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.

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.

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

Larry Vs. Harry Bullitt – Project Odds & Ends

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

Whats Left?

I’ve hit all the big ticket items. Now for the bits and pieces that may be of interest.

Fahrer Panel Bags and Tools

The Fahrer bags were a late addition. Partly because they cost so damn much. I was not willing to spend the money until I finally realized my idea for a MOLLE panel, trimmed to size, with bags attached was just more effort than I felt like going to get the same result in DIY fashion.

For me, the point of these bags was to move my tools out of the cargo area. I seldom need to mess with/rummage through them so I wanted them in a place that kept them out of the way. At the same time, there is a fair bit of money wrapped up in this toolkit, not the least of which are the battery powered air pump and the ridiculously expensive but wildly useful Knipex pliers/wrench. For a bike that gets left outside of a store a lot, I wanted to be able to easily, routinely remove these bags for carry inside with me.

I settled on putting the tools in a bag that fits inside of the bag. Specifically I used one green and one brown Condor Field Pouch, which have handy top-grab handles for pulling the bags easily and quickly up and out.

Two of these bags, in two contrasting colors – green and brown – so I know which is which on sight.

Ordinarily these Condor bags are used for something like a 1L water bottle, but they are a near-perfect shape for form-fitting directly inside the Fahrer bag. The different colors help me remember straightaway whats in each pouch.

The contents of my tool kit fit along my usual lines: I want to be able to use what I am carrying to do just about any typical field repair. I like to work with full-sized tools, so I am not at a disadvantage on the side of the road where life sucks bad enough already if I’m broken down.

Worth mentioning are those two black disks in the pictures above. Those are not emergency field rations (unless its REALLY an emergency). Those are two regulation hockey pucks. Solid, dense rubber blocks. What the hell for? Set one each under the Bullitt’s 2-leg kickstand. Now either the bike’s front or back wheel is up and off the ground by several inches, depending on which way you tilt the bike. Instant quickee service stand.

Rear Rack

I’ve heard its tough to fit a rear rack on the back of a Bullitt. There are M5 bosses built into the dropouts, but it can be a challenge to utilize them as the brakes get in the way on the drive side.

I found an Axiom Streamliner 29er DLX rack fits perfectly.

UPDATE: Mar 22 2022. I actually used this slightly different Axiom rack that was sold as the Streamliner DLX. Nowadays this same rack is marketed as a 29er rack and now includes the extra-strong center mount (I used a spare from one of my Fatliners) as well as the stay mounts. The current Streamliner is narrower and sold strictly as being compatible with 700C tires (although I have one of them on the front of my Envoy that fits 26×2.8″ tires just fine).

Its lower mounting arms move the rack 4cm out and further back to ensure there will never be any heel clearance issues. Its strong – rated to a whopping 50 kg, although I don’t know about that. I’d say 25 kg is still pushing it, but as racks go its very strong and can stand up to any reasonable level of use. I use it to hold the more delicate items that come from the store. Bread, chips and such. Or if I am just expecting a large or heavy load I may attach the panniers so I can clean out my cargo bay so its one big empty box.

But the rack needs just a bit of surgery to fit. Note in the picture below I did just a bit of filing to give clearance for the brake adapter bolt. Without this small adjustment it won’t clear.

A bit of hand filing with a fine half-round file took just enough off of the mounting arm so it fits – without compromising carry capacity.

I also used the center mount from an Axiom Fatliner rack (I have several of them). It has about – literally – four or five times the material in it as the Streamliner center support. I did have to drill new engagement holes for it. Maybe I can get away with that 50 kg rating after all.

Kicktail / Reinforcement / reflector

I have done a reflector/kicktail before on many bikes as sort of a signature mod. I usually take a 6″ x 18″ street sign, stand on it, grab an edge and bend up until I have a lazy L shape of roughly 35-40 degrees. I drill some attachment holes and the result is a 1-piece rear rack deck plate. The kicktail ensures no mud comes up at the rider, ever. Coupled to other measures I like this approach better than a traditional fender.

