“It exploded into flames basically, probably ten-foot-high flames to start with”

Witness, via 9 News Australia
Source: https://www.9news.com.au/2019/01/14/22/28/adelaide-news-man-s-electric-bike-explodes-almost-starts-bushfire

Feeling the burn

A few days ago a man’s electric assist bicycle (ebike) exploded while he was riding with friends through the Adelaide hills in South Australia.

The fiery explosion almost caused a bush fire in the process and gave his bike shorts a good singe.

Ebike critics have been quick to jump onto the bandwagon that this is proof that all ebikes are not only “lazy”, but also dangerous to both riders and other road users.

But there is one very important part of this cautionary tale which wasn’t covered by the original main-stream-media report: the bike was fitted with an after-market electric assist conversion kit.

It wasn’t a factory designed and made ebike. And that is a crucial part of this story.

DIY conversion VS factory made ebike

Ebikes that are carefully designed, assembled and quality tested by reputable manufacturers and local stores should have very low to zero chance of this sort of issue ever occurring.

Reputable manufacturers of ebikes include the German-made Focus bikes (which we reviewed last year), and the American designed Trek, Electra and Specialized bikes.

On the other hand, backyard conversion jobs and online generic conversion kits are well known to have a host of design and safety issues.

My local bike store mechanic has come to a point of refusing to service certain models because the poor quality of components and design. These bikes are difficult to work on, and the bike is still comparatively unsafe and unreliable to use even after being serviced

Use common sense

Incidents like what happened in Adelaide should not be used to discredit all electric bikes. But it should be used as a cautionary tale as to why it is worth spending a little bit extra to buy a good quality, factory designed and made ebike. And always buy from your local authorised bike store.

And if you do decide to use a after-market conversion kit, then at least carry around a portable fire extinguisher and first aid kit with you and be prepared to use it! Especially if you are in Australia in the middle of summer and an especially brutal heat wave.

You don’t want to be that guy with melted bike shorts, third degree burns, and responsibility for an out-of-control bush fire!

Be safe, have fun, and happy riding!

Have you converted your own ebike? Or do you own a factory made ebike? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below!