Convert a Surly Ice Cream Truck with Bafang Mid Drive

jasmine_dior

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I've heard various opinions that you can/can not convert a Surly Ice Cream Truck and am hoping someone can set the record straight.

I talked to a Bafang dealer and they said you absolutely could convert so I just pulled the trigger on a new Surly Ice Cream Truck that will be delivered in a few days. While searching again, I started finding posts saying it's only possible with major modifications and wasn't worth it. This left me deflated and then I found this forum so hoping I can get some guidance from someone who's got experience with this particular bike. (I'm very new to bicycles and motors and trying to understand all the terminology)

HUGE thanks for any information!
 
You didn't give us much to work with here. When newbs come here and ask for help, but then are too lazy to provide us enough info to help, we don't want to do all the legwork for you and your query will just sit. Many members will not even know what a Surly Ice Cream Truck is, and they're not going to spend THEIR time looking it up.

Along that line of thought, this link and photo will get things rolling, I hope:

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  • Which Bafang kit were you thinking of? Mid drive or hub drive? (provide a link)
  • Why didn't those posts (provide links) think it could be done?
  • What does Bafang recommend for motorizing this Fatty?
I think I would start by seeing if Bafang motors have a Reddit sub, and then also maybe join the Surly sub at Reddit.
 
There's not a lot of room inside the frame triangle here for a controller and battery. Maybe on a big rear rack?

Even if not, just enjoy that bike for what it was made for: slow-rolling over almost any terrain. Top speed? Maybe 15 mph. 8-10 will be more typical.

Electrified, it would probably go 20 or so, but not for far, because those tires will make it very inefficient at speeds over 10-15 mph.
 
Hello and huge thanks for your reply! I totally get the lack of responses. I'm completely ignorant on bikes/motors and trying to learn as much as I can. I'm mostly on Reddit these days and searching there didn't get much traction, and searching other forums also didn't get much. It clicked with me just yesterday that I was searching wrong. The 100mm bottom bracket is not proprietary to the Surly Ice Cream Truck and it's a common issue with most fat bikes putting a motor on it. So I started searching last night with "100mm bottom bracket 120mm motor" and that is starting to get me somewhere. I'm having to learn terminology such as "chainstay, chainring, bottom bracket, etc" and honestly it's been overwhelming, but I'm slowly learning about bikes and motors. I have mobility issues and a fat bike is my chance to get back out into nature exploring old abandoned forest service trails. I can pedal a little bit, but a motor will greatly enhance my freedom to explore.

Here's been my journey trying to figure this out so far:
First I called Surly and they said you absolutely, positively, under no circumstance, don't even think about putting a motor on it. So that let me completely deflated. Then I heard that was just standard lawyer speak to cover them legally. Then I heard you COULD do it, but with massive modifications and it probably wouldn't work that good. Then a Bafang dealer said you could EASILY do it all day every day, then someone said they tried and failed miserably, then someone said no they did it successfully and on and on. So I've posted to various forums and then finally, someone reached out to me yesterday privately from this forum and told me EXACTLY what I needed to do to make it work. So I'm back to being excited that this is indeed going to happen! I just got the text from UPS that my bike should be here in a few hours and now I'm in the final stretch of trying to figure out exactly what I need to make this happen.

Anyway, I didn't mean to ramble on, I'm just super excited and hopeful this is going to change my life in profound ways! I sincerely appreciate your reply and I'll post my updates on this journey soon!
 
The OP sent me a private msg asking essentially the same question yesterday and I passed along that yes its very do-able, and its been done. I have seen ICT's fitted with BBSHD motors on the Surly usergroups on Facebook.

The newer bikes have a 100mm bottom bracket, and a BBSHD comes in 100mm and 120mm versions. You want the 120 because the ICT has the same issue all fat bikes have to one degree or the other: The secondary housing clearing the chainstays. Here's a picture of the typical problem, solved, on a Motobecane Lurch frame. The 120mm motor gives enough extra length that you can then use a spacer on the drive side to extend the secondary housing outboard enough to clear the stays without touching them.

IMG_20180517_184524.jpg


I have also done the same with a Lynskey something-or-other (forget the name they used at the time frame is no longer in production) and the Chumba Ursa Major. All of these bikes are 5.05"-tire capable so wide stays.

The ICT very likely will need less spacing due to its design at the chainstay root meant to allow a small 1x chainring. My Lynskey has that and it lets you tuck the secondary much closer to the frame. A BBSHD secondary housing is roughly the size of a 32T chainring.

