Video: Cyclist Narrowly Escapes Injury as Aftermarket Motor Catches Fire

Jan 15, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  

A warning to anyone who was thinking of buying and fitting an aftermarket motor to 'e' up their bike as a man in Australia narrowly escaped serious harm when a battery cell in his own motor exploded.

Gary Ryan, 79, was riding up Corkscrew road yesterday when the one of the battery cells in his motor caught fire. The flames are said to have reached 10 feet in height while his CO2 canisters shot off like bullets. He was taken to hospital as the fire burned through his shorts but seems to have escaped without any serious harm. A bigger worry for emergency services was the possibility of a bushfire as temperatures are currently reaching record highs in Australia. Thankfully it was a still day and the fire was contained quickly by a crew on another call nearby.

A short circuit has been blamed for the fire and is one of a number of similar incidents that have been reported in the past few years. Lithium batteries are to blame and while the problems are largely reported around charging, incidents like the one above prove they can become faulty during operation too. It's nearly always ebike conversion kits that cause these fires so if you're thinking of getting involved in the e game, please make sure you're buying from a reputable dealer. The cheapo, dodgy internet kit might look tempting but could leave you singed where the sun don't shine.

Edit: Article updated to reflect that a battery cell, not the motor itself, was the reason for the fire. We apologise for any confusion caused.


138 Comments

  • + 191
 "Hey, do you have a motor on that thing?"
"Of course not"
"Well your pants are on fire so I think you're lying"
  • + 68
 Everything about this article and news report is completely wrong and biased. Nothing happened to his motor because e-motors don't explode (see clip at 1:39 rear hub motor in perfect condition). The fire was caused by a bad lithium battery pack or some connection to the battery.

For all of your information, this also happens to laptops, cell phones, e-cigs, and other lithium batter operated devices. The bottom line is, if you have lithium batter devices, they all need proper care. One bad cell can act like an M80 firecracker. Just saying.
  • + 7
 @chillaxin: You're helping. Key point is one BAD cell can cause these problems. Aftermarket kits are often so janky. There are a few select good ones out there but most of them are terrifying. Complete e-bikes out-of-the-box from major manufacturers are usually very polished products and are highly sophisticated in both battery and motor technology compared to what blew up in the video.
  • + 15
 @fullfacemike: kind of like a Samsung phablet?
  • + 1
 @fullfacemike: 1 bad cell in a well designed system wont as the cell protection will prevent the fire.
Rare in consumer electronics though, much more common in military, hazardous area and downhole battery systems (especially dowhole as those cells are nasty and dont work at ambient temperatures).
  • + 6
 @fullfacemike: Doesn't need to be aftermarket, I have seen a well known brand (very well known brand) of e-bike battery manufacturer telling a bike shop to 'QUARANTINE' immediately and a battery 'DO NOT TOUCH IT' after a few photos being sent by email.

I can only imagine how much leakage of toxic material from e-bike batteries there is going on sheds around the world and on bikes dumped in canals and rivers.. and how many are actually just left to the side causing a bad hazard to people and children
  • - 7
flag WAKIdesigns (Jan 15, 2019 at 13:47) (Below Threshold)
 @yzedf: phablet? The Beast, is that you?
  • + 13
 @chillaxin: pretty standard for commercial news in Aus. No need to fact check or even bother reporting properly. It’s just filler between advertising anyway.
  • + 0
 @chillaxin: Ebikes suck, Period
  • + 7
 @chillaxin: Funny years ago when I raced RC cars, we had to charge the batteries in fire bags or the track wouldn't be covered for insurance.
  • + 3
 "Liar, liar,
Pants on fire"
  • + 1
 Motor isn’t in the hubs, the motor on this bike will spin the cranks.... it’s NZ’s have moved on
  • + 1
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: not anymore, or at least not the track I go to.
  • + 1
 @betsie: More likely a short current or damaged battery, but batteries need a BMS too control current in batteries, so get balanced system, what if electric car went on fire?
  • + 2
 @aljoburr:
Multicell Li-pol batteries may or may not have charge balancing employed, either in the charge controller or in the battery itself. They should also have a PCM device for short circuit, over voltage, under voltage, reverse connection and thermal protection where possible. (most phone batteries do, but this didnt stop Samsung having an issue due to thermal runaway of their cell due to a design fault in the cell itself).
As you cant guarantee how a battery will be charged and they are not fixed into a device it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that it is not simple to connect an incorrect charger.
A shorted cell which explodes and goes on fire will reach ridiculous temperatures at the source in a very short period of time.
Li-pol batteries do not like higher temperatures, take most up above 60C and you start to destroy the chemistry and causing the cell to expand, if the design does not allow for expansion due to performance and age then there could be trouble ahead.
Most cells will have been through drop and crush testing as part of their DV testing so there should not be an issue there.
The list goes on and on for Li-pols.
  • + 1
 @TheOriginalTwoTone:

