MidTail, LongTail or Frontloader (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 (center image, bottom) 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 now my shopping bike at that part time residence. Being smaller than the other two behemoths discussed below, it also fits better in my smaller available storage 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 their much higher air volume and larger 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. And 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 DLX Streamliner rack fits perfectly. 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.

Larry Vs. Harry Bullitt – Rear (BBSHD) Motor and Drivetrain

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

The Mid Drive

Godzilla is a 2wd/AWD ebike, with a Bafang geared hub motor in the front, set up as a helper to the Bafang BBSHD mid drive powering the back wheel. This is not the first AWD ebike I have built and we’re now beyond what I call my Gen3 configuration. I don’t call it Gen4 as it is still effectively Gen3, and incorporates all of the lessons I learned (and mistakes I did not repeat). Its different in that the two motors blend together in a kinder, gentler fashion I am calling Drama Free AWD.

Fitment to a late model Bullitt

Lets not sugarcoat this: The BBSHD does not fit a Bullitt. BUT… its pretty easy to rectify that. Thankfully there is very little needed to make it fit.

You will figure out for yourself what the problem is real fast. Just try and slide the motor axle into the bottom bracket. Oof… one of the threaded ‘ears’ that holds the bottom bracket clamp overlaps the frame. There are three ways to fix this. I will warn you right now: If you try Method #3 you will be brought up on charges and imprisoned.

Method 1: File down the ear a little

Thats all there is to it. The ear is quite a substantial piece of alloy sticking out of the motor casing. Just file enough of the corner off so it clears the frame. Do a little at a time with a hand file. File a bit, check to see if it clears. File some more. Check again. Repeat until it fits thru. Do this right and the motor will clear the frame and there will still be plenty of material left so there is no concern of any kind as to the structural soundness of that ear.

Figure 1 – Red arrows: Thats it? Thats it! (ignore the heat sinks. We’ll cover them later).

Looking at the picture above, its kind of hard to see exactly where I filed it, because I took a black Sharpie to the freshly exposed alloy and just blacked it out. A few months later, its worn off a touch but you still need to know where the work was done to be able to see it at all.

Method 2: Partially disassemble the motor

This method is for the Felix Ungers of the world. If you cannot bear to take a file to the motor casing… take it apart, then position it and reassemble the motor in situ. There are only a few screws involved to make this happen… but Jesus H. Christ this is waaaay more effort than it is worth in my own personal view. If you ever want to pull the motor off you have to take the damn thing apart again to get it off the frame. For me… give me the file and 5 minutes for Method 1 and I’m good.

Even so, if someone goes this route I can understand and respect the insane attention to detail such a course exemplifies. HOWEVER…

Method 3: Take a file to the frame

Yes really. I’ve seen it done. Rather than filing off metal on the motor, some folks decide they want to file down the frame instead. The thing that is in the way on the Bullitt frame is a weld seam, and I suppose that structurally, the stuff in the way is not critical to the frame’s structural integrity. But… as far as I am concerned a bicycle frame is a sacred temple and anyone who violates the sanctity of that temple… well they should be taken out and shot. Don’t do that.

How Well Does It Fit?

Once you get the motor fit into the bottom bracket, Its a great fit for the frame. One of the Lekkie (42-52T) or Luna Eclipse 42 or 48T chainrings will give you great chain line. The motor does hang almost straight down, and this looks a bit disconcerting, but the reality is you have other things on the Bullitt that hang lower. The motor is not in any way a hindrance to ground clearance unless you decide to start rolling up and/or off of curbs and such. I have never hit anything and I have never heard of anyone on a Bullitt having such a problem.

Crankarms

In your typical BBSHD or BBS02 installation, the secondary gear housing – just behind the chainring – is present where, on an ordinary bicycle, nothing exists. Consequently the chainring is pushed perhaps as much as 2cm outboard from where it would be. To counteract this, its common to use special chainrings that offset themselves inward to undo what would otherwise be a disastrous chain line. That fixes the chain line, but it does nothing for the alignment of the pedals underneath the rider.