Picking a chainring after motor fitment is determined is where the fun is. Look at how close that 42T ring is to the stay in the pic above. You may not be able to tuck the motor fully into the space available depending on your chainring choice.

Junior here is going on my own Surly this weekend. Part of a major drivetrain change to gear it down into the basement for an upcoming camping trip. If you CAN tuck the motor in deep on an ICT, maybe a teeny chainring like this with minimal inboard offset is an option.

20240405_092646.jpg
20240405_092728.jpg


BTW here is what a 36T looks like which is the next step up. Same minimal offset. Totally contingent on being able to tuck the motor in close.
20240331_151604.jpg


Don't go and buy a 40T motor cover and chainring - or ANY chainring - until you can figure this out. Chainring choice is an inexact science that varies per bike and you should budget in getting it wrong on the first try.

 
I was working on building a couple of fat tire bike one of which was an Ice cream truck but it was an older ice cream truck with a weird bottom bracket 120mm wide and internal bearings so it was really not possible at all.

The new ice cream truck has a more standard fattie 100mm bottom bracket but they do have very short chain stays which can make it hard to fit certain chain rings like M@ said don't buy any chain ring until you have the motor fitted then see what you can make work.
 
Don't go and buy a 40T motor cover and chainring - or ANY chainring - until you can figure this out. Chainring choice is an inexact science that varies per bike and you should budget in getting it wrong on the first try.

This is incredibly helpful! I'm about to pull the trigger and buy the BBSHD 120mm motor now and then I'll mount and try to figure out the chain ring part next. I appreciate the guidance you all are offering!
 
... but they do have very short chain stays which can make it hard to fit certain chain rings like M@ said don't buy any chain ring until you have the motor fitted then see what you can make work.
@jasmine_dior to expand on this whole train of thought, be prepared to think out of the box on this whole drivetrain thing. Doing this is something of a black art, hence why you hear so many conflicting stories from people who did it wrong and blamed the equipment.

If the Surly is a 12s, and you want to keep the 12s rear cluster, derailleur etc., then that is going to point you in the direction of a Lekkie Pro 42T ring, which will not require a Lekkie drive cover, or a Lekkie Pro 40T ring, which will require the cover+ring package (and some light filing on the motor to get the full 22mm of offset). Only the Lekkie Pro rings are 10-12s compatible. NOTHING else is on a BBSHD especially considering there are no 104 BCD adapters for the HD (they are all BBS02-specific).

So if you go 40T, then maybe you will have to push the drive spacing out further to get a ring that big to fit.

Or maybe you can get the motor tucked all the way in, so you can get that little 28T ring to fit. But thats a 9-11s ring. If that gives good chain line, you are going to be better off chucking the shifter and derailleur and maybe putting in a Microshift Advent X 11-48T steel cluster (and derailleur and shifter) for example. 11s would give more pedaling options but matching a derailleur to the steel clusters out there is going to be a lot more money. The Advent X can take a beating, has huge range, is flat out cheap and has proven to be completely reliable for me. Put an 11s Shimano Linkglide chain on it and the narrower ($25) ebike chain should give you a nearly belt-silent drivetrain.
 
Jasmine, here is another option you haven't thought of, and is the one I would do:

When the Ice Cream Truck (ICT) arrives, don't open it. Just leave it in the box and return it. You will have to pay that shipping, which is the penalty, but they can't penalize you further if you haven't even opened it. Maybe you could even just decline delivery because the box will be gouged up? (although that is a little dishonest unless you really do suspect damage to the bike)

Then, take that money and invest it into an eFatty that was designed to be electric from the start. No fuss, no burning away the spring and summer while you train yourself to be an eBike builder.

m@ is a hobbyist eBike builder. Very knowledgable. He makes it sound easy, but make no mistake, the BEST case, if you are mechanically-inclined, is that you will burn weeks and weeks getting everything sorted out. If you get through it, yes, you will be a LOT more knowledgeable and will be able to build your next one a lot easier. The WORST case is that you'll realize you bit off more than you can chew and now you have hundreds of dollars sunk into a project that never materialized.

