- An off-road capable "conversion built" electric bike using an overclocked 8Fun BBS01 mid-drive motor, it offers trigger throttle and pedal assist modes
- Good weight distribution across the frame, premium Panasonic cells in the battery pack, upgraded Suntour suspension fork with remote lockout, rear-rack mounting points for use as a trail-ready commuter
- Wires are not integrated into the tubing but blend in with the black paint scheme, hydraulic disc brakes are powerful but lack motor inhibitors
$0 (0 €)$18,000 (16,920 €)
0 lbs (0 kg)220 lbs (100 kg)
0 mph (0.0 km/hr)50 mph (80.5 km/hr)
0 watt3,000 watt
0 in (0.00 cm)22 in (55.88 cm)
0 Newton meters250 Nm
The BM-Helio is one of the most enjoyable models I’ve tested from BMEBIKES because it’s powerful, sturdy and upgraded in several important ways. Unfortunately, the extra power it offers exacerbates one of the concerns I have about many of the BMEBIKES which is a lack of motor inhibitor brake levers. This ebike is not for everyone given the larger 21″ and 23″ frame sizes and high-step only configuration but for those larger riders who truly want an off-road capable hardtail at a good price, it delivers. Adding to the larger frame size, 27.5″ wheels lift the bike and strike a balance between rolling momentum and smooth gap-spanning performance while still feeling nimble. This is a great wheel size for cross country riding but replacement tubes and tires often cost more. The SR Suntour SF15-XCM-RL fork features remote-lockout for seamless transitions from rocky mountainous terrain to hard pack and pavement. The drive system is very powerful and uses quality parts from Panasonic and Bafang / 8Fun. What you’re getting here is a professional conversion, each part was chosen to optimize performance and extras like the Race Face NW front chain ring make a noticeable difference. Compared to a purpose-built electric bike like the IZIP E3 Peak, the Helio has more exposed wires but the black paint and strategically positioned zip ties blend in well enough. In practice, I could see myself using this as an around town bike during the week because it has mounting points for fenders and a rear rack. Once the weekend hits, the rack and fenders would come off and it would be a blast to ride on trails.
Driving this bike is a BBS01 middrive motor that’s mounted directly to the bottom bracket. It’s a compact, versatile drive system that keeps weight low and centered on the frame while leveraging your rear cassette for efficiency and strength. Even though it’s not as sophisticated as a Bosch or Impulse centerdrive, it’s a big step up from the older EVELO and iGo mid-drives I’ve tested. One way they’ve really supported the motor here is to add a custom CNC made chain ring adapter along with a smaller Race Face NW (narrow wide) sprocket as mentioned above. The alternating narrow and wide teeth reduce chain slip which is important on bumpy terrain. They let you choose between a 38 tooth or 42 tooth sprocket which replaces the standard 46 tooth or 48 tooth ring for increased leverage (this keeps the motor running cooler). In terms of drive modes, you can choose between throttle on demand and three levels of pedal assist. Unfortunately, the system does not offer shift detection and this could lead to more mashing, potentially damaging the chain and cassette if care is not taken to ease off momentarily while changing gears. The drivetrain is sturdy, a high-end Shimano Deore XT Shadow derailleur manages nine speeds on the rear cassette and you control it with a standard trigger shifter on the right side of the handle bar.
The BBS01 mid-drive motor here offers 750 watts of nominal output and is receiving 25 amps on this bike which is above average. with ~60 Newton meters of torque at your disposal, it’s noticeably stronger than all of the other BMEBIKES I’ve tested, as they use use the BBS01 set to ~350 watt output. It’s a fairly compact design but the bottom portion does extend down from the bottom bracket and may take direct hits if you get high-centered on a log or rock. The cadence sensor that the motor uses for pedal-assist mode is fully integrated and the exterior casing is painted black so everything blends together and feels seamless. I did notice that the front derailleur was left on the frame even though, in its converted form, there is only one chain ring there. It may act as a sort of chain guide which is nice for bouncy terrain as seen in the video. The only real complaint I have about the drive system on the BM Helio is that it does not feature motor inhibitors on the braking system. In short, you can sometimes end up competing with the motor to stop because cadence sensors are less responsive than torque or advanced multi-sensors. Given the more powerful motor settings on this ebike, I feel that motor inhibitors would improve ride safety and make gear changing easier because you could manually pause the motor while shifting by tapping the brakes. Given the capable Tektro hydraulic disc brake hardware and oversized 180/160 mm rotors that are included here, you should be able to overcome the motor but it’s a lot more difficult here than on the lower powered BBS01 models from BMEBIKES.
The battery powering the BM-Helio electric bike uses premium Panasonic cells that deliver a higher discharge rate (higher C Rating), offer higher energy density (lighter for the same amount of stored energy) and extended life (should age well). To really take care of the pack, store it in a cool dry place and try to keep it between 20% and 80% charged when not in use. The cells are all 18650 sized and are packed into one of the sleekest aftermarket cases I’ve seen, though it is quite long. It slides easily onto a metal rail mounted to the downtube that’s reinforced with extra rivet-nuts in addition to the factory installed bottle-cage braze ons. The battery pack includes an integrated keyed lock for security and can be charged on or off the frame. Unlike some other packs, this one does not require you to press an on/off button before activating the display panel to get the bike running and that saves time and avoids confusion when troubleshooting. I really came to appreciate this battery for the price, weight and aesthetic balance it offers and with 48 volts and an 8.8 amp hour capacity, it’s quite capable of boosting the larger motor and worked great for climbing as seen in the video review above. For optimal range, use pedal assist and help the bike up to speed vs. gunning it with the throttle from standstill.
