car trips.

The Long Tail (Surly Big Fat Dummy)

What Was I Thinking?

Having loaded my midtail to the point where I was thinking I had maybe outgrown it, I wanted something bigger. In particular, the increase in ride comfort and quality when I went to plus-sized tires on the Envoy made it clear that fat tires – with much larger air volume and taller load-bearing sidewalls – were a big plus for a bike that carried a lot of weight around as its job.

One thing I have learned in my cycling life is that, where equipment is concerned, don’t take half measures. Its a lesson that has bonked me on the head time and again. At the time I figured this was one more of those hard-way lessons when I supersized to a fat longtail. The Surly Big Fat Dummy personifies the expression ‘Go Big or Go Home’. Thats what I was after: a rolling freight train capable of handling heavy loads.

Need to carry some spare fat wheels? Break out the longtail

What Is It Good At?

Starting conversations

“Wow thats quite a bike.” “Dude that thing is cool.” “Jesus H. Christ what in the hell is that?” Allow for time to have conversations if you park it in a shopping center. Pull up a shopping cart to this thing and spend 15 minutes loading it and it will be a rare thing to get through that task without a passerby stopping to strike up a conversation. Also windows rolled down at stoplights. At 8 feet long, with wideloaders added, a skateboard deck almost 4 feet long and oh yeah the biggest tires and deep dish carbon fiber wheels… People notice, and they like it.

Don’t think this is unique to me because I have made the bike into a rolling spectacle. Fact is, cargo bikes in the USA are still a rare sight and many people have no idea what they are looking at.

Its big

I mean really big. There have been a few news stories over the years where someone blows a gasket, steals an army tank and runs amok on city streets, bulldozing over stuff, causing panic and generally doing the things we all wish we could do while stuck in a traffic jam. Riding a ginormous longtail is a little like that. You can pretty much roll over anything. Nobody feels compelled to step in front of you and it sure seems like you are sitting about a foot higher in the saddle than you would be on any other bike (you’re not but it feels like it). You’ve got a level of stability that just isn’t possible on any other bicycle, fat tired or otherwise thanks to the long wheelbase that crosses the county line.

Some of what I am colorfully describing here is specific to the Big Fat Dummy, but really the whole ‘big’ thing is true of really big cargo bikes period.

Wren Inverted front fork. Best. Upgrade. Ever.
Its comfortable

Steel is real, and the chromoly frame does have some flex in it to make your ride nice and comfy. This is not the bike for the super efficient cyclist to pursue the World Hour Record in. Its a bus. Even longtails made with stiffer alloy frames will get some flex into them due to the sheer length of the frame.

It can carry a lot of stuff

More than you can load into it. I branched out and expanded the carry capacity on my midtail with a front rack for two more panniers. Well, utilizing my Version 2.0 Big Bags, the longtail has more than 270 (Two Hundred and Seventy) liters of rear pannier capacity, supported with a 9″ wide floor integrated into the frame. PLUS the nearly 4-foot long aircraft carrier deck in back, AND the front handlebar basket. A front rack would be stupid overkill. Figure the increased carry capacity is the reason a longtail exists vs. a midtail. Do not bother considering one that doesn’t have the ability to carry a lot, as thats the reason they exist in the first place.

Yeah… thats a lot for a bicycle.

My record on this bike was actually on my first shopping trip. Four 36-paks of soda cans, two per side, plus some boxes of crackers and another 20 -30 lbs of bike lock and tools (mostly the big bike lock). When all was said and done, I was at a total system weight of well over 500 lbs, and those great big bags were filled out and full. The many-miles-long ride home was fortunately on a bike path with underpasses and almost no street traffic. And still it was very tense – not to mention slow going. There’s no way my midtail would have been able to handle that, even if I had bags big enough to do it.

What Does It Suck At?

Its. Freaking. Big.

If you don’t have plenty of parking space, you are screwed. Plain and simple. That means at home and any other place where you expect to regularly park this thing.

Broadening the above narrow point by a bit: Pick any problem you care to name associated with XXL size. A longtail has that. Will it matter to you? There’s the question. I have found that despite the size, the BFD is surprisingly nimble once I got used to it. Will your longtail of choice be so forgiving? Better do some in-depth test riding to find out.

It has all the balance issues of a midtail

Only those issues are magnified. Now… don’t get me wrong here. Lots of people ride these bikes and their worlds do not end. In fact the balance issues I am digging in on are just a fact of life for most cargo bikers. But this is likely because they simply don’t know any better as the next entry in this comparison is something of a rarity in North America, so almost nobody knows how much of a difference there is.

Just before I loaded the bike with 126 lbs of soda cans. Who knew little soda cans weighed that much? The ride home with them hanging off the sides was … exhilarating.
Its expensive.