If you move the chainring mounting 2cm out that means – even if you undo the misaligned chainring – your pedals are also 2cm outboard from where they would be only on the right hand side. Yeah thats right. Your pedals are not centered underneath you.

On many builds, this is dealt with by using crankarms that have a left arm that is offset outward. Typically by 18mm (like I said… “about” 2 cm). That centers your pedals underneath you. Thats the good news. The bad news is you can either use the Bafang stock crankarms – which are cast alloy and not particularly robust – or you buy quality forged crankarms – typically from Lekkie who pretty much owns the aftermarket for strong, high quality Bafang-compatible crankarms. So you get either very cheap kaka crankarms that may or may not survive a proper pedelec rider honking on them, or you spend a bundle (and get top quality stuff).

Figure 2 – Note the secondary gear housing tucked in behind the chainring on the left.

So, Forget Everything I Just Said

The Bullitt is one of the very rare frames that does not need any of this offset crankarm business. You will buy a Bafang BBSHD whose axle is compatible with a 68-73mm bottom bracket. Install that and there is enough axle sticking out the non drive side that there is no need to do anything further. Not only is there no need… you don’t want offset arms since the goal is to center the pedals underneath you. Straight arms with minimal Quack Factor will do that.

I used forged 175mm Shimano FC-E6000 crankarms meant for use with a Shimano Steps drive. They got quite a bit more expensive before the Pandemic ratcheted everything up. I paid less for both arms than you are going to pay for just one of them. In fact they are only sold individually these days it seems. Here is the right 175mm arm and here is the left 175mm arm. If 170mm is more your bag, I know they are made because here is a 170mm left arm. I can’t find a right one. Maybe you can if you want the shorter arms.

Still, the good news is you can use straight crankarms from any vendor… so long as they are square-taper (don’t shoot the messenger on the square taper part).

The Wire Tunnel

I have seen numerous BBSHD’d Bullitts where the wiring from the motor is run forward underneath the main … girder … or whatever that part of the frame is called, and then run up once it splits into the deck support. I don’t like this because it creates visible wiring. Also, wires directly under the bike are potentially subject to ground impacts. A risk I’d prefer to avoid.

Figure 3 – the wire tunnel. Note the velcro wrapping at the point the wire bundle enters the tube. This snugs it to the inside diameter of the tube.

I looped the wires up and over the drive side. The secondary housing naturally protects and hides them. The wires then cross over the top of that girder, hidden by the wire tunnel. My original idea was to use a bit of green or black furniture-grade PVC. However, early on in the build process I stumbled across ‘Duck’ Brand neon green duct tape. This is commonly found in hardware stores in the USA. Its a hobby-grade household product and not construction-site worthy, but its fine for this job.

By some miracle the Neon Lime Green color is nearly an identical match to the LarryVsHarry Lizzard King paint. You literally have to be looking at it just right to see any difference between the two. It was perfect to cover the dark green PVC pipe used for the wire tunnel. I did use two very large dark green zip ties to hold it in place. These were the closest color match I could find and, while they are not ideal, I have yet to find a better solution (including taping the thing onto the girder with the matching tape. I tried it and it looked awful).

Figure 4 – The wires look a lot more visible here than in person. Wires include both front and rear motor wiring as well as the battery charge plug (green cap).

The inside edges of the plastic PVC pipe are not what I would call ‘sharp’, but they are edged and a little more unforgiving than I would like when rubbing every day on flexible, soft wire casing. I beveled/chamfered the inside and outside edges using a quick pass with a pipe reamer. Problem solved before it becomes a problem.

As it stands, the wire tunnel protects the wires coming out of the motor that have to be run forward and up the steering tube, where they rise to the handlebars. You don’t even see any wires now the Fahrer bags are installed.

Figure 5 – With the Fahrer bags in place, what little visible electrical wiring that exists … disappears

Heat Sinks

Godzilla presently lives and works in Fresno California USA. Whats the weather like there, Ollie?