Two more things to consider:
  • That bike was not designed with eBike speeds in mind. (esp. re. braking performance) You are thinking of at least doubling its speed compared to its design envelope. (as well as adding extra weight that needs to be slowed down)
  • There is also the question of whether the frame can handle the extra power. If you go with the mid drive arrangement that m@ is suggesting, you'll put probably quadruple the power through the drivetrain that it was designed for. Best case is that chains & sprockets wear a lot faster. Worst case is that it snaps and strands you God knows where with your mobility issues and a disabled 100 lb. bike. If you fit a hub motor, then you have to have a torque arm and hope the chain stays are up to the job. (on a steel Surly, they will be. I agree with the other person who said Surly is giving you their lawyer response, but there is some real degree of injury risk...)
Re. buying a fatbike that was designed from the start to be electrified, I see that the price of the Surly ICT is $2k. You could pay up to $200 to return ship the ICT and buy the Aventon Aventure and break even. I have an Aventon and can vouch for their quality. The Aventure has a hub motor, so all the extra power wouldn't be put through the chain & sprocket drive train; it's applied directly from within the hub.


↑ This is what I would do, as I know how frustrating it is wanting to get started on something and being held up by logistics of finding the right parts.

For your 2nd eBike, if you get one, you could at least have the Aventure to ride while you're messing around trying to get parts and figure out how to bolt them all together.

You can tell I'm a little more risk-averse than m@. The way it's going, it sounds like you'll be 100% reliant on his help to get this done...
 
I am going to have to disagree very strongly with a lot of what you are saying here @Smaug.
the BEST case, if you are mechanically-inclined, is that you will burn weeks and weeks getting everything sorted out.
That is a *gross* overstatement, so far out of line that it is just flat out untrue. You have to remember that, first of all, plenty of people build up fat bikes with the motor we are discussing here. The problems are known, as are the solutions. What is not known (simply because I haven't personally done this exact one) is how the chainring choice is going to shake out. That will be solved with direct experience, but truly... its not brain surgery. There are a lot of words on the screen here, but those are here to keep someone from doing much in the way of error, when it comes to trial-and-error. Certainly, in no circumstance is someone going to spend "weeks and weeks" figuring out the solution. There's so little to have to fuss with here.

The WORST case is that you'll realize you bit off more than you can chew and now you have hundreds of dollars sunk into a project that never materialized.
But he has more or less solved that by asking people with experience what the solution is. I'm not sure if this made it into the thread or was only in my DMs with the OP, but he consulted a Bafang dealer who told him straightaway what he needed to do for an ICT and that it was easy. And it is. But chainring choice is where you can end up throwing money away and as you can see above much attention was paid to describing the cheap - and maybe free - way to get past that. Regardless my advice was to budget in a do-over on the chainrings. A 28T Lekkie is $75.
  • That bike was not designed with eBike speeds in mind. (esp. re. braking performance) You are thinking of at least doubling its speed compared to its design envelope. (as well as adding extra weight that needs to be slowed down)
The implication here is that braking performance is an issue and this is wrong. First of all, note the OP is talking about an e-MTB and he is interested in small chainrings. That translates to slow speed in the woods, on singletrack etc. It will also keep speed down on the street. Sure, downhill speeds will be fast but the 'e' in 'emtb' will not affect gravity's pull on a bike speeding down a hill unpowered. 15 lbs of battery and motor on a bike are meaningless in that regard. Next... he is purchasing a quality mtb. Take a moment to read the specs and understand the brakes it has on it. They are more than strong enough to handle a frat bike careening down a hillside, and so they will also be just fine on a fat bike going down the street.

  • There is also the question of whether the frame can handle the extra power. If you go with the mid drive arrangement that m@ is suggesting, you'll put probably quadruple the power through the drivetrain that it was designed for.
I'm sorry but this is lack of experience doing the worrying here. That chromoly frame is more than strong enough to handle a BBSHD or something even bigger. Surly frames border on being the gold standard when it comes to strength. There is no reason for concern here. For that matter, even the dirt cheap Mongoose Dolomite frame is plenty strong and thats a $250 bike. There is no issue with the frame, period.

However there is a potential issue using 12s. Plenty of people do it (the ones who do are all hi-po singletrack rider), but 12s chains under BBSHD power have been known to snap when being rode (rided? ridden?) hard on trails. The solution is to bring along a spare chain, which EVERY mid drive rider in the woods should do right next to their tire irons and patch kit. But thats not the frame.
  • Best case is that chains & sprockets wear a lot faster. Worst case is that it snaps and strands you God knows where with your mobility issues and a disabled 100 lb. bike.
Here again, this is inexperience talking. I follow best practices on builds and I do NOT get any additional wear and tear on my drivetrains. I also follow best practices on riding, and as thanks for that, in all the years I have been riding, despite the fact I take along a spare chain without fail, I have never snapped one. Further, I get roughly 3000 miles out of a chain, and sometimes more, although the 'more' is on a bike with 2wd which extends chain life almost indefinitely it seems. Anyway, 3000 miles on a chain is as good or better than analog riders get.