We’ve crossed over into the land of proper cargo bikes, and this is big money territory. Unpowered, the Big Fat Dummy listed for over $3,000 and thats before you put the motor in, or build your wideloaders or do anything else. The BFD is no longer in production, but the electrified Big Easy lists for $5249. Thats not expensive for a proper longtail that is manufactured with components you can expect to be reliable and long lasting, as well as a motor you can count on to actually work right under heavy load – both in hills and the flatlands.

Does it have a place in my stable?

Yes, but only because the one I own is a special type that includes bikepacking and trails in its toolkit. There is nothing I dislike about my longtail. Once you embrace the horror of riding a bike this size, it expands your idea of what a bicycle can be and what you can do with it. ‘Auto replacement’ starts becoming a reality for more than just moving yourself and your kids around.

If it weren’t for the fact that the Bullitt was a project that was calling my name, I would still be riding the Surly Big Fat Dummy day in, day out. Although I have configured it to be happiest on trails (and overland … where there are no trails) it is still perfectly usable as a commuter, as a go-to-the-store bike or even as a trail bike.

Is it an auto replacement?

At this size and carry capacity, it could be, easily. I have carried three fifty pound bags of gravel on it (one on each side and one on the top, center). I’ve loaded a full shopping cart. My child is all grown up now but if she were still small she could ride on the back. A longtail is pretty much an auto replacement unless you need to take long trips out of town.

The Front Loader (Larry vs. Harry Bullitt)

What Was I Thinking?

I built it because I can. Honestly I did not need this bike. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to ride the thing. Or that I would like it. But I did know of the Bullitt’s reputation and the devoted following that all bakfiets riders seem to have for the platform. Plus I had an idea for a new approach to a two-motor AWD build that I wanted to put in play (Spoiler Alert: it came out freaking awesome).

Picture taken on my first post-build ride. The handlebars are the same ones seen on the Envoy up above. And thats a 42T chainring; later increased to 52T. The big kicktail is still on the rack, too.

What Is It Good At?

Starting conversations

Nobody knows what to make of it, but everybody likes it. I get asked all the time if you can fit a dog in the cargo box and of course lots of people do that, I respond. Just like the longtail, people want to know all about it. Just yesterday a couple in a car next to me at an intersection wanted to know if I would build them one (sorry I already have a job).

Load carrying is nothing short of unbelievable

As in unbelievably easy. Mid- and longtails use big panniers. These have to be load-balanced, as of course they involve hanging stuff off the sides. That means as payload increases, balance is a progressively more difficult challenge.

Not with a frontloader. At all. You just don’t notice the load is even there at first. Seriously, thats no exaggeration. When I started out with my first full supermarket load on the Bullitt, I thought something was wrong. I rolled away from the curb easy as pie with no consequences whatsoever to stability or balance.

A little further evolved, the Jones bars have been swiped off the Envoy.

It rides just like it does when its empty … until you hit the brakes. The laws of physics still apply and you have all the inertia of your extra weight load. But no balance penalty. And it feels like a miracle. On my longtail, when I loaded my 100+ lb Costco cart payload, I made it home rolling at about 8-10 mph… and that was too fast. Anything that got in my way like a pothole, small child or line of baby ducks… sayonara, sucker. No way could I make any sort of avoidance maneuver without crashing to the ground. No such problem with a bakfiets.

Loading it is the easiest by far

With a mid- or a longtail, you have panniers. My Great Big Bags are convenient, but they still have to be unstrapped, opened up, loaded evenly from side to side and then re-strapped to help support the load.

With a frontloader? Forget ALL of that. Its a great big open box. Just chuck your crap into it and go. Its also centered on the bike… so load balancing? Not something you care about anymore. Straps? Its a box. No straps. A lid, even? Entirely optional. My Bullitt is sized so the same great big duffel bag I used for the Great Big Bags 2.0 fits right into it: I can toss my stuff into the bag (which also eliminates rattling) and then lift it right out and carry it inside when I get home.

First ride with the 52T chainring. Plus a look at it with panniers on.

Do the math on that: its carry capacity is about half that of the longtail. In truth, you can stack stuff in the box higher so its not half, but its still a bit less. The increase in ease of carry and loading makes that loss of capacity worth it. Plus, I added a rear rack that lets me plug in a couple of 30L panniers, so I am gaining back still more of the capacity I lost vs. the longtail.

Its capable of as much range as you care to give it.

My under-floor battery box could have easily taken a bigger battery if I had cared to put one in. I thought 32ah of 52v power was plenty. My ass wears out in the saddle before the battery does.

Is it an auto replacement?

As much as a bicycle can be, yes it is. The frontloader gives you enough cargo capability to meet most reasonable needs, while adding in grab-and-go convenience and ease of use under heavy load, both of which are lacking in a midtail or longtail by comparison.

Snip! The kicktail becomes a bobtail. Also I gave in and sprang for the Fahrer bags rather than making something myself.

