In BBSHD Programming for the Pedaling Cyclist, I laid out what my preferred settings were for my ebikes. I have settled upon them after a fair bit of tinkering over time. Since that was published, I have made some refinements.
I’m going to skip all the background I went into before. None of those details have changed. I’ll just note what I have done, and what it seems to accomplish.
Remember, There is no one perfect suite of settings for the Bafang BBSxx series of motors. Most likely, your perfect setup will take a bit from here and a piece from there to give you exactly what you want. Use what you see here as a basis for your own experimentation.
In fact, I don’t even have a single flavor I stick to as you will see below.
The Basic Screen
From then to now, I changed nothing on this screen, and I’m only showing it here to give you a complete settings reference in one place.
The Pedal Assist Screen
There are several changes here, all geared to toning things down and making behavior more gentle. I have two versions of this screen in play on different bikes. The first is the more general-use, but the things I get from Version 2 could be very desirable on any bike.
I can’t say enough that there is no one best choice of settings for your BBSxx motor.
Pedal Sensor Type
Ignore this one unless you are in the mood to play around and see whats what. Some motors come programmed with BB-Sensor-32, others with DoubleSignal-24. This is something I just leave as-is depending on what the motor originally came with. Frankly its not a setting I know much about so I don’t fool with it.
This has been reduced to 4 from 6. Start Current dictates how much juice goes to the PAS system when it initiates. A lower number means a lower ‘jerk’ on the drivetrain as the PAS system engages. This is a percentage number, so we are going from 6% to 4%. Restated, that is from ‘very gentle’ to ‘mouse-fart’! Still, as small of a change as is indicated by the numbers, its a noticeable decrease. Bear in mind I am riding some pretty big fat and cargo bikes and when starting a bike with a heavy load, a little less is much more.
Also don’t forget no setting is an island unto itself. These things taken together make up a whole, and its that whole that matters.
This has been increased from 4 all the way up to 10. Start Degree is the number of signal points that are crossed (as you turn the crankarms) before pedal assist engages. A full rotation of the crankarms equals 24 signals, so I have kicked up the pedal assist engagement from a 1/6 turn to almost a half-turn.
This comes in handy when I am at a stop light, but I stopped smart, several car lengths back from the actual edge of the intersection. I can then stay in the saddle, balanced with feet on the pedals. I slowly turn the crankarms a bit at a time to maintain my balance and crawl forward. If I do it right, the light turns green before I reach the edge of the intersection, whereupon I can hit the throttle and move forward without having to dismount (and then re-mount) the bike. If I decide not to use throttle and pedal my way out, I’ll need about a half turn to re-engage assist, and when it comes on it will be a very gentle ramp-up in part thanks to the new lesser Start Current above.
I have set this to maximum now, meaning the system pretty much doesn’t want to cut back power as my cadence increases; virtually disabling the cut-back feature from the Basic screen, which conserves power (if you can spin the crankarms superfast, you don’t need assist). This is a setting I will very likely continue to play with. If I set it to the minimum of 1, then the motor will aggressively reduce the provided power as cadence increases. A lower setting is much more in tune with the pedelec ‘philosophy’ which I usually stick to. So don’t be too surprised if you come back in a month and this text has been supplemented with talk of a different, much lower setting.
Why did I change it? Just playing around. I’m leaving it here to illustrate that these settings often interact with one another in some big ways.
The slow start mode – the strength of the initial punch the motor gives out when it fires up – has been turned down a notch to ‘2’ from ‘3’, which was already a low number. I have noticed the bike this is used on has a noticeable, audible clunk when the chain engages the upgraded, 36T internal ratchet mechanism of the DT Swiss 350 steel cassette body. Every time I hear that clunk is a time the hub gets beat on. Even if it was already a reduced amount, I wanted to notch it down further. This is a good thing on a heavy, often-laden cargo bike, and its probably not such a terrible thing for any ebike.
In Version 1 I have this set so that there needs to be just under a half rotation of the cranks before the slow-start of pedal assist engages. When all of the settings are taken in together, it typically means pedal assist doesn’t begin to be felt until the bike crosses a 5 mph speed (If I want assist earlier there is always throttle).
In Version 2, I have reduced this to a 1/6 turn of the crankarms. The idea with all of these settings put together is that assist from the rear motor starts faster – Remember, on this bike the BBSHD is supplemented by a front motor that starts almost instantly from a stop, so the BBSHD is not trying to haul a bike up from zero on its own. On such a big, heavy bike as this cargo bike, some assist from both wheels asap is a good thing. Net result is that with two motors, I can get a good result from pure pedal assist without having to resort to the battery-sucking thing that is hitting the throttle. I start pedaling and the bike sedately glides forward even if its weighing 400+ lbs.
This is a full 180 from Version 1, where Current Decay is set to do as little as possible, meaning the motor is the least likely as it can be to pull power as your cadence increases. Here, it is at its next-most aggressive setting. In part this is informed by the fact that there is a front hub motor (running off the same common battery) that – if faced with a sudden power drop from the rear motor – will still provide forward assist, and in practice that means it will increase wattage as its workload increases. This is part 1 of 2 of this story, with Part 2 being …
Keep Current %
The amount of assist that is retained when Current Decay pulls power back has been reduced to 30%. So the two settings together make it more likely that, as cadence increases, power will be reduced, and the amount of power that will continue to flow has further been reduced by 25% from its previous (fairly low) value.
Got all that? Here’s what the rider feels: Not much. Despite my characterization of these changes as ‘aggressive’, which they are if you just look at the numbers onscreen, reality is the result is muted. We’re using a little less power, which we don’t miss much, and that is going to give us a bump in range. At 20-25 mph, pedaling strong at 60-70 rpm cadence, the BBSHD on flat ground is eating about 200-250w on the typical Assist Level 4 and 225-275w at Level 5. Thats pretty light (power consumption will be more on a bike with just the BBSHD for a motor!)
