The Blacktrail BT-01 is a high end electric bike that was announced in late 2010 by PG Bikes, and it’s made from carbon fiber in a high-tech stylish design with no suspension. It uses a 17-Ah LiFePO4 battery, a clean mobile drive system and a myriad of high end mystery components. (PG Bikes does not divulge much about their E-bikes) This article will attempt to demystify the make up of the Blacktrail. The electric bike’s price was announced to be $80,000 which generated a lot of media interest as the most expensive electric bike on the planet. In fact, it made it to #1 on our top 10 list of most expensive electric bikes.
Until now no electric bike website has bothered to put together a complete write-up and break down of what the Blacktrail consists of in terms of components. If you research the Blacktrail, what you get is a bunch of company released studio pictures and dramatic performance claims with no real explanation of what this bike is. The price tag is just an instant show stopper, and is so staggering that most readers do not get past that. ”Who would spend $80K on a bike?” Of course this bike is very expensive and is marketed towards a segment of the population with money to burn, but it is also a fascinating creation that is fun to drool over and examine. Much can be learned by the PG effort on the BlackTrail.
This bike deserves more than the regurgitated marketing hype and picturesque photos. This is one of the largest efforts, commercial or private to build an amazing electric bike, and is a true artistic creation. According to one interview, the founder of Blacktrail, Manuel Oster, claimed that 500,000 euros was spent on the development of this bike. Says Manuel: “The tough thing about developing the Blacktrail is we wanted to top everything on the electric bike market not just the speed but also the safety features all the way down to the aluminum and alloy screws, we wanted to say that every screw and every cable on this vehicle out performs everything on the market.”
The creation of this E-bike was a collaboration of 3 German companies, each very respected in their fields; PG Bikes, Clean Mobile and UB Composites.
The Marketing Hype
Regardless of how many Blacktrails ever sold, it generated a lot of free media attention for its parent company PG Bikes. PG Bikes wasted a lot of this coverage on grossly exaggerated performance numbers which may have ended up hurting their reputation more than helping. The company claims a 120-150 mile Blactrail range. The company also claimed 65-MPH top speed…another highly dubious claim. (see our article on bikes with real 65mph top speeds)
Because the company started off right from the outset with far-out claims like these its easy to doubt the rest of their claims: 667 built, 41 already sold in the United States, and a 40 pound total weight (half of that is battery). Nonetheless, this bike with its components (which we will examine here) is capable of some amazing performance, although probably not the miracle numbers the company claims.
Components that Make up the Blacktrail
Clean Mobile Drive System
Most electric motors spin way too fast too use in an electric bike application. Clean Mobile is a small German company that builds an exquisite mid-drive system for electric bikes that acts as a gear reduction, and translates the power of a small electric motor into the bottom bracket. Other notable bikes that use the clean mobile system are the Audi electric bike, the Espire electric bike and the KTM Egnition. Each Clean Mobile drive system is custom designed for each specific E-bike.
Usually, a Clean Mobile system allows the rider to share the same pedal gears as the motor, a huge advantage in efficiency and performance for the E-bike. In the case of the Blacktrail they have chosen aesthetics over function and strangely it is a single speed bike. More on that design blunder later. Lets get back to the sweet nectar that is the Clean Mobile drive system.
Recently an owner of a lower-end PG Bike disassembled his Clean Mobile drive system to see what is inside and photographed the results. These are some interesting photos for E-bike nuts such as myself:
PG Bikes: Expensive Replacement Components
If you throw down a pile of cash for a PG electric bike, be prepared to crank out even more cash when it comes to buying replacement parts.
The person who posted the pics above got a used PG electric bike at a decent price. However he needed a replacement battery and charger for that bike. He called PG bikes to get a price quote:
1700-euro ($2136) for the charger, and 2500-euro ($3142) for the battery. $5250 for battery and charger. Yowsers! Luckily he was knowledgeable enough to build his own battery pack and not rely on PG proprietary components.
What if you want an extra set of wheels? How about $12,000. Better not break one of those rims!
