How To Build An Ebike From Scratch: Tools List

What tools are needed to build a complete ebike (or a normal bicycle, really)? Here’s your list.

Step 1: Planning
Step 2: Hunting
Step 3: Tinkering
Step 4: Buying
Step 5: Assembling
Build Day 1
Build Day 2
Build Day 3
Step 6: Perfecting
Tools List (you are here)

Step By Step

Be warned: Including a total list of all the tools you need to build a bicycle makes this post enormous. Almost 4,700 words total plus pictures. Go get a sandwich and a drink before you start reading.

The tools needed for each step are in their respective Step section.

This article is for the most part ONLY about listing the tools in a given step. However in some cases, for the more esoteric tools, I give some extra description to help illustrate why a special tool has value versus doing things a cheaper way. Alternatively I may talk about why the cheap tool is as good or better than the expensive one. With that said, I will generally try not to talk about using tools here, and save that for the individual Step where they are in direct play.

Step 1: Planning

There are no tools needed in Step 1 as its all a brain exercise. However, as part of your planning its a good time to assess whether or not you have the tools you need for this job overall. What will it cost to buy what you need? Factor that into your overall project cost and Build Sheet and budget accordingly.

Step 2: Hunting

Tools in Step 2 are pretty much a computer, an internet connection and available funds to buy the bike frame and motor. Translation: No tools needed in this step.

Step 3: Tinkering

To do the basic fiddling with your frame that this step will entail, you are talking about some basics only:

A Tape Measure

This can be as simple as a literal soft tape measure like what a tailor would use, or a modern chrome steel or plastic-cased retractable measure with a lock. I use both.

Here’s an example of the soft tapes I use

I buy them in the 24-pak like in the link. It seems I can never find my tape when I am looking for it and secreting one in the glove box of my car, one or two in each tool box and so on is the way to go for me. And for $7.99 for all 24 of them… well, that price speaks for itself. No they are not high precision… but they are good enough.

These tape measures have an unusual thing in common that means they will not typically be found in a local store: They both provide metric measurements. So you are buying them online.

With a few weird exceptions, all bicycles have been on the metric system for many years. You need metric tape measures. Since there are numerous exceptions you want both scales on your device.

Calipers (optional)

If you are a tool geek, The Calipers are an essential weapon in your arsenal. They are especially useful on a bicycle build where you have so many annoying, oddball measurements. Is that seat tube 31.6mm or 34.9mm? Its 34.9. OK is the exterior seatpost diameter the expected 36.4mm, then or did the numbskulls who manufactured the frame use thick paint to screw up your life (you need to know this stuff to attach a seatpost collar that fits)?

You can live without calipers and make do with a tape measure… assuming that what looks like pretty much 35mm must be 34.9. And that tube measures a skootch over 36mm so it must be a 36.4.

<takei> oh myyyyy </takei>

Or you can eliminate the need to guess. My metric Mitutoyo good-for-200mm dial calipers are old-school analog, so I don’t have to deal with dead batteries ever again like I did for my cheaper but still damned expensive RCBS digital calipers. Still, the digital set lasted me from 2013 until 2022, so I got my money’s worth I suppose. And they aren’t broken. If I keep buying batteries I can use them for SAE measurements. I guess.

Hex Keys

For any bike build, hex keys are essential. I generally like the ones sold by Bondhus as they are solid, USA-made tool steel at a good price.

If you can buy only one set, get the extra long type with the ball ends. If you can splurge a bit (these wrenches are cheap so you should) then also get the stubby-end high-torque version as well as the short wrench set. That way you have a wrench that can pretty much fit anywhere you need regardless of available space.

L to R: Long ball end. Stubby end. Short. These three pictures are not to scale relative to one another.

I also have a set of Wera (Germany) wrenches which I can only find on Amazon. Wera wrenches are not slab-sided hexagons and instead have a shape that relieves pressure on socket cap corners. They have it patented under the trade name Hex-Plus, and its a solid upgrade. The beefy, color-coded version with a spring loaded bearing on the ball end that will hold onto a screw for tough to reach locations are even more expensive, but if you want a single set good for lifetime use in your shop, they are worth a look.

Note that these are all metric. The need for SAE hex wrenches is almost nonexistent for bicycle parts (SRAM brake lever handlebar mounts are the only one I can think of). ALSO: I typically include the short or long ball end set in my preferred onboard tool kit that goes with the bike.

Motor Mounting Tools (optional)

If you are mounting the motor for test fitment at the Tinkering step as recommended here, you will need any special tools required to mount that motor. In the case of the example bike we are building, that means a Bafang 4-point inner lock ring socket. They are available from a variety of sources. Mine come from Luna Cycle (no longer available for sale). Here is the ‘traditional’ Bafang-sourced 4-notch tool from Empowered Cycles. Here is a fancier version from Lekkie.

I use this 4-point inner lock ring socket made just for the job by Luna Cycle. Unfortunately its no longer available for sale.

Without question, this socket and a torque wrench is the right tool for the BBSHD job. Those little knuckle-smashing Bafang wrenches are Chairman Mao’s revenge from beyond the grave on imperialist running dogs the world over. They cleverly give only the impression of functionality as they cannot let the unfortunate capitalist lackey deliver enough torque with it (unless you make your hand bleed) to keep that motor from slipping sooner or later (usually sooner).

The one I linked above, I own myself as a temp-mount shortcut… but I never use it. It at least has the advantage of being a fairly strong steel (without the usual sharp finger-creasing edges).

Torque Wrench (optional … for now)

This depends on whether or not your chosen motor needs one. In this project we are using a Bafang BBSHD mid drive motor, and it does. We don’t necessarily need a torque wrench to do motor mockups at this step, but it can come in handy, in particular if you need to determine exact spacer size to align the motor just right.