Just today I put a 28T Lekkie front chainring on my Surly Big Fat Dummy. A few days ago I swapped out the 11-46T cluster for an 11-51T, and to follow best practices, I also changed the chain to match the new drivetrain. The old 11s chain has 1679 miles on it and the gauge still doesn't show any wear. But I'm changing it anyway since its a best practice with a new cluster.
Re. buying a fatbike that was designed from the start to be electrified, I see that the price of the Surly ICT is $2k. You could pay up to $200 to return ship the ICT and buy the Aventon Aventure and break even.
And have a vastly inferior bike. Mass-merchandise ebikes in this class have components that most cyclists would recognize as junk. Starting with an ICT, you get a chromoly frame of the highest quality short of a custom frame, along with quality hubs and wheels. Same for the derailleur and shifter although 12s is going to be iffy on chain durability. But not so iffy I wouldn't give it a try and see how it fares. You can change a chain from a spare in your bag in ten minutes.
I have an Aventon and can vouch for their quality. The Aventure has a hub motor, so all the extra power wouldn't be put through the chain & sprocket drive train; it's applied directly from within the hub.
There is a reason quality e-mtb's are all mid drives. Hub motors are awful in the mtb segment. On the street and no more than low rolling hills, hub motors that cannot take advantage of gears and are single-speed as a result are in their element.
You can tell I'm a little more risk-averse than m@. The way it's going, it sounds like you'll be 100% reliant on his help to get this done...
There is nothing short of an enormous amount of self-help out there in terms of how-to's. And yes, I wrote some of the popular references on the subject, including


and taking it a couple of steps beyond what is needed here:


I went to those lengths specifically because there is so much misinformation out there.
 
Here's a guy who did a BBSHD on an ICT in 2020. He was doing it with a Rohloff in the back though, and the frame has changed at the chainstay root since then. Surly now says a 34T will fit as max chainring size.


I had forgotten about the existence of the Mighty Mini 30T sold by Luna for only $56. It has a 'wicked' tooth profile that is excellent at chain retention. But its only good to '10s and below'. I don't think Luna realized when they said that, that an 11s chain has the same internal width as a 10s so it will work fine on 11s chain. My 10s Luna rings work perfectly with 11s.


The 30T Mini ring will almost exactly match the diameter of the secondary housing. The 28T may be a hair too small when it comes to angling the chain back to get to the bigger cogs. I put my 28T on today and it looks like this, fitted:

20240406_180512.jpg
20240406_180449.jpg
20240406_102740.jpg


Lastly, remember you can file away quite a bit of the secondary housing to bring it in closer to the frame. You'll want to do some googling on that if you decide to try it. I never have but I have seen them and it is amazing how much material you can take off.
 
I was involved in another private conversation on doing an ICT conversion and I made some points in that convo that I get out into the wild, since so little proper discussion/help is available on the late-model Surly Ice Cream Truck and the BBSHD:

m@Robertson said:
<snip>
... One thing I will caution you on, and which you have already seen in the public threads, is the chainring situation. This is the only real difficulty in the build. As you have already seen, the main issue is getting the secondary housing as close to the frame as possible, but even then its going to be outboard way more than it is stock. As you've seen me discuss, the ICT's 12s config is not ideal as mid drives go in the first place, and you pretty much cannot get yourself a decent 12s compatible chainring. The Lekkie Pro 42T or 40T will do it but its expensive, the 40T requires a different drive motor cover so it will fit, and even then I doubt it will clear the stays with its inboard offset likely coming into contact, so it can't be used without a spacer or two... which makes it pointless to make the sacrifice of a big chainring to get the big offset.

