Friday, March 27, 2020

Biktrix Juggernaut Review

An affordable fat tire electric bike delivered through Kickstarter 2014-2015, now available for direct purchase
Powerful BBS02 mid-drive motor system keeps weight low and center for improved balance, also makes maintenance and transport easier (quick release on both wheels)
Upgraded drivetrain, sturdy aluminum fenders, integrated LED headlight, optional suspension fork on the 2016 model, only available in one size and sold online (difficult to test-ride or service directly)

The Biktrix Juggernaut made its debut on Kickstarter in November 2014 and was successfully delivered to all backers by July 2015. It’s a fat electric bike that’s a step up in terms of components and features but still aiming at that value market. For ~$2k you can get the base model which uses a more standard sized battery with good Samsung cells and Tektro mechanical disc brakes… or for ~$500 more you can get the larger battery with higher quality Sony cells and hydraulic disc brakes. Both models use the 8Fun BBS02 mid-drive motor that keeps weight low and center, offers great torque for climbing and enables quick release and easier tune-ups on both wheels. The motor is using custom firmware but does not offer shift sensing which means the chain, cassette and derailleur will endure more force when riding. You could get this same motor and battery with shift sensing from E-RAD but the kit alone would cost ~$1,700. Thankfully, the Biktrix Juggernaut offers an upgraded KMC chain (emphasizing strength and rust resistance) and a Shimano Alivio derailleur which is two steps up from most other value-priced electric fat bikes I’ve reviewed recently includign the RadRover and Voltbike Yukon which both use Tourney TX. For me, the centerdrive motor is really the star of the show here but the included fenders, lights and adjustable stem all add value.

Driving the Juggernaut is a 500 watt nominal, 750 watt peak mid-drive motor from 8Fun. I’ve reviewed this motor on its own here but some improvements have been made since then including better power activation and durability. As mentioned earlier, Biktrix worked with the firmware a bit to optimize it for their fat ebike and it felt very smooth and responsive during my test ride. Instead of powering the wheel directly like hub motors, this centerdrive pulls the same chain that you do as you pedal. In so doing, it leverages the seven speed cassette in the rear allowing it to operate more efficiently. Basically, this motor will climb better and go further than an equivalent hub motor and it keeps weight low and center on the frame instead of at the rear. This is a huge benefit when going in for tuneups, changing tubes on the trail or simply transporting the bike. Both the front and back wheel offer quick release, this benefit cannot be overstated on a fat bike platform which traditionally tend to take up more space and often do not fit in the back of cars or as easily in garages. The Juggernaut is easier to manage in this sense and it handles well.

Powering this electric bike is one of two battery options (both offering higher quality Lithium-ion cells). The base model is a 48 volt 10.4 amp hour design with Samsung cells… It should get you 20 to 40 miles per charge and offer a good sense of power. The upgrade is a 48 volt 11.6 amp hour design with premium Sony cells that offer a higher C-Rating. This pack will get you 20 to 50 miles and might feel zippier. Energy can flow into and out of this pack more quickly and with a higher capacity, it lets the bike ride longer. The caveat here is that if you accelerate faster and ride at higher speeds longer on the larger pack it will drain quicker and that’s why I estimate both will get 20 miles per charge at the highest level of assist or using the twist throttle. Also, depending on which version of this ebike you get, the battery pack itself may look different. The Kickstarter and 2015 model use a nice downtube mounted pack that has an integrated LCD and on/off switch. This pack has to be activated before you can turn on the display. I’m told that the newer pack does not have to be switched on independently and for me that’s a nice improvement because it means you’ll be less likely to forget to de-activate the battery once your ride is over.

Operating the Biktrix Juggernaut is fairly simple and very standard. I’ve seen similar Bafang LCD displays on other electric bikes and they tend to hold up well. Once the battery pack is charged, mounted to the frame and switched on (if you’ve got a first generation build of this ebike) you can switch on the display by pressing a rubber power button on the remote button pad. This pad is easy to reach, even when you’re hand is on the left grip while riding. Once activated, the display console comes to life showing battery level, speed, assist level and a few more readouts. You can cycle through max speed, average speed, odometer, clock and trip distance by pressing the power button again (and hold it to turn the bike off). You can also go into the settings and choose from either 3, 5 or 9 levels of assist. The additional levels don’t offer more power, they are more like finer increments offering more choices so you can find a perfect speed instead of going from low, medium and then high with the three level configuration. Physically speaking, the display can swivel forward to back to reduce glare if not overtightened but it is not removable. Because the bike is predominantly sold online you’ll have the opportunity to set things up just how you like them (or work with a local shop to do so upon arrival) and the handlebars may be adjusted forward or back to change reach and ride position. The adjustable stem used is fairly short which will reduce the strain it endures when riding off-road but I’m guessing that it may still begin to rattle over time if not tightened… that’s just what happens with this style of stem. I tend to prefer a more upright ride and sometimes go for cruiser bars which you could add on but the low-risers that are provided work well enough. One final and important note here… when ordering the Juggernaut from Biketrix you can request that they “unlock the throttle” meaning that you will be able to twist and go at pedal assist level zero and override all other levels beyond their default setting. The bike will still only go up to 15.5 mph or 20 mph (depending on your geography) but the throttle will be active at all times when the system is powered on. I personally prefer this type of riding but it does increase the risk of accidental activation and because a twist throttle was used vs. a trigger throttle, if you accidentally bear down on the right grip during a tense moment you could accelerate when you really intended to stabilize or even prepare for braking. Keep this option and its potential consequences in mind when ordering.