Yeah, the early Li-PO batteries were pretty unstable. Cheap ones probably still are i guess....the charge bags that came with mine were almost chain mail....

In Adelaide this time of year that would have been a serious bush fire hazard... and its been 40+C there lately so i bet they overheated....
  • + 2
 @Treble3: Interesting fact... thanks for the Aus news insight...
  • + 1
 @mikeyb76: Why so narrow minded?
  • + 1
 He should have been riding a Hover Round.
  • + 1
 @Brytrl8tr: Was going too ask what a Hover Round was but just asked Google?
  • + 92
 Cyclist ? Since when motorbike riders are called cyclists ?
  • + 3
 this
  • + 12
 He is a motorcyclist
  • + 63
 The guy is 79. If ever there was an e-bike candidate it’s him.. I don’t like them either but if I make it to 79 I’m sure as hell riding my e-bike up clawhammer so I can bomb down black then smoke 4 beers in the parking lot while I tell all the young bucks how big of pussies they are. Good for this guy.
  • + 0
 I view all E-Bikes as Electric Motorcycles. It helps me cope. I found this happy place when a hippy environmentalist drove up to my shop in his Prius. He said he wanted a motorcycle, so an E-Bike would be a great alternative. I'm okay with that. But when people pass off E-Bikes as bicycles, no. Own it! I also would love to have an E-Townie. When I'm in flip-flops, drinking a beer, and pulling two kids in a chariot loaded with toys and snacks up the bike path to the beach, it'd be sick to just cruise.
  • + 1
 @kbonesddeuce: Agreed, ebikes are a great option for a 79 year old. I also considering ebikes to be more of a motorcycle than a bike. That isn't a criticism. It's just reality.
  • + 60
 thiiiis is why you buy e-products from the big boys and not someones shed. Less likely to singe your bits.
  • + 18
 This needs to be higher up. It's some random aftermarket POS motor that was put on by the rider himself, not an actual engineered E-bike. PB, stop with the clickbait please.
  • + 3
 thiiiis is why you don't buy e-products from any company. Less likely to completely lose your bits.
  • + 2
 @drunkcyclist: says they guy typing on an 'e' product... Anti-ebike stupidity.
  • + 6
 I'd also like to point out the rider wasn't hospitalized; he went to the hospital to have a check over and was released same day.

Can you give us any reason you're sensationalizing the news? @jamessmurthwaite
  • + 4
 A factory e-bike started a fire in a bike shop not far from me this past year. Shop was out of commission for months due to smoke damage.
  • + 3
 In reference to the last post I made; the title has been changed due to people pointing it out. Cheers to others to calling them out as well.
  • + 1
 @sherbet: Jump up, Jump Up and Hover Round.
  • + 41
 *does drop* bike f*cking explodes
  • + 1
 Just imagine...
  • + 20
 make for a hell of a slow-mo huck to flat video!
  • + 39
 Friday Fails intro explained.
  • + 6
 That's my biggest worry with these large lithium batteries and the way we ride our bicycles. What happens if you crash and the battery slams into a rock. Not just the frame mounted (or contained) battery, but also the spare battery which some backpacks are now designed to carry. Not meant to create panic, but it does worry me.

To be clear, this is not related to the situation of the article. Which apparently was the typical "I was just riding along and... can I have warranty?" kind of situation.
  • + 2
 @erictens Fox X2 used to do that...
  • + 4
 If Land Rover made mtb...
  • - 2
 @AAAAAHHH: If Jeep made MTB... Ellsworth actually...
  • + 40
 E-Bikes .. So hot right now.
  • + 33
 "It burns when I PR!"
  • + 30
 Pinkbike: "We have made the editorial decision to not show eBike related content on this website."