What Does It Suck At?

Steering takes some getting-used-to.

Its a little twitchy compared to any normal bicycle. You get the hang of it in about a day. In fact, switching from the Bullitt to any other bicycle is difficult. The first time I took 2Fat (a titanium-framed 2wd fatty) out after riding the Bullitt for a few weeks, I thought something was wrong with the bike. I was wobbling all over the place and couldn’t keep the bike straight. I had gotten used to the kind of subconscious correction necessary when there is a 20″ wheel 5 feet in front of you. You don’t realize its so different until you switch back to a normal bike. The solution is to make frequent switches back and forth to your other bikes.

Its big.

Just like the longtail, a bakfiets is so big you had better have lots of space to park it. The Bullitt is just as long as my Surly but, thankfully, a lot narrower so there’s that at least. Parking this bike at a bike rack you have to park on one end or the other and face the bike sideways. Otherwise, you could end up taking the entire width of the sidewalk with the bike sticking out from the rack.

Recently at Costco I was lucky to have an empty rack to work with. Park it straight in and it blocks the entire sidewalk. Park it on the other side of the rack and it blocks the fire exit.
Its expensive.

While the longtail tossed aside the whole idea of being budget-friendly, a proper bakfiets casts your budget aside by doing the breakup via text messaging. Its likely going to be brutal on your wallet. How brutal? An electrified Bullitt is going to run in excess of $6200. Probably you’ll be in for 7 grand by the time you have added in extras like a cargo box. Something like what I did? Well… thats more. Think thats how bad it gets? Price an electrified Riese & Müller Load 75. They start at over $9,000 and can be optioned up past $14,000. That $3,000 Mongoose build is starting to look a lot more attractive, right? Are less expensive options out there? Of course. But this bike is the apex predator of more than just crates and packages. Its coming after your wallet.

Does it have a place in my stable?

Duh. Why do you think I wrote this one up last? If you were reading above you already know how pleased I am with it. The Bullitt has become my commuter as well as my exclusive utility/shopping/runaround bike. You get used to driving around a bike that has a great big open box that you can just dump whatever into without a care for cargo management. Bunch of stuff come to the office from Amazon today? Toss it in and go. Need a three bags of cement at Home Depot? Do a curbside delivery order, have them bring them to you and toss them in (er… gently).

Conclusions

So given the choice to start over, which would I pick? Thats a tough one. Soon after I built the Bullitt and put it into service, I would have sworn it was the one bike to rule them all. But having lived with the Bullitt for a while and spent some time pondering what to do with the other two, it turns out I’m glad I have all three. And two garages.

The Frontloader Wins (city cargo bike)

If I need an on-road cargo bike+commuter, the Bullitt frontloader is the choice, hands down. The other two are not even close.

The Lizzard King… present day (Winter, 2021)

Thats not because of the brand or model of bikes in this informal competition. A bakfiets embodies a fundamental shift in the physics of cargo bikes that cannot be overcome by any bike that has to balance its load to the sides, with the rider further balancing the bike as it travels. A frontloader carries the load low – which is a big benefit all by itself – and centered, in front of the rider. The fanciest midtail or longtail in the world cannot overcome or even approach this inherent physical, mechanical advantage. Ride one once with a passenger or two bags of pea gravel and you’ll immediately, intuitively understand.

On top of that, a frontloader has convenience a mid- or longtail cannot approach. It is SO nice to just walk up, chuck your stuff into a big open box and go. No balancing, no fiddling with straps, no packing. Its just a big can on wheels. Since I do not have space issues with parking at home or at work, I don’t care that it needs a hangar to park inside. At stores, I can always find a parking space for it.

And… just because I don’t ride it on trails doesn’t mean its never done. You’ll find plenty who do this, although to be fair we’re usually talking about dirt roads on cross-country camping adventures, not an afternoon bombing down a mountainside. Do your research on your chosen bakfiets as some are more suited to off-roading than others.

The Long-Tail Also Wins (for trail-capability)

I have to say that most of my likes for a longtail stem from the Surly Big Fat Dummy’s unique properties as a fat bike. If we’re just talking longtail without the trails and wilderness capability, then I don’t see a reason to pick this platform over a frontloader.

Nowadays, there is a 35T front chainring on this beast – dedicated to dirt!

But … If I need a bike that I can ride all terrain, where there are trails, or no trails at all, or on a camping trip where I ride thru the forest to gather firewood, or hump it up and down a gravel road in the middle of nowhere, its the Surly Big Fat Dummy for me. 4.8″ to 5.05″ tires air’d down along with front suspension means this bike can go pretty much anywhere. It takes more time and effort to load it up, sure. But when the road goes away, the Big Fat Dummy is a BFD. Its fun. Its crazy big. It can climb insane grades. Did I mention fun? And it can also run on the street, but thats not its forte.

