electric bike manufacturers

Although last time I was in LA I swore I was never ever going back, here I am again at the Lunacycle HQ spending several hours a day sitting in traffic. How do people live like this? No wonder ebikes are so popular here in Southern California. People can get an ebike and commute on the bike paths along the ocean and avoid the traffic completely. If I lived here I’m sure I would do the same.electric bike manufacturers

I got my hands on one of the first prototype of Bafang’s 1000W Max Ultra Torque sensing mid drives and I was able to ride it around for a few days in the horrendous LA traffic and on some light trails and grass using my 52v GA Shark pack. This article is about my first impressions of this drive and why I think they still have a way to go to get to the level of refinement of the BBSxx series mid-drives.electric bike manufacturers

The first thing you notice about the Max Ultra is that it is heavy, too heavy (11.7lbs). The 350W torque sensing Bosch and Yahama mid drives are built out of very thin aluminum and lots of plastic gears. The Max Ultra is a monster and it has a much too thick cast aluminum case. I’ve noticed that designing the mid drives with much too thick cases is a problem you see with the BBS02 and BBSHD as well. I’m not sure if Bafang just doesn’t care about the weight or is worried about people smashing open the drive unit by beating it on logs and rocks. I doubt you will be able to crack this case no matter how hard you smash it on a log pile.electric bike manufacturers

The power delivery was smooth and stopped as soon as you stopped pedaling. The feeling of riding this drive unit was almost identical to what you feel when riding a BBS02 properly programmed with Karl’s Special Sauce. The only difference was that you didn’t have to push really hard to get the bike moving initially, when you press on the pedals, it just goes. This helps you feel more like a superman and that the bike is just an extension of your body rather than an electric motor helping you out. I preferred the ‘feel’ of the Max Ultra to the BBS02 but the unit’s benefits are outweighed by the massive weight of the drive unit. I have been told that the prototype is heavier than the production model is going to be. The unit I tested was programmed for 18 amps, although I have no idea what the production amp limit will be. If you can run a 60v pack on an 18 amp drive unit that levels out to about 1080 Watts so there is a good chance that the production unit will still only run at 18 Amps.electric bike manufacturers

All the connectors for the Ultra Max seem to be compatible with the BBSxx series so you can swap around displays, throttles, and ebike cutoffs as much as you want. The thumb throttle is a nice addition that is missing from a lot of low power mid drives like the Bosch. I appreciated having the throttle although I have to admit I never used it. The Max Ultra prototype had a DPC-10 display with 5 power levels which is my least favorite of the BBSxx displays. I hope that you will be able to get the Max Ultra with the DPC-14 color display when it comes out.electric bike manufacturers

At one point when testing the Ultra Max I had gotten off the bike and was pushing it along while walking alongside it and the bike just took off on its own. I was able to get the bike back under control again but every time I pushed it the bike would take off. The pedals were not turning when I pushed the bike so I don’t know how or why this was happening, but after cycling the power I could never get that behavior to repeat. To be fair I was riding an old prototype and I’m hopeful that the bugs will be worked out of the system before it hits the shelves.electric bike manufacturers

At one point the chain came off the front ring and it was a real pain to get it back on. I would say make sure to turn off the drive unit when replacing thrown chains, as you don’t know what the torque sensing mid drive is going to do when you’re yanking its chain. It would suck to get your fingers chewed off by the chainring because you were sloppy. The bike is also sensitive to pedal pressure. If you accidentally press on the pedal without meaning to, it will work like accidently tapping the throttle and the bike will just take off. I think that from a safety standpoint this is an issue that does cause me a little bit of concern.electric bike manufacturers

Would I recommend the Ultra Max for public consumption? The prototype I rode had a lot going for it. The biggest problem I found was the weight and the need for a custom bike frame. I liked the torque sensing capability, but having to have a custom frame to mount the drive unit on is a huge drawback as most people who are really into bikes already have a pretty expensive frame that they probably don’t want to just strip off and throw away. I guess the big questions will be how much will it cost when it comes out, will I be able to program it myself, and will we be able to hook it up to 60 or 72v packs and have it work without blowing mosfets, or will the HVC prevent that from happening? Time will tell, but make no mistake, this will certainly be the first torque-sensing mid drive in my sizable ebike fleet. I’ll write more once I get my paws on a production unit. Stay tuned.electric bike manufacturers

Ride On.

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