Wanna know how easy it would be to need some replacement carbon fiber pieces…check out this next video of a Blacktrail wreck:
Blacktrail Factory Video:
The following video in German gives many clues to the components used on the Blacktrail:
Which motor does the Blacktrail use?
PG Bikes says they sell different motor controller options depending on which Blacktrail you buy. They have one version which has a top speed of 30-MPH with a 1.2-kW motor that must be registered as a moped in Germany, and the ultra powerful version which is supposedly capable of 65-MPH with a 3.5-kW motor and must be registered in Germany as a motorcycle (in spite of having pedals). More than likely if you go into the $80,000 deal with your eyes closed you will get a 1,200 watt CPM motor. This would give you a 30-MPH bicycle at this wattage (1-1/2 horsepower).
However in a factory video you can see a Blacktrail being outfit with a very powerful Plettenberg Predator motor with a custom fan cooling system. This undoubtedly is the “lawbreakers” version. This motor uses the very small, very powerful, and very expensive German RC controller, made by Schulze. If you do throw down the cash for this bike, this is the motor/controller combo you should request….if you’re paying $80,000 you might as well get the thing with an impressive power-plant and the capacity to give you an ear to ear E-bike grin for your hard earned suitcase full of cash.
Plettenberg predator motor
In the Black trail factory video at minute mark 2:20 you see the Plettenberg Predator 25/8 being outfitted into a Clean Mobile drive system.
The Blacktrail uses a LiFePO4 17-Ah 48V battery (816 watt hours) in a fancy leather case. It makes up half the weight of the bike (20lbs) It’s interesting that PG Bikes chose LiFePO4 instead of much more power-dense LiPo technology. At this price you would expect Samsung or Panasonic high-power LiPo cells which offer higher power output, lighter weight, and lower volume.
Although no one has yet pulled apart a Blacktrail battery pack to see which LiFePO4 cells it consists of, we can assume it is using a123 cells, either soft cell or hard cylindrical cells. a123 cells are one of the few LiFePO4 cells capable of putting out tremendous discharge, enough to power a Plettenberg Predator motor at enough wattage to even come close the 65-MPH claimed top speed.
Carbon Fiber Frame
To pull off the exquisite design of the Blacktrail, PG Bikes teamed with UB Composites, a leading German manufacturer in the world of F1 formula car body production. In the picture above you can see a carbon fiber mold, and some carbon fiber cloth starting its journey to become a Blacktrail frame. This is not an easy or cheap process but results in a frame that is lightweight, strong and uniquely beautiful. PG Bikes claims that their bikes weighs only 40 pounds with battery pack, and if this is true, this electric bike is a truly amazing achievement. PG Bikes is the first company to build a purpose-built frame from carbon fiber and deserves to be commended for this remarkable effort. The carbon fiber frame is the most impressive feature of the Blacktrail bike. PG bikes has recently released much less expensive electric bikes also made in carbon fiber.
Choice to use no suspension
The Blacktrail uses no suspension, a design choice that is often criticized by E-bike geeks. Instead of choosing mountain bike forks which would have been far easier and cheaper for PG, they use a rigid custom carbon fiber front fork. This really adds to the beauty and unique appearance of the bike which has seemed to be the creators vision all along. This bike is all about aesthetics, and the rigid frame has a clean look that a suspension bike would not have. Also this bike was designed to be ridden on the pavement only, so its questionable how much a suspension would add to the ride quality especially at low speeds.
Carbon Fiber rims.
Just the wheel set for this bike costs over $12,000. PG bikes claims this is the strongest set of lightweight wheels ever developed for a bicycle and is made up of all carbon fiber.
Custom Schwalbe tires
PG bikes claims the Blacktrail uses tires that were made just for them. These tires are nice, and look ideal for a 50-MPH street racer. Since we have not seen these Schwalbe tires on any other electric bike, we can assume they were made specifically for PG bikes.