And once it starts getting hot, it stays hot…

When faced with this, you have to take steps on a variety of fronts to at least mitigate the issues that come up. Insofar as the BBSHD is concerned, I have already covered this subject in a fair amount of detail in a separate article that predates the Bullitt build and, yes I pretty much covered the motor in heat sinks just as you see in that article.

Since the crankarms are not offset on this bike, I was not able to use an endcap, but as shown in the linked article above I covered every bit of the motor I could with the things, using both the silver center sinks and the little black squares around the edges.

BBSHD Settings

The settings for the BBSHD are another subject already covered in detail. First in this article that introduces my approach to the subject, and following on with this one that covers some very minor refinements.

To jump specifically to what I am doing on Godzilla, you want to jump straight to Version 2 and look at the right-side image.

Here are the three screens below, but all the explanation for what they mean is in the linked articles above.

Figure 6 – The BBSHD settings used on Godzilla

Drivetrain

If we’re discussing the mid drive, we have to at least touch on the rest of the drivetrain, which is integral to making the bike go places.

SRAM GX 11-speed shifter

I prefer SRAM shifters because the way they mount onto the handlebars, they take up much less real estate than their Shimano or Microshift counterparts.

SRAM GX long cage rear derailleur

SRAM derailleurs in general, once adjusted properly, seem to stay that way. There’s not much to say about this derailleur other than it just works, precisely, smoothly and reliably, does a great job wrapping chain and has no issues with the 42T big cluster I have on the back. I don’t use its clutch feature. It is able to handle a 46T rear cluster just fine, although I don’t have one on Godzilla. I do have one on another bike set up that way with the same drivetrain bits.

Figure 7 – The long cage SRAM GX is sweet!

KMC e11 chain (mid drive-specific)

When I build a mid drive bike I use a mid-drive specific chain. That is I think part of the reason why, in all of the thousands of miles I have been riding powerful mid drive builds, I have never once broken a chain. Unfortunately the e11 is frightfully expensive. Bide your time, keep your eyes open for deals anywhere in the world (particularly in the EU) and you can find an online deal.

Sunrace CSMS7 cluster: 11-42T

For all mid drive bikes I build, I prefer steel, welded clusters that are 1-piece. Such a thing is not really available in the 11s world, but the Sunrace CSMS7 is as close as it gets. It uses steel spiders and high tensile steel cogs, which is what you want for durability with a mid drive.

Figure 8 – The Sunrace CSMS7 showing off its steel underwear

NOTE: The CSMS7 has turned into a unicorn these days. I have managed to score two NOS in auctions on Ebay. One for use on this Bullitt build, and a second recently as a backup for the inevitable day when one of mine fail (I have another on my Surly Big Fat Dummy’s street wheelset). But thats it, Nobody in traditional bicycle retail has had them in stock for months.

Given global bike supply issues, there is no telling how long it will take to fix this. I have found that a Sunrace CSMX8 appears to be an excellent performer despite its alloy spiders (one is pictured below). I use this on my mountain wheelset on my Surly Big Fat Dummy and so far it has given me no trouble. Its range is 11-46T which has proven to be no issue for the (lower end) SRAM NX derailleur that is on that bike.

Figure 9 – The Sunrace CSMX8: Lighter weight scaffolding under the hood… but still steel cogs.

Rear Wheel

The core of the rear wheel is a DT Swiss 350 Hybrid rear hub. The Hybrid line of DT’s 350 is, compared to the standard 350, beefed up in just about every way. The flanges are beefier, the cassette body is steel, the internal ratchet mechanism is a solid piece rather than being relieved for light weight, and it is a 24T engagement vs the stock 18T, which gives better response while still maintaining the super strong ratchet mechanism that makes this hub almost indestructible when paired with a powerful mid drive.

Figure 10 – The DT 350 Hybrid. The Sherman tank of hubs

The rim is a SunRingle MTX39, which has a 30mm internal width – the ’39’ in ‘MTX39’ comes from its external bead width. The review of this rim over at MTBR described it as “monumentally strong” and “impossible to bend” while noting the penalty for this strength is weight. Since weight is not a factor on a twin-motor cargo bike, I’ll take that strength any day of the week. The rim has proven itself un-dingable both here on Godzilla and on the Mongoose Envoy build I first used them on.

Figure 11 – That deep, triangular, thick-walled structure makes this puppy plenty strong.

The MTX39 is commonly available in both 32H and 36H configurations. So is the DT350 Hybrid. However, at the time of my builds I was never able to find 36H hubs, so both of my builds are 32H… and they are none the worse for this choice. In particular, a Bullitt’s construction does not put anywhere near as much weight squarely over the back wheel as do for example your garden variety mid- or longtail. That makes it easier to live without 36H. 1100 miles so far in a few months and the rear rim is still perfectly true.

In between the rim and the hub are Sapim Strong spokes with brass nipples. Once again I used the expert services of Stoic Wheels to provide cut spokes to my specs.

Front Chainring

Ordinarily, I advise a builder that you have to keep the motor spinning on a mid drive, and a 52T front chainring is way too big. You’ll bog the motor as its trying to lug itself up from a stop. This is the worst thing you can do to a mid drive, and among other things is a great way to snap your chain.

Figure 12 – 52T front Lekkie Bling Ring. As big as they come.

But Godzilla proved to be an exception. The choice of a 52T chainring (in country that is flat as a pancake) was still not initially obvious. As noted in Musical Chainrings, I have a lot of chainrings available from a variety of builds. With any new bike build, I do not expect to get it right on the first try. Unfortunately I came close here (it would have been nice not to buy another one) but in the end, no cigar.

Plan A

At first, I tried a 46T Lekkie ring pulled from the parts pile. The offset was good and planted the chain in a straight line … about four cogs inboard on the rear cluster. So with that 46T ring I was spinning a little too much with good chain line, and the bike was outrunning me. Time for …

Plan B

I switched to a 130 BCD adapter and a 48T chainring. If the 46T with strong offset was too hot. The 48T with minimal offset was too cold. Now I had a big chainring; good on the flats, but with no offset, good chainline was only on the smallest cogs in the rear. That was great once I hit cruise but bogged the motor when starting from a stop… and thats very bad. Lets try …

Plan C

My third try is a Luna Eclipse body with a 48T (proprietary) ring. So, same chainring size as Plan B but with the most offset possible in any BBSHD aftermarket chainring. This felt pretty good. I was running up in a larger rear cog so my chainline was great. That kept the motor from bogging from a standing start.

Figure 13 – Left to Right: Plan B, Plan A and Plan C

But (!) … I was not able to get down into small enough cogs when I was up to cruising speed. The bike was running away from me. The only solution was to let the bike run at slow speeds as it peaked with usable cadence and effort at about 18 mph. I lived with this for awhile – and it was ok (just ok) – until I decided to finally buy a chainring in a bid to have my cake and eat it too.

So now its come to Plan D

A 52T Lekkie chainring that has the same goodly offset as was found with Plan A. I would be biasing my chainline into the upper half of my cluster. But not so much that I would be unable to comfortably use the smallest cog (as was the case with Plan C). I figured the increased tooth count would cause me to run one gear up the cluster from where I was running with Plan C, and slow my cadence enough at that bigger rear cog to still run the bike faster, while at the same time keeping a straight-ish chainline, preserve my ability to gear down to bigger cogs and up to smaller ones.

And this time, finally, I was out of parts and had to buy the thing, using my usual source for Lekkie rings here in the USA. Ouch that one smarted a bit.

My gear calculations were done on the Speed at Cadence screen at bikecalc.com. Its an invaluable resource for the thoughtful builder working out the right gears for a build.

But the money was worth it as it completed the bike. Plan D worked perfectly. This is, as far as I can see, the only time a 52T chainring works well on a mid drive build. Worth noting is the fact that this bike lives on table-flat ground, and if there were hills in its way, I would have likely had to go with a 42T front Lekkie ring.


Thats it for the rear motor and drivetrain. Lets wrap up discussion of this build with

Bits and Pieces

Larry vs. Harry Bullitt – Front Motor & Wheel

Godzilla is a 2WD / AWD ebike. Both axles are powered. Here’s everything you could want to know about the front wheel build and motor installation.

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

The Easy Way Or The Hard Way?

Lets make things as difficult as possible and do both. My loss is your gain and now you can see the results of both paths. I don’t regret this one bit (at least, thats my story). It gave me a spare wheel and motor, which is a good thing for a bike I need to depend on. I’ll lay out both paths and you decide how you want to do yours.

The Easy Way: Just Buy a Kit

In my run-up to buying my Bullitt frame kit, I looked extensively for the right 48v motor with a 20″ wind. It turns out those are pretty uncommon. Usually they are 36v, with a 250w or at best 350w rating. Oftentimes the winding is questionable as being suited for a 20″ wheel. Usually a motor is wound for larger 26″ or 700C wheels, and the torque is just not there for a little 20″ wheel build. Perusing EBay and AliExpress listings, you are often left wondering if what you are seeing REALLY is the variation you are looking for.

Still a project only capable of rolling around in the garage: the original kit wheel, with the too-wide Schwalbe 2.40″ tire on. It actually worked just fine.

I lucked out, and found posts on the Bullitt: The Dark Side Facebook group from someone who had just finished receiving and installing a complete 48v, 500W Bafang front motor kit. Based on what the posts showed, it was quality stuff. So I bought one myself: A Greenergy 48v, 500W complete front wheel kit. This kit was advertised as express-shipping from China to the USA and that is really what they did. I had it in a few days and followed its progress all the way here via the Fedex tracking number I received in my Ali control panel.

It was helpful to already have experience with Bafang geared hub motors, to understand their reliability and performance. It also helped that I knew exactly what other hardware worked with them. Particularly the display and controller I eventually wanted to use on my custom build vs. this kit.

A word on buying from AliExpress:  Its kind of an adventure.  Definitely not as convenient as buying from the USA, but if you have experience doing it, you can smell out the bad actors.  I have bought many ebike parts there - this was not my first motor shipped direct from China - and have only had a few sub-optimal experiences with low-risk, low-cost parts.  Don't fear the platform.  Its a professional operation.  But if you are going there for the first time try and buy from a source that has been recommended to you directly.  Let some other pioneer take the arrows in the back.

Up front: I knew I did not want to use the ancillary parts (controller, throttle etc.) that came with the kit. For the low price they were charging, I considered those parts throwaways and was only interested in the right configuration of motor already built inside of a decent if not especially noteworthy wheel.

Waiting in the wings:
It is present day, and the Greenergy kit wheel has a new Schwalbe Big Ben 20×2.15 belted tire mounted on it. Inside is a Schwalbe A7 tube with Flatout sealant inside. Recently I swapped out my regular wheel, described below, so I could take my time re-greasing that second motor at its current 1000 miles. The G020 motor is adequately greased from the Bafang factory, but only barely so with white lithium grease that needs refreshing every 2000 miles at best. Since the above motor/wheel was an extra I was able to pull it apart, look inside, clean it out and re-grease it with Mobil28. That grease will at the very least have triple the service life before another re-grease is in order.

Is it the best grease for the job? Opinions vary widely. Mobil28 is a favorite in the DIY community and I can say from having it in geared hubs over a couple of years it has never done any harm. The motors I have used it on have never behaved differently other than to run a bit more quietly.

The Hard Way: A Custom Wheel Build

I knew from my previous AWD builds what controller I wanted to use, and I already had all the small parts like PAS sensor and throttle. The only thing needed was a display and I had an easy source for that.

In the end, the electronics were easy. It was the mechanical bits that were tough. I had a hell of a time getting hold of the right spokes, nipples and rim. Once acquired, I had to wait about 6 weeks for my poor, perpetually-backlogged wheel builder to get to making the thing. Having the kit wheel I could just plug in was great. I was able to ride the bike maybe two months earlier than I would have otherwise.

Having just finished buying one Bafang G020 with 11T winding, I didn’t need to expend any more energy figuring out what motor to use. I just needed to find a bare one. I was able to acquire one from the same guys who sold me the kit – for just over $200 on AliExpress (and it took quite a while to arrive this time). Thats the good news. The bad news is I can’t give a link to that motor as its no longer available there. But I can display a picture of the almost-identical motor model designation, and show you what you want to see for a comparable buy for a 20″ wind:

Reading the Bafang factory codes in the image above:

FM“Front Motor”
G020Model number
500Rated for 500 watts
DDisk brake compatible
12“12T”, or 12 turns of copper winding on the motor core


My motor is 11T, not 12T. 12T could work on a 20″ wheel, as it gives you higher torque and consequently a lower top speed than 11T. However my 11T motor works perfectly as I want it to – right in the Goldilocks zone for a front motor that I don’t want to be too powerful off the line (no need to pull hard on that front fork – or the fork’s dropouts) and which starts to peter out just as the rear mid-drive starts kicking in hard, for a nice drama-free balance. A 12T motor would have a lower top speed that might make it die off below the typical cruising speed for this bike and I’d rather keep both motors working for as much of the range of normal use as possible.

Details on how the motors interact on this 2wd ebike:
“Hub + Mid Drive Cargo Beast”

Here is a link to what appears to be a very similar if not identical motor for sale on Amazon. You will want to ask the seller what the motor winding number is. Based on the similar name of the seller on the listing as of today, this may be the same one I bought mine from.

Rim Choice

For a rim, I wanted a wide BMX rim to better accommodate the plus-sized, 2.4″ Schwalbe Super Moto X (belted) tire I wanted to use. 2.4″ is outside the envelope of most Bullitt builds, but it will fit the fork easily and the frame barely. A tire that wide needs a wide rim. I chose the Alienation Black Sheep. It was the widest double-wall rim I could find. Its spoke drilling is angled, which should help when fitting short spokes into a small rim with a great big hub in the middle.

Cross section of the Alienation Black Sheep rim. Economical and really strong.

Spoke Choice

I specified Sapim Leader spokes in 12 gauge, with brass nipples. Once again I used Stoic Wheels as my go-to source for custom cut spokes in a world where you can pretty much forget about finding such things. He’s come thru for me on I think three separate builds now.

The spokes were my call. The wheel has proven (so far) able to take anything I can throw at it without any issues. But if I had it to do over again, I would not have chosen such heavy spokes for such a small wheel. They’re strong and all, but a spoke this heavy-duty did not like to be worked into a wheel this small with a hub this big. Sapim spokes are high quality and most likely the 2.3mm/13ga would have been a better choice, or maybe a Sapim E-Strong 2.6-2.3mm single-butted?

For me this is water under the bridge, but for anyone wishing to do a similar wheel build, consider carefully. My trusty longtime wheel builder at Stevens Bicycles got it done, but he said it was the most difficult wheel he has ever built. Looking at the spokes in the wheel, you can see why it was a struggle. Wheels generally derive their strength thru the rim, and the spokes need to provide some flexibility. If the spokes are too strong, there can be negative consequences. I clearly don’t have flexibility (think shock absorption) in this wheel … so fingers crossed it doesn’t come back to bite me.

Custom wheel build. 27mm double-wall BMX rim. As wide and strong of a rim as I could get my hands on without descending into fat bike territory.

Torque Arms (plural)

The G020 is rated for 45 Nm in its 350w, 26″incarnation. At best it is good for 60 Nm here in a 20″, 52v system with a 25a controller (thats set to slow start no less!). So, not exactly a powerhouse by design. You may not even need a torque arm on the Bullitt’s chromoly dropouts. But in my past I have ruined one chromoly fork and seen countless others destroyed by front hub motors. I consider a properly made torque arm essential as cheap insurance. Look at the pictures of the front wheel seen on this page and you will note that I have two of them. More is always better.

The Grin V2 arms I am using here are super easy to install and just as easy to remove if you have to pull the wheel off – just unscrew the socket cap at the dropout and the torque arm becomes a glorified washer.