I think the solution on the ICT is to *probably* keep your motor cover stock and put on a 28T Lekkie chainring, OR a 30T Luna Mighty Mini.
  • The Luna ring, being the same diameter as the motor cover, will eliminate the potential for hitting the motor cover as an issue when climbing up onto the big cogs.
  • The Luna ring is $56 and the Lekkie 28T is $75 at California Ebike. So both are cheap as these things go.
  • I used the 2mm Lekkie spacer on mine and depending on how you do your bike up, it is worth it to spend the $6 on one just in case you want to use it to allow for a little fudge. I used it on mine to give me 2mm outboard placement so I could better clear my Snowshoe 2XL tire casing on my innermost reachable cog. That 2mm made the difference to let me make one more cog usable.
  • The small Luna Ring is renowned as a torque monster that doesn't cost you much in the way of top speed on the street. I was very surprised to find the Lekkie 28T let me go pretty fast too, so the 30T Luna will give the same and a little more versatility for street use and still be small enough to take as much advantage as possible of the bigger cogs.
  • In no case will you be able I think to use all of the cogs on your rear cluster. This is common on almost all fat bike builds, with the only exception being bikes with solid bar-style chainstay roots, like say the Marin Pine Mountain or my Lynskey ti fat frame. However, the existence of a high-torque motor and that 28 or 30-tooth front ring will mean you don't need to go so big in the back and the bike will still have loads of torque to do whatever you want. My BFD with a 28T front needs only 33T in the back to be able to get up the 16% grades that are the max here at about 5.5 mph, which leaves my 39T cog in reserve.
  • Since I think you need to use a small front chainring, and such chainrings only exist in less-than-12s compatible tooth profiles, that means the 12s parts have to go. As a budget friendly choice, consider the Microshift Advent X which offers a 10s 11-48T hardened steel rear cluster. The mid-length cage is livable since its big pulleys wrap more chain than usual, and its matched to that 48T cluster so it can wrap all the chain you need, and you won't be able to use the biggest cogs, anyway. I am using a SRAM GX 11s coupled to a Sunrace CSMX80 on my BFD but thats not cheap and the Sunrace is not pinnned together so its not ideal for a mid drive (but its cogs are all steel). You can use a 10s SRAM EX1 chain, or go for the 11s Shimano Linkglide chain regardless of whether you choose 10s or 11s as 11s chains are the same internal width as 10s and the Linkglide is stressed for mid drive use.
That, I think, is going to be the secret to doing the best, most hill-capable ICT. 11s or 10S and 30T or 28T chainring.

Additional notes

I said "probably" when I mentioned keeping the stock motor cover because the Lekkie cover is a good product on its own. Has its own tiny grease port. Looks pretty. Especially in the oiled finish. But its not necessary if you aren't trying to fit the 40T ring.

The existence of a motor more powerful than you need gives you options you wouldn't have or even think are possible, and the use of best build and ride practices mean you don't have to worry about breaking things or wearing them out.
 
As someone mentioned above it all depends on the bottom bracket width. I don't know what is on the ICT. I converted my Surly Ogre with it's wider bracket and it all works great. I started with the Bafang BBHSD but did not like the cadence sensing so I changed to the Tong Shen kit and have really enjoyed it. I've taken it on a couple of short overnight cam trips and one 8 day trip on the Erie Canal. Proven to be super reliable. Here in anothe month I'll be off with it on a three week tour. If you are even a newby inexperienced bike mechanic you can install this!! You might have to purchase a few tools, but that is an investment. Good Luck!! You are going to have a hell-of-a ride!!
 
... I don't know what is on the ICT. ... I started with the Bafang BBHSD but did not like the cadence sensing
Current ICT is 100mm.
The BBSHD's built in cadence sensing settings are notoriously awful. If you still have the motor, you can totally change it into a gently-engaging, immediately-disengaging, pedaling-friendly motor that never, ever runs away from you. Completely the opposite of what comes from the factory.

If you want, your muscles will always be more powerful than the motor assist, so it just assists you up to a certain point and then you are doing as much of the work as you want. Pretty much eliminates the benefit torque sensing gives, but its unimaginable this can even be possible if you live with what Bafang gives you.

 
Current ICT is 100mm.
The BBSHD's built in cadence sensing settings are notoriously awful. If you still have the motor, you can totally change it into a gently-engaging, immediately-disengaging, pedaling-friendly motor that never, ever runs away from you. Completely the opposite of what comes from the factory.

If you want, your muscles will always be more powerful than the motor assist, so it just assists you up to a certain point and then you are doing as much of the work as you want. Pretty much eliminates the benefit torque sensing gives, but its unimaginable this can even be possible if you live with what Bafang gives you.

Thank you for this. I still have the motor ( I never sell off anything!! ) I'll look into this and maybe try it out in the future on a bike in the garage!!
 
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