Bafang BBSHD (1000 Watt Mid-drive Electric Bike Conversion)—First Impressions.
Through the years mid-drive motors have been just a little unwieldy and complicated. Bafang helped to change all that with a slide-in unit that fits many bikes. Offered in a variety of power levels, it seems they were never enough. For me, 500 pulsing watts can handle every riding situation, 750 is fun, but overkill. Do we need 1000? We must, because that is what is coming out soon. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a prototype fresh from Interbike just last week and put it to the 24 hour test.
So you know as we proceed, I am not the biggest fan of mid-drive electric bikes. Sure I’ve ridden plenty, and even decided to use one on my latest project, the ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD. I will be sure to offer my 2 cents on the subject on these pages soon, and I think we have all seen many don’t share my feelings when it comes to electric bike power units. Just wandering the halls at Interbike tells you that the makers of conversions and ready-to-ride E-bikes are ramping up the mid-drive options at a 1000 watt pace. We must want them, or they wouldn’t make them.
The test unit I got was already mounted-up on a unfamiliar (to me) fat-tire street / mountain bike. The sad truth here is that whoever did the install was either in a big hurry or lacked a attention to detail that is needed for any conversion, much less a high-powered one. It was a Interbike demo bike that many had ridden there and must have worked ok, but it wouldn’t run when I picked it up. That was a simple fix, and I took care of the enough issues to do the test, yet there were several I left unattended. The video I posted turned into a “Don’t be this guy” when you do a conversion. The one thing I didn’t mention in it is how much I fight against non-flush cut tie straps (the link to the video is below).
You want performance info first, I want to talk about the programming instead. It was set different than most I ride, and for this unit I thought it was good. Normal settings you can deal with involve wheel size, mph / kph choice, and max speed limitations. If you go deeper there is much more at hand. I ridden ones with 9 pas power level settings (too many) and most (like this one) are set to 5. You can chose if the throttle gets full juice regardless of the pas level, or to match the pas power level. This was set the opposite, where the throttle would get double the power than available in any pas level.
One thing I thought was interesting but probably wrong was the max speed of the motor. There are internal reduction gears, yet this power unit can really spin some revs. Maybe hard to explain, I will do my best. On the whole, the best way to keep the heat of one of this mid-drives in check under heavy loads (climbing) is to keep the bike in the lowest gear possible so you are spinning the pedals at your max speed. Here is what I found in this respect on level ground.
I set the bike in low gear and found that my pedal speed matched about ⅓ throttle. From there if I powered up to full, the bike would maybe triple that speed with some crazy rpms. In fact I do believe the power and speed of the motor was taking the bike to the 20 mph (limit?). BTW, the speed pick-up in 1st gear was eye-opening. Seeing that this bike could do all you need in 1st gear, I think you can get a feel for what happens when you use the others. The speedo was set to kph and I could tell the fat-tires were throwing off the readings anyway, but here is what I experienced at the display’s number board.
I powered up and down the big hill (about ½ the grade of the steepest hills I’ve seen) by my house several times. I am going as much by what I felt as by the numbers, I saw 65 on the clock going down (and it was still accelerating). If the speedo was right, that would be about 40. It felt like 45 and was probably more judging by the speedo check I did with a couple other bikes I have. Coming back up with fairly easy pedaling I was at about 30 ( I felt). Compared to other bikes I’ve ridden, the acceleration and speed match what you would expect from a 1000 watt 48 volt mid-drive.
In some ways I felt this Bafang was overpowering what this bike should be handling. I could feel flex in the rear end and found no loose spokes or fasteners. Part of that could be the tires themselves, it was hard to tell. What is true, for this bike and many like it, it wasn’t designed for the kind of power and speed you will experience with this 1000 watt conversion or ones like it. That is just the way it is, and if you are thinking big power, keep that in mind.
Although there are many that offer Bafang products, I am of the mind that when it comes to the Bafang mid-drive, you are best to go with the eRAD version from Lectric Cycles. They have worked directly with the factory to get these perfected and to match America’s needs. The stories of issues with straight from China units flow like water and if you get one that way you have no one to help you with any problems, accesories, or the install. Plus they have the gear sensor to offer a throttle interrupt, something you will definitely need with this much power going through your drivetrain. Lectric Cycles has a pair of running demo bikes you can try if you are in their part of town. (In fact I am sure they will be bringing one to my next E-bike seminar).
The noise level of this electric bike conversion motor was on par with the other Bafang mid-drives I have ridden. Not silent of course, yet not objectionable either. The install should be easy, but make sure to put it on a quality and strong donor bike. If the programming it had is the default, go with it. It did help to tame the power well. And make sure to match it up with a battery that can handle the needed flow of amps, you’ll need it.
Going mid-drive? Here is one worth looking into. Remember, you will have to wait a couple months though. Turbo Bob.
“Bicycles are as almost as good as guitars for meeting girls’”—Bob Weir, Grateful Dead.
The walkaround video
The riding video
A small group ride video