What it lacks vs. the frontloader is load stability. Its a major handful to balance compared to the frontloader, whose solidity cannot be overstated. If I lived in a rural area with dirt roads, something like a BFD or a Salsa Blackborow might be a necessary choice.

The Mid-Tail Doesn’t Lose

If I am short on space to park, I’m not quite up to muscling around a two-wheeled locomotive, my needs aren’t in the big leagues (and I won’t have buyers remorse when I realize I bought into a lesser example of the genre), then a midtail is the one to pick. Its capability may be less but so are its demands on your muscles and the square footage in your garage. And motorwise, with a strong mid drive giving you assist that will stand up to hills while loaded with cargo, its every bit as capable and powerful as the others, with all the range you could ever want, so long as you pay the piper and put in a battery big enough to match your needs.

All things considered, this sucker came out pretty good I think.

Finis

So for better or for worse, thats my take on these three different cargo bikes. Hopefully you’ve found some observation or other useful in here amongst these ramblings to help you on your own search.

Choosing Bike Locks: Small, Medium or Ridiculous?

I see this question so many times, lets write up my daily outdoor locking strategy so I can just link to it from now on.

The Bad Penny That Keeps Coming Up

I have worked hard to avoid writing on this subject. I try to stick to writing about something unique that hasn’t been done to death elsewhere. And if there’s a subject that has been done to death, its Bike Locks…

  • How To…
  • Whats The Best Lock?
  • Is This One Any Good?
  • and on and on and on…

But the thing is, this is a frequent topic not going away anytime soon. An original stated purpose of this blog is to write down a comprehensive response to a frequently asked question, so I can just link to it, rather than wearing my fingers down, repeating myself.

So here we go.

First: Locking Philosophy

Here’s where I am coming from when it comes to locking: I’m a firm believer in overkill. The lock needs to look impressive and really be impressive. Also, I recognize even the biggest, baddest lock is not impenetrable. What I am trying to do is make my bike tougher to steal than the one next to it. Or the nearby car.

I know full well that against a portable, battery powered angle grinder, typical resistance is measured in mere seconds. The angle grinder attack is what I am trying to provide a best-defense against. My goal is to require multiple grinder cuts and turn those seconds into as many minutes as possible. I’ll do that with a combination of locks that use superior materials. Big locks.

SIDEBAR:
I am also familiar with Ramset style gunpowder-actuated nail guns, and what they can do.  I am not expressly attempting a defense against these.  First of all, they are a one-in-a-zillion risk where the wielder of such a weapon is guaranteed to garner *extreme* reactions from passersby and the local SWAT team.  Secondly, besides big, beefy badass locks (which mine are) protection against such tools is largely about savvy locking technique, which I am using.

Next, I know my locking location has a lot to do with how secure my bike is. I am not locking a bike in a back alley, away from public view in the bad part of town. Instead what I am doing is locking up in as public of a place as I can. Right in front of a store, preferably, with lots of foot and vehicle traffic, and people all over the place. In a neighborhood where someone grinding away with a saw is going to attract attention. Again… we live in an imperfect world. If you look around you will find Youtube videos of people ignoring a guy going at it with an angle grinder… but we do what we can and ‘in-public’ is better than ‘in-hiding’.

Last: I need to easily and quickly deploy my lock. Leaving it outside of a store is part of my daily routine. An inconvenient routine is one you shortcut, or don’t use. So locking up must be fast and easy.

Carry The Lock

Often ignored when considering a locking strategy, this step is important: A lock held down with 10 bungie cords or stuffed under things at the bottom of a pannier fails the ‘easy’ test.

In my case, riding a cargo bike makes this a lot simpler. I have a great big box available to hold my great big lock. As noted elsewhere, I keep my lock in the front compartment of my Bullitt, in this bag:

That bag looks big, but looks are deceiving. Inside the bag I have added a layer of foam around all sides – the same stuff you see in that picture covering the top, bottom and left sides of the cargo bay. Plus I keep my backup hand pump in there. Also the fact I set things on top of it means it gets squished down. Add all that up and its roughly double the size required to do its job.

In keeping with the ‘easy’ mandate, At a shop, my first move is to haul this bag out. Then I remove and attach the lock. The keys are always inside the bag so they are never forgotten. Once the lock is deployed, the keys stay in the bag and everything on the bike that isn’t nailed down goes in as well. Headlights, taillights, my dashcam etc. You need a bag for that anyway and this makes for a quick solution going in, and coming back out again.

Pick The Lock

Maybe its better to say we’re going to choose our lock hardware now. I am going to get right to it and show my top performers. We’ll mention the predecessors that didn’t quite cut the mustard later on. I will try to ignore locks that I have bought and learned they were cheap crap.