Also Pinkbike: "Sick, this video makes eBikes look terrible. Run it."
  • + 9
 When did they decide not to stop showing mopeds?
  • + 3
 I mean what can I say except "Thank you Pinkbike!!"
  • + 0
 I wish.... The only reason PB is featuring this article is to tell people NOT to buy aftermarket motors but to BUY native e-bikes....
  • + 5
 When did PB say they would stop showing eBike content??
  • + 26
 When the $10k Pinarello Dogma just isn't fast enough....
  • + 13
 "When you are not fast enough to power the $10k Pinarello Dogma." FTFY

IFTY Smile
  • + 3
 OAP builds a cheater road bike and gets burned ... story at 11
  • + 8
 I would bet the type of person who wears a full Pinnarello kit while riding a e-conversion is the same person who buys a fake Pinnarello from AliExpress.
  • - 5
flag WAKIdesigns (Jan 15, 2019 at 13:44) (Below Threshold)
 When you install a sketchy battery on a sketchy Pinarello counterfeit
  • + 6
 Tbh guy was 79 Smile
  • + 16
 It’s still not a motorized vehicle cuz it only explodes when you pedal it.....
  • + 15
 The legs burn when you really start pushing it up them hills.
  • + 10
 This could actually get all ebikes banned from our national parks. I wouldn't complain about that.
  • + 2
 The perfect excuse!
  • + 10
 PB comments: *see E-bike* "KILL IT WITH FIRE!"
Done.
  • + 1
 LOL. I have played a bit with Lithium-Ion battery cells from laptop batteries, you can extract the bad cells and keep the good ones. But if by mistake you invert the plus and minus, or have a short circuit (with water for example) between the two poles, Lithium-Ion WILL catch fire.

That's why it is way better to use LiPo (Lithium Polymer), which DOES NOT catch fire.
  • + 9
 This will make car users give cyclists space.

"Don't get within a metre and half, it will scorch the paint on the WRX bro"
  • + 10
 You don't have to be winning the race to sit in the hot seat
  • + 9
 How long till one starts a forest fire ????
  • + 3
 Great point!
  • + 4
 I remember watching a video of some kid at the counter in a liquor store. He puts some change in his pocket, then all of a sudden it looked like a rocket motor ignited and was spraying out the bottom of his pocket. WHITE hot flames... He had a cell battery in his pocket, and the change shorted it out. A friend of mine's son was charging a remote control boat's batter in his garage when the battery exploded. It burned 3 motorcycles, an M5, and the entire front of the house TO THE GROUND. I'm amazed they haven't found a safer replacement for lion batteries, or at least a way to make them more stable
  • + 8
 but did he get the kom!?
  • + 6
 Support the 79er tweaking his pinarello, almost dying on it!
  • + 5
 I’ve always said and I’ll say it again if you want an engine buy a motorcycle for f*ck sake
  • + 2
 I guess I have never seen an Ebike do this. I do think there is logic in buying an Ebike instead of attaching a motor to an already $10,000.00 bike (Pinarello Dogma) Maybe he was trying to save weight....hmmm. Glad he's OK though.
  • + 5
 Friday fails are gonna blow up, literally.
  • + 1
 Someone puts a cheap Li-pol battery and a cheap motor on a bike, rides it in the heat and it goes wrong...
The investigator will be asking the battery and motor questions to the dude in his shed that built this for sure, I would be looking at who else he has provided a bike for to ensure that this is an isolated incident, then try and find the failure mode(s) and any potential parts which are prone to failure, lack of testing... etc. etc.

If Samsung can get it wrong then so can wee Jimmy in his shed or a bike manufacturer.
  • - 2
 the battery likely has Samsung cells inside it..
  • + 1
 "from a reputable dealer" Yeah right Achielle bikes for their official e-conversion kits were direct from aliexpress though thei said the battery pack had Panasonic cells, I just know the first bike in the store whit it had a broken motor connection cable.
  • + 4
 "That's not an E-Bike... THIS is an E-bike!!"

- only in Australia, hahaha!
  • + 1
 Its like that crash from Richard Hammond at the Amazon Prime show with the e sports car - that thing caught fire several times when cell after cell was distrojed and burned for almost 4 days... i think it might be an issue for the near future with this batteries
  • + 3
 The guy is 79 and riding up Adelaide's steepest hills when it is 40 degrees. Can you blame him for wanting an ebike even if the aftermaket option wasn't the best idea.
  • + 3
 Oh wait...it’s a road bike. Those roadies allow cars on their trails. F*ck that.
  • + 4
 hey... theres e-fire in here
  • + 1
 If you look at the pic of the battery, it's looks to me like one thats commonly used for ecigs. The low end versions of those are not nearly capable of handling high discharge rates. Cheap Stuff Blow Up!
  • + 1
 The battery in the video looks like 18650... Those are used in everything: cordless power tools, laptops, 'namebrand' ebikes, even Teslas, etc.
  • + 2
 Well I've heard that e-bikes are the hottest thing right now, but this is too much!
  • + 2
 I wish these guys would actually share what failed electrically. A short doesn't say much.
  • + 3
 Who puts a motor on a Pinarello?
  • + 3
 Pinarello =)
  • + 6
 a 78 YO d00d who still wants to ride?
  • + 4
 Team Sky?
  • + 2
 Sweet! The dude was riding platform pedals on his Dogma. He's a "hucker".
  • + 1
 That heading should be changed to an E-Cyclist, he's not a cyclist if he has a motor. Get it right!!
  • + 1
 That's the ugliest Dogma i've ever seen.I prefer Chris Froome's bike,where you can't even see the battery and motor.
  • + 3
 E bikes suck
  • + 0
 E fires... i like pedals on my bikes, thank you though. More fantastic builds coming from China with the infamous quality control standards. All set.
  • + 2
 When your crotch is on fire, but is not STD!
  • + 2
 just goes to show pedal power is the safest method
  • + 1
 So I guess the battery-assist DID make him faster and more motivated; as they say, it lit a fire under his Moon ...nvm
  • + 2
 This happens to my motor on big climbs too.
  • + 2
 Fire down under sounds like a Movie!
  • + 2
 NOT HOSPITALISED !!" just taken for a routine check !
  • + 7
 You must be new here. This is Pinkbike, not just some random sensible news website.
  • + 1
 Diagnosis: Singed nards.
  • + 2
 Dodgy setup from old mate
  • + 1
 What are the odds of this coinciding with the Tour Down Under kicking off in Adelaide?
  • + 2
 I avoid ebike articles, but not this one, ha ha!
  • + 2
 Was the motor made by Acme? lol
  • + 1
 "Cyclist hospitalised..." Pinkbike is blowing up titles worse than e-bike batteries.
  • + 2
 I bet Raoul Luescher can repair that frame
  • + 3
 Radelaide!
  • + 2
 @shitadelaide
  • + 1
 Touches the bike.
*Bike explodes*
  • + 1
 Taking "feel the burn" to a whole new level. FaaaaK E-Bikes!
  • + 1
 HE WAS BURNING UP THE ROAD!
  • - 1
 Here's another story of an E-Bike catching fire. Happens all the time honestly... www.rep-am.com/news/2018/08/26/motorcycle-catches-fire-in-waterbury
  • + 1
 Yes, let's berate the old ass man for using an e-bike. *facepalm*
  • - 1
 Just the kind of bloke I’d expect to have a motor on his bike.... e-bike. And good riddance, I probably will at his age too, if I’m still around.
  • + 1
 Had sympathy. Then saw he was a roadie.
  • + 1
 Ugh road bikes on pinkbike. RIP.
  • + 1
 Probably one of those shitty bafang electric kit's no doubt?!
  • + 2
 Crikey
  • + 1
 Electric motor on a carbon road bike, uh, ok...
  • + 1
 Where's WAKI when you need him?
  • + 13
 Charging...
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I was afraid man... very afraid you'd missed this Smile
  • + 1
 Must be a new standard! Super boost plus Fire!
  • + 1
 That’ll blow the dogs dangles off, then set em ablaze.
  • + 1
 Sooo news is slow today?
Bike catches fire!
Cool!
I guess
  • + 2
 E bikes are the devil
  • + 2
 Sorry, not a cyclist.
  • + 0
 I want to put a "motorized front hub" to my bike, anyone has reviews??
  • - 1
 This is why motors don't belong on bicycles
  • + 1
 Don’t be an idiot
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