Editor Note: This story was submitted by Michael De Lazzer who has documented his BBSHD conversion bike build, and…how his ebike got him back into cycling.
In the spring of 2016 I was 250 pounds. Work had piled up, and I had piled on. My job was a mess, so I thought that it might be a good idea to get at least one thing in my life turned in the right direction.
This is me on the far right shortly after completing my ebike build, and I am at the highest weight of my life at 250 pounds.
Hi, I’m Michael and I’m addicted to bicycles. Let’s set the Wayback Machine to 1998. I was single, 30-years old, living in Chicago, and in the best shape of my life. I had a hot girlfriend who was a tennis pro. She was gay, but she changed teams for about a summer. I loved her until she crushed my heart and stomped on it like a baseball mitt, after giving up the final run of the season.
But she was generous, and among the many gifts I acquired in the split was a Trek 8000 SLR mountain bike. This was the race model, and it’s a great ride. It treated me much better than the girl did, in the end. At least the bike stuck around.
I competed on the Trek (with knobbies!) in an amateur road race—a 20 miler– and I placed in the top 20, so it ignited my passion for road cycling. I was excited that I was blowing past guys on roadies with aero bars. I immediately bought a Klein Quantum Race and the Trek got moved to local commuter status.
By the time I moved to Los Angeles 2 years later, I just sort of packed the Trek away. By 2008, I was married and I’d shipped the bike to San Diego where my in-laws lived, so I could ride when we visited. But the visits never amounted to much riding, and the Trek sat in a shed…for years.
By this time, I had built a carbon Colnago and a carbon Pinarello, I had another Klein that I built and sold—made out of the many spare parts in my garage, and of course, I still had the original Klein, which I’d upgraded to Dura-Ace components. I love building things. I built my wife a Klein, too, after finding an old frame that looked interesting.
Let’s jump forward to 2016 and Michael as a 250-pound fattie. I decided to set a goal of riding the Rosarito-Ensenada 50-miler in the fall. I pulled out the aluminum Klein and started riding (It was pretty much the only frame I trusted, given my advanced weight). I dropped 20 pounds very quickly and I jumped back on my Pinarello, ushering the Klein to being a resistance trainer in the garage, to sweat away the pounds at night. The weight continued to melt away.
I was riding everywhere I could. I rode the mountains, I rode the valleys, and I rode to work every day. We live at the top of a steep hill. Getting to work is no problem. Set the bike on “coast” and don’t hit the brakes. Getting home is another story. I don’t mind sweat. But I do mind sweat in nice work clothes. I started thinking about building an electric.
I rode the Ensenada ride at 215 pounds in October. I placed 162 out of about 10,000. I was back, baby.
On the return trip from Mexico, we stopped in San Diego. It occurred to me that I still had that old Trek in storage. I brought it back to Los Angeles thinking it might make a great e-bike. It was a mess. Flats all around. The brakes had seized, the gears were wonky, the paint had oxidized from the salt air, but the bones were there, so… just maybe?
To be fair, I really wanted a fat bike. Big tires, oversized frame. THAT’s a bike. Add some serious power? I’d be all-in. But that was going to run the cost way up, and my economic position hasn’t been strong in the last year (that’s another tale for another day). Plus—there’s a romance to taking something old and out-of-date and restoring it, breathing new life into old metal. The trump card? It’s easier to convince the wife.
I got on YouTube and started looking at some amazing machines. You all are a creative bunch. I was inspired. I revised my plans for the motor about a hundred times, before settling on a e-Rad mid-drive. I was all set, or so I thought.
Let’s stop for a minute so I can confess something: I AM A BIG DUMB GUY. I call it BDG. I do stupid shit. All the time. I buy stuff thinking I know what I’m doing only to find out: I don’t know anything.
I set to work on the Trek. I polished the frame with Turtle Wax anti-oxidizing wax cleaner. The dullness gave way to a beautiful glossy paint job. The front Rock Shox Judys were in bad shape. Lots of squeak and bounce.
I found a service kit for the Judy and ordered it. When it came, I took apart the Judy—and parts flew just about everywhere. Add to that—the Judy, it turns out, had about 10 or 15 slightly different versions depending on year. None of the parts in the service kit quite matched. B—-D—-G.
I ordered a new Rock Shox Reba.
I moved on to the brakes. The mechanisms on the V brakes were pretty shot, so I ordered a new set of V brakes. Then I thought—well there are disc brake holes, maybe that’s worth a try. BDG, folks.
I ordered a new set of rims with holes for discs. I bought a set of Avid hydraulic brakes, but the frame holes didn’t match. The front brake kinda worked, but the rear had a 22mm bolt pattern that was only around for a year or so in 1998. I was told only Hayes made that bolt pattern. I couldn’t find a New-Old-Stock match, or a Used-Old-Stock match for that matter. So I started buying brackets to try to adapt the holes to a modern bolt pattern. Nothing worked.
I put the V-brakes on the bike and called it a day. For now.
Then my car got scraped up. Some idiot in an SUV backed into it. I took the car in for repair—and became a bike-only guy, but the few days to fix the car turned into weeks. I had a new incentive to finish the e-bike. I still needed to buy the kit.
What’s that? E-Rad Lectric Cycles is really Bafang? They’re re-branding parts and marking up the prices? Those bastards! Armed with new knowledge I eventually found LunaCycle on the web. Way less than e-Rad for the same function. E-Rad claimed only they had the gear sensor cutoff. Really? Cuz it’s right here on Luna Cycle’s page, too!
Luna Cycle earned my dollar, and got the order. When the BBSHD kit arrived I tore into it: Let’s build this sucker. Assembly was easy to understand, and YouTube videos made for a fast install. Thanks, guys!