Pragmasis Protector 11mm Noose Chain

SIDEBAR:
There are plenty of boron steel hardened chains.  Why use this one?  It is heavy, but also a LOT lighter than competitors of the same thickness, like Kryptonite, Abus or Pewag. Why?  Because the links are much longer.  So what?  Well, the longer your link, the fewer links are needed.  That has no bearing on chain material used to make up length... but it is a big deal because fewer lengths of chain are needed to close the link.  11mm boron steel chain is all pretty much the same stuff.  But the longer links provide the magic to shave a few pounds off of a 6.5 foot chain.  

Additionally, as you will see in pictures below, long links can be threaded one inside the other to create independently locked loops on each side of the chain.

This chain is available in different lengths, and since I am securing an 8-ft long cargo bike, the 2-meter length is the right one for me. As you can see in the following section below, my first chain was a 13mm chain. After some time, I switched to the 11mm chain, with the noose end. Using a noose on one side means you can very quickly tie a noose on one side of the bike (or to the bike rack) and then feed the chain thru the bike frame to where you are using the lock, which secures the bike to the rack. I generally use the lock on the rack side, and the noose on the bike frame as you see below.

One look at a locking scheme like this and its clear if you want this bike, you will have to work for it. That ‘look’ is just as important as the lock actually being strong. You don’t want someone having a go at your lock – and giving up halfway thru.

Deterrence, ideally, means your bike stays put and your expensive lock is not ruined by a failed theft attempt.

I try to keep the chain off the ground, or at the least under the bike. This helps prevent freezing and/or smashing attacks.

Xena XSU-310 lock

This is a motorcycle lock, actually. Just like a bicycle U lock, but supersized. The shackle is a massive, solid 18mm hardened steel bar with 11.5 inches of internal vertical clearance. The body is mono-bloc stainless steel. The shackle is covered in thin, tough transparent vinyl covering. I was originally attracted to it because I wanted to use it in a coastal area and stainless doesn’t rust as easily in the moist, salty air.

This thing is a monster, plain and simple. I thought my Lockitt DIB U locks were big until I set this thing side by side with them. If you want a smaller-sized shackle, the same lock is available in two smaller sizes. But for me, bigger was better.

A thoughtful feature of this lock: Its locking pins don’t allow the shackle to rotate. If the shackle is cut through with an angle grinder, the lock is still secure. A second cut has to be made to create a gap to free the chain. That effectively doubles the time it takes for a successful attack.

It fits the 11mm Pragmasis chain just barely, without any snagging. The chain has a 20mm internal clearance and with the vinyl, the lock has about 19mm.

Now that I have been using it for awhile, I definitely prefer the larger size. Not for the added security it provides, but the added options. Its just plain easier to reach thru that front tire and hook onto something. Having that little bit of extra length over the DIB-260 lock I formerly used has been very helpful, as has the slightly wider loop of the U, which more easily fits around my forks and thru my spokes.

These benefits are perhaps specific to a bike. Maybe a smaller shackle will fit around your forks and spokes just fine. As such, don’t take anything for granted. Locks all have specs on their shackle sizes so take those and do some measuring before you buy any lock.

Lockitt (Pragmasis) DIB-190 and DIB-260 D lock

Pragmasis is a UK-based company and since the Brits refer to ‘U’ locks as ‘D’ locks, I’ll do the same here. This lock is not absolutely necessary to my setup, but it does serve three different purposes:

  1. I put it on independent of my other locking scheme, as shown above – it only takes a few seconds. So no matter what is done to my other lock, this one has to be defeated as well to free up the bike. If you don’t defeat this second lock, you have to carry the bike away.
  2. If my big D lock can’t reach far enough to attach to a solid object like a rack or a pole, I can use this lock like a second link in a chain to reach out further by another foot or so.
  3. If I am just running inside for a minute, or say… standing in a line within sight of the bike, I can throw this on by itself to keep someone from jumping on and riding away before I can stop them.

Its important to have a quickee setup for a bike that is being used for daily utility. Short, easy stops need to be accounted for in your locking routine. For the times when you don’t need to go whole hog, having that quick solution can be the difference between locking it and saying to heck with it and hoping for the best. Its human nature to become complacent.

You can see in some of the photos that I used to use two Pragmasis D locks. The Xena came later on. Since I have those two Pragmasis locks, I re-purposed the second one for use on my Mongoose Envoy, which lives in a different town and uses an identical locking setup.

Here’s what the Lockpicking Lawyer said about this lock:

Also-Rans

These are the bits I used to use, but replaced with the bits I listed above. there’s nothing wrong with any of this stuff. Its just not in daily use now.

Kryptonite Keeper 5-S2 Disc Lock

Putting this little lock in the Also-Ran section is really unfair, as I do use it for other bikes; just not ones that get regularly locked up. If anything, EVERY bike should have one of these secreted in a little bag somewhere. It is small, the key can stay in/with the lock so you never lose it, and it will stop someone from riding off with your bike. The only reason I do not keep it with my daily bike is I have the second U lock now for quick jobs.