To add utility, I also cover the underside of this kicktail in 3M 3432 Red Micro Prismatic Reflective Tape… Exactly the stuff used in manufacturing municipal street signs in the USA. It so happens that a few years ago I scored a 12″ wide roll of this stuff at a small fraction of its regular retail price, so I can just unroll a bit of it and slap it onto the back side of the kicktail and voila… the world’s largest red bike reflector. I guarantee you I am visible to an overtaking automobile even if I didn’t have my steady and blinkie taillights fired up.

But my usual racks are fat bike racks where a 6″ deck plate works in conjunction with mounting panniers. Not so with the much more narrow ‘normal sized’ tires of the Bullitt. I needed just a narrow strip on the top of the rack with channels on each side to allow the pannier hooks to be engaged.

So I used a narrow 2″ strip of aluminum flat bar in the full length that I needed, and then bent that bar up to the desired angle. Following that, I bolted a second, full-rack-width 4″ x 12″ piece of aluminum flat bar onto the strip to make the kicktail. Line the back side with tape and functionally the job is done. However, since I had discovered a green duct tape that is a near perfect color match for the Larry vs. Harry ‘Lizzard King’ green, I wrapped the upper surfaces of the rack with it for what I think is a nice look.

The ‘Bobtail’

So… the 2-piece kicktail… in the end I decided it wasn’t working for me. The giant red reflector was a big winner as they have always been, but the need to do a 2-piece thanks to the narrower rack caused issues that just grated on my OCD (just kidding I am not diagnosed with this condition). Being 2-piece, it jiggled around some while riding simply because it was heavier than its predecessors. Also, the metal plate rested directly on the rack and rubbed, scraping off the protective powder coating. Trying to pad that with 3M 2228 mastic was only marginally effective as the stuff inevitably wore down and mooshed away under the force of the metal edge bearing down upon it.

To solve this issue I re-thought my approach. I discarded the wide flat plate. Next I cut down the rack deck plate so it was just long enough to intercept all spray coming up off the tire. Then I lined the now-exposed rear with the same prismatic red reflective street sign tape used on the full kicktail. In the front, I affixed a swatch of orange prismatic tape to provide another reflective surface. To finish it off, after filing down the upswept end so there are no sharp edges, I took the added precaution of making a bumper with a layer of that same rubber 3M mastic.

Job done.

With this change, I hit the sweet spot. The bobtail still keeps water off of the rider, it still has a large reflective surface and I quickly grew to appreciate the shorter profile. Godzilla is already about 8 feet long before that tail comes into play, and I don’t miss bumping into the kicktail as I walk around the bike.

Rear Thru Axle

Surprisingly, sourcing a proper rear axle was a major pain in the ass. The rear axle is a 12×166 (12mm in diameter by 166mm in length). The ’12’ part is standard stuff. The ‘166’ is a little unusual but still not a dealbreaker. Mix in the required P1.5 threading and thats where Google and Amazon searches go off the rails.

After a fashion, I ended up finding two of them. I ended up using the cheap one and have kept the fancy one in reserve.

The Cheap One:
Dymoece brand 175mm with 19mm thread length. Its exact specs are written right on it in the picture below. I was surprised at how well this was machined. Its 175mm length is too long, but I had a 3mm thru axle washer in my parts bins. Putting that on sizes the axle so there are 2-3 rows of threads visible coming out the derailleur side. Perfect. Everything lined up on this one from the thread pitch to the slightly longer thread length to allow the use of the washer. I like this axle because it is tool-less. I am already carrying hex keys and they’ll work just fine if I need to remove this axle roadside.

The Fancy One:
DT Swiss model 2160062210. This is a model that has a snap-on lever – that is just a glorified hex key – for removal. It looks nice on the bike, and you can remove it so nobody walks off with the thing. For me, since I am already carrying hex keys, I don’t need another one hanging off the end of the axle. I also like the fact that – on a bike that will sit out alone in public – no lever means no invitation to passersby to remove said axle. Still… its a DT Swiss part so its top quality.

Good luck trying to find details on this thing without looking deep across multiple web sites. The Amazon product listing gets it all wrong, calling it a 142mm length (which is correct for the internal dimension) and saying absolutely nothing about thread length or pitch.

Here’s what it really measures out to: 12x171L, thread pitch is 1.5 (it had better be) and thread length is 13mm.

With the shorter length and shorter thread pitch, it fits the Bullitt frame and dropouts perfectly without a washer, and the thread overhang out the drive side is minimal.