I use an automotive 50-250 ft-lb micrometer torque wrench from Home Depot for that job. To deliver the serious torque a BBSHD needs for a done-by-a-grownup installation, there’s no substitute for the leverage this wrench gives you, and the Bafang socket tools are usually made for a 1/2″ socket head. Worth noting (we’ll get more into this below): The big HD wrench is calibrated to +/- 3% accuracy.

1/2″ automotive torque wrench used to apply 90-100 ft lbs of torque to the motor lock nuts

Step 4: Buying

During the Buying phase, as parts are being ordered and arriving on your doorstep, you may be fitting parts onto the bike as test-fits to help you decide what other complementary parts should be purchased as follow-ons.

As such, while there are no tools specifically required to buy bicycle parts (other than a keyboard, internet connection and so on), during this phase you could end up needing any number of tools found in Steps 3 and 5.

Step 5: Assembling

Wheelbuilding Tools

Remember… in the Introduction I said we’re cheating on this one and we farmed out the wheel build. Wheelbuilding is not something someone who needs a tutorial on building a bike wants to be tackling along with learning all of the other ropes this series is focusing on. So we are not going to be worrying about truing stands, spoke prep, tuning forks and spoke keys.

Yes, I do have a Park TM-1 spoke tension gauge. Its lovely. No, you don’t need one for this project.

A Bike Stand! (optional)

This is one of those optional deals that you are going to hate yourself for cheaping out on, once you go to the expense of actually getting one and you see how much easier your life becomes. And if you buy a cheap one, its going to suck because a cheap stand with an ebike on it is seldom going to be strong enough to hold up all that extra weight (psssst… take the battery out).

um… yeah I think this one is strong enough to hold an ebike

If you are reasonably crafty, you can make yourself a bike repair stand out of PVC. Just don’t use furniture grade PVC and up the diameter of the pipe so it is crazy strong. This one uses 1 1/2″ pipe and reportedly cost around US$35 in materials. But notice also it doesn’t clamp anything to anything, so bumping into the bike while its on this thing is going to lead to exciting results.

Me, I use two different Park stands in my two shop locations (ok so full disclosure: my shops are a storage unit in one town and a patio in another). One is a Park PCS-10 stand that I bought in 2017. Its been my workhorse for almost six years. The one they sell now – the PCS 10.3 – is quite a bit more expensive than the US$192 I paid for mine, but it looks to have a couple of improvements.

My second repair stand was acquired recently and is a bit of an indulgence. But I’m not sorry I sprang the big bucks for it. I have a Park PRS-25 ‘team issue’ portable stand that folds up nice and easy and has a few added benefits I appreciate, like using hex tubing so the bike cannot shift side to side and topple over. But… four hundred bucks for a repair stand. You gotta use it a lot for that price to make any sense.


Torque Wrenches (plural!)

The fact you are considering buying a torque wrench at all is a big step up over your typical shade-tree bicycle mechanic. With that said, if you don’t own one now, you don’t need to spend a bundle on a precision instrument. A Park TW-6.2 3/8″ torque wrench relied upon by the bicycle industry and insisted upon by snooty internet forum experts is going to run you in the ballpark of US$130… and its one of at least two you need to work on a bicycle. This 3/8″ wrench is required for the bigger (and absolutely crucial) jobs like torqueing down crankarms. The smaller Park TW-6 1/4″ torque wrench that you’ll use for almost everything else on a bicycle is another US$115 or so.

Thats kind of a lot. Here’s the thing: You can spend a lot less and still get most of the benefit of a torque wrench. The Park wrenches are sturdy enough for repeated daily use. For the occasional bike mechanic, thats not necessary. Additionally, the Park wrenches are both calibrated to be accurate within +/- 4%. So lets consider that … an industry-wide standard of quality (wink).

What about lower cost options? How accurate are they?

My first bicycle-sized torque wrench was this one: the Venzo-branded 1/4″ wrench-and-socket package that retails at the moment for about US$50. It too is rated for a +/- 4% accuracy level. Even though it is rated for 2-24Nm, you wouldn’t want (or need) to push it past 10 Nm. For a larger 3/8″ wrench, I initially used a variation on this widely-rebranded Chinese import wrench. This Amazon-branded version runs just under US$30 and again its rated for +/- 4%.

Neither of these wrenches will hold this level of accuracy for as long as a more expensive tool, but if you only use them occasionally, you don’t need them to.

What does the author (thats me!) use?

Some time ago I stepped up my game on the torque wrench front. My little 1/4″ wrench lost its accuracy after a lot of use, and I could no longer trust it. The same went for my no-name 3/8″ wrench. While I trust the Park brand name, their torque wrenches are not particularly noteworthy as far as I can see in their construction, although they are premium priced. Certainly not a bad choice, but for the money, with some research, I could find better.

I went with a German brand: Wera, which are calibrated from the factory at +/- 3%. Importantly: they offer a USA address to perform re-calibration services should the wrench get a little wonky from extended use. No need to buy another wrench if it loses the spring in its step. Get it professionally re-calibrated by the manufacturer.

1/4″ wrench: Wera Reversible A5 (2.5-25 Nm)
This one wrench is perfect for nearly every job needed on a bike. It scales up to medium stuff without breaking a sweat. Handlebar stem bolts on our project bike need 5 Nm. the chainring attachment bolts need 8 Nm. Excepting the cranks, you shouldn’t need to go over 10 Nm (its max of 25Nm is 18 ft lbs).

3/8″ wrench: Wera Reversible B2 (20-100 Nm)
Thats 15-73 ft lbs in SAE units, which fits perfectly within a bicycle need, whose peak is about 35 ft lbs for an aggressive crankarm tightening (as a general rule of thumb don’t exceed 30 ft-lbs if you can help it).

And no… neither one of them are inexpensive. Like the Mitu’s above, I consider them crown jewels of the toolbox that I expect to last a lifetime of hard use.

