A cyclist in South Australia had a lucky escape when the battery of an aftermarket motor fitted to his Pinarello Dogma F8 bike exploded while he was riding it in the Adelaide Hills, sending flames shooting 10 feet into the air.
The incident, on Corkscrew Road, Montacute - a climb that features each year in the Tour Down Under, meaning it will have been particularly popular with amateur riders this weekend - also started a scrub fire by the roadside that spread 30 metres.
Fortunately, a fire crew attending a separate incident nearby were able to extinguish the flames despite the hazards posed by the exploding lithium battery as well as CO2 canisters in the rider’s saddlebag, which one witness said were acting “like bloody bullets.”
— Nine News Adelaide (@9NewsAdel) January 14, 2019
The bike’s rider, 79-year-old Gary Ryan, had his shorts burnt in the incident and was treated by paramedics at the scene before being taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital to be checked over.
He told Channel 9 News that he was “coming up the hill and my electric bike caught fire, so I threw it down.”
He added that he had telephoned the man who had built the bike to tell him about the explosion and fire.
“He said I must have got a short [circuit] in it, because he said that doesn’t happen.”
A friend of Mr Ryan’s, Keith Harris, said: “He managed to get off the bike before it actually burst in flames,” adding that he estimated the flames had reached a height of around 10 feet.
The incident is reminiscent of one we reported on in 2017 when the battery of a mountain bike fitted with an aftermarket motor exploded in Wandsworth, London, with one witness saying: “We couldn’t believe how big the fire was.
“Flames were shooting into the air and there was popping and banging, like a fireworks display.”
The rider of that bike was unhurt.
In a comment on that article, Dave from our sister site ebiketips.co.uk shared the following advice “There are a lot of aftermarket e-bike kits readily available in the UK, some of which are legal for use on UK roads and some which are not: if it's over 250W, has a throttle instead of being pedal-assist, or doesn't have a speed sensor to cut the motor above 25km/h, it's not legal.
“Obviously when you're buying direct and cheap you're putting yourself at the mercy of a manufacturer's quality control, and it's often difficult to know what the build quality of a system is even after it arrives.
“Lithium-Ion e-bike batteries are generally made up of an array of smaller cells, usually 18650 cells of which you need around 40 for a standard e-bike battery.
“They're well-known for being flammable if they short-circuit or if there's a weak point in the system where heat can build up, and it's not only budget manufacturers that have issues: look at Samsung's problems with the Galaxy Note in 2016.
“But the lower the price, the more you can expect corners to have been cut.
“Our advice would be to choose carefully, and not just to go for the cheapest system you can find.
“If you do want an inexpensive e-bike then there are manufacturers of both full bikes (B'Twin, Cyclotricity, Powacycle) and retrofit kits (Panda, Dillinger, Woosh) that will back up their bikes or systems with a full UK warranty.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.