I woke this morning to 3 inches of snow outside and the sun shining bright. A reminder of why I actually chose to live in upstate NY. Not only is NY one of the best states in the union if you want to avoid climate change effects, we also still have snow. Wintertime for me means a time that we slow down our workload, bury the seeds we haven’t planted yet so they can stratify and cozy up next to our super-efficient hand-made masonry heater and 4 kittens. Every morning whether I’m at my wife’s house or my own home (we live 90 minutes apart, the key to a healthy marriage) I take a ride in the woods on my ebikes. This ritual keeps me sane and happy through the long winter months.
I threw my Ego 56v electric 16″ chainsaw in a backpack and headed out to the trails to clear some huge trees that had fallen in the last 60mph windstorm. I took the Luna ludicrous X-1 because it was the only bike I had at my wife’s house and headed out. I felt like the bike performed better than expected with the 27.5+ tires although riding with a chainsaw in a backpack is pretty annoying.
I’ve had a lot of issues with front forks blowing out on me when I take them out in sub 20F temperatures. Keep that in mind when you’re taking your very expensive ebike out in the snow to play. All of the fat bikes that I ride regularly in the winter are suspension fork-free. My main bike is the AWD Christini Fat-E 5 (reviewed here) with an Ultra Max controller. This bike does amazingly well in deep powder because the front and rear wheels turn at the same rate. There are plenty of AWD hub drive ebikes and they just don’t work in the snow because there is almost no weight on the front tire so it will just spin out. With the Christini that doesn’t happen. This is the best deep snow bike I’ve ever ridden and it gets even better with their custom BCD 104 chainring adapter for the Ultra Max.
My other 2 main bikes are the custom alloy framed Phat Phuk and the steel-framed Phatter Phukker. Both bikes run the Snowshoe 2XL at extremely low pressures and work almost as well as the Christini, but since I built them myself out of crap-ass cheap fatbikes, they were a bit cheaper. The BBSHD with the Ludicrous 60 amp controller has a ton of low-end grunt and it’s not uncommon for me to melt connectors in the drive or peanut butter the nylon gear. Nylon gears suck and I’m testing the steel gear available from Lunacycle for $42 here on both my main fat bikes. I’ll post a review of that gear on my website in the near future, so far it seems awesome.
I also have a backup fatbike in case 2 of my other fatties fail (which happens more often than you would think). My backup bike is a Ludicrous BBSHD 5-year-old Boris X9 with a broken frame that I’ve fixed a couple of times with aluminum tubing and epoxy resin. It works better than you would think it should. The problem with welding alloy frames is that if you don’t heat treat them they are weak as hell. Epoxy is a quick and easy way to repair alloy frames if you don’t give a crap about how it looks. Make sure to sand it first or the epoxy won’t stick.
I also have a shed full of BBS02 powered fatbikes in various states of disrepair but I’ve given up on the BBS02 drive unit in the wintertime because it only peaks at about 1200W or so and so it’s not really good for any more than an inch or two of snow. The BBSHD and the Ultra Max are much better drive units for deep powder. All my snow bikes are run with a backpack battery, at my wifes house I run my homemade 25Ah 52v GA pack and at home, I run a 48v 21Ah 30Q pack I bought about 4 years ago. I find that running larger packs in a backpack keeps the batteries running longer because they stay warmer and it keeps the excess weight off the bikes (they are about 15lbs each).
There are few things as fun as riding electric bikes in the woods in the snow. I’m amazed that it hasn’t taken off into a huge sport by now. The best rides are all going to be geared way down and in the 1500-2000W range. Forget about hub motors, you will need a mid-drive to crawl through the deep powder. Even though you are going less than 10mph most of the time, crashing through the snow completely out of control and trying not to ping pong off the trees is by far the most fun winter sport I have ever done. Even snowkiting and jumping 20 feet in the air repeatedly risking serious injury from crashes is nowhere near as fun as electric fat bikes in the woods.
The X-1 with the Bafang M600 drive does well in 3 inches or less of snow and it is also a whole lot quieter with the snow soaking up the drive noise. If I ride it on power level 5 then it feels mostly like a normal bike would feel without snow. That is the perfect balance that feels like ebike nirvana when you get it tuned so that even though you are riding against lots of snow resistance, it feels just about normal because of the assist of the motor. The Ultra Max often feels too powerful to get to that point, it’s more of a brute when it comes to dealing with snow, whereas the M600 is much more like a ballerina with its elegance and grace. Don’t expect that you’re going to run the M600 in deep snow, it’s just not a big enough motor to do that.
Want to keep sane and have more fun than everyone else in the winter months? A high power mid-drive fat bike with Snowshoe 2XL tires is the best way I’ve found to do that.
It really is the best sport I’ve ever discovered. Take whatever sorry excuse for an ebike you have and thrash on it in the snow, you’ll probably end up regretting it, but you’ll have a lot of fun before you do.