Headset Press

In the past, specifically when I built Frankenbike, I used a very basic, very cheap headset press that did the job just fine. BUT something like 5 years later I couldn’t find the damn thing. So I upgraded just a bit when I bought another one for this project.

The design of this tool is reminiscent of the Park HHP-2 tool, but its literally less than one-tenth of the price. It works on the same principles as the more expensive tool, and is just fine for the rare or occasional user (then again, so was the even cheaper one I bought in 2017).

Star Nut Setter

I didn’t have to use this tool for this build as the used fork I put on the bike already had a star nut inside of it. However if you are buying a new fork, it won’t. You’ll have to set a star nut in the steering tube of the fork.

Whats in the hole? A star nut, thats wut.

You could do this with an M6 bolt screwed into the star nut, and then hammer on the bolt to bash the nut into the steerer and hope it goes in straight. I’ve done that myself (when I couldn’t find my setter tool) and I have to say its a dumb idea. You’ll almost never get it in perfectly straight, and if you do it’ll take a LOT of pounding. If you use the proper tool, it automatically centers the star nut, seats it to the proper depth and works with one or two quick shots with a mallet.

Left: Star nut setting tool. Center: A (fork) crown race. Right: Star nuts (you’ll only need one)

It turns out Jenson USA sells this tool for about 1/3 of what Amazon sellers want for it. Just make sure you buy other things in the same order to get free shipping. They are an excellent parts and tool source.

Crown Race Setting Tool

You could spend a zillion dollars on a fancy crown race setting tool, or just get a piece of PVC pipe that is 1 1/4″ in diameter. Park Tool wants US$86 for their CRS-1 Crown Race Setting System. I think a length of PVC is … what? 86 cents? I got fancy with mine and chamfered the inside of it with a pipe reamer so it was a perfect fit. You don’t need to do that.

Left: 1 1/4″ PVC for setting a crown race onto a straight 1 1/8″ steering tube. Right: A US$2.98 length of PEX pipe used for the wire tunnel on the bike build.

If you have a 1.5″ tapered steering tube, use a bigger size of PVC.

cable/hose cutter

These cable and housing cutters are the same ones I use for making electrical connections. They work for cutting the shifter cable, the shifter cable housing and hydraulic brake hose. In fact, that black hex nut visible in the pic actually doubles as a hose end reshaper thingie. Cutting hydraulic brake hose deforms it. Stuff the end onto the little cone inside the hex reforms it into a proper circle so you can fit a new hose needle / end back on.

Brake Hose Needle Driver (optional)

The ‘needle’ is the end fitting on hydraulic brake hose, which actually comes under some pretty high pressure during the braking process. For years, I jammed these little suckers in by hand. You do it by using manual dexterity and swear words to get the little thing fit into the hose just enough to stay in, then use a small hammer in one hand while holding the hose in the other, and bash on it, trying to hold the hose tight enough to make progress without smooshing your fingers with the hammer.

You can also bang the hose end on the garage floor to help finish the job after you decide you have hit yourself with the hammer enough times.

Remember the olive goes on the cable FIRST before you do anything else. Once you set the needle, its not coming out and the olive will not fit over it. Do the job in the right order and its ready to re-insert into the brake lever, easy-peasy.

OR you could wise up like I finally did and buy the right tool for the job. I was disgusted at how easy it was once I had the proper tool.

Brake Bleed Kit (optional?)

This is not needed if you are using cabled brakes (please don’t do that), which do not need bleeding.

Once you resize your hoses you need to bleed the system. It doesn’t take much. A couple of syringes, some rubber hose and some brake fluid (I hope yours use mineral oil and not corrosive-to-paint DOT fluid).

Rather than buying a Magura branded bleed kit, I picked up this syringe kit and this little 100 ml bottle of Royal Blood mineral oil brake fluid. If I was feeling adventurous, I could spend less and use generic mineral oil or baby oil, but one bottle of the real thing will last quite some time. Since brake spacer blocks come with each set of MT5’s, and I have I think seven sets, I also did not need to buy spacer blocks.

Magura wants US$9.99 for EACH one of these. You get 4 with each set of MT5’s… don’t freaking lose them.

For Magura brakes, you will also need a very small crescent wrench to tighten and remove the bleed hose onto the caliper.

Cassette Lock Ring Socket

I use a fancy Park FR-5.2H. I work on enough cassettes – and got it years ago – so the sting that comes from the price of this little beast has gone away. I appreciate the ability to pick it up and use it like any other wrench.

The Park FR-5.2H. A great tool but you need to have a lot of cassettes and a bunch of bikes to justify its cost.

An occasional bike mechanic will save a bundle and use something like this little Park FR-5.2 with a crescent wrench for less than US$9. I’d show you a picture of mine but I only see it every few months, whereupon I set it someplace safe and don’t see it again for another 3 months. It’ll turn up.

Chain Whip

If all you do is put your cassette onto your rear hub, you don’t need this tool. But if for some reason you want to take it back off, a chain whip is essential. Most workshops have several of these. I have a couple of cheapies like this one or this one. Both of these will give you cassette lock ring sockets, too. I was recently stuck needing one while away from my shop and sprang for the Park SR12-2. Its quite fancy and works great. It had better for the price they charge.

The fancy Park tool at top uses standard KMC bike chain bits and removable pins, so you can repair it down the road. That socket on the end handily fits a little Park FR-5.2 cassette tool.

Metric Hex Keys

This is the same set we used and discussed in Step 3 above.

Chain Breaker

I use the same one in the shop as I keep in my onboard toolkit. The basic, dependable Park CT-5 Mini Chain Brute.

You use the chain breaker above to do the initial sizing of the chain (length)

Chain Pliers

Again, using the tool I take right out of my onboard tool kit. Either Park MLP 1.2 master link pliers, or the cheaper Oumers master link pliers. Both serve double duty as openers and closers. When you buy your own set of master link pliers, don’t get snookered into buying pliers that only open or only close. Those exist solely to make you buy two tools.