Rear Fender

As usual, I cobbled together something from parts and raw materials. Here’s what the finished product looks like from a few different angles.

This is a pretty non-traditional fender set up that does the same job as full coverage fenders without the full coverage. We’ll first cover the materials, and then we’ll discuss the assembly as a whole.

Gather Your Materials

Every bike builder should own some of this stuff: Flexible black cutting board. Unfortunately the black stuff seems to be off the market for the moment, or I am just not looking in the right places. Here is a link to something made of similar material to give you an idea of what I am talking about. What you want to do is replicate the same base material that is used for flexible MTB mud fenders. Once you have that you can cut that raw material to shape as needed.

Next, I used two of these front fenders, that I interwove together, facing each other, so they made a single longer fender. total cost for the pair – which are the core of the fender project – is US$12.84 delivered.

I created the rack deck plate and bobtail with a 1/8″ thick, 2″ x 24″ piece of 6061 aluminum flat bar stock – sold as a remnant – that cost me $8.00 on Ebay. That is way cheaper than normal. Here is a 48″ long piece that is 1/8″thick x 2″ wide. You can cut down to your needed length. Save the rest for your next project. You can go much wider than this for a rack deck plate, but I decided I wanted to go narrow for reasons that will be clear when you see the next item.

I continued to use the paint-matching duct tape that I found by accident across all parts of the rack. If your Bullitt is not the older, brighter Lizzard King color you will want to go with something different. If black works for you then Gorilla Tape is probably my favorite overall material for this kind of work, and in fact I use it here, as described below.

Put the ‘fender’ together

Its not really a fender, but rather a series of pieces that do the job of a fender.

First of all, there’s the rack deck – the bent-up piece of aluminum flat bar. Its length is determined by how long it needs to be to intercept all water spray coming up off the back wheel. I also want enough of a ‘tail’ so I can add enough reflective tape so it is a sufficiently big rear reflector. I used a relatively narrow piece that is 2″ wide. Why?

I wanted enough free space on each side so I could hook panniers to the rack. I *could* have done a full coverage deck – which would have allowed me to use a wider bobtail, and then used a router or hand files to cut out slots for pannier hooks. Frankly… it was easier to do a narrow piece and then follow up with …

Tape. The color-matching tape is nothing more than a wide series of strips folded over onto themselves to make a 2-sided sheet fully as wide as the entire rack deck. Then I bolted the aluminum flat bar on top of it. To allow for the hooks to be popped onto the top of the rack tubes, I simply took scissors and snipped the tape where there is a crossbar, to allow it to fold down when I clip panniers on. This is a bit cheesy, but it got the job done. If some time down the road I have some time on my hands and about US$30 I will cut a full width bar and slot it so its prettier than what is there now.

The rack and bobtail thus do most of the work keeping water coming up off the wheel. Now we have to deal with water coming forward. That is accomplished with the cheapie, doubled front mud fender. It is attached with small green zip ties to the seatstays, and its length in the back lifts up and contacts the rack deck. So… no water is coming forward past that. The front half of this fender also comes down and butts up against the seat tube fairly low, so there is very little area uncovered. But lets cover that too.

To deal with that last bit, I used the cutting board material and snipped out a rectangular length that is as wide as possible while still staying out of the way of my legs and the crankarms (look for it, installed, in the pics). I poked a couple of holes in the right spots and simply screwed this length of ‘fender’ directly to the frame using the two M5 bosses that are already there for fender mounting, on the back of the seatpost.

Front Fender

On the front, I cheated and found something I could just buy and install.

Godzilla uses a Greenguard-belted Schwalbe Super Moto X tire in 20″x2.40″ size. This is larger than most tires – in fact its a hair under being too large to fit the frame. Most fender solutions will not fit.

The SKS Rowdy 20-24″ fender set provides the solution. I shelved the rear fender and used only the front half of the front fender. The front mount without the fender attached is shown below.

The spacer under the mount keeps the fender from interfering with the tonneau.

Since the fender slides onto the mount bayonet via a firm interference fit, I keep the fender in my toolbag. If I need it I just slide it on. I like to be able to see the tire when riding, as part of my general need to be over-informed of every aspect of the bike as I go down the road.