The little bright orange cable is not for security. It is a ‘reminder cable’. You loop it around the lock, which is attached to your disk brake rotor. The other end goes up and onto your handgrip. This ensures you remember to remove the lock before you forgetfully try to pedal off with the lock still attached. Its easy to leave the cable permanently attached to your lock so you just snap it onto the rotor, pull the loop up to the handgrip and done.

Pragmasis Protector 13mm chain

This chain is in fact better than the 11mm chain I regularly use. 6-foot long bolt cutters need to be in a bench vise and tightened with a come-along to cut it. Its so strong a human can’t do it. One reason it is not in use is… its too heavy even for me. But not by much.

When I was using this chain, I made my own loop on one end as seen in the picture, with an RL-21 Roundlock closing the loop. That made for a second, independent lockup from the front U lock. The RL-21, as noted below, is effectively invulnerable to many forms of attack. Using it on the back wheel ensured the bike had to be carried away if the front half of the lock is defeated, or an extended stay is required to remove this second , independent piece of the puzzle.

Among other things, for this bike the 2M length of the 13mm chain was just too long

I said ‘one reason’ above, and that reason was not the biggest reason I went to the different chain. the other, main reason was the lack of a noose. You can lock up you own ‘manual’ noose like I did here in a couple of minutes.. It involves a little lock-fumbling and key-sorting and the noose is not cinched perfectly to the size you need in that moment. An actual noose chain on the other hand is deployed and cinched snug in a few seconds. You lose the second independent lock, but as you can see above I found another (easier) way to make up for that.

This is a big example of how important the ‘easy’ rule is and I spent about $150 more than I needed to learn it.

Lockitt (Pragmasis) RL21 Roundlock

You can see above how I used this lock. Here’s what the Lockpicking Lawyer said about it:

And here’s a vid from the guys who manufacture it. Use with the 13mm chain is shown as well:

Nowadays, I keep the RL21 with the 13mm chain. If I need to use that chain I can use the roundlock to secure it.

The ‘Other’ One

I mentioned above that I have a second lock for my Mongoose Envoy that is identical to this one (except it uses the Pragmasis DIB-260 instead of the DIB-190).

Here’s a pic of that very different bike. The lock is on the bike in its permanent location. You can just see the silver chain cover poking up at the back of the kangaroo pouch in those big panniers. Its just sitting there ready to grab, folded along the full length of the bag.

Since this bike is holding things to its sides, to balance the load I put the two U locks in the corresponding pouch on the other side. They go inside the same type of bag described above that I use to hold the entire lock on the other bike. I still need a generous pouch to throw all my stuff taken off the bike like lights etc, so that bag does the same job here.

AFTERWORD: What about a good strong cable?

There’s no way to put this nicely so I’ll just say it:

Cables are bottom of the barrel in terms of security. Big cables are not much better than small ones.

You can use diagonal hand cutters or mini bolt cutters to just cut a few wires at a time rather than trying to cut the whole thing at once and be through the thickest cable in a disgustingly short time. Of course there are tools that cut thru more effectively than hand cutters.

Cables are about convenience. Easy to roll up and stuff into a backpack or bag. Easy to deploy. Unfortunately they are also easy to defeat.

Dishonorable Mention: The Ottolock

The Lockpicking Lawyer made perhaps the most visible debunking of the worth of this lock. The manufacturer vigorously defended themselves. As an Ottolock owner I can say what you see in the video below is absolute, unvarnished truth. I can use ordinary snips like the ones in his video (actually I own straight cut snips like these) and snip snip snip I cut three pieces off the Ottolock cable/strip about as fast as you can say “snip snip snip”. I did this when I tried to use my Ottolock to clamp down a Luna Wolf battery pack and needed it to be shorter (in the end I used a velcro strap).

It is just as secure as it appears to be in this video.

Last But Not Least: INSURANCE

NOTE:  
While I mention here that I am an insurance agent myself, I have no affiliation with the companies listed below and I am just a paying customer like everyone else.  I am not an agent of theirs and I earn no remuneration or consideration of any kind for anything they do, anywhere for anything.  I am relating my buying experience and my due diligence researching the policy.  You should do your own due diligence when shopping for insurance.

We’ve already addressed the limitation of locks, being they are imperfect. What happens when the bike gets stolen despite your best efforts?

I have anti-theft coverage on my daily-use cargo bikes – the ones that get locked up out in public. I use Velosurance. They are an agent for the bicycle policy offered by Markel Insurance Company. If you do some digging you will find just about every company offering bicycle insurance is in fact an agent for Markel (being an insurance agent myself, I looked diligently and never found another one). I spent time reading the specimen Markel policy (found on the Velosurance web site) and, upon seeing the policy paid out on a Stated Value basis, discussed this with a Velosurance agent in detail before I considered it acceptable.

