Electrek’s Low-Cost DIY E-Bike Conversion A Dangerous Idea (Updated 5/15)

UPDATED: May 15, 2018 – I was contacted by Electrek’s publisher, Frederic Lambert, who said, “there might be some good points in there [my story], but there (sic) are drown out by useless swipes that make this whole thing sound like a shameless hit piece.” Frederic, I’m trying to save people from being injured and I certainly don’t feel “shame.” I’m proud to shed light on bad information to unsuspecting readers.

He went on to explain, “We put the information out there and then people do what they want with it. You can injure or kill yourself with any bike or any vehicle really, doesn’t mean we can tell you how to build one.” Say what? Frederic, the article needs to explain that the “information” voids warranties and encourages bicycles to be operated in ways their manufacturers never intended.

Finally, Frederic dismissed my statement that “I would be surprised if electrek hasn’t already received a cease-and-desist letter or a retraction request.” The original story was updated today removing the Mongoose bikes at the request of Mongoose attorneys.

While I urge riders not to follow the story’s recommendations of motorizing inappropriate bikes, as long as the reader understands that the story contains dangerous advice, then caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). It is my opinion that the electrek story does not sufficiently explain the inherent dangers of their recommended modifications.

My original story appears below…

May 11, 2018 – Electrek, a news site that claims to be “tracking the transition from fossil fuel transportation to electric and the surrounding clean ecosystems,” recently published a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) feature on converting a bicycle to an e-bike that I feel is seriously flawed and dangerous. Unsuspecting riders who follow the article’s advice could be seriously injured or killed.

The article titled “Build your own DIY fat tire electric bicycle for just $600” recommends converting any of three Mongoose Fat Bikes into electric-motorized vehicles. First problem is that Mongoose makes it very clear in their owner’s manual that these mods, in addition to being dangerous, will void the bike’s warranty. It states, “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.” I wouldn’t be surprised if electrik hasn’t already received a cease-and-desist letter or a retraction request from Mongoose’s parent company, Dorel.

The article’s recommended conversion kits will transform the bicycles into something closer to a motorcycle than a bicycle. The kits, rated at 1000-watts with top speeds way over 20 miles-per-hour, will restrict the use of the modified bike to Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) trails in most states. That means you are sharing the trail with motorcycles, jeeps and ATVs. They would not be legal to operate on bike paths or multi-user, natural-surface recreational trails in any state.

The Mongoose Brutus is an entry-level, light-duty fat bike. It was never intended to be operated at speeds exceeding what an Olympic athlete could match on their own.

None of the bikes are mechanically appropriate for the recommended conversion, but the $179.99 Mongoose Brutus is an extraordinarily dangerous suggestion. This bike is not equipped with a front brake and the rear brake is a coaster brake. That is simply ineffective for stopping a bicycle being powered by a 1000-watt power plant. The other two bikes at least have mechanical disc brakes, but neither was engineered, designed or equipped to facilitate the addition of any type of motor.

A Mongoose Malus powered by a 1000-watt motor would be perfect for a thrill-seeking, risk-taking, Evil Knievel wannabe. Converting this bike would be a bad idea for anyone else.

There are bikes that may be appropriate for the recommended conversions, but none of them are anywhere close to the $285 retail ceiling suggested in the article. A bike with suspension (preferably a dual-crown fork and coil-over shock), hydraulic disc brakes with larger diameter brake rotors and more capable components would be a good start. Just realize you will be voiding any bike warranty with your mods and gambling on the quality of an imported conversion kit.

There are many companies that offer reasonably-priced e-bikes designed and specifically equipped to be motorized. These bikes come with warranties and are backed by reputable companies and dealer networks that provided regular maintenance and battery replacements.

Riders should ignore the advice disseminated in electrek’s DIY article. The low price might entice you, but these bikes are simply not appropriate for the conversion recommended in the story. I feel making these modifications is a dangerous suggestion that borders on negligence and could lead to serious injury or even death.

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