Converting your bicycle to an electric-motorized bike has never been easier. A recent visit to eBay revealed over 600 kits to motorize your bicycle. But just because you can convert your bike, doesn’t mean that you should. Mike, an enterprising “expert” (and we use that term loosely), starts with a $149 Schwinn Sidewinder Mountain Bike (sold through Walmart) and adds a 1200-watt conversion kit that makes the bike capable of being propelled to a top speed of 33 miles per hour (claimed by Mike). Mike’s ad even states his conversion comes with Schwinn’s lifetime frame warranty.
You don’t need to read the small print to deduct that adding a 1200-watt motor to this bike will void the Schwinn warranty. I would be surprised if Schwinn hasn’t already sent a cease-and-desist letter to Mike. A voided warranty may be the least worry to this bike’s unsuspecting owner. The motor’s size makes it illegal for use on California bike paths and trails, where there is a 750-watt limit. Chances of being cited, however, are close to zilch because visually separating a 1200-watt motor from a 750-watt motor is next to impossible (unless the rider is blowing by other bike path users at 33 miles per hour). So a fine or confiscation is unlikely. A trip to the ER? Now that’s a real worry.
The Schwinn Sidewinder Mountain Bike’s owner’s manual states on page 4, “Do not install any kind of power plant or internal combustion engine to a bicycle. Adapting a bicycle in this manner poses an extreme safety risk to rider and could result in loss of control or death.”
The reason Schwinn is so adamant about this is because nothing on this bike was engineered or tested to withstand the motor’s added weight and the increase in speed that the motor brings. The alloy linear-pull brakes are on top of my list of components woefully inadequate for pairing with a 1200-watt motor. Next is the fork. Next is the front wheel. Next are the wheel bearings. Next is the frame. And the list goes on. This bike in the hands of anyone less than a professional rider (and I don’t know of any professional who would want to ride this bike) could be lethal. Seriously, I mean “lethal.” None of that is clear from Mike’s ad.
I do not want to see unsuspecting riders taken advantage of, or worse, injured. A kit like this is not appropriate for mounting on a $150 bicycle. We urge riders interested in an e-bike to visit a reputable retailer who offers bikes engineered specially for use with a motor. Are there bikes worthy of the electric conversion? Absolutely. But this is not one of them.