After sizing the chain, you use the master link and these pliers whenever you want to remove the chain. Hopefully not often.

Needlenose pliers

Pretty basic stuff here. Needed simply to squish/crimp the cable end tip cover on the shifter cable after it terminates at the derailleur.

Air Pumps (tire and shock)

A tire pump is obvious, right? But we’re trying to do a complete tool list so there it is. Also necessary is the shock pump, which you use on your rear shock and your air fork. You can’t use a tire pump on a shock for a bunch of reasons, regardless of whether you have a chuck that will fit the valve. I use the Air Tool shock pump from Specialized because it has a T handle, and a 2-stage valve chuck that will prevent air loss when disconnecting. I had a cheaper pump from Amazon that had these same things but it died on me after a few months and only a few uses. Buy once, cry once.

In addition to the rear shock, this pump is also necessary to add air to the front forks and, if you have one, a PNW Coast suspension dropper seatpost

T25 Torx Wrench

Needed for brake rotor bolts and all of the fasteners on Magura brakes. Additionally the T25 is popping up here and there on other parts, and is something of an alternate standard to a hex socket. The seatpost collar you will read about in the Perfecting section uses one. I have a whole set for my in-shop toolbox. Even if it wasn’t labeled, you can tell by the scuff marks on it which one the T25 is.

You can buy a Bondhus T25 wrench as an individual item. You won’t need any other size on a bicycle. I put one in each of my on-bike tool kits

Electrical Connection/Crimping Tools (optional?)

This is something you probably should do, but you can do without if you really must. First of all, the tools necessary, and the procedures needed, are entirely covered in this 2-part series that begins here with this link.

Here’s the deal: The BBSHD motor’s power connection is a long dual-wire affair extending from the motor about 2 feet and terminating in a pair of 45-amp Anderson connectors. Now, you can buy an Anderson-to-XT90 (female) adapter, for instance, and use that to connect to your battery without shortening the wires (you will need to wrap them into a ball and stuff them somewhere) or needing to do any crimping. But thats going to be sloppy, at best.

When I built the Stormtrooper, the cable lengths worked out fine and I didn’t need to cut and shorten anything. I was able to insulate the archaic Anderson connectors and tack on an XT90-to-Anderson adapter and no one looking – even closely – at the connection would be any the wiser. That project was the exception, not the rule.

For our subject Apostate build, the distance from the battery to the motor was only a few inches, and with no battery bag to hide wiring sins its right out in the open. So there were issues with protecting the connection as well as a need to shorten the wires.

See the water droplets? No such thing as overkill on insulating ebike electrical connections.

What you need, and whether you need anything besides an adapter is entirely dependent on the physical requirements of your bicycle frame, and whether you have a place to hide excess cabling. I personally have no qualms about stuffing a rubber-banded coil of cable inside of a battery bag only I will look inside of. You? Its your call. The link to all the tools you need and step by step instructions on what to do are above.

Silicone Tape (aka Extreme tape. aka Plumbers tape)

This is one of my secret weapons. On the Stormtrooper, with its white frame, I spiral-wrapped the main wiring harness and battery wires in white silicone tape. Matching the frame, they blended right in; hiding in plain sight. I use black silicone tape as handlebar grip tape on almost every bike I own. Similarly for this project we will see I use this tape in red extensively to blend in the wire tunnel, and a little bit of grey on the rear triangle. In older photos you will see white tape, which is not a match to grey alloy, but close enough to turn the volume down until I found my grey tape.

One advantage of silicone tape is it has no adhesive and sticks to itself naturally. You wrap it around things and it stays put because it stretches like a rubber band, and then sticks to itself. Permanently. Until you take a knife to it and then it splits apart and comes right off.

These days, when I start any bike project I acquire at least one roll of silicone tape that is as close of a color match as possible to my frame.

Zip Ties!

Zip ties are the hallmark of many DIY ebike builds, where they often seem to be used everywhere, with abandon. I try to use them as little as possible. When I do, just like the silicone tape, I use a color that matches whatever it is they are looping over to minimize their visibility. Exact paint matches are never possible, but I have found even a rough match is enough to make them less noticeable versus the typical, common black zip tie most DIY builders plaster all over anything and everything.

I used tiny black ties on the black brake and shifter cables, grey ties for the speed sensor on the grey alloy chainstays and red ties on the red frame to help affix the wiring tunnel.

Step 6: Perfecting

No additional tools are needed for this step. You’ll use whatever you’ve already used in the previous steps to redo this bit or that to correct anything you don’t like about your new build.

How To Build An Ebike From Scratch

You want build an ebike, but the project seems overwhelming. Lets de-mystify the entire process, including planning, parts and perfecting the end result.

Introduction (you are here)
Step 1: Planning
Step 2: Hunting
Step 3: Tinkering
Step 4: Buying
Step 5: Assembling
Build Day 1
Build Day 2
Build Day 3
Step 6: Perfecting
Tools List

This is a Big One

This is an ambitious topic. There’s a LOT here. The entire series ended up being over 41,000 words, across 11 installments. Organization was a challenge, but I think it is laid it out in reasonably broad brush strokes that make sense. The Tools List at the end is organized in discrete sections for each Step.

What Does ‘From Scratch’ Mean?

I’m going to go through a complete project build that starts with a bare frame. I then add all the parts to that frame to make a fully functional electrically-assisted bicycle. We won’t be concentrating so much on electrical / motor specifications, as we will picking out every single part needed to build a bicycle. Right down to the shifter ferrules and cable crimps. Building a bike is a lot less intimidating when you have a complete list of everything needed, along with the tools required to install them.

This will be a ‘frame-up’ build: start with a bare frame and make it into an ebike.