A lot of folks think their bikes or ebikes are covered under their homeowner’s policy. Speaking as an insurance agent myself, I can tell you to assume nothing. For starters, policies vary by insurance carrier so what your friend Bob has – or thinks he has – doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on what you have.

Also, don’t take your agent’s word for the fact coverage that meets your needs is in the policy. Your agen’ts opinion is non-binding on the insurance company, and s/he will have no part in the claims adjustment process. If you want to get it right… have your agent reach out to a company underwriter to respond to your comprehensive use and coverage questions. Someone like that assuring you of coverage (again, after you ask the right questions) is binding down the road in case there is a claim and the claims department questions whether there is coverage or not.

I have homeowners insurance myself. I got a separate policy tailored specifically to my ebike. One thing in particular: A specialist doesn’t have qualms about modifications and upgrades. They understand them a lot better than a company that only sees something like what you are riding once in a blue moon… if ever.

Larry Vs. Harry Bullitt – The Cargo Box

This is the heart and soul of your Bullitt. The reason it exists. There are many brilliant cargo area customizations out there. This is not one of them, but I did do some stuff worth at least mentioning.

The Bullitt Build
1. Battery and Battery Box
2. Cargo Box (You Are Here)
3. Brakes
4. Front Motor & Wheel
5. Rear Motor & Drivetrain
6. Bits & Pieces

The Cargo Box

Truth be told, I didn’t do all that much to the cargo area. At least compared to some of the engineering marvels I have seen some owners put together. But I did do some things a bit differently than I have seen done before, so I decided to write them up.

Mounting Changes

I used the stock honeycomb deck sold by Larry Vs. Harry. As detailed in the Battery Box episode, the downward-facing bolts are now upward-facing studs. That means I need to use a nut up top – sticking out in the cargo area. So I need to manage that. Additionally, because under the honeycomb floor is a very, very expensive battery, I wanted to introduce as much security-through-obscurity as I could to the installation.

Security Nuts

As seen in the pictures below, I used some oddball security nuts. Now, anyone who has ever owned a pair of vise grips, or maybe some good channel locking pliers, knows you can get these nuts off of the stud without needing the special keyed security socket. But it will be a pain in the ass, and probably a 10-minute process (you’ll need to know in advance you must put a wrench to the socket cap underneath or the whole bolt assembly will just spin and not loosen) versus … what? 30 seconds? Its just another layer of security to make things more difficult for a thief thinking about stealing the battery out of the bike.

The ‘studs’ are in fact M6 socket cap bolts, sized in advance for this job. When I used a nice, thick, wide Grade 8 washer and screwed down one of these security nuts on top, the height of the washer and nut equals the length of exposed bolt. I did not use any sort of thread locker. Instead I made a visible registration mark – a dot – on the washer and a matching dot on the nut. So long as the dots line up, I can tell at a glance they are still tight.

Early on I played a few games to cap the nuts so they didn’t intrude unduly on the cargo area, but none of the ideas really worked well until I came up with my final solution, described below in the Padding section.

Wiring and the tubes

As mentioned in the episodes covering the front motor, the battery box and the brakes, I decided to run my brake and front motor cables through the cargo area. Partly because a battery box occupied the space where the brake cable was to be routed, and partly because I wanted the cables to run internally to keep them out of harm’s way.

As seen in the pictures above, I ran one cable down each side of the cargo bay. To keep the cable from getting in the way and snagging on stuff during daily life, I used furniture grade (thin but sturdy) PVC tubes as cable guides. Each tube is mounted to the side panel brackets very simply with criss-crossed zip ties at each bracket. The tubes are solidly mounted and are not going to budge.

In a couple of pictures above, some kind of black glop is visible at the point where the cable exits to the front of the bike. That is 3M 2228 moisture-sealing (mastic) tape. Slight variations of the same product are sold as ‘electrical insulation putty’ and thats what I used the tape for here. I wadded it up into a blob and stuffed it around the cable ingress point. It not only forms a waterproof seal, it holds the cable firmly in place at this point so it can’t rub back and forth on the (sharp-ish) edges of the honeycomb board.

Padding

As noted above, I was looking for a way to deal with the mounting studs/bolts sticking up into the cargo compartment. At the same time, I was also looking for a way to pad the cargo bay interior. As I go bouncing down the road, my cargo can bounce along with me in time with the potholes. Something to deaden and reduce that bouncing around was in order. I also wanted to use padding that was thick enough to support a person. Something that would not squish down paper-thin if someone’s backside were plunked down in the bay.