If you want to have the motor back off when you demonstrate you don’t need it (if you did you couldn’t spin your legs and the crankarms) the Keep Current and Current Decay settings are your go-to’s to making that happen and reducing your power consumption.
The Throttle Screen
There is just one change here, and its along the same lines as what I tinkered with on the Pedal Assist screen
This is the same kind of effect as Start Current on the Pedal Assist screen, only it works when applying throttle. I have halved the initial response the throttle gives down to a 5% delivery.
What’s the actual effect of that? Well, in conjunction with the broadened Start Voltage and End Voltage already in place, setting such a low value lets me feed in a constant 50-100w to the motor. Its important to understand this is not an initial value that increases: This is the initial value that will output continuously at the lowest level of throttle engagement.
Lots of times, I want to engage throttle just a little bit to slowly navigate some delicate or narrow pathway of some kind; especially where pedaling might throw my balance off (remember I could be riding a loaded 500+ lb cargo bike). This lets me do that. It also means when I engage throttle, the thunk of the cassette body engaging itself is no longer a thunk at all.
So not only is the bike more controllable at a low level, no thunk means stuff lives longer!
Yup thats it. At this point in the development of what I like and dislike on a BBSHD setup, I’m down to the last of the fine-tuning.
On the surface, it seems I left a hole in my description of my Surly Big Fat Dummy build. I omitted this episode and thought I was done. In my defense, there are zillions of BBSHD installation tutorials out there, and I have described a BBSHD install myself – on a cargo bike no less – right here in this blog.
However, I haven’t done a writeup geared to THIS bike. Since this blog is dedicated to answering questions that I see asked a lot (and I have seen this one more than a few times), I’ll do something a little more focused on the BFD.
Bear in mind the bike has been in near-daily use for months already. I had to dig thru my archives for pics rather than taking them as I went along. So illustrationwise, there’s not much to see. On the flip side of that, there doesn’t need to be as the Big Fat Dummy is an easy (easy!) build.
Since I have covered this ground elsewhere, I’ll be leaving generic details out, and providing links to related content more so than I will be doing in depth step-by-step instructions.
Get On With It Already!
Yeah, yeah sure … here we go.
Step 1: Buy What You Need
This can be very simple or very involved. Especially if you are a first-timer and don’t know what you need and maybe not even what you want. In my opinion the best motor for the job is a Bafang BBSHD. I typically buy my motors from Luna Cycle, and here is their page for their kit. They may or may not be selling a battery along with that kit. I am using a different source for the pack as you will see further below.
If you buy the kit, you don’t have to worry about buying individual bits, with the exception of needing a speed sensor cable extension, and a proper chainring.
But, lets go over the individual bits. Myself personally, I just buy the bare motor from Luna, and add the parts I need to complete the installation. This lets me use exactly what I want, which is not quite possible if buying the packaged kit. Here are all my parts:
Bare Motor: Purchased from Luna Cycle here. The Surly Big Fat Dummy requires the 100mm sized motor (It will be a perfect fit). if its available you can buy the optional spacer and mounting kit on that page. At the moment, Luna is not selling the 100mm mounting kit – the only difference is some M6 bolts and spacers… you can source that yourself to the correct size if needed. Or just buy the needed parts separately. Go ahead and accept the 46T chainring (aka ‘The Disk of Death’) as its a free throwaway item you would (should) never use. Secondary Source: California Ebike is a reliable alternative and one of my go-to sellers for parts, but their motors cost an additional $100 or so. Here is their BBSHD motor page. Note that Cali Ebike offers users who may need it service after sale. Luna is a better choice for the confident do-it-yourselfer who can diagnose and fix most issues themselves, and save a hundred bucks by taking on that risk.
Motor Mounting Parts:
Triangle Mounting Plate: This is what puts the bite on your bottom bracket to firmly affix the motor. You can buy these plates at Luna Cycle, BafangUSA Direct or Amazon.
M6 bolts, washers, spacers: Needed to affix the Triangle Mounting Plate, these are commonly available. If you work on bikes you probably already have them in the garage. If you buy a mounting kit they may have them but in all cases I recommend you do not use them and instead go out and buy stainless hardware.
Lockrings: I use two inner rings stacked atop one another. If you like, you can buy the more conventional inner and the aesthetically-pleasing outer. More on the reasoning behind the choices below. Buy the rings at Luna Cycle, Bafang USA Direct or Amazon.
Speed Sensor & Cable Extension: You will need the sensor (which integrates a length of cable to plug into the motor), the sensor magnet and an extension thanks to the Surly Big Fat Dummy’s long tail. I have seen builders route the sensor to the front fork but by necessity this puts the sensor inside of the tire rim’s width, which makes for issues taking that tire off. Put it on the back where it belongs and forget about it. I described the sensor in a fair bit of detail here. Don’t mess with multiple magnets unless you feel a need to experiment, but I do provide a link to what I think is a lighter weight, superior magnet that you may want to substitute for the Bafang wheel weight that comes with their sensor. The speed sensors themselves are available in a wide variety of places, cheapest at Luna but also at California Ebike and many other sources. You can get the speed sensor extension anywhere you can find the speed sensor. California Ebike or Bafang USA Direct or many other sources, including Amazon with Prime Delivery. Notice all of the options I linked are different lengths. Measure the gap you have when you are routing your cabling and decide which one you want, accordingly.
A Proper Chainring: I am going to skip most of the detail here and refer you to this blog post on BBSHD chainrings. It was written with the Mongoose Envoy build in mind but the Surly Big Fat Dummy has essentially an identical set of problems and solutions. I will say this: For a combination of mostly street with some mild trail use I settled on the 46T Lekkie Bling Ring, which biases chain line towards the bottom half of the 11 speed cluster. This is the ring that has the most miles on my bike and its the best all-rounder. At the moment I am set up mostly for trails, though, and as such I am running the Luna Eclipse 42T which biases chainline heavily toward the inner half of the rear cluster, giving me the best possible access to the inner cogs.
