For the last three years I’ve really enjoyed riding my Ludicrous enabled Officer X-1 Full suspension electric bike. After much use and abuse, the rear freehub finally blew up.This is a common problem on high powered mid drive e-bikes, but can be easily fixed by replacing the rear wheel DT Swiss rear hub It uses a fantastic steel ratchet system that is very reliable. This article describes the problems I had with changing the rear wheel and some pointers on how to do it, and why I decided to change the cassette, derailleur, shifter and chain from a 12 speed chain to a 10 speed chain.
DT Swiss hubs are hard to find and there are about a million different versions. I bought about $1500 worth of DT Swiss hubs from bikeman.com and each hub has worked on my modified e-bike. Generally, I buy an e-bike and run it until the hubs fail, then I buy DT Swiss hubs and put the wheels back on to get the bike back to rideable condition. Every high powered mid drive fat bike I’ve ridden, including my Christini AWD, has DT Swiss hubs. It’s the cold hard truth that if you run your drivetrain between 2000-4000 watts and plow through deep snow, your freehub will eventually self-destruct. Lightweight and expensive aluminum freehubs will fail sooner, but even cheap steel freehubs will fail eventually. The only hubs I’ve found that don’t fail at these power levels are DT Swiss hubs with a star ratchet system.
In all my DT Swiss builds I have been able to use the same spokes that came with the original wheels. This makes things easier and faster, just make sure to separate the spokes on different sides of the wheel as they are usually slightly different lengths. The X-1 spokes are very thick (12 gauge?) and cannot go through the holes on the DT-Swiss hub.I measured the length of the spokes with a spoke ruler and averaged the difference on both sides, then bought a cheap set of 36 253mm spokes on amazon for only $13.99 here. Most wheels in the US only have 32 spokes, so I have 4 extra spokes for future damage. This also includes nipples. Spokes are 38 cents, a lot cheaper than my local bike shop, but if you don’t have a spoke wrench and don’t want to deal with Amazon, you can just wander over to your local bike shop with the spokes you have, and they’ll try to find something similar, Or cut it and thread it if necessary.
Why did I change from a 12 speed drivetrain to a 10 speed drivetrain
While I’m happy with the 12 speed drivetrain that came with the X-1, I did have 2 chain breaks in 3 years of use. The fact that I can’t use top gear on the X-1 without skipping it also means it’s really only an 11-speed. I’ve normalized to 10 speeds on all my other snow bikes, and I’m happy with the amount of chain break I have to put up with. It’s still more prone to damage than an 8 speed system, but I can get a bigger cassette, and usually I can find SRAM X-9 derailleurs, which are, as far as I know, the most bulletproof derailleurs you can buy . If you know of a better one, please let me know in the comments below. The problem with switching the number of gears is that you have to replace everything, which means the chain, cassette, derailleur and shifter. If you neglect to replace any of these parts, the system will not move properly. The good news is that you can use a short or medium cage instead of a long cage. We also had no trouble finding solid steel cassettes that wore out better under higher power loads than 10-speed alloy cassettes. The best freewheels I’ve found to use are the ones that tie a bunch of gears together so they don’t sink into the freewheel due to the power of the motor.
While changing the rear wheel is a PITA, I feel like it’s the price you have to pay to run a mid-drive e-bike in the 2000-4000 watt range. Most of my other electric fat bikes run the BBSHD v2 Ludicrous controller, which is a silly fun 18 FET controller, once you start riding it’s hard to go back to something else. As for replacing the hub, there are some great YouTube videos on how to replace a hub (this is my favourite). You don’t have to be a superhero to change a hub, the hardest part is getting the spokes to the correct length, if you’re replacing an existing hub you can most likely reuse the existing spokes or figure out what the correct length is for them , will be by guesswork.
Adjust the wheel by voice
I don’t use a truing stand or anything like that when truing my wheels. I used to put them on and then attach a zipper to the frame and cut it off so I could see which side the wheel would wobble to when I spun it. My last 2 wheel rebuilds I didn’t even do this, instead I made a system when I adjusted the tension on the spokes by sound. Initially, I tightened the spokes with about 2mm of thread, then I went around the wheel, tightening each spoke one turn at a time. When the spokes start to get tight, I pluck them like a very thick guitar string and tighten or loosen the spokes depending on their pitch. Using only the sound method, I was able to get the wheels to be within 1mm of the real thing every time. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this, but it worked for me.
I hope the C-1 lasts a few more years with new wheels and a 10-speed drivetrain. Of all my e-bikes, the X-1 probably gets the most use, so it’s no surprise that its hubs failed. I’ve found that on high powered mid drives, almost all hubs will eventually fail. Don’t despair, just buy a DT swiss and rehome that puppy and you’ll be on your way for years to come.