The BM-Night Hawk is professionally converted electric mountain bike that uses a proven drive system with quality batteries. What sets it apart from other trail or off-road oriented mid-level ebikes is the good weight distribution (battery and motor are low and center). By leveraging a centerdrive motor and custom front sprocket (that’s smaller than the stock ring) this bike is able to climb more efficiently and you get the added benefit of easier service on the front and rear quick-release wheels compared to a bike with a hub motor. The BMEBIKES Night Hawk is the second step up in their line, just above the BM-Shadow and it uses a better frame and components all around… It has a nine speed cassette instead of eight, features a lockout fork and hydraulic disc brakes but weighs the same. This bike does cost ~$500 more but the performance and durability improvements would be worth it for regular trail use. I love that many of the BMEBIKES come in multiple sizes and the Night Hawk is available in the widest range including 17″, 19″, 21″ and 23″ for super tall riders. The frame has integrated braze ons for adding fenders or a rear rack but the bottle cage mounts on the seat tube are obstructed by the battery. Also, because this frame was originally intended for use as an unpowered bicycle, the wires and electrical cables are not routed through as they often are on purpose built ebikes like the IZIP E3 Peak. Ultimately, the black paint hides the cables well and they are organized professionally and securely. You get a six month warranty with this bike, have some say in how it’s customized (because the company is relatively small and very responsive) and end up with a truly capable off-road machine at a decent price.
Driving this bike is a BBS01 middrive motor that’s mounted 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 is to add a custom CNC made chain ring adapter along with a smaller Race Face NW (narrow wide) sprocket as mentioned earlier. The narrow wide teeth reduce chain slip and the part is available in black, red or green for a bit of style. 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. In terms of drive modes, you can run the motor with throttle on demand and pedal assist modes (using a built in cadence sensor) but it does not include shift detection and may strain the rear derailleur, chain and cassette if you don’t shift gears carefully. To minimize this I found myself letting up a bit on the pedals while shifting and felt good about the durability of the upgraded Shimano Deore derailleur for managing the added force. The motor itself is compact, quiet and surprisingly strong for a 350 watt design… in practice, I regularly topped out at over 600 watts when climbing so perhaps the rating is a bit misleading. I was told the amp output at 18 amps is slightly higher than average for the BBS01 which might account for the increased power. The biggest complaint I have about how the motor performs actually has to do with the braking system. Unlike many cadence sensing electric bikes, this one does not include motor inhibitors on the brake levers and that means you can sometimes end up competing with the motor to stop. Given the capable Hayes Dyno Comp hydraulic disc brake hardware and 160 mm rotors, I think most riders will be fine but on rigorous and possibly unstable terrain this design choice degrades performance and counts as a con.
The battery powering the BM-Night Hawk 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. I realize that from the side it looks long and rather large but from the top down it is narrow and really seats well. 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 even though it’s about average size with 36 volts and an 8.8 amp hour capacity, you actually get a pretty decent range depending on how you ride. For a 170 pound rider on flat pavement I’d estimate 20 miles using throttle only… but if you switch to pedal assist and just tap the throttle occasionally to start or get up a small hill, you could easily double that.
The drive system on this bike offers a lot of modes but really isn’t that complicated to use and the cockpit is clean and intuitive. Once the battery is secured to the frame you press a rubberized power button on the control pad (mounted near the left grip). You do have to reach past the trigger throttle here but it’s doable without completely letting go of the handle bar. Once activated, the backlit Bafang display panel (front and center) 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. 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. I do like that they chose a trigger throttle here instead of a half-twist design because this keeps the grips more secure feeling. 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. I’ve heard stories about the BBS01 overheating with the standard sized sprocket so the decision to use a smaller sized one here for off-road seems like a great choice. With nine gears to choose from the system is very capable and offers a smooth cadence from zero to ~25 mph when pedaling (the motor cuts out around 20).
In closing, this is a reasonably priced ebike that looks pretty cool but has a few quirks. You get a balanced ride and the 26″ wheels are good for quick maneuvering off-road. The suspension fork offers 100 mm of travel vs. just 80 with the BM-Shadow and the lockout feature is great if you plan to use this for trail riding and then switch to commuting. The fender and rack mounting points add a lot of potential to the frame and the four size options are fantastic for short and tall ebike enthusiasts who might otherwise be cramped with something like the Volton 350 Mid-Drive. While the lack of shift-sensing is something that all BBS01 and BBSO2 systems struggle with it’s not that big of a deal when you ride thoughtfully, the biggest letdown for me was the lack of brake cutoff switches. You may also need a CamelBak or seat adapter for porting water. One final note is the inclusion of the front derailleur (which comes stock with the frames that BMEBIKES converts). This hardware is not functional and I imagine they simply left it as a chain guide to reduce drops.
- Excellent weight distribution with the motor and battery low and centered on the frame, also relatively light weight at ~44 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
- Fairly affordable given the solid performance and true off-road capabilities, it also looks nice in all-black and isn’t busy or cheap looking
- 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
- Available in four frame sizes including 17 inch, 19 inch, 21 inch and 23 inch for improved rider fit
- Great components including a 9 speed cassette with Shimano Deore derailleur, 160 mm hydraulic Hayes disc brakes, Suntour XCM suspension fork with lockout and a backlit LCD display panel
- 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
- 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
- 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