I bought the Eclipse chainring—but the motor needed spacing for the chainring to clear the chain stay. I’d received no spacers and the wrong throttle in the kit. I emailed Luna—got an immediate response and they sent out the parts without question. Superb service. I still put the bike together with the 46T and rode it—I just had the knowledge that I was going to have to tear it down when the spacers arrived.
When I saw the brake levers included with the kit (oh, there are brake levers included?)—I realized that even if I had hydraulic discs it wouldn’t matter—the levers were for cable disc brakes, not hydraulic. I put the cable disc brake on the front, and left the back as a V brake, because I hadn’t located an adapter. All the other brakes I’d purchased went into the “future parts” bin. Curse you, BDG.
Still, I did the initial install in about an hour and rode around the neighborhood in the dead of night. It just worked! It really worked!
Except those damn brakes. Both sucked. Royally. I needed a real solution or I was going to be road waffle. The V brake felt like I was trying to slow the bike with sticks of butter instead of pads. My friends who test-rode the bike at work each commented that the bike was a twisted episode of Braking Bad.
I found a disc caliper bracket made by Chaser. It looked promising, so I ordered it. I also ordered a Magura double piston front brake, a 180mm disc, plus, I found a Shimano hydraulic brake on eBay with the e-brake cutoff, wired for Bafang. Cha-ching (BDG alert).
I also began to contemplate the style of the bike. I regret that I didn’t purchase a red Eclipse chainring, it would have better matched the color style. I ordered a new set of red Jagwire hydraulic hoses and a bleed kit. The red pops as an accent better. I also found some nylon cable wrap. All of this wiring was bothering me.
The Luna Cycle parts came in, so did the new brake parts. To my wife’s shock and horror, I tore the whole bike apart again. Stand back, Honey, I’m doing man-stuff here.
The bottom bracket spacers hit the mark, the Eclipse was good to go. The outer cap on the bottom bracket didn’t have enough threads, but given the flimsy aluminum construction—it appears to be for show—perhaps keeping some dirt out. I nixed it. Well, to be fair, I stripped the threads, then nixed it.
The Chaser bracket fit so the rear V brake was replaced with the Shimano hydraulic, and the front Shimano hydraulic was a perfect fit.
I rode that for a few days, still wishing I had a little more grip on the front brake. When the Magura arrived along with the bleed kit—it was time to change the front brake to a double-piston, and replace all the black Shimano hosing with red Jagwire.
Looking at how the hydraulic braking system works, I couldn’t see a reason a Shimano handle couldn’t activate a Magura caliper, and my theory proved correct.
Time to bleed the brakes. It was all going so well. I had a jar with brake fluid, the cup for the bleed screw, the syringe, and fresh fluid. What could possibly go wrong? I put the lower end of the tubing in the jar with brake fluid. I sucked the fluid into the system with the syringe—I was ready to assemble it all, and the jar with the fluid fell to the floor and shattered, along with my ego.
A funny thing happens when a brand new hose loaded with mineral oil that moments ago was sitting in a jar of fluid is freed from the glass container—it coils up fast. Really fast. Spraying fluid just about everywhere—my hair—my clothes—my workbench—and last but not least, my pride.
After a soapy shower and scrub down, I started the whole process again—this time finishing without incident. The brakes were ‘grabby’ (and noisy from the oil bath) but there was a bigger, more annoying issue.
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. The bolt that held the brake hose on the caliper was striking a spoke every time the wheel revolved. I was either going to have to change brake calipers, or file the bolt head down. I reached for the file.
The bike was nearly finished, but there were 2 issues to address: 1) the bike needed a rack and bag. I wanted a place to keep the charger and a lock on the bike. 2) the battery was a black hole in the middle of this kinda nice bike.
I found a Topeak bag that looked really nice, but when it arrived, the brackets were brushed aluminum. That simply won’t do! There isn’t silver anywhere on the bike. It looked like a total tack-on.
I bought some spray paint and and started coating. I also wanted to add a red swoop so the rack better integrated into the bike’s look. Masking tape and the bottom of a spray can made a perfect stencil to accomplish the task.
I had been thinking with all the red, white, blue and black floating around, the theme should be Captain America. I couldn’t find a suitable sticker set for the battery, so I went to an auto parts store and found a set of eagle stickers that could build on the theme. Not my favorite, but close enough. I two-toned the battery black and blue—why don’t more people address the boring black battery? It’s right THERE! There’s a million way to dress up that eyesore in the middle of your bike. Get creative! I fixed the stickers once the base paint dried and started clear coating over the sticker. Success!
I used the nylon braiding and heat shrink to clean up the wiring. A few minor misadventures there, but eventually I got the cables wrapped up.
The bike is pulling hard, stopping fast, and looking good. Then the rains hit and spoiled the party. I continue to ride every day. If I have any regrets– it’s buying the blue Eclipse ring instead of the red version. The red would better match the graphics. I also wish I’d purchased the 52V battery. Maybe next time. Then I can paint another battery.
One of the cooler aspects of e-bike riding happened just the other day on the way home from work. I turned assist off. Set to 0…Nada…And just pedaled. I was surprised at how agile the bike still was with all the extra weight on it. I had to jump down a couple of gears, but damn if I had no problem moving this bike under human power only. I now have zero range anxiety at all. Plus, you can still grab the throttle on the BBSHD and give yourself a nudge if you want. Try it, you might be surprised at what your own legs can accomplish.
The bike is fun, I can still sweat when I want, but I can get home without soaking through a long-sleeve button down. I reach for the bike before reaching for my car keys. It’s a great ride.
Oh, and this BDG is now under 210. Anyone want to buy a pile of extra parts?