PAS Sensor Installation

This was a major bit of fiddling that I have fortunately done before, so I didn’t have to do any heavy lifting to figure out how to make it happen. The job is to set up a pedal assist disc sensor on the bike, except the BBSHD is located on the drive side where the sensor goes. There’s no way to use it on that side, period end of story.

There are a couple of alternative sensors available that are meant to be usable on the non-drive side. Why is that a thing? The problem is anything meant to work on the drive side, which is moved to the non-drive side, is going to be reading rotational signals backwards, so it won’t work. Thus the left-side, or ambidextrous alternative. However this ambidextrous sensor is noisy and can fail via crud ingestion.

Using my chosen KT controller, its also possible to use one of two ‘reverse direction’ settings, so you can use a standard sensor. This was an option, but not necessary because, fortunately, I used a little trick that kills two birds with one stone: This particular sensor is held in with a screw rather than being molded in place, so I was able to simply reverse it in the mounting ring.

This not only solves the sensor-backwards problem, it also means the mounting ring is pointing in the opposite direction from normal, and now holds the sensor further out rather than tucking it in closer to the frame. That just so happens to be exactly what I want when mounting it in conjunction with BBSHD bottom bracket locking rings. You can see that in the pictures below.

What you see above on the right is an early test fit that is not complete. On the left you see the full, final setup. To anchor down the motor and then the PAS sensor ring, I used an inner ring, capped by the commonly-used dark black outer trim ring for the motor. Then came the sensor, capped by another inner motor mount ring. That third ring sandwiches the sensor mounting ring and holds it into place. My usual BBSHD installation uses two inner rings tightened together, jam nut style, but with the extra axle length sticking out of the 68mm bottom bracket, a traditional inner6+outer, followed by another inner did the trick. Stacking them like that has the added benefit of ensuring the motor never moves. The PAS sensor mounting ring is sandwiched as if it was a big washer.

Another reason the ambidextrous sensors don’t work well is they eat up about 1/2″ of real estate on the axle. As you can see on the left photo where the crankarm is torqued down fully… there ain’t no room for that here. There is however enough room to put on the standard magnet ring, and if you look closely you can see I placed a rubber o-ring on each side that in turn holds the magnet ring tightly in position, just a hair away from the sensor pickup.

Net result: Pedal assist is reliably enabled on both motors. That is a thing of beauty when you can get it to work.

Controller – Choice / Settings / Location / Wire Routing

All of my hub motors have been Bafang geared hubs, and all used KT controllers and displays. So I went with what I was familiar with. As noted above, sticking to what I know let me immediately solve the PAS sensor problem, among other things. I also already knew what I needed in terms of motor configuration within the controller so it operates safely within the confines of how I wanted AWD to operate: Seamlessly and without drama on a bike subject to extreme loads. I didn’t want this motor to be pulling hard on a bike with a potential total system weight in excess of 400 pounds.

So I knew I needed a KT controller. I also knew the 35 amp models I have used in the past were a) too strong and b) would not have the right motor plug. 35a controllers use the 3-pin Julet Z916, which matches up to the higher powered Bafang hub motors. A 500w motor has the ‘small’ HiGo Z910 9-pin plug, and KT controllers with that plug are in the 15, 20 and 25a range. I opted for 25a as I’d rather dial down too much power than to need more and not be able to get it.

However, I didn’t need to do much of anything except set the controller to max amps and slow-start (the C5 setting).

As to controller location, once again as with my previous AWD bikes I used a handlebar bag and simply set the controller inside of it, with the open top of the bag providing ventilation. This time I didn’t bother to use grommets to create reinforced holes in strategic spots in the bag. Because of the different sort of layout the Bullitt provides to the builder, I was able to simply run up a single bundled, loomed cable up and into the open top of the bag. You can see that cable in the right side cockpit photo below.

