The Electric Cargo Single-Speed Fatbike

Pedaling up to Mama Burger for lunch recently, I noticed a cargo bike parked outside, unlike any cargo bike I’ve seen. This was an electric, cargo, single-speed, fatbike.

I went inside and scanned the tables — there aren’t many of them to scan — thinking I’d be able to guess the owner of this bike on sight. Some stereotype would tip me off, and I’d be able to walk up and ask the owner about the bike. But nobody stood out as The Guy Who Must Own The Exotic Bike.

Luckily, as I was leaving, I ran into this guy, the owner of the bike: Bernie Nieto.

The Electric Cargo Single-Speed Fatbike
New Stereotype: The Electric Cargo Single-Speed Fatbike Guy

Bernie told me all about this build. With the help of AZ Bikes, a local bike shop, he’d taken a Surly Big Dummy cargo bike, and modified the rear end to be wide enough for a fatbike wheel. But that widening made the rear too wide for some of the Xtracycle components, so those had to modified too.

Custom Cargo Deck
Custom Cargo Deck

The standard Xtracycle decks wouldn’t work, so he made his own (probably with a set of Xtracycle Snap Hooks cannibalized from a standard deck.)

Xtracycle Snap Piece Replacement Hooks for SnapDeck
Xtracycle Snap Piece Replacement Hooks for SnapDeck

Although the bike had multiple cogs and chainrings, it had no derailleurs, so it might become a multi-gear bike in the future. The bike also had a custom platform on the back, for… something. That platform, along with the custom passenger footrests, had an industrial diamond-plate texture.

The Electric Cargo Single-Speed Fatbike Tailgate

The e-bike conversion system is a Phoenix Cruiser — one I’d never heard of. Bernie mentioned that he had another bike with a BionX e-bike kit, but he preferred the Phoenix kit because it could go faster than the statutory limit set by the state for e-bikes.

I started to tell him that that it was totally easy to reprogram the BionX controller, and, uh… break the law. Never mind. I know exactly the kind of ire any favorable mention of an e-bike can bring to a bike blog. With those fat tires and a motor, Bernie is already flirting with that gray area between e-bike and motorcycle.

So Instead I told him that in The Netherlands, the police have equipment to test if a speed limiter on an e-bike has been disabled. Surely it’s just a matter of time before Arizona has this equipment too because Arizona is always right behind Holland — nine hours behind, actually.

Interbike 2013: Fatbike frenzy! | Bike Commuters
Interbike 2013: Fatbike frenzy! | Screen Shot: Bike Commuters

I checked with a couple of bike bloggers who recently returned from Interbike, the big annual trade show for the cycling industry.

Yep, they’d seen lots of cargo bikes, lots of fatbikes, lots of e-bikes, and certainly lots of single-speed bikes.

Pete Prebus of Electric Bike Report said he’d seen “the usual e-cargo bikes from Xtracycle and Yuba with a few additional experimental e-cargo setups.”

Over at Bike Commuters, they declared 2013 to be “The Year of the Fat Bike,” because fatbikes were everywhere at Interbike.

But, Google as I may, I can’t find another instance of an electric cargo fatbike — single-speed or otherwise.

Can you? Or is this the first of its kind?

Ted Johnson lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII.

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6 thoughts on “The Electric Cargo Single-Speed Fatbike”

  1. Kevin Love says:

    In Arizona, the police already have equipment to test if a speed limiter on an e-bike has been disabled.

    They are called “radar guns.”

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Kevin: A radar gun can’t tell whether a cyclist is exceeding 19.9 MPH due to a tail wind, gravity, human power, or motor power. The Dutch equipment is a test bench that tests the maximum speed of the bike/scooter/moped at a standstill, on rollers, with no rider.

  2. Joel says:

    I do not have anything against e-bikes as long as they follow the laws and do not bring unwanted negative attention upon non-assisted bicycle riders. This attitude would also apply to any regular non-assisted bicycle riders who do not follow the current motor vehicle laws which allow us to use the roads.

    If you are lucky enough to be in a state which recognizes the right of e-bikes to exist and be used on the road then be considerate enough to use them according to the law. Illegal moped modifications screwed-up the chance for law-abiding users in New Jersey years ago during the 1980s. Mopeds where unlicensed and did not need insurance until complaints arose about users removing the governors (set at 25mph) and muffler inserts to get up to almost 35mph. They would literally be screaming past stopped vehicles on the shoulders.

    The past memories of mopeds abuse is what is causing so much resistance to e-bikes in our state. Everyone is assuming that any reasonable power assist motor (around 250watts) will quickly be exceeded and things will get out of control.

    Currently, moped operators must be at least 17 years old, be licensed, wear a helmet, and have proof of insurance.

    Opponents of e-bicycles in our state will use the documented abuses of other states’ laws to say that they should not give the e-bike one inch of consideration because it will lead to a mile of abuse.

    I would really like to have the option of having about 250watts of assist but if history repeats itself, e-bikes will be quickly regulated, licensed and insured if they approach the speed and power of mopeds or motorcycles, be warned.

  3. Kevin Love says:

    In my neck of the woods, the police seem to be of the opinion that someone going without pedalling at over 20 MPH as seen on their radar gun has an illegal modification.

    The greatest concern is with the scooter style ebikes whose pedals are somewhat ornamental.

    So yes, the radar gun is the tool of choice for enforcing this law. Arizona police can easily do the same.

  4. norm says:

    Alas, I have gone right off the electric bike concept. The people who have them around here are driving them like 20-year-old guys on Kawasaki Ninjas on the freeway. I have even less patience for that crap than I do for pack riders on the bike paths. Your guy’s comment about how he chose the electric package so he could go faster I think is typical.

  5. JohnnyK says:

    Well this is probably about as close as I have been able to come to find another bike like the one your article. At any rate is a bicycle really a bicycle if it has a motor on it? I can understand it if you are old or have some physical limitation but for young healthy cyclist why bother with an electric bike. For one their range is not far enough to really make them that practical and the speed is so slow not to mention that when the battery gives out now you have to lug around this boat anchor. I just don’t see why the cycling industry would care about such a thing. You know this is how Harley Davidson got started. Putting small motors on bicycles then rebuilding the bicycle into a motorcycle because their motors got too powerful for the light bicycle frame. Now motorcycles are as heavy as small cars and they still only carry around 1 person but use as much resources as just about any sub compact car. IMHO they should ban e-bikes in the bicycle lane and limit them to less than 10 MPH since the average person can run 10 MPH. I just don’t understand this blogs fascination with these abominations. We need to perform a exorcism and exorcise motorized vehicles from the bike lanes for good. Sorry it is Halloween here and I could not resist.

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