I originally planned this article long ago. It was obvious to me there was a need for a sort of ground-up tutorial. I have participated in a lot of conversations with people who wanted a fun project, but realized quickly they were in over their heads.

Thats where I was myself the first time I did it – back before ebikes, in fact. I built my own analog bicycles back in the day. So when it came time to join the Dark Side and build electric bicycles, I leveraged what I already knew. I just had to add some bits to the parts list to account for the electrics.

You know what? You can just as easily use these articles to build a regular bicycle; never mind the ‘e’ part.

Throughout this series, I will try to balance the value of taking a deep dive on a specific task, to just referencing that something needs doing, and perhaps linking you to an existing step-by-step tutorial. Some will be my own. I’ll reference many articles published on this site to cover a lot of that ground.

Where Am I Cheating?

I didn’t build the wheels. Really… wheelbuilding is a fairly advanced topic. For a person who needs help from a ‘how to build a bike’ article, that person should not also be taking on wheelbuilding lessons. Let a pro do it for you.

In my case, supply chain issues compounded by my regular wheelbuilder’s busy schedule meant I needed to find a way to get wheels professionally made for this bike… within a specific time frame, with specific parts. I’ll get into the wheel parts saga in detail in the assembly sections.

Anything Else?

Yes. We will be buying a battery. Not building one. If you need instruction on building a bike, learning how to also safely build a battery pack – something that can burn down your house and kill people if done wrong – is not something you should be taking on.

Also, I’m describing how to build THIS ebike from scratch: A full suspension, BBSHD-assisted, mid drive e-MTB. I chose this build because it is a pretty generic animal. Its not something weird like one of my gargantuan cargo bikes, or an all-wheel-drive beast. Those are great bikes, but not projects that appeal to the first time builder, nor are they of mainstream interest.

So… you aren’t going to see me discuss building a hub-assisted ebike. I’ve stated publicly in other fora I am done building hub bikes (with no plans to change this). However, I would like to, at some point, add a supplement to this build series to discuss what is done differently if building a hub-motor’d ebike from scratch.

Its not a major departure from this instruction set (its simpler) and only involves a few different specialty tools – chiefly a crank puller and a bottom bracket tool. And we’ll need to address torque arms. And…

… Never mind. Lets save that for another time.

Oh And There’s Also This

Lets call this a Mission Statement: DIY Does Not Have To Mean Half-Assed.

Look around on the internet for awhile. You will know exactly what I mean when you see all the projects where duct tape and zip ties are used as major components.

This project is intended to build a bike that is as close to factory-quality as possible. In fact, where it comes to the bicycle components themselves (brakes, headset, hubs, rims and so on) it will exceed them. We are not building a bike for profit here, but rather for excellence as a bicycle.

There will be things I deliberately do that spoil the polished look. But when the Perfecting stage is posted with the final production pics (not the bike shown on this page) you should be seeing a bike awfully close to that ideal.

Background on the Subject Bike

As mentioned above, I wanted to do this series some time ago. Unfortunately, after trying to get it off the ground, I realized I needed a fairly mainstream build to work with as it went along. It took awhile before that opportunity presented itself.

Recently I decided to build a small, self-contained, full suspension bike for use around town on short errands, and light trails. A bike I could easily toss into my car and haul back out again. Finally, this was the ‘normal’ bike for this writing project.

The Apostate is the result.

Our finished product will be a simple, full suspension ebike – using high quality components – with a mid drive and a mounted, in-frame battery.

Quickee General Layout:

Lets take a brief look at how this is going to go down:

Step 1: Planning

Decide what kind of bike you want to build:

  • Cargo? Full suspension mountain bike? Hardtail fatty?
  • Put together a preliminary parts list to give yourself a ballpark idea of cost (don’t worry there’s a sample list ready for you to customize). Your parts list will be the backbone of your project management too.
  • What kind of motor are you going to use? Hub (geared or direct drive)? Mid drive (from what manufacturer?).
  • Where is the battery going?
Your parts list is the key to project management

Step 2: Hunting

Step 1 told you what kind of frame you want, in at least general terms. Now you get serious about buying one. Looking around the marketplace at real products will teach you new things you didn’t realize you needed to know. Read specs closely. Buy the frame that meets your needs.

Step 3: Tinkering

Now that your frame has been delivered, you can start confirming measurements so you know for-reals what the dropout widths are, seatpost diameter and so on. With the frame in your hands, you buy parts with confidence knowing they will fit (this includes your chosen motor, battery and controller). Having the frame in front of you rather just reading specs and seeing pictures is likely going to give you new – and perhaps unexpected – insight on the job ahead. You may change some of your parts decisions mid-stream.

Step 4: Buying

Now that you have looked long and hard at your frame, and made your final (?) parts decisions, its time to cast your net wide and start buying all the parts. The parts list you roughed out in Step 1 and finalized in Step 3 becomes crucial here. It will manage the entire process of buying and tracking parts shipped from myriad locations.

Step 5: Assembling

This is the big one. You’ve been receiving little boxes from parts shops for weeks. Now with everything in hand, the rubber meets the road: Put that parts pile together and make an electric bicycle. Since I did the actual build in about 3 days, I split up the assembly articles into three parts, each covering what was done on Days 1, 2 and 3.

Step 6: Perfecting

Once you finish assembly, the chances are near zero that you picked all the right parts the first time around. Expect to learn new things when you actually ride the bicycle. Maybe the handlebars would be more comfortable if they were a little wider, or the stem was a little shorter. Or longer. There’s almost always something that needs a tweak.

The Apostate was no exception. Right after the first test rides were complete I knew I wanted to make a couple of sizing changes. From there it went straight into the back of a car where it went riding daily for a week in The Grand Canyon. After that fairly extended initial period of use, I had a few additional things I wanted to change.

Are we ready to get started? Lets go!

Step 1: Planning

A Backpack Ebike Battery… Are You Insane?!?

If all I did was write internet posts, I’d still hate this idea. But circumstances made me try one. I knew almost immediately how wrong I had been.

Brace yourself, because, if you haven’t already tried it, and you are like most people, you probably think this is the worst idea, ever. I was one of those people. Then I built a bike that simply had to use a backpack battery as its power source. I held my nose, gritted my teeth and just did it. I dreaded the result right up until I rode it for the first time.

Look at the two pics below. Where’s the battery? Nowhere. Nowhere in the picture, at least. I was wearing it. In the image at right, I have used subtle visual cues to highlight the silicone-insulated XT90 connector I plug into.

By the way, that is a Cyc X1 Pro Gen 1 motor. The little bag houses a BAC800 controller that reached 60 amps of continuous output before I chickened out and lifted.

What problem are we solving?

A backpack battery should obviously not be your first choice, so why do one at all? When doing a DIY ebike build, there are some donors that just don’t have space for a battery.

Where the hell am I going to fit a battery on this bike? I will deliberately NOT answer that question here.

Fresh out of the box from Guerilla Gravity: My Smash 29er; one of their very last alloy frames before they switched to carbon fiber. The tires aren’t even dirty. Lets take a picture cuz it will never be this clean again.

In an earlier draft of this post, I wrote up all the different things I thought of or actually tried, and abandoned because they sucked for one reason or another.

But that is going off into the weeds as this discussion is about backpack batteries, not build or donor choices. So lets table all that talk and just stipulate: We have this bike that we have to work with. we looked at alternatives (remember… I hated this idea at the time), we are left with one choice:

The battery has to be in a backpack

Once I accepted the fact I was stuck doing a backpack, all that was left were materials and ergonomic/mechanical choices. i.e. just make it and do it right.

Pack Choice

If you listen to the experts on the internet (thats a joke in case you missed it), whenever the subject comes up you hear all about how a battery on the back of a rider is a bomb just waiting to go off. There is some truth to this. Flying off the bike and landing on your back on sharp rocks is a really bad thing made a whole lot worse if a li-ion battery is your crash bumper.

There’s also a lot of talk about how the world will end if you put your battery weight up on your back, but we’ll get to that one later.

The solution for safety is to use a hardshell pack of some sort, of the kind you see used on sport motorcycles. I picked a 20L Boblbee GTX from Point65.

Nope, it sure as hell isn’t cheap (I paid about $200 for mine which is way less than they are now), but remember that unexploded bomb thing? Its for real and a hardshell pack solves that problem. It also provides you with spinal protection in case of a crash. And you also get something that addresses another negative the villagers are shouting about: A pack like this form fits your spine, hugs your body and never shifts – not even a little.

I suppose if you had to, you could use a soft pack and then stick your battery into a 30 cal or 50 cal ammo can. Drill a hole in a corner for the power cable exit and it would work, but that can is going to be a lot of weight to carry. Still, if you want a cheap, safe solution that uses a conventional pack… thats it. I’m sure you will figure something out on the shifting thing. I know I have packs that don’t shift. Much.

Really though… this is a problem you need to throw money at to properly solve. In my case I spent about half of retail by finding a vendor closing out an old model and blowing them out at a big discount.

Battery placement inside the pack

You do not want the battery bouncing around freely inside that hardshell pack. Each battery and backpack combo is different, but the core of the solution is to stabilize it with dense, closed-cell padding. I didn’t say wrap it tightly in foam so it overheats (put down that pitchfork). However, part of a smart DIY plan is to use cells that can take a murderous flogging without heating up in the first place. I used the old standby Samsung 25R cell for mine.

For my pack, I add in a little judicious padding. Then sprinkle some tool bags in there (so no little bags on the bike). Job done. Its not moving around.

The Smash, post build but before the first real ride (its too clean). All those bags violated my Anti-Festooning Rule and went into the backpack, although the top tube bag only contained soft towels meant for nutcracker protection. Maybe I should have left that one.

Figure out the wiring / connection

This is the tricky part because if you get this wrong and stay aware of the cable, you will hate your ride. First off, I used a short 8ga XT90S extension directly off the main battery output. I pretty much do this on every battery connection on any bike so, when connecting and disconnecting the pack, I’m visiting the wear and tear on a cheap replacement connector and not a live cable soldered into the pack. I also use a pair of XT60 pigtails to make a similar extension cable for the charge connector. Same idea. I’ve had my bacon saved doing this and the experience of just being able to throw away and replace a cheapie extension made this a go-to for me on everything.

The short XT90S extensions are at right. You think thats a lot of pigtails? Doesn’t take much to run out of spare parts… especially these days.

Next comes a long length of true 10ga power cord, made into a long XT90S extension cord. This is what will go from the battery to the motor and its several feet long. How long exactly? I measured out enough to exit the pack, run down my back, down thru my legs and still be long enough to never tug if I am standing on the pedals and bouncing around at the same time.

OK… great… what if I’m sitting down? A cable long enough to stand up with is going to be all kinds of awkward when doing what you do most: Sitting. I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what to do about this. A lot of others have done some sort of elastic bungie contraption. I tried that and felt it needed too much strain to extend, and carried a risk of pulling apart the connection at the motor. I needed something that reliably retracted my cable and extended it without much resistance.

And here’s the solution: The Key-Bak Super48 HD. This is literally the direct descendant of that chromed steel extendo keyring thing that every janitor in the United States has on his belt. Except they aren’t chromed steel anymore.

They’re kevlar.

The model I bought has a 48″ extension length, with their lightest 8 oz pull and a kevlar cable. Its so lightweight, it doesn’t impart the same feel of indestructability that the old steel pucks had, but I have been using it since mid-2019 and so far it shows no sign of wear. You can see from the Amazon link above that there are other models of varying lengths and pull weights. You can even get one with a steel cable. Since I’ve been using mine, I can say its 48″ extension is plenty, and the light 8 oz pull makes its operation completely unnoticeable.

How do you make the Key-Bak work?

What you need is a ball attached to your power cable. The cable threads through the key ring and stops at the point where the ball – which is bigger than the ring – is reached. You place the ball at a point down your back and to the side, so there’s more than enough cable slack to let you stand on the pedals, but not so much it gets in your way.

When you stand up the keyring lets the cable extend until the ball stops it. When you sit back down, it retracts back up behind you. Simple and effective. You never have excess cable down around your legs getting in the way. If you need more, the light 8 oz pull lets it happen without your even noticing its there. In fact, you really don’t know its there at all because its placed where you can’t see it, behind you and to the side. Out of sight and out of mind.

Once I spent some time figuring out the cable length needed to do the job right, and where the ball needed to be, I built and positioned the ball as follows:

  1. A strip of leftover silicone handlebar grip roughly 1.5 inches long. Since I have used Wolf Tooth Fat Paw grips and ESI Extra Chunky XXL grips with my Jones bars on various bikes over the years, I have leftovers from grips that were cut off.
  2. Plenty of silicone X-Treme sealing tape.
  3. The silicone grip segment – since it was already sliced off a set of handlebars – already had a slit in it to let it slip over the cord. Wrapping silicone in silicone tape sticks instantly, and doing so – with overwrap onto the adjacent power cord, tightly affixes it so its not moving, ever.
  4. Silicone tape fuses permanently to itself and isn’t going to unravel.

The above is just one way to do this. In my case with spare stuff laying around in my garage.

Here’s the whole setup, laid out so the cabling is visible (right side). Note the key ring and the little foam dingle-ball that makes the whole idea work. Click to zoom in.
A close-up of the keyring retainer in position. Note the inert (siliconed) XT90 cap over the otherwise open, disconnected battery-to-motor connection.

Whats With The Cargo Net?

With a 20ah battery, two small tool bags (one on each side of the pack) and an electric pump, the interior of the backpack is pretty much full. I found some hooks that work well with this pack on Amazon, and applied them to the pack and the net. Now I have the ability to stuff something onto the exterior of the pack. Usually that is my veteran Condor Summit Zero and maybe a small, flat pouch for wallet and phone if I can’t stuff them into the handlebar bag.

Funky hooks. Kind of a specialty choice that work just for this particular pack’s oddball equipment slots.

What is it like when you ride it?

I wasn’t expecting a good experience. The idea of being tethered to the bike and having a power cord running down off my back… I hated everything about that. Boy was I ever wrong, and if I hadn’t built the solution and gotten on the bike and tried it, I’d still be just as wrong. This is something you have to experience to fully understand and appreciate.

The Good.

You are still tethered to the bike. But the smart setup mitigates this so thoroughly its unnoticeable when you ride and requires very little extra effort to deal with.

Not having the battery weight on the bike makes it behave… like a bike. Internet experts will jump up and down and point to the higher center of gravity that comes from putting the pack on your back. But reality is that without the weight of the battery, smashing thru a rock garden or challenging singletrack is like doing it on an unpowered bike. Since in singletrack you usually only use (or want) power when going uphill, that means your ride everywhere else is exactly like you want it: Old school analog. Your suspension acts like it should… but with a rider who’s eaten too many cheeseburgers.

Having the battery on your back means you can shift its weight from side to side just as you already do with your body. See the above point, because that one and this one together completely undo the whole ‘center of gravity’ argument, and put the backpack setup in the ‘superior’ category when it comes to all-around performance. If you are wearing a 10 lb backpack… so what? You spent the money to buy a pack with a completely form-fitting back panel, that attaches firmly to you so its an extension of your body. No shifting of any kind whatsoever. You did that, right? Bought the really good pack? Cuz if you swiped your kid brother’s lunch pack or figured out some other way to cheap out… you’re screwed. Proper packs are not just ones that shield and pad the battery. They shouldn’t fidget.

Holy crap I totally forgot about that cable! I thought that was going to suck so hard, and I don’t even know its there! Thats you after your first ride. My first config ran the cable around my side and did not go thru my legs. I was concerned (and rightly so) the cable could flop away from my side and hang up on a bush. So I took the plunge and ran it between my legs like the experienced builders say I should. Sure enough it works perfectly.

We have addressed the safety/crash issue by using a hardshell pack, with some dense foam around it but not smothering it (and used a battery cell that doesn’t heat up under extreme load). That makes the battery safer than it ever would be in a ‘traditional’ battery bag.

Do NOT forget to carry along a safety plug to cap your pack’s power cord when it is disconnected. I am using an extra XT90 male plug where I siliconed over the power leads (and I added another bead once I saw the gap in this pic)

The Bad.

You are still tethered to the bike. I never said a backpack was the best solution. Its just the only one sometimes. Its not the end of the world if you do it right.

When you stop the bike, you have to disconnect. Its not difficult, but you have to do it so it goes on the list. I keep XT90 safety caps in a little pouch and use them to cover the open connections on the bike and my battery cable. When I mount the bike, I first lower the dropper post all the way. Then I straddle the bike from behind, standing over the rear wheel. I connect the power and, since the seat is so low, I can just step forward and be right over it. I then raise the dropper and I’m on the bike. Dismounting I have some options. I can be standing and reach down, disconnect and just throw my leg over like usual, or do the reverse of the mount from the rear. In practice I’m about 50-50 as the rearward exit is easier but I need to think about it to do it.

And The Ugly

Whats ugly is I used that unoriginal cliche for those pro and con section titles. Lets take a break, sit down with a plate of spaghetti and enjoy the movie!

Choosing Bike Locks: Small, Medium or Ridiculous?

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

The Bad Penny That Keeps Coming Up

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

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

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

So here we go.

First: Locking Philosophy

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

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

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

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

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

Carry The Lock

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

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

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

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

Pick The Lock

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

Pragmasis Protector 11mm Noose Chain

There are plenty of boron steel hardened chains. Why use this one? It is heavy, but also a LOT lighter than competitors of the same thickness, like Kryptonite, Abus or Pewag. Why? Because the links are much longer. So what? Well, the longer your link, the fewer links are needed. That has no bearing on chain material used to make up length… but it is a big deal because fewer lengths of chain are needed to close the link. 11mm boron steel chain is all pretty much the same stuff. But the longer links provide the magic to shave a few pounds off of a 6.5 foot chain. Additionally, as you will see in pictures below, long links can be threaded one inside the other to create independently locked loops on each side of the chain.

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

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

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

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

Xena XSU-310 lock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Kryptonite Keeper 5-S2 Disc Lock

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

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

Pragmasis Protector 13mm chain

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

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

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

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

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

Lockitt (Pragmasis) RL21 Roundlock

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

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

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

The ‘Other’ One

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

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

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

AFTERWORD: What about a good strong cable?

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

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

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

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

Dishonorable Mention: The Ottolock

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

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

Last But Not Least: INSURANCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bafang Mid Motor: Multiple Speed Magnets

Some Bafang BBSHD and BBS02 programming tutorials say Speed Meter Signals must be set to 1 or bad things happen. They are right. They are also totally wrong.

This is going to be a quickee post to illustrate a bit of Bafang mid drive minutiae, and point out something wrong I see in some tutorials or forum posts about Bafang BBSHD / BBS02 settings. Specifically:

The Speed Meter Signal

Put simply: It does not have to be set to ‘1’. But I am getting ahead of myself. Lets start from the beginning:

At the root of the matter is the BBSxx Speed Sensor. If you buy one as part of a kit, or on its own, this is what you get for roughly US$20:

Figure 1: L to R: Sensor magnet, sensor base, sensor and underneath, the two screws used in the install

The speed sensor magnet attaches to one of your spokes. You attach the sensor to your chainstay (usually) and position it so the magnet passes close to it as the wheel rotates. The sensor detects the magnet’s passing and calculates your speed, via a rotation count and knowing your wheel diameter via a separate setting.

Figure 2: The speed meter installed on the chainstay.

So if you buy the typical sensor, you get one magnet, one sensor, and you need to set the Speed Meter Signal to ‘1’. Is that setting because you have one speed sensor?

No. Speed Meter Signals counts the number of magnets. Not the number of sensors. Each magnet is a signal. Got one magnet? Set it to 1. Got two? Three (for a 36-hole wheel)? Four? Change the setting accordingly and it works.

Figure 3: The Speed Sensor settings from my Luna Black Box, with the setting in question circled.

Why do we need more than one?

You don’t. The one magnet works pretty good as it is, so nobody really gets too deep into this. Plus nobody sells Bafang speed sensor magnets by themselves. So to do this you are talking about roughly $20 per magnet because you have to buy a whole speed sensor assembly.

But… what if you don’t? Cateye sells a sensor magnet all by itself. It is cheap, widely available and can be gotten cheaper in a 2-pak. Here’s one, close up:

I have found these can just be tightened onto a spoke by hand, and they do not need any thread locker to stay tight (adding some Vibra Tite would not be such a bad idea). Reportedly these magnets work over a much greater distance than their Bafang cousins, which is another benefit. At the very least I can confirm they work reliably as I have been using them instead of the Bafang magnets on several bikes due to their lower weight and thus kinder/gentler attitude towards my precious DT Swiss or Sapim spokes, and my wheel balance.

Get To The Point!

Fine here it is. Look for the speed sensor magnet in the picture.

Figure 4: How many lights do you see, Picard?

There are four lights magnets on this wheel. One every 8 spokes. I have the Speed Meter Signals reading set to 4. The improvement is not earthshaking but I do get the following:

  1. My speed reading on my display updates faster and more smoothly. Not a surprise given I am quadrupling the signal sample rate.
  2. The Cateye magnets are smaller and lighter by a fair bit than the Bafang magnet assembly. This results in the wheel getting thrown less off-balance (even if you place the Bafang magnet opposite the valve stem to even out the two weights).
  3. Four magnets placed equidistantly around a wheel make for a more balanced wheel spin. Its minor. But when spinning the wheel with the motor when the bike is up on the stand the lesser amount of shaking is noticeable.

Using just two sensors (the 2-pak of Cateye sensors is only $9.95) gives a noticeable improvement as well. Enough that 4 sensors is not noticeably better or worth even the minimal cost/effort. I can’t help but think that two magnets means two points of potential failure rather than four. So I went back down to two magnets and gave that a try.

Long Term Conclusion

What I found over time with both 2- and 4-magnet installations was that apparently there is more signal-reading failure going on than we realize, and the Bafang controller has a way of gracefully dealing with this on your display. However when you use two or more magnets that failover procedure is no longer seamless to the eye. You can see oddball, cockeyed shifts in the speedometer reading as you ride along once you exceed about 22 mph.

This speed threshold is probably more about rotation count of the wheel more than it is actual physical speed. I suspect a 20″ wheel would evidence the issue at a lower speed, and a 29er at a higher one.

A 4-magnet setup is more susceptible to this than a 2-magnet setup. And remember I have verified that these Cateye magnets are perfectly reliable over literally a period of a year or two in a 1-magnet system, so they aren’t the problem.


You can take this experience as useful in a couple of ways: A cheap, lightweight, stronger magnet replacement is a good thing, and while many sources say multiple magnets are not possible, they are. But they are not advisable on a bike that exceeds 20 mph (Class 1/2 speeds). For countries with a 25 km/h speed limit this may be a nice little spiff. You may as well be able to see a smooth display since you are going so slowly you have plenty of time to glance down and admire the view :-).