Front Controller bag with bundled cable simply exiting the open top. The velcro strap is in case I need to keep long pants out of the chain. And to hold my sunglasses

Controller settings are as follows for the G020 motor on a KT controller:

P Settings

P1 = 100
P2 = 6
P3 = 1
P4 = 0
P5 = 00

C Settings

C1 = 00
C2 = 0
C3 = 1
C4 = 3
C5 =00
C6 = 3
C7 = 1

C8 = 0
C9 = 0
C10 = n
C11 = 0
C12 = 4
C13 = 0
C14 = 2

The P settings are mostly specific to the motor hardware and not to be fiddled with, although I have P5 set to operate on ‘real time voltage’ rather than let the display try and calculate it via a half-baked method built into the controller. “Real time voltage” is just as useless, actually. Free advice: Use the LCD3’s live numeric voltage readout and ignore the graphic.

Beyond that, I will leave the settings to you to figure out (its not hard, and bear in mind I was deliberately toning down the performance of the motor, looking for smooth and drama-free AWD performance), with the following manual link:

For a complete KT-LCD3 manual translated by a native English speaker, follow this Google link for the Dillenger KT-LCD3 manual.

Display and Remaining Electrical Bits

The throttle on this bike is your basic thumb throttle. I intentionally used an old design of KT controller so I could re-use PAS sensors and throttles I had sitting on my parts pile for years. Modern KT controllers use master wiring harnesses very similar to the bundled BBSHD one-to-many wiring harnesses, and so if you are purchasing one in the present day your throttle and brake cutout connections will match to that harness.

The display I used is a simple, straightforward, old-school KT model LCD3. The LCD3 is an inexpensive old standby that does everything you could want a display to do, without the fancy bells and whistles of the current generation of color displays.

But… I would have rather had a ‘pretty’ one. The KT-LCD8H is effectively the LCD3 with a redesigned color display and layout. More usefully, its settings are all visible on a single screen and can all be edited from that one screen. The LCD3 makes you work for it the old fashioned way: One setting at a time, one screen at a time. Miss one and you have to cycle thru all 30 of them after a reset. Its not the end of the world but you only have to use the LCD8H’s settings screen once to appreciate the convenience.

Still, the LCD3 does its job and is economical. Thanks to the wonkiness of the global supply chain, the Model LCD8H was unavailable when I was in the market to get the display I needed for the Bullitt.

As seen on The Great Pumpkin – A KT-LCD3 at top and a color KT-LCD8H at bottom.

Motor Cable Routing

Last and … well, probably rightfully least is the routing on the motor cable from the motor itself back to the controller that is hanging all the way back in another county, back under the handlebars.

First of all, a connection extension to the motor cable is necessary. I bought this one from Amazon – a 60 cm extension. Between the relatively long length of cable coming from the controller, and the length from the motor, this was a perfect size. However, cable lengths vary widely from one batch of controllers or motors to the next, so have your own in hand before you decide on your needed extension length.

Many builders run the motor cable up the fork and then back down again, then running it underneath the cargo box. I wanted the cable protected from ground strikes and weather, so I ran it inside the cargo box as I did the front brake cable (more on that in the separate Bits & Pieces installment).

So not only did I run it thru the cargo box interior, I found the steering arm provided me with a shorter highway straight to that cargo box ingress point. Sure, its not a fixed mount but neither is the fork blade, which also needs slack so the fork can wiggle back and forth as you dodge potholes, run around in circles etc.

Again wanting the cable to be protected, I re-used some unused bits of 3/4″ tubing left over from what I did inside the cargo box. A couple of 45-degree elbows, a few centimeters of straight tubing and a few zip ties later, a cable tunnel was firmly attached to the top of the steering arm. The motor connection from motor to extension is housed inside this tube, and experience has shown the downward angle of the front-most elbow is enough to keep water out of the tube. Speaking of which this tubing also keeps water and crud from taking its best shot at the motor connection.

There is enough slack on both sides of this tubing, along with smooth, rounded edges, to ensure there are no motor cable pinches and no tight bends that will break down the cable over time.


And that, as they say, is that. We’ve pretty much covered everything of interest on the front motor wheel build, installation and configuration. You can use this to inform your own front wheel ebike build

Or take it as a guide on what not to do, as you please.


Thats it for the front motor and wheel. Lets talk about

The BBSHD Rear Motor and Drivetrain