PG bikes claims in their Bob Harold video (see below) that the Blacktrail uses “vented brakes from Porsche”. This is probably a piece of marketing fabrication once again, a real shame to use on a bike with such merit. Porsche has been known to whore out their name on many different products like sunglasses, luggage, and watches…so maybe they did stick their name on the Hope Tech V2 brakes which looks like the Blacktrail brake system based on the pictures.
This bike appears to be a single-speed from all the pictures and videos we have seen. This is a real travesty since the biggest advantage of the Clean Mobile drive system is to allow the rider and motor to share the same drive train, and be able to use the bicycles transmission. This is what gives mid-drives such as the Clean Mobile such incredible efficiency (read our article on mid drives here). Because of the fancy Blacktrail carbon fiber rims, an IGH like the Rohloff is impossible (read our story on the Rohloff here). And it seems that the common and unsightly derailleurs were not in the plan for the designers of the Blacktrail. Unfortunately this would be a deal breaker for me. Having a single speed on a mid-drive is a serious waste of technology. PG bikes would have done much better with traditional wheels and a Rohloff and have 14 gears, rather than have a single gear and expensive carbon rims whose only purpose is to look pretty.
Integrated LCD dash
The Blacktrail has a OLED display beautifully built into the top tube. Unlike most other electric bikes which use some kind of clumsy and ugly device bolted onto the handlebars, the Blacktrail does it right. From what we can tell this is an android OLED screen phone with custom programmed software. The android device offers the following information: Battery status, Charging Cycles status, Speed indicator, Administration Tool for individual motor, engine, and power management.
When you put it all together this is how the front handlebars look from riders perspective…notice all the amazing details and custom carbon fiber work. Honestly I have never seen a handlebar set up that is this impressive on any bike, motor or pedal.
Attention to Detail
The Blacktrail bike mixes beautiful styling with thoroughly well thought out details. Here are some examples:
Leather: The same leather that is used to encase the battery pack, is also used as the cover of the high quality Brooks saddle (read our review on e-bike seats here), on the hand grips, the lining the handcuff style lock, and even on the valve stems. This small detail on the valve stems has wowed many reporters, and has been pointed out by many, including Jay Leno in his feature video of the Blacktrail.
Rear and Front Lights:
Also in Jay Leno’s video, you can see he points out the slick rear lights. Unlike most bicycle rear lights, these become brake-lights when they are activated by the brake handles. This is a nice touch which has also attracted a lot of reporters love and attention. The lights have 2 different brightness modes, brake mode for riding fast in traffic during the day, and tail light for riding as a bicycle at night.
Here is the Jay Leno review in its entirety: http://www.jaylenosgarage.com/video/pg-bikes-blacktrail-electric-bicycle/1243504/
The Blacktrail also has custom front lights which are tied into the E-bike’s main battery (just like the back lights). That’s a good thing, because changing out AA batteries on the headlamp of a $80,000 bike would really suck.
Individually numbered in style
Each Blacktrail bike is engraved with its serial number in a flashy way. The 667 is the number that Blacktrail claims that the production run is limited to.
Like all Clean Mobile bikes, the Blacktrail has done an excellent job of hiding the electrical wiring. The Clean Mobile system is perfectly integrated into the frame, and all control and battery wires are run through the frame as they should be in a ultra high quality electric bike.
Did the Blacktrail make it to Production?
We know for sure that at least several prototypes of the Blacktrail exist. What we don’t know if this bike was ever sold in any substantial quantity or sold at all. I emailed PG bikes several times regarding the Blacktrail, and received no response from the company.
We know a prototype made it to the United States and in an interview in New York, a Blacktrail representative claimed that 41 Blacktrails had already been sold…and one was going to Jay Leno.
It isn’t clear if Jay Leno actually bought a Blacktrail, but he did review it for his website.
In his video above, Blacktrail USA representative Bob Harold claims that 41 Blacktrails have been sold. Why 2 years later have we not seen any independent videos or reports of these 41 bikes? Or the rest of the Blacktrail fleet?
More affordable PG Bikes
If you like the styling and ideas behind the Blacktrail, you will be glad to know that PG bikes has several similarly styled electric bikes: