I installed one of Johnny Nerdout’s Bafang 1000W Mid-drive kits on my 2010 Gary Fisher Cobia 29er hardtail. Back in 2010, it was the first bike I owned which actually fit me. I purchased the 52V 17.5 aH “Super Shark” battery, mechanical e-cutoff brake levers, speed sensor, gearshift sensor, and the P850c controller. The biggest negative impact on my bike was the weight of the mid-drive and battery. It changed the dynamics of the bike, so it is more of a cruiser/for fun bike now. I wouldn’t want to do anything really hairy on it, but I don’t really do that type of thing anymore. The only other negative I found was, the potential financial impact. It takes a bit of trial and error to find the things you want or need to use to make the bike functional. It’s to be expected, but it’s really hard to be satisfied with some of the basic kit. What you end up needing just to get on the road really depends on the bike.
I wouldn’t be sort of adult if I didn’t put a word of warning out there. These things make your bike do stuff you’re not used to. You can go 25 mph without breaking a sweat. You can get to that speed really quickly, and it can be sustained for a long time. You can go faster. It’s truly something you need to respect. If you ride dangerously in public and hurt a Karin or upset a cranky Chad who’s having a bad day, and you could be the final straw that ruins it for all of us ebikers. Every ebiker would be allowed to give you (1) wedgie for the rest of your life. Don’t get me wrong though, you have to put the hammer down on these things. It’s your duty, your responsibility, and it’s part of the fun.
In my build, I had a 73mm bottom bracket and turned out some really wide chain stays. It made it necessary to use (3) of Johnny’s 2.5mm shims to get the clearance I needed from the chain stays for the motor housing on the bottom bracket. That many shims made it difficult to shift on to the lowest gears (biggest sprockets in the rear cassette.) I ended up purchasing a front sprocket with a larger offset to help improve the chain line. I also needed to purchase a different type of nut to mount the motor on the bottom bracket. The (3) shims and the 73mm bottom bracket made it so I wouldn’t be able to use the factory Bafang motor locknut and lockring. There weren’t enough threads left on the motor to tighten the Bafang lockring at all. The final parts purchase was an assortment of lengths of M6 bolts for the little Bafang bracket which goes over the bottom bracket and helps lock the motor in place. I wasn’t sure which length would be best. I ended up using a 22mm bolt there, but yours may differ. The motor shims pushed the drive side of the motor outward more than the M6 bolts that came with the kit would allow for. So (1) 42T Lekkie Bling Ring and (1) Lekkie Onenut, and an assortment of different length M6 screws from Home Depot later, I had what I needed to ride. While looking at the required Lekkie products, I grabbed some 170mm buzzbars to complete the look. The additional purchase also provided the gift of that sweet sweet Q-factor. If you end up going for Lekkie parts, Phil over there at Lekkie will treat you right. When it was all said and done, my best gears now are 3-9. Gears 1 and 2 are too far in for me to get a solid chain line on them. They work, but I usually start out in gear 3 now. I’m probably going to end up making a 6 or 7 gear cassette, so I can get the best gears for the bike in the best alignment with the front sprocket. I’ll probably do gears 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9. I’m thinking I’m going to get a new rear wheel too, and I’ll do the 6 speed thing on it. My rims now are circa 2010. I think a nice modern wheel that can take the weight of me and this ginormous battery is in order.
I bought the P850c controller with my kit. I liked it. It was easy to read and had good information on it. In the long run it was too big on the handlebars for my liking, so I ended up purchasing an EggRider controller. It’s definitely superior if you have good eyesight. It’s hard to read when you’re jiggling all over even with good eyesight. In all honesty though, if you’re jiggling that much you probably don’t care what it says on the controller screen at that time. You can also link the app to your phone while you ride and get real time info on your phone. That way you can see whatever you want on your huge phone. It gives you the ability to change the settings on your motor whenever you want via your phone’s Bluetooth instead of needing to plug in with the USB cable and laptop.
I kept the manual brakes which were original to the bike and swapped out the original brake levers with the Bafang motor cut-off version. I wish the Bafang levers were nicer. They’re whole hand brake levers, and I can’t position them to operate with one or 2 fingers on the right side because the levers have a lock nut on the bottom of them that bumps into my derailleur shifter. It pushes my shift levers too far away from where my thumb is. No matter which order they go on the bars (brake/shifter vs. shifter /brake) I would have to take my hand off the grip to shift. So, for now I use all 4 fingers to pull the brake lever on the right side (rear brake). Another small sacrifice to the change in the bike.
There were a few things I changed because it seemed like the right thing to do, here’s the list: My original bars were flat and 600mm. I barely had enough room of all the doo-dads that get mounted up there. The original stem was 110mm @ 10 degrees. My human neck (not my bike) has a tendency to get a nice crick in it if I spend too much time mountain biking. I bought a 90mm @ 45 degree stem, and a set of 760mm handlebars with a 40mm rise. The bike took a hard hit on looks with those changes, but I’ve done a couple 20 mile rides in much more comfort, fun, and speed than ever before. I also decided to get some lights. For my needs, it ended up being rechargeable front and tail lights from Olight.
The coolest thing I added to the build was to modify a saddlebag to house the excess wiring and keep it out of the elements. It really cleans up the cabling mess quite well. To do it, I added (2) 5/8 grommets to a bike bag I purchased off the internet. The system I used allowed for one side saddlebag to be used for the wiring bundle and the other side of the saddlebag could be used for your keys or other items you may want close at hand during your ride. I have an under-seat bag for bike tools. You can still easily get to your motor’s wiring connectors for programming or whatever.
I’m a large person. 6’ 5”, 220-230 lbs. It took a couple rides to dial in the peddle assist and controller settings. There are some good threads and videos describing what each of the Bafang motor settings does. It’s something that I didn’t want to spend any time on learning, but I’m glad I did. Now the bike acts like I expect it to. I found my preferences were different than a lot of what the other people said about their preferences. For example, I like having almost a full rotation of my crank before the motor kicks in on peddle assist. It allows me some room to situate my cranks the way I want them without the motor kicking in and making you go faster. Depending on which peddle assist you have it in, that added boost can send you flying. My buddy likes it just the opposite. I also like that room on the rotation of the crank for when I am stopped. It keeps you from accidentally triggering your motor to start while you’re not ready to ride. Once I figured out how the changes in settings affected my bike, with my weight, this thing put a serious smile on my face. I mostly had to figure out how much current I needed to move me at the rates I wanted it to go. Once I had it in PA 9, it literally made me laugh after going throttle only up to 34 mph down the road in front of my house. It’s so freaking fun. If you’ve ever wanted to do this, I can’t encourage you enough to do it. It’s what you hope it will be. If you can’t have fun on one of these, you are probably a little dead inside or maybe even full zombie. If you’ve ever been riding your MTB before and thought, “I wish I could go this fast and not have to peddle.” You can do it. You can set it up so you can top out at any speed you want. You can also set it so you continue to get peddle assist until you run out of ability to peddle fast enough. If you want, you can sit there and cruise with the throttle only, and you can go fast. It’s amazing. Right now, my controller settings have (5) PA levels of “road” with 50% of max motor power and 4 levels of unlimited trail power. I call it the town and country profile. You’ll be surprised how much kick 50% power will give you. It also helps you appreciate PA 6,7,8,9. At PA 5, I can go up most any hill easily, but I top out at about 20-23 mph. If I was coming up to a big hill, I would switch it to a higher PA, probably 7 or 8. In PA 1 it’s basically like riding a normal bike. Just enough juice to make up for the additional weight. PA 2 is top speed of 7-8 mph but a little more PA juice. PA 3 is smooth sailing, cruise at like 15-17 mph with little to no effort. The cool thing for me is setting it up so I can Sunday cruise with the best of them or take it for a good rip without having to change any programming.
These things are quiet. You can basically only hear the tires, maybe a little chain sound in the lowest gears if your chain line needs work, and the wind noise you generate from your speed. You’ll sneak up on other riders or squirrels and chipmunks often. If you’re on roads, cars are going to sneak up on you at higher speeds than normal. You’re not going to hear them coming up on you as well as normal because the wind noise is higher than you’re used to.
The YouTube videos Johnny has made really do cover what you need to know. He is shooting you straight. I would recommend buying the Bafang locknut and lockring sockets. It’s worth it, I promise. The ones I purchased have ½ drive, but they are sold in 3/8 drive too. If you have a torque wrench, make sure the sockets you buy will be usable on it. You can do your build with the Bafang wrench that Johnny gives us in the kit, but the sockets are superior. If you get a Lekkie Onenut for your motor you only have to buy the Bafang lockring socket to tighten down your motor. I have seen a couple of youtube videos of people who are reportedly ebike mechanics. They said that if you tighten the motor nut too much you can put some stress on the stem of the motor and wear out the bearings prematurely. The vids I watched seemed legit. They weren’t selling anything. It looked like they were trying to help people like us. I have seen recommendations of 80 and 100 units of torque. I’m not sure if those numbers are in newton-meters, inch-pounds, or foot-pounds. I don’t have a torque wrench, so I tried the tighten it (but not too much) method. It was universally stated in those videos that the manufacturer’s suggested torque of 60 units is too low. I would also make sure you have a way to program the controller. The factory settings are not very good, and I pretty much guarantee you will want to adjust them to your liking.
If you get the EggRider Controller, you get Bluetooth connection from your phone. It has some cool features and there’s some “advanced” settings that are too advanced for average people to know what they do. I’m talking a minimum of 10 hours of youtube or internet “research” to figure out what they are talking about. Someone out there knows what they do, and maybe it will make their bike the greatest little torquer there ever was. I haven’t been able to figure out a way to load settings from a file on Eggrider’s Bluetooth interface. I briefly looked for how to do it, but it didn’t stand out to me. It’s easy to tweak the settings however you want, on the go. It can read/write too. There’s another phone app called Speeed. Which you can use an USB-C to USB-A converter with your phone to connect the Bafang USB programming cable. I used the app on my bike, and it was better than having to use my laptop. You can create settings files, save/load them from folders on your phone, and Read/Write/Save-as. It’s pretty capable. Finally, my last bit of advice for the advanced user, I would keep track of the sticker kit you receive with your order, and make sure you place one or 2 of them in a prominent spot on the bike. I placed one on the battery case and one on the bottom of the motor. If there are ever any questions, you can show them the sticker, and all your problems will be over. Stickers are official.
I don’t know if any of you have priced out a top-of-the-line eMTB lately? They’re works of art. You’ll still want one after you build this bike. Having the ability to purchase high capacity batteries, throttle only and PA, have on road / off road speed settings, and set your motor’s controller settings exactly how you want them was the only option for me.