In addition to it not fitting the bike, there’s no need to use the rear half of the front fender. The front of the cargo deck shields the rider from any splash coming up off the back of the tire. I did add some waterproof rubber tape to the frame at strategic locations to ensure it is a fully sealed face to splashing water.

Steering Dampener

I am using the generic Larry Vs. Harry steering dampener. I found the bike had a horrific speed wobble prior to adding the side panels, which almost completely eliminated said wobble. It only reoccurred on certain downhill road segments where there were repeated road undulations… that set up just the right harmonics for it to happen again. Installing the dampener and setting it to its lowest level cured the problem forever.

Jones Handlebars

I use Jones bars to alleviate pain from pressure on my wrists that came from getting hit by an inattentive motorist in 2017. Their 45-degree angle works wonders. They also give me a long grip area that lets me change positions, and lots of real estate to attach all manner of gadgets. An AWD ebike with one throttle for each thumb, dual PAS panels and dual displays, headlights, a dashcam, missile launchers etc. benefits from the wealth of mounting points available.

I also use two sets of Wolf Tooth Fat Paw grips. 1 and 1/2 grips per side. The extra diameter works well with my hands and thanks to those wrists, I need the extra padding. I cover the 2-piece-per-side grips with a wrap of silicone plumbers’ tape that keeps them grippy but not sticky. If I tear up the grip tape somehow (this happens rarely) I just wrap on another layer.

Lights

Long ago I gave up on trying to find a light that suited my needs, that I could wire into my main ebike battery. Instead all of my lights have their own internal, rechargeable batteries. Once a week at the office I charge them all on the same day, via a USB hub that is a part of my office garage gear.

I use my lights as daybright, daytime running lights and night use. The need to have the lights day-visible means I am going brighter than most folks’ lighting setups.

My lighting choices are informed by the knowledge that blinkie lights are the best to improve the ‘conspicuity’ (yes thats a word) of a rider, but they inhibit a motorist’s ability to track motion. So I use a combination of steady lights and blinkies, front and rear.

Front lights

Out front I use a pair of Niterider Lumina Micros for my main headlight beams. I split my headlights into two widely separated beams for the same reason cars do it. It makes for a wider beam pattern than you can get even with a dual-bulb single headlamp.

In between the two steady headlights is the front version of the Knog Big Cobber. This is a pricey light, but its also probably the brightest, smartest front blinkie you can get your hands on. It actually has an app that lets you program its modes, and I have mine set to ‘eyesaver’ mode coupled to their econ mode (short but intensely bright) blink. The Cobber lights from Knog shine in a 330-degree arc. So you want the eyesaver mode to keep from having that blink coming back at you.

Rear Lights

Out back, I have another Knog Big Cobber as my blinkie. Again it is set to ‘econ’ mode which is an intense, sharp, short blink. This time I let it ride for its full 330-degree illumination. That blinks light to the ground, to the motorist and up into the red reflector of the bobtail. Hopefully they’ll see me.

To aid said motorist in tracking my motion, I have two Knog Blinder Square lights, set to a steady illumination of the outer half of the light.

Running the light half-strength like this lets it last the full week as I like to charge everything together on Friday.

Clip-In Pedals

After literally decades of riding first toe clips and straps, and later clipless when they were introduced into the market, I have been riding flat pedals and Five Ten Free Rider sticky platform pedal shoes for the last couple of years.

I decided to go back to clipless not too long ago, and I have found the Funn Ripper pedals to be amazing. Their spring loaded cleat mechanism – the cleat sticks up and makes cleating in ridiculously easy – is a wonder. Highly recommended. I’m using Giro Rumble shoes which let me cleat in, or get off the bike and walk into a shop or wherever comfortably without clackclackclacking on the pavement.

As you can imagine, being locked into the pedals again made for an exciting transition period, and I managed to fall over at an intersection within 24 hours of making the switch. But once that little reminder was hammered home, I haven’t done it again.


So… Thats That

It seems I’ve come to the end of this somewhat tedious breakdown of all things Godzilla – The Big Green Bullitt. If I come up with any more I’ll amend this post. But, honestly I’m happy this series is done as it lets me get on with other projects I have been looking forward to, but can’t begin because this monstrosity remained unfinished.