After some poking around, I settled on Minicel-T600 closed-cell EVA foam in a 1/2″ thickness. 1/2″ doesn’t sound like a lot but this is some serious foam. It is very tough, and incredibly fine-celled. It feels – and somewhat looks like – a fine-grained suede.

Its a perfect foam for a cargo bay that is going to have stuff tossed into it and dragged around. Because it is so strong, I can get a lot of mileage out of a foam that doesn’t cost me much in the way of lost cargo volume. I can sit on it and the foam doesn’t bottom out. Better still, it forms around and over top of the security nuts so you can’t tell they are there, unless you sit on one, but even so its not especially uncomfortable (I give a passenger another layer of that same foam in a square to make sure nobody has a problem).

Better still, its another layer in the way of getting at the battery box. If you are looking to help yourself to my battery, peeking into the cargo area (I do leave the tonneau on the bike when I go into a store) won’t give an immediate clue as to how to get underneath. You’ll have a minute’s extra work pulling up the floor, at which point you will learn about the security nuts. Again, not perfect… but layers.

I bought a large sheet of the padding and, after a lot of careful measuring, cut out a pattern that lets me lay a single, fitted piece into the cargo bay that covers the floor, the sides and the front. I drilled a couple of holes in just the right spots at the back panel and ran extra long bolts thru the padding and into the panel, so the layer of padding is actually bolted down at the back. I could have done two more bolts in the front but its not necessary. Its not going anywhere as it is.

CAD? Schmad. My finely detailed technical drawing used to cut out my pattern. Dotted lines are folding points.

I have toyed with the idea of cutting down the right and left sides of the padding so they are edge-fit-flush with the side panels (maybe needs about a 1″ lip on each side), rather than running up them and padding the sides. The idea would be to recover that 1/2″ of lost storage space on each side, at the expense of side padding. But, once I cut it there’s no uncutting it, and I have yet to need that space more than I want the clean appearance and full coverage I have now.

Front Compartment

I found I have enough garbahhge carried with me that its better to wall it off into its own semi-permanent compartment. If I need the whole bucket I can always mount panniers on my rack and move all this stuff to the back of the bike.

Thats a cut-down knee pad from Harbor Freight doing the job of compartment divider. And yes, thats a folding stool under the green bag (which is my 5a traveling charger)

The Divider

I really like these things. This is nothing more than a super-dense knee pad that you can buy on Amazon for about US$18-$20, Except, if I go to Harbor Freight I can get them for about US$6.50. I literally have a half-dozen of the things doing various jobs as a knee pad, a sun shield for my SoGen, or as is the case here a compartment divider. I had to cut it down some to fit my cargo bay tightly, and a bit off the edges to fit under the tonneau. It can also be pulled out for use as a knee and body pad if I am unlucky enough to have to work on the bike, roadside.

The Ridiculous Lock

Actually its a chain and two locks. A Pragmasis 2-meter boron steel noose chain, with a long Pragmasis motorcycle-grade U lock, and a medium version of the same lock. Since Godzilla is a utility bike I need the locks to always be there for me should I stop at a store. There’s nothing worse than going by the supermarket and needing something, but having to come back after I go and get my lock. There’s a mistake I made once or twice before deciding the locks stay on the bike always.

I’m not fooling around when it comes to locking Godzilla. This method is quick to deploy and requires multiple cuts with an angle grinder to free up the bike.

I keep the locks in a well-fitted, oblong MOLLE pouch that also holds their keys. I never have an issue of forgetting those keys as a result. Which means I don’t have to pack back up and leave before I even get in the door at the store (once again, thats a lesson learned the hard way).

The Chair

Well, really its a stool. I found back in the bad old days of the pandemic shutdown that riding a bike to a store and waiting for curbside delivery to show up was MUCH easier if I had something besides the bike to sit on. A collapsible stool fits the bill and so I keep one with the bike. Godzilla’s is an 18″ Walkstool which, despite its cost, I highly recommend.

The Charger

For many of my bike builds, I make my own weatherproof chargers. I often mount them permanently on the ebike. Its the ultimate in range-anxiety relief. But this time Godzilla has a 32ah battery. A monster battery for a monster bike so I figured I didn’t need a charger this time.

After I got a few hundred miles under my belt, I found I could still screw up, forget to charge and remember this in the middle of a ride clear across town. If I’d had a charger on board, I could have stopped at a local city park, kicked back and taken advantage of the electrical outlets present on the canopies, for the use of picnickers. But noooo I didn’t want to lug around a charger… so lets turn the pedal assist all the way down and hope we make it.

I didn’t need to do that more than a couple of times before I put one of my 320w, 5a chargers into my kit. I think the one you see above, in pictures I took in 2019, is the same one I am using in Godzilla now.


Thats it for the cargo bay. Who’d a thunk I’d come up with almost 1900 words to describe a big empty box? Lets see how much space I can take up talking about something simple like…

The Brakes