The drive system on this electric bike offers two primary modes and a bunch of intuitive readouts akin to a cycle computer. Once the battery is secured to the frame you press a rubberized power button on the control pad (mounted near the left grip) and the large backlit display comes to life. Most ebikes I’ve tested in the US put their throttle hardware on the right bar which feels similar to a motorcycle or moped but BMEBIKES have put theirs on the left side here. This may free up space for the remote suspension lockout and triggers on the right but it means that you do have to reach past the trigger throttle to get to the button pad for changing drive modes. It’s certainly doable without completely letting go of the handle bar and that’s important for off-road riding. I appreciate the trigger throttle vs. twist throttle because it means you don’t have to worry about the grip spinning unexpectedly as you bear down in a tense moment. The Bafang display panel shows your speed, battery level, assist level (preset 1-3 but configurable to 5 or 9 levels), watt output and trip distance. Unfortunately, the display doesn’t swivel easily to reduce glare and is not removable so it may take more wear through exposure, otherwise it’s sleek and easy to read. The vertical setup is nice compared to the traditional “wide screen” that many other ebikes use, it makes the cockpit feel more open. When you first turn the system on, assist is actually set to zero and unfortunately you cannot activate the throttle in this mode… that’s one of my gripes because sometimes you don’t want assist to accidentally kick in while navigating difficult terrain. Once you click up to 1, 2 or 3 pedal assist becomes active and anytime you turn the cranks the motor begins to spin. In any of the assist levels you can also use the trigger throttle for an extra boost as an override but power is somewhat limited by the mode you’re in. This is another area where I feel like the system could be improved, I’d prefer the throttle just go to full power in any assist mode because it’s a variable speed design and you might need the extra power in a pinch. As mentioned earlier, the mid-drive motor helps you pull the chain and therefore benefits from the rear cassette just like you do. If you’re climbing a hill, just switch to a lower gear to help the motor.
Despite the lower star rating I’ve awarded to the Helio in this review, it was actually a blast to ride. Unfortunately, its strength is also its weakness and the powerful motor felt unresponsive at times when I wanted to stop. The hydraulic disc brakes are nice but they didn’t help with shifting and really had to be forced when the motor wasn’t responding immediately. For a more active mountain bike like this I think a torque sensing system could feel more responsive and complimentary while reducing the need for motor inhibitor breaks. Imagine easing off the pedals and having the motor match that action vs. with this system where as long as the cranks are moving it will be providing a full boost according to the chosen assist level. The suspension fork with remote lockout is handy and the rack and fender mounts add a lot of potential to this platform for urban riding. Because the battery takes up most of the center triangle space on the frame (obstructing the bottle cage mounts) you may want a a CamelBak or seat adapter for porting water. For those who are already considering the BBS01 or BBS02 systems this bike basically gets you in the game and requires a lot less work and fiddling around. The frame is solid, the “all black” color scheme works well and the six month warranty is decent. it seems like many people who consider this kit are looking to save money or over clock their system for higher speeds. BME may be able to help you unlock the Helio for off road use in this case.
- Excellent weight distribution with the motor and battery low and centered on the frame, total weight is about 48.5 pounds
- High quality battery made with Panasonic Lithium-ion cells, they should last longer and have a higher discharge rate than cheaper packs, I also like the the pack doesn’t require its own on/off switch
- Sturdy reinforced battery bracket, in addition to using the standard braze-ons BMEBIKES also adds rivnuts which create more mounting points on the downtube for strength
- The frame looks nice in all-black because externally-routed cables and zip ties are also black (along with the battery and motor itself)
- Custom made chain ring adapter fitted with a Raceface NW (narrow wide) sprocket to make climbing more efficient for the motor and reduce chain slip
- Great components including a 9 speed cassette with Shimano Deore XT derailleur, 180 mm front disc brake rotor and 160 mm rear rotor as well as a Suntour suspension fork with remote lockout
- Independent button pad is mounted close enough to reach without taking your hand off the grip, the trigger throttle is also nearby and doesn’t compromise the grip the way a twist throttle might which is a good solution for off-road use
- Quick release wheels, front and rear, thanks to the mid-drive motor… this makes servicing and trail maintenance easier as well as transporting the bike if you have to stuff it in your car
- Battery is locking and removable for convenient charging and reduced weight during transport
- Mounting points for fenders at the front and rear as well as seat stay braze ons at the back for adding a carry rack if you want to use it for commuting
- Six month warranty is better than nothing and the company has been around since 2010 and has a retail shop where you can see the bikes or pick up locally
- Brake levers do not include a motor cutoff switch and the pedal assist activation and deactivation can lag a bit… so depending on the terrain, the motor is not as responsive and you may end up fighting the motor with your brakes which is a bigger deal on this more powerful 750 watt model
- Bottle cage bosses are not accessible on the seat tube and the battery pack takes the space where they might otherwise mount, get a Camelbak
- Only available in two larger frame sizes which are best suited to tall riders, it’s 21″ or 23 inches and only available in high-step style (which tends to be sturdier than step-thru)
- Because this isn’t a purpose-built (specifically to be used for an electric bike) the wires aren’t integrated and create a bit more clutter… the black frame helps them to blend in
- The BBS01 mid-drive motor does not offer shift sensing and may mash gears as a result, ease off the pedals while shifting to reduce wear on the chain and sprockets
- Display panel can be adjusted to swivel forward and back (to reduce glare) but may require a tool and the LCD screen is not removable for safe storage
- Official Site: https://bmebikes.myshopify.com/products/bm-helio-27-5
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/jkjZdFs1BrLJiY7g7