I really enjoyed the Juggernaut and was impressed with the custom frame work that was done to accommodate the BBS02 mid-drive motor system. They had to bend the chainstays in to accommodate a standard sized 73 mm bottom bracket here but reinforced the tubing by creating dimples and gusseted the top tube near the seat tube as well. It felt solid, weighed less than comparable options, has an upgrade path for increased power and range and just looks really good. The black frame, spokes, motor and battery and other accessories work together nicely and most wires are internally routed to reduce snags. For 2016 you’ll also get a tapered head tube which is stronger and can accommodate a RockShox Bluto suspension fork for improved comfort. While this electric fat bike is only available in one color, it looks pretty good. It’s also limited to just one frame size but you can adjust that stem, swap out the handlebars, quick release the seat post and that all contributes to better fit. Keep in mind the $150+ shipping cost and on-site assembly you’ll need to do. I’ve rated this bike based on the MSRP but it appears they offer sales and you can get it even cheaper than ~$2k which is exciting. It’s a great platform for fun neighborhood riding if you like the fat style but it’s actually quite capable on light trails or in sand and snow due to the increased torque of the mid-drive.

Pros:
Great aesthetic… the spokes, kickstand and pedals are black, the motor and battery are black, the frame and fenders are black… everything matches and the integrated wires blend right in
Higher end drivetrain, the derailleur is Alivio which is two steps up from Tourney TX which most other value priced ebikes use, should last longer and stay in tune
The 2016 model will offer an oversized tapered headtube so you can add a RockShox Bluto suspension fork (and Biktrix will offer this as an upgrade for ~$700), the battery pack on this newer model will also not require independent activation
You can request that Biktrix unlock the throttle so you can use it in level zero and override assist, the stock setup only lets you use throttle power when in pedal assist mode and only up to the level of pedal assist you’re currently in
I like the optional hydraulic disc brake and battery size upgrades… the mechanical brakes work fine and 180 mm is a good size for the rotors but hydraulic are easier to pull and for people who want to go further these upgrades are nice at ~$500
The included fenders are pretty cool… aluminum alloy is solid and since they aren’t full-length you don’t kick the front fender as easily or get the same rattling as some other options (though there is still some ratting if they aren’t adjusted properly)
Front and rear lights are included with the bike, the front is nicer because it’s integrated (meaning it runs right off the main battery pack) the rear light is more standard (using AA batteries) but definitely good to have vs. not
Pedal assist is smooth and responsive (the cadence sensor is built right into the bottom bracket/motor area)
Cons:
The adjustable stem helps different sized riders fit the bike (since the frame only comes in one size) but it can get loose over time, especially if riding off-road, keep an eye on it and tighten it if it becomes loose
Only available in one standard ~19″ frame size but the top tube is sloped making it easier to stand over
In order to power on the Kickstarter and 2015 version of the Juggernaut you first have to activate the battery pack and then press power again on the button pad, this adds time and makes it easier to forget to de-activate the battery after a ride
The battery pack takes up most of the space where a bottle cage might mount… consider a saddle rail adapter or something like a Camelbak
I noticed that there wasn’t a slap guard on the right chain stay, this means the chain could bounce into the frame and chip it if you’re riding on rough terrain, consider adding one like this yourself, also I noticed that the rims aren’t punched out like a lot of fat bikes (holes are not cut into the rim to reduce weight) but this bike still weighs less than many bikes that do have the punchouts
There is no shift sensing built into the mid-drive motor on this ebike which means the chain and gears can experience more force and wear if you don’t shift smoothly and carefully (ideally when you are not activating the motor) the upgraded KMC chain and Shimano Alivio drivetrain should hold up better than lower level parts
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