UPDATE: But I did that anyway. I put on a very small Lekkie 32T ring on the front in anticipation of some very serious trail rides in the Lower Sierras. You can go smaller than a 32T but this ring - which is a little smaller than the secondary housing of the motor - is regarded as a very good sweet spot. A 28T is so small it can contact the motor housing, which is bad. The 32T in conjunction with the biggest rear gears on my rear cluster (46T) can climb anything possible to climb at all on two wheels, while leaving the motor in a good place, power-wise.
Note with a BBSHD, the stock My Other Brother Darryl rims and the stock Edna tires, you may not be fully able to use all cogs simply because chainline will not be acceptable for a 1x drivetrain pumping out 1000 to 1750w. You can do it, but the chainring teeth and maybe the chain will not last very long if you run at either extreme – say… the smallest cog and the Luna chainring. It all depends on your final component choices, so just be aware of the issue and check for it to make sure you don’t have any issues that you need to compensate for when riding.
Two of the pics below show a 130 BCD adapter which really biases chainline to the lower cogs, and is best for the street. Both of these use 48T, 130 BCD chainrings. Even though most of my mileage on this bike is with the 46T Lekkie ring, it doesn’t appear as if I ever took a picture of the bike with the thing installed.
Crankarms: In two of the pictures above you can see I used Lekkie Buzz Bars, and with their forged construction and left offset to correct the misalignment under your saddle that will happen with standard crankarms. Luna Cycle sells a less-expensive clone worth looking at if you can’t handle the price of the Lekkies. As a last resort you can also use the standard Bafang crankarms that are cheap and cheaply made, but good enough for many riders. Make sure you buy BBSHD-specific arms or they will not have the left offset.
Display: I have used many displays and hands down, at the present time the Bafang/Luna 860C is the best out there. It is fully visible in blinding sunlight and can be set to display both real time amp output as well as real time wattage. The Luna version reads battery voltage level accurately up to 60v, meaning it works with 52v batteries. Bafang versions of the 860C may not. There are many other options for a display including a low-visibility-but-clean/low profile EggRider v2. For my money the 860C is worth waiting for if its temporarily out of stock, and its now my go-to for bikes I build.
Throttle: I like the basic el cheapo Bafang universal thumb throttle. Its an easy fit and unobtrusive. If you follow my lead on BBSHD settings for it, its annoyingly short throw will still be well controllable and allow for fine adjustments while riding. Buy it at Luna, California Ebike or Bafang USA Direct.
Main Bus Cable: You have options here. the main bus cable is available in short and long lengths, and there are also extensions available. However nothing fancy is required on the Surly Big Fat Dummy. You can buy this standard one from Luna or many, many other sources. If you opt to use Magura MT5e brakes, California Ebike has a specially modified harness to plug in the red Higo/Julet cutoff connectors the MT5e uses. I am using this bus cable and MT5e’s, myself. NOTE: If you opt to keep the SRAM hydraulic brakes you will not have brake-actuated motor cutoffs. This is no big deal. They’re nice but the stock brakes can overpower the motor in a pinch. If you like, you can invest in some hydraulic cutoff conversions that involve gluing on a magnet to your levers and strapping on some wires. the alternative is a brake upgrade (not a bad thing, but not cheap, either).
Installation tool(s): Using one of the many Bafang-inspired toy wrenches to install a BBSHD is a cruel joke on the inexperienced. You have to use a proper torque wrench and special socket to do the job right, where the motor doesn’t move. I’ll leave the torque wrench choice to you (I use a Wera B2). The socket you need for the inner ring is often out of stock. Buy it here at Luna Cycle or hunt around… its available elsewhere if you look. The tool for the outer ring can either be hand-tightened – if you must – with a stainless steel version of the cheesy Bafang wrench. I bought this one on Amazon so I know it fits. But it is absolutely a sucky solution. Better is to use a 16-notch bottom bracket tool that you can fit onto a torque wrench and do a proper job of applying the manufacturer’s torque spec, written right on that outer ring. Note if you use two inner rings stacked on top of one another like I do you do not need the special outer ring tool.
OK so you have all of your parts for the motor… Time to take things off so you are ready to do the installation. Its a simple list: Remove the crankarms, bottom bracket and chainrings.
You’ll also want to pull off one of your handlebar grips in preparation for installing your throttle. Which one depends on how you want to set up the bars. You will also likely want to loosen up and shift around your brake levers and the remaining rear shifter so your throttle is butted up directly against your hand-grip, rather than the brake being there. this is a bridge you should cross when you come to it, disassembly-wise.
Thats it. You’re ready to install your motor.
Step 3: Install The Motor
Here again I’m not going to get too deep into the specifics of motor installation. I’ve already covered it myself elsewhere for a similar bike, and God knows there are plenty of video and written tutorials out there on the interwebs. However I will note that the 100mm motor is a perfect fit on the Surly Big Fat Dummy, which requires no spacers of any kind. Just put it in like it belongs there and clamp it down tight.
About that clamping part, I will go into that a bit:
I mentioned above that I like to use two inner (gray) lockrings: I stack them atop one another in jam-nut fashion where each is tightened to 100 ft lbs. Thats quite a lot more than the Bafang specification for using just one inner lockring. I am going off of installation advice provided by Luna Cycle – not in their official installation video linked above. At one time there was a supplemental vid made in their shop that discussed their learning experiences assembling their shop bikes. It went hand in hand with the use of a big 1/2″ torque wrench to apply the necessary force, and that wrench in turn used a specially made Luna tool for the lockrings (that sadly is no longer available, although you can see them on the site still). The use of 100 ft lbs and some additional info on it is in the link to the tool above.
I have stuck to that 100 ft lb specification and it has never let me down. I have also added to it by using a second inner lock ring rather than the ‘beauty’ trim ring that is more typically used. The number of threads needed for another inner ring is about the same. You gain the benefit of a serious jam nut holding down the first ring. Also, something we are not doing here but you can see elsewhere: If you are building an AWD bike, the use of two rings lets you mount the front wheel’s PAS ring in between the two.
I do not use the outer trim / beauty ring at all.
Lastly on the subject of lockrings, here’s a technique to tell at a glance whether the rings are loosening or your motor is shifting (or about to): Make a registration line along the frame and the lockrings. If the line ever breaks apart, something is loosening. You can tell with a simple glance down as you are mounting the bike.
Next, I’ll make note of how I did the speed sensor installation, both with the factory SRAM brakes and my later MT5e upgrade.
Using the SRAM Brakes / No Helpers
Attaching a speed sensor on a Surly Big Fat Dummy is not as straightforward as it is on a typical bicycle. In addition to the added distance – addressed with an extension cable – there’s no place to put the thing! The frame is different enough that nothing appears to work – on first glance.
Keep looking! The SRAM brakes that come stock with the bike have a weird sort of tail hanging off the caliper, and this is a handy, if unusual, place to mount the speed sensor.
I first wrapped this tail with a length of 3M mastik tape to enlarge its diameter and give the sensor more to grab onto. Then I simply zip tied it on as if it were a chainstay, and aligned the magnet as usual. These pictures show a dusty bike as they were taken just before I uninstalled the sensor and upgraded the brakes to the Magura MT5e’s.
Using Other Brakes – And a Crutch
For the Maguras, there was no such luck as the calipers have no tails or anything else I could glom onto. So I had to add something: I used a simple small handlebar extension, and built up the frame to a proper larger diameter to mount it by wrapping the frame with gorilla tape, which I then faced with silicone tape to provide a grippy surface for the bar mount. Next, I used more zip ties (!) to clamp the new ‘frame tube’ to the upper part of the Big Fat Dummy’s … superstructure. Once this was done, I had a tube close enough to the spokes to re-mount the speed sensor as shown.
Well, a bunch I suppose if you were looking for a bolt-by-bolt conversion tutorial specific to this one bike. But really, between the other pages already on this site and the links I have given off-world up above, you’ve got everything here that you need to buy – and build – your own.
My previous AWD builds all used effectively the same front wheel setup: A 35a controller mated to a Bafang geared fat motor packing an 80 Nm punch. It was so powerful, on my early commuter bikes I needed to turn down acceleration via a slow-start setting. When I graduated to a combination mid drive+hub, I found best results on rough trails came from the same slow start, but also using the front power sparingly: little if any throttle and gentle PAS.
There things stayed for a few years – roughly from the middle of 2017 to early 2021. During this period I concentrated on riding and refining the use and configuration of these AWD bikes. I built other bikes during this time- all more traditional single-motor mid drives. As part of that work I came up with tuning settings that worked very well with pedaling and a cycling mindset. These changes worked great with the 2Fat AWD bike as well.
With regard to tuning, I concentrated on backing off the BBSHD’s power when delivered in ‘pedelec’ mode: limited use of throttle and pedal assist only. The point of this was to have a bike that did not run away from me, still delivered measurable, useful levels of assist, lacked the common complaints against cadence-type assist and did not suffer from any of the weaknesses of torque-sensing.
When 2021 arrived and I wanted to build a bucket-list bike – the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt cargo bike – I decided to go all out and make it AWD. Further, I wanted to prove a concept I had been mulling over for the last few years. For lack of a better term, lets call it Drama-Free AWD: what a normal person who just wanted a reliable automobile replacement would want to ride.
Its a pretty short list:
Low power High power in a front wheel can be fun, but its not necessary to gain the traction benefits that come with AWD. Use a smaller, lighter, relatively low-powered motor (45 Nm vs. the prior 80 Nm) as part of its design. Also use a smaller controller that peaks at 25 amps rather than the previous 35. Continue to use the slow-start setting to ensure … Drama Free AWD. 25 amps on a smaller diameter wheel will still be a strong assist, but those amps will be rolled on slowly so no surprises.
Fast Wind Front Motor The Bullitt has a 20″ front wheel. A ‘fast wind’ motor favors torque off the starting line at the expense of higher top speed. This is normal for a small wheel build and further solidifies the emphasis on slow, strong startup power that melts away on its own as speed increases.
Toned-Down Rear Motor My revised motor settings keep the BBSHD from engaging until speed goes past 5 mph if I rely on pedal assist. I learned how important that is to drivetrain longevity when I built 2Fat. We’ll re-use those identical settings.
What I Expected
On a bike destined to carry heavy loads, the front motor is intended to get the bike off to a painless start. It does this job very nicely. Despite the relatively low power, it still gets the bike rolling from a stop, and effectively takes out the BBSHD’s shock to the drivetrain when that second motor kicks in at 6 mph.
That reduced sting will translate into reduced wear and tear, and reduced parts replacement over time. Its too early to pull hubs apart and look inside to verify this assumption, but since I have seen and verified the effect before on similar hardware, there’s no reason to assume different results.
It was a short list of things to expect and… it all panned out. But there were also some pleasant surprises. This turned out better than I thought it would.
What Surprised Me
I noted above the motor is ‘fast wind’; built for low-speed torque, not high speed rpms, and how this plays into the smaller front wheel size. Intellectually, thats easy to understand. Less obvious was the fact that, in practice, there will be a lot less motor usage than there was before.
With The Great Pumpkin, I usually run both motors at equal levels (usually full blast) all the time. The bike and flat, straight streets just lend themselves to a high speed cruise. Two identical motors and identical controllers gulping juice from one battery mean a big power drain. No surprise.
With 2Fat, while I reduce power to the front motor, I was often giving the bike hard use on trails. More often than not the bike is fighting its way up a hill, thru a bunch of sand etc.
So even though The Lizzard King is not dramatically different than 2Fat in terms of its configuration, the world it lives in is quite different: level and smooth city streets. Easy acceleration and long periods of the motors spinning fast while running at an efficient cruising speed.
More different still: Off the line, the front motor kicks in slowly and then power melts away as wheel revolutions increase. It pulls strong from zero to about 16 mph. But from 17+, it starts scaling back as the motor approaches its rpm limit. By the time 20 mph rolls around, on typical level 2 assist you are down to about 200 watts of output. By the time you hit 23-24 mph on flat ground, wattage to the front wheel has minimized to a steady… 37 watts. Just enough of a dribble to ease the wheel’s free spin.
If you hit an incline, you’ll slow down a tad and see wattage output creep up again. But rolling down the street on the flats, the front motor takes itself out of the picture. Its time for…
… The rear motor to kick in. As noted, pedal assist does not engage the rear motor until it crosses past 5 mph. So when the front motor is eating the most juice, the rear motor hasn’t even started. As the mid kicks in and spools up, the hub begins making its graceful exit.
The two motors never really run hard together at the same time, unless climbing a hill. Then you can see watts climb on the front rather than fading away. Cruising at an energetic cadence around 24+ mph , you are on the single rear motor, being given a small boost from the front motor (remember those 37 watts?).
With the two motors staying out of each others’ way, this translates to an overall reduction in expected battery drain, consisting of both reduced peak and continuous draws. It gets better though.
The rear BBSHD is also using a lot less power than its siblings in The Pacific Fleet.
At 20 mph, on PAS 2 in the front and maybe PAS 4 or 5 in the back, looking at both displays, I can see 250-300w being output from the rear motor, and another 150-200w being output from the front. 500w or kess are being drawn between the two motors, on a great big cargo bike. All the way up and down the speed curve, watt and amp output for the BBSHD is much less than it is on any of my other bikes.
Not So Fast!
All of this wonderfulness is only true when running under pedal assist. If I mash the rear throttle the BBSHD will, as usual, peg the output gauge until I release. And that means it will burn thru my battery range lickety-split. Not a surprise. There is no free lunch in this world, but if we stay off the throttle we still get a hefty discount.
And I still configured my big single battery (custom-built for this bike) to the usual theoretical limits: A 25a peak front controller and a 30a peak rear controller mean I must have a battery management system with a bare minimum of a 55a continuous rating, and preferably 60 (mine is 70). I would rather not take any chances, but clearly I have a bigger safety margin than I figured on originally.
And despite the capability of the bike, reality is it rides more comfortably around 20 mph. So power consumption is lower still simply because of the type of bike it is. But the big takeaway is its lower power use is lower across the board. It was an unexpected gain in efficiency, but looking back on it, it should not have been. The benefit was hidden by my hard use of the other bikes.
Should a commercial bike be made with this Drama Free AWD kind of approach in mind, a thoughtfully designed system could manage power in such a way as to map out the curves on the individual motors. Develop something that never bumps into the limits of a much more conventional BMS. That makes for a battery system less expensive and easier to source in volume. And a street machine is going to have lower power needs than is generally understood to be the case with an AWD bike.
Lower power means safety for the casual rider, lower cost and smaller battery sizes.
Lower power on a street bike could look like – in the USA at least – dual motors fitted to bikes that still remain legal within both federal manufacturing standards and individual state vehicle codes. A 249w front motor and a 500w rear for example. Or even a 250/350.
Whats the Takeaway?
The fact that I can operate a great big bike like The Lizzard King at power levels well below allowed USA ebike power limits is testimony to the fact that viable, useful AWD can operate well within the legal framework of ebikes in this country.
Just because you have two motors does not mean they both have to be running simultaneously at full blast. Turns out… not doing that can be kind of a big deal.
So, my Gen 1, 1.5 and 3 bike layouts are all twin geared hub designs. What was Gen 2?
750w, 35a geared Bafang G060 front hub motor
30a BBSHD mid drive
52v, 12.5ah rear motor battery in triangle
52v, 12.5ah front motor battery on rack top
Batteries connected in parallel to form a single ‘virtual’ 25ah power source to both motors
KT and Bafang displays
160Nm rear… 80 Nm front (do the math on that one!)
I live part-time in two towns: The first, an extended work visa, is in Fresno California, smack in the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley and flat as a table. I built The Colonel, The Purple Thing and The Great Pumpkin for commuting in Fresno.
After a fashion, I finally was able to get a big enough bike rack on the back of my SUV to bring the Colonel to my actual home in Pacific Grove, California. My house is at the top of the hill there. Unlike in Fresno, nothing in or around the area is flat. You are either going up a steep hill, or down one, or both.
My intention was to be able to use the Colonel like I did in Fresno, as local errand transport and a light duty cargo-shopper. Unfortunately, I found out the first day about the limitations of hub drives: They suck in hills.
Hubs are Single Speed
Hub drives power an ebike via the axle. They don’t – and they can’t – use the gears of the bike. Forcing a single speed hub motor up a hill makes it just as miserable as a human stuck with no gears. So even though I have very powerful hubs, and they were geared hubs that put down the most torque of any on the market… they still struggled. Even with two of them. I could hear the gears groaning inside the motor casings and I could tell that, while I could get up the hills, my motors were not happy about it. I did not want to lug them into an early grave. I had already gone to a lot of trouble to make the bike bulletproof and had no desire to ignore the problem and inevitably kill it.
I Need To Build a New Bike
Everybody knows mid drives are the solution to the hill problem for an ebike. A hub motor is single speed and at least relatively weak on torque, but a mid drive uses the gears in the drivetrain, plus it has double or more the torque output of a hub, and thats before you factor in the multiplier of the gears. Wonderful right? Except mid drive motors – especially DIY builds – are notorious for putting drivetrains into an early grave. Why? Well because they pour a LOT more power through the chainring, chain, rear cluster and cassette body (i.e. “the drivetrain”) than a bicycle was ever meant to withstand.
A normal cyclist can pump out maybe 300 watts for a minute or so, but typically normal sustained – strong – output is about 100 watts.
EU-market electric motors must peak at 250w of output to stay legal (pssst… they don’t).
A 25-amp BBS02 on a 48v system puts out in excess of 1250 watts peak
Your garden variety 30-amp BBSHD running under a 52v battery is peaking – and can sustain – about 1750 watts of output.
That gives some perspective on how much abuse is heaped upon a drivetrain with a mid drive. Coming off the successful builds of The Colonel (v1.0) and the Purple Thing (v1.5), I knew AWD reduced load on the individual motors dramatically when they work together as a team.
Given that, I thought about how I could use a front hub to reduce or eliminate the shock that a mid-drive puts onto the ebike’s drivetrain. Not only would I gain the traction benefits of AWD, and the benefit of reduced load from the team effort – things I already knew were a big positive – the front hub would also, if used in a slightly different way, provide an important added benefit: eliminating all the extra wear and tear that goes with having a mid drive.
If it worked, it would give me a bike with all the original AWD performance benefits, plus the ability to effortlessly climb walls, without tearing the bike up.
SPOILER ALERT: It worked unbelievably well.
In fact this bike is a showcase on how AWD can almost eliminate mid-drive wear and tear. Making a bike that climbs hills and bombs trails really well is almost an afterthought.
So that is what I am going to focus on here in this article. What was built and how was it used?
Briefly, this bike is the Great Pumpkin on the front wheel, and a typical mid-drive installation on the back. In between is the usual extra wiring scattered all over the place to deal with powering two motors, set up dual PAS etc..
The Front Motor
2Fat has another Bafang G060 80Nm front fat motor installed – this time its inside of a custom-built 100mm double-wall Weinmann (branded as an Origin8) rim. Go fat or go home. Attached are the same two torque arms as seen on the Pumpkin’s installation, and once again the controller is sitting in a grommeted handlebar bag that doubles as a wallet/keys/phone holder. It also serves to disguise the uncut steering tube I used to give me a more upright – but not too upright – riding position.
Different from the Pumpkin is the battery setup. This bike was built before the v3.0 Pumpkin came onto this Earth (The Purple Thing had just been born). So, lacking the wherewithal to commission a big custom battery for the triangle, I used two packs, one for each motor. The front motor’s 12ah 52v battery was located in the rack trunk at the back of the bike. I had already learned I did not want to put a battery on the front rack as it made the steering too heavy. The rear motor’s 17.5ah pack was in the triangle.
Additionally, due to the very low standover of 2Fat’s Large sized frame thanks to its top tube (it is a titanium, USA-made Chumba Ursa Major) there is not enough room to plug in a properly big battery in the triangle to handle both motors. So I had to do two batteries and live with the awful choice of putting one on the back rack.
After running the two dissimilar, separate batteries from its initial build in 2017 to March 2021, I switched to two identical, now-parallel’d-together packs in the same locations. Each is 12.5ah (14S6P) with Samsung 25R cells. Each has a 50a continuous BMS. As such, the system has a single 25ah power supply with a BMS capable of handling 100 continuous amps. Considering I can never peak past 65, I’m in great shape. I purchased the packs from Bicycle Motorworks, who builds their packs in the USA and constructs them at time of order.
Running battery packs in parallel should only be done by those who have done the research and know exactly what they are getting into. In this case, both packs are identical, being manufactured to-order together, and have the same charge cycle count. Their voltages were matched before they were joined and there is some additional babysitting that will be necessary for charging and balancing. If you can avoid running packs in parallel and use just one battery: Do that instead.
Using two entirely separate batteries is a kludge and your last resort. Not only will you have to charge them separately, you will also draw down the two batteries separately at different rates which will result in uneven remaining power, lesser range and more frequent recharges.
The Rear Motor
This is pretty much your garden-variety 52v BBSHD installation. It has a couple of nice spiffs in the form of a 42T Lekkie Bling Ring, and Lekkie Buzz Bars, but neither of those things are a requirement of the AWD approach we’re discussing here.
The rear wheel is another matching Weinmann 100mm rim, again with DT Champion 2.0 spokes and 16mm brass nipples. The rear hub is a DT 350 Big Ride, which has sealed cartridge bearings and has been upgraded to a steel cassette body. Additionally a 9-speed Shimano HG400 cluster gives me steel cogs literally welded together into a single cluster, that spreads the enormous torque of the BBSHD across the entire steel cassette body. The DT350’s ratchet engagement mechanism is one of the few known bombproof rear hub mechanisms when faced with the power of the Dark Side 30a BBSHD motor.
A solid rear wheel build with extra strength parts throughout is crucial to a successful mid drive ebike.
The Special Bits
There is a bit more that went into making these motors work together. The complete integration possible on the Pumpkin thanks to the use of identical motors and controllers wouldn’t work here.
Trying to share cutoff signals between the motors again – using adapters for the red-to-yellow connections found on the BBSHD – resulted in bricking both motors. I tried everything to share the signals. It can’t be done unless you are willing to install a second, independent set of hydraulic magnet style cutoffs, zip tied to the integrated MT5e cutoffs and connected via a ‘y’ further down the line. That would work but it would look like crap, for very little benefit over what I ended up doing: I set up the front brake to engage the front motor cutoff, and the rear – with a red-to-yellow HIGO adapter – to cut off the rear motor. Since I always use both levers to do my braking I get an effective result.
PAS for the BBSHD is built into its motor casing, so it just works. PAS for the front motor was another matter entirely. Ordinarily the assist disc and sensor runs on the right-hand, drive side of the bike and hides behind the front chainring. This is not possible with the BBSHD’s secondary gear housing being there instead. So PAS had to be made to work on the left hand side. The KT controller has left-hand PAS sensor installation settings.
What was needed then was a left-hand install. This was quite a bit trickier, since the 120mm motor running in front of 5″ tire-compatible chainstays had zero extra spindle length to mount the disk. Lacking a bottom bracket cup to mount the PAS sensor ring, I set it behind a second inner lockring – I used two inner lock rings stacked like jam nuts rather than the usual inner+outer ring. These doubled inner rings had the secondary benefit of being a more aggressive, solid mounting for the motor.
With the sensor mounted, next I had the sensor ring to deal with. As noted above… there was no length available period for the sensor disk as the crankarms mounted pretty much flush to the bottom bracket.
The eventual solution involved hogging out the center of the PAS sensor disc so it could sit on the inner flange of the Lekkie crankarm instead of the spindle. I prepped the crankarm with… thin strips of thick duct tape so the disk would sit tightly on the flange. It was a bodge but it worked, and with just one improvement since installation in 2017 it has held perfectly. That improvement is a zip tie to help hold the disk steady in position (of course I used a zip tie. We have duct tape in the mix; all thats missing is a zip tie).
Worth noting: I used this identical PAS ring mounting when I built the Lizzard King AWD cargo bike in 2021. Not only did I have enough extra spindle so I did not have to do this surgery on the ring, I also realized I could unscrew and reverse the sensor in its mounting ring. This eliminated the need to use the reverse settings in the display/controller. Since the inset ring was reversed, it was outset now… and that held the sensor closer to the magnets (they work fine inset as seen here, but closer is better).
Here’s where the eagle-eyed may spot a preview of how I ride this bike to soften up the mid drive.
On the right, we have the grip, then the brake lever, followed by the 9-speed shifter. Here again we see a v2.0 feature that v3.0 fixed: A SRAM drivetrain gives us a SRAM, not Shimano shifter. The Shimano shifter needs so much real estate on the grip it is impossible to put a throttle on that side of the handlebars. Look at the cockpit of The Great Pumpkin and the Lizzard King to see how a SRAM shifter solves this and lets me do one throttle per thumb.
Being unable to do that at the time – and believe me I tried EVERY possible combination of throttles. I still have most of them in a box in my garage. I settled on two styles of thumb throttle, side by side on the left, with the innermost throttle being for the hub/front and the outermost for the BBSHD/rear. As for the eagle-eyed part: The front throttle is cocked higher so between that and its longer throw, it is engaged first and when at 100% it follows the natural curve of my thumb. Both throttles can then be at 100% and my hand stays comfortable at WFO.
How To Ride It
At last we get to the point!
I already let the cat out of the bag earlier: The biggest deal associated with this bike is not that it can climb really well (REALLY well). Nor is its ability to handle trails and rotten conditions its star quality.
No, the real point of having a mid drive teamed with a front hub motor is to use that hub motor to take the shock off the drivetrain that mid drives deliver. Do that and you also take away the excess wear and tear on the parts (if we are being fair, a lot of this comes from doofus riders who don’t know what they are doing).
When starting, start with the hub
This is most of the deal right here. Don’t make the mid drive haul the bike up from a dead stop. Its got the torque to do it. But everything takes a beating in the process. The nylon gears inside of the mid drive. The chainring. The poor chain. The suffering cogs. The cassette body being dug into by the cogs. The pawls inside of the cassette body that are straining against the hub. Your ebike hates you for doing this to it.
By using a mid-drive-strong chain, a steel cluster and a steel cassette body with a ratchet engagement mechanism, we harden the drivetrain to be very tolerant of this abuse. Between that and learning how to use a mid drive, wear and tear really isn’t bad at all. Maybe no worse than a quality analog bike used hard. But still… even with the hardened drivetrain it sure would be nice to take things easier.
By using a hub motor to get the bike rolling – even by just a few mph – we accomplish this mission. Using my pedaling-friendly BBSHD programming or something like it, the BBSHD will not kick in on pedaling until the bike crosses about 5 mph. So from a stop, you hit the front throttle for about one full second. That throttle is cocked up a bit higher on 2Fat to make that a natural move. The bike starts up from its dead stop without any strain on the drivetrain since the BBSHD is not even running. Simultaneously, you also start pedaling. This engages the cassette mechanism.
When speed crosses 5 mph, the BBSHD’s pedal assist now kicks in on a drivetrain that is already engaged. There is no longer a risk of having the motor jerk the chain and smash the cluster into engagement. And with this gentle engagement, the motor starts working on a bike that is already moving. So you get the doubled benefit of a lighter effort against all components to get your fat bike off its fat ass. Instead, you get smooth – and strong – acceleration. The lack of lugging the motor has the further benefit of not generating anywhere near as much heat since the motor is no longer running at low rpms for anywhere near as long. And those nylon gears inside the motor are writing you a nice thank-you card.
Rather than using the throttle, you could also just start pedaling. I have set the KT controller to engage PAS as quickly as possible. Combine that with the BBSHD’s controller being told to hang back for the initial startup, and you have a completely thumbs-off solution that implements at a nice gentle pace.
So… It just works.
Or you can force it! Remember with this setup you have two throttles. There’s no law that says if you need it, you can’t jump the gun and either hit the rear throttle early, or hit it so the motor engages harder than it would have in your designated PAS mode. So if you need a little extra push thanks to an XL load of groceries, or a steep hill, you have options at your disposal.
One of the mantras associated with smart mid drive riding is that you always Always ALWAYS freaking downshift the bike when you come to a stop. The LAST thing you want is to lug the motor up from a dead stop because of all the brutality it visits on your chain, your cogs blah blah blah. So that means you remember to downshift one or two… maybe even three times before you come to a stop. When the light turns green you upshift in sequence one gear at a time as you get back up to speed again. Thus as we all understand: you row thru the gears.
Another rule mid drive mavens repeat ad nauseum is – if you have an 11T small rear cog… stay the hell off of it. Its too small to use on a mid drive. It bogs the bejesus out of the motor from a stop, its too small to be able to get up to speed before the sun sets and if thats not bad enough, the teeny cog on even the steel Shimano clusters is alloy and it is not attached like all the others are. Its an individual. So not only do they dig into the cassette body harder, they die fast. Like Really Fast. As in a few hundred miles tops.
Well, on AWD mid drives like 2Fat, you can forget about all that. Because of the powered front hub doing its part (either thru a quick dab of throttle or just letting PAS start the bike), there is no longer a need to shift at a light. You can forget about the whole process. Just leave it and it’ll be fine as if it was a hub motor! In fact the front motor allows the bike to increase its speed so it gets up and goes fast just like a hub motor does.
I found this out within a day of building the bike, and since then learned from experience the 11T cog will last about 1500 miles before it typically cracks (two so far). Thats not so bad for a readily available US$7 part. And if I wanted it to live longer, well it wouldn’t kill me to go up a gear at a light once in a while.
Wrapping It All Up
2Fat itself is not the ideal example of how to execute this concept. It is a product of when it was built and my knowledge level at that time. In the present day, I for sure would not want to build a bike with two batteries, and if I did I would NEVER put one on the back rack. But thats partly the limits of the frame I used. I came within a hair of using a Salsa Blackborow frame kit for this bike until, at the last minute, this titanium beauty fell into my lap for a song… but thats another story.
Next, I wouldn’t use Shimano components thanks to the real estate problems introduced by the shifter. Instead I’d use SRAM components so I could do one throttle per thumb.
Really the Great Pumpkin with its XL size and XL triangle, plus its SRAM shifters – would be ideal here. But them’s the breaks. This is what I’ve got. Boo hoo.
With that said… I did learn as I went along, and in 2021 I returned to dual motor bikes with the Lizzard King, a bike meant to prove a different kind of AWD could be awesome: You don’t need the 80Nm, 35a punch of the Pumpkin’s or 2Fat’s front hub to gain the benefits of AWD. A low power implementation, done a little differently, should be very effective and appeal to a much broader range of everyday, low-speed, low-drama ebike use. And…
This is a common question on BBSHD and BBS02 motors, so I thought I would write up a quick post and describe what can be done, and what I do.
Here’s The Problem
If you shift under power with a BBS02 or BBSHD, you will do so using a LOT more power than your ebike’s drivetrain (chainring, cogs and chain) was ever designed to handle. Shifting while under even a moderate amount of power is a great way to snap your chain and take the Walk Of Shame home. Worse: you can crack or even taco a cog.
Here’s The Solution
Use a gear sensor. Thats not so tough, right? First of all, what is a gear sensor? Its a little box, with a little wheel inside. You run your shift cable thru the little box, in one side and out the other (which means you need to cut and re-section your shift cable housing), with the cable running across the little wheel. When the wheel senses any motion, it sends a signal to your motor that cuts the power for a split second and takes the pain away from your drivetrain when a shift occurs.
Whats Wrong With That?
Nothing, so long as it works. The little wheel inside is mechanical and crud-sensitive. Lots of folks have issues with them not working after rain storms or mud baths. You can solve that by wrapping it somehow to keep the grit out.
Its also not the ONLY way to do the job. Like I said, I had my first BBSHD without one. I learned to shift without needing a gear sensor. By the time I built my second bike, I had that method down pat. So yeah sure the sensor is nice but I have already learned another way, and I have found – even though I have bought sensors and have had them right in front of me during a new build – I don’t feel a need for them.
But I sure as hell have a need for the job they do. Everyone does. So don’t let anyone tell you the problem is not real. Its probably the #1 way to snap a chain on a mid drive bike.
Gear Sensor Alternatives
So there are a number of different ways to do this job. I’ll list the one I use last
Use the brake cutoff as a clutch
Its simple: Squeeze the brake handle just a little bit to engage the brake cutoff. That cuts power to the motor and gets you the same thing a gear sensor does. The trick is to not engage the brakes to any noticeable degree and lose any of that hard-won momentum. Interestingly, Magura MT5e ebike brake levers have a special little hinge in the middle of the lever. It lets you do this more easily without engaging the actual brakes.
Thats nice, assuming everything works. If you are a little jumpy, or the bike is bouncing along a trail or something, then that delicate caress on the brake lever might be a little more than you figured and … well, you get it. We live in an imperfect world. But this method still works pretty good.
Use a cutoff button on the handlebars
This is definitely not a common solution, but it does work, and is what I used on BBSHD Bike #1 until I gave up on it and perfected the method I describe next.
What is it? Its just a dead-man switch on the bars. Press it and for as long as you hold it, the motor is cut off. Release it and the motor re-engages. Its a brake cutoff that has no brake pads. The other end of the switch has a yellow Higo/Julet that connects directly to the BBSHD’s motor cutoff plug.
In practice, I found it took too much thinking to reach for the button just prior to a shift. It felt forced and I didn’t take to it. Maybe you will and if so its a dirt cheap and simple method to try that doesn’t involve screwing around with your shift cables.
Adapt your pedal cadence
This is the method I settled on, and even after buying and successfully using a gear sensor, I have never felt a need to install another one. This method is just a natural part of my riding style now and is trained into muscle memory… so I do it naturally and automatically on any bike no matter what. Here’s what I do, in order. These steps occur in very rapid succession so making a shift happen occurs in about one to 1 1/2 seconds.
Step 1: Stop pedaling.
Step 2: Click the shift (just one gear).
Step 3: Start pedaling. Muscle power completes the shift before the motor kicks in
Thats it. Do it fast and its just a quick stutter in your cadence. Changing your BBSxx settings so they are friendly to pedaling helps. The linked settings will cut the motor off fast and start it back up soft. Perfect for completing a shift.
When you get good at this, you will be able to click your shift a hair before the motor stops the rotation of the chainring. My more recent builds use SRAM 11 speed drivetrains that need only about 1/4 of a cog revolution to complete a shift. So if I do it right, I click while there is still a ghost of rotation left that makes the shift, so when I start pedaling again I’m already working with a shifted gearset.
Don’t try and get fancy right out of the gate. Just keep it simple and get the shift done. The high speed fancy stuff will come naturally as you gain experience.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with a gear sensor. They do their job. I just learned how to do without one. Having done that, I don’t feel a need to make the effort to install the sensors anymore.
In an ideal world, you do both. Truth be told I screw up every now and then. With the cadence technique and the sensor backing it up, you are pretty much guaranteed to never snap a chain thanks to shifting like a fathead.