"I did everything by the seat of my pants. That's why I got hurt so much." – Evil Knievel
After all, this is America. Or ‘merica. You are free to say it either way. You are free to hot rod your electric bike, make it an “out of class electric vehicle” and push it as fast as you can until the fork bends.
In Part One, I wrote about the rules that govern e-bikes at this point in time. The rules don’t seem to matter much right now because they have not been enforced yet. Every time you turn around, there is a new 3000w bike being promoted. I assume that you don’t care that much about it, and you just want to go fast.
Also, I am assuming that you are going to take your fast e-bike on public roads and paths. I know the large manufacturers of out of class bikes say that unlimited mode is for private roads, but let’s just be real, ok?
So, let’s just briefly think about the pros and cons of bending or breaking the rules.
- PRO: You will Go Fast.
Riding fast on a small frame bike is an adrenaline rush. Having a stealthy bike that you know can accelerate to 30, 40, or more and blow by traffic and other bikes is pretty cool.
- CON: Safety.
"When I hit that pavement at 70 or 80 mph those suits just ripped." – Evil Knievel
In other words a bike traveling at 30mph will do 4 times the damage of a bike doing 15mph. At 60mph (lookin' at you, ONYX) you will have 16 times as much energy as at one quarter of the speed.
If you are on a fast bike, technically and legally speaking, you’re on a motorbike. You should dress accordingly. Your skateboard helmet won’t cut it. Get an ADOT helmet and some gloves. Maybe even a crash jacket. Take a little time and watch this free Youtube video series about motorcycle safety so you have some strategies in mind when you are on the road.
- PRO: Speed Makes E-bike More Viable Transport Option
Even at 20 – 28 mph, electric bikes are great substitutes for cars. Adding speed makes a fast e-bike a viable option for a longer distance commute (provided you have the battery power.)
- CON: Voids any Warranty
- CON: Untested territory.
If your e-bike was designed as an e-bike, the frame, the fork, and the wheels were not tested for safety over 28 mph. As I explained in the first part, the trade off for electric bikes to be treated like bicycles for consumer protection law purposes was the limit on speed and power. Your e-bike frame was not designed or tested as a motor vehicle. You are hitchin' fast horses to a slow wagon. Don't be surprised when things break.
- CON: Danger to Others
This may sound a little PC and sanctimonious to some people’s ears, but it doesn’t make it not true: going real fast on a quiet e-bike around other people (cars, pedestrians, bikes, one wheelers, scooters, the whole calamity) creates a risk of accidents. And if not accidents, conflict and hurt feelings. And if you don’t care about other people that much, consider that while there is insurance available for regular e-bikes, you are on your own with a rodded bike. If you hurt someone, you will likely be in a world of hurt yourself. Be careful and considerate.
- PRO: Ability to Accelerate
Like a passing gear in a car, having the ability to speed up allows you to get out of a bad road situation quicker. So if a car with its hazards on is sitting in the bike lane, you can get around it, quick.
- CON: Expensive Hobby!
When you build your fast bike, you are also going to want to invest in other parts and gear. At a minimum, you want to get thicker discs and quad piston brakes to stop. Get a stronger headlight for night riding so you do not outrun your light. Get an ADOT helmet and gloves. Etc.
Let’s say you sink $1,000 bucks in an aftermarket hub or other parts. And that’s cheap. When it breaks, how are you going to feel? Depending on how you rod a bike, it is likely that your motor will burn. For example, if you are overvolting a motor, you are sending more heat than what the manufacturer thought should go into that motor. When the thing smokes out on a hill and the motor melts or burns, how are you going to feel about that?
- CON: Fire.
Speaking of smoke, how do you put out a lithium battery fire? Don’t know the answer? Maybe find out before you start hot rodding. Here’s a tip – do not use water. Water should not be used on any lithium fire because pouring water on a lithium battery fire can make it more difficult to extinguish it because of the reduction of lithium in water, which leads to the release of hydrogen, which is highly flammable; the potential of reigniting a fire is much greater when using water. Don’t believe me? Watch this.
If your battery is on fire on the road, you should abandon it and call the fire department for your own safety. While ABC extinguishers are ok for cell phone fires, only Class D fire extinguishers with copper powder really work on big lithium batteries – and those will cost you $600 - $1,000. (If you are running a shop with lithium batteries, you need one. Ask your insurance agent about deals they can get you.)
Ok – that’s just some food for thought. I know it seems like I listed more cons than pros. For someone who wants to make their bike faster, this won't stop you. The point is, don't do it by the seat of your pants and know what you are taking on. Be as safe as you can. And a lot of this advice also applies to people who are riding the new Super73 bikes in unlimited mode, or any of type of fast e-bike (out of class electric vehicle). In the final part, I will go just review some of the basic info about e-rodding and point you toward some resources.