Guerrilla E-biker / Filmmaker

June, 2012

Adam’ got a unique opportunity when his family moved to a home in Brittany France that was just  500 meters from the beach. While walking around his new neighborhood, Adam noticed there was  some great coast side riding trails with filmic scenery. With some lithium a123 cells from a disassembled Dewalt drill packs, Adam slapped them on  a kids mountain bike with  20 inch wheels  with a direct drive 9c hub motor built into the rear.  Riding in the style he rides, he found the 16lbs of extra weight in the wheel to be a major annoyance, and managed to effectively break his electric bike into 3 pieces in just a few days  of hard riding.

Based on this failure, Adam decided he was all done with hub motor bikes, and what he wanted was a mid drive bike, and decided to go with a  full  suspension, rc powered, lithium powered conversion.  The disadvantage of hub motors is they add a lot of unsprung weight into the rear wheel and are usually  not torquey  enough at low speed for off road riding.  The disadvantage to mid mounted motor bikes is very few companies make them, and the few that are made are expensive (see our  $12k Optibike and  $7k Hanebrink stories). Adams only good option was to build the mid powered bike himself saving a ton of cash.   The bike was built with mostly rc parts bought from Hobby King.   Top speed was a lame 22mph but with plenty of torque. The completed ebike weighed only  45 pounds and was built  in a couple of days for about $600. Here is the breakdown:  $60   frame,$175   forks (salvaged from the  hub motored bike) a  $120 rc motor, $40 rc controller, $140 in recycled dewalt packs and $140 dollars in wheels. And with accumulating a descent pile of parts he wouldnt need to buy much more stuff for his next builds.

Adam had his first real e-bike. Adam and his 16 year old brother, an art student and  video enthusiast, got together and shot this video the same day he completed building the bike. This is Adam’s first ebike video  that he counts as “ok quality” in  terms of guerrilla film-making. At this point he was using affordable consumer video equipment: a fuji S1800 and a kodak playsport zx3 camera :

 

Adam had some fun on this bike, but soon got a taste of some well known  downsides to RC motors:  Despite being small, sexy, affordable and powerful, they are also delicate, finicky,  noisy and hard to set up correctly.  Adam had both motor and controller fail in one ride and  began looking for another solution.

Adam says “While I was scratching my head to find a solution, I saw Simon’s Mid drive, and someone suggested that I put a mid drive hub motor on my bike. I had 16 New headway cells, a spare controller and the direct drive hub motor  with no rim from my first build, so I took my welder and my grinder and I built a mid drive setup in 3 days (10hours).”

Simon is another ebike builder who resides in the UK and did a fantastic build which was  documented on endless sphere. The   Trench Specialized Big Hit . You can read the article about it here and risk being inspired by it also. Simon’s e-bike  is one of the most beautiful and functional home build electric bikes ever:

Simon’s Supercharged Specialized Big Hit…inspiring a new generation of builders/riders

 

For this new ebike Adam chose a frame set he found on ebay for $130. The frame as it turns out was  structurally defective and  led him down a road of several frame failures. In hindsight Adam wishes he would have bought a different frame.

 

 

 

Obviously, when comparing  Adam’s  and Simon’s  ebikes,  one looks like a brilliant show piece and the other is a “rough rider”. Adam’s bike is a  strong statement about pure functionality on a budget, but both Adam’s and Simon’s bikes  have  similar performance and purpose which is to ride through the  pedal gear chains which makes climbing steep grades  off road easy a cinch.  Plus both bikes feature the silent and reliable hub motor as their motor choice with the heavy weight mounted in the center of the frame instead of the wheel. In the case of Adam’s bike,  he can ride it even harder off road because he does not have to worry about scratching,banging up, and breaking his budget bike because of its low cost in both money and time.  Adam’s bike weighs in at 63 pounds, and puts out 3500 watts peek watts 2500 continuous, has a top speed of 40mph, can climb like a billy goat  in low gear and cost him less than $1200 to build. In comparison the Simon bike costs considerably more to build and hundreds of hours in extremely skilled  labor.

Instead of spending more money on his bike, Adam made a fateful decision and instead  invested in asemi-pro quality  digital camera (Sony Nex 5) and equipped it with some old school manual focus high quality lenses. Check out his camera equipment total investment $800:

 

 

Using the above equipment, and with a freshly built ebike, Adam hit the trails behind his house to begin testing his new build and capturing it on film. The thing is that with a set up like what you see in the above pic, a videographer is able to capture artistic looking footage in an outfit that can fit in a backpack, that you could only of capturing 5 years ago without hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and a car to lug it around in. Now making professional looking video is a snap, and the artistry comes in subject matter and skilled shooting and editing. The videographer is no longer inhibited by the high cost of equipment. An outfit like Adams can be had for under a thousand dollars, but enables the user to produce TV broadcast quality results, and still be highly portable (fits in backpack).

 

Adam says: “I finished the build on a staturday morning, then I went to see my good friend Tristan to give the bike its first real test. The pedals where locked because of a too narrow bottom braket,, the battery ends where open in the air and the controller was still in sensorless mode at only 2000w peak, but the bike ended up working beautifully and fulfilling my expectations. My friend was impressed too, commenting on how the bike was superior to the 50CC gas mopeds we used to ride some years ago. We did not know how the bike would perform so we took my camera and headed out to find out and grab some footage. this ended up as the “2000W 32KG Offroad Electric bike video”

When i first saw this video i knew this kid was onto something and was potraying ebikes in a way that I have never been seen them presented before.  Suddenly home built ebikes seemed like something every teenage kid  should build and have. Presented brilliantly with skilled shooting, editing, and to good music, this ebike video was as close to a skater video as I’ve ever seen. .  This video is not just about showing off Adam’s home built bike, but instead tries to capture the thrill of ebike riding.

On the next sunny afternoon, Adam and his buddy went out shooting video again with the ebike.. They were having problems during this shoot with the chain snapping. They managed to get some good footage anwway and you can tell Adam is getting more skilled with his new camera:

Adam solved the chain snapping problem that was annoying him and they then went out shooting a 3rd video of the same bike. After just several jumps the bike frame failed, snapping the swingarm. This should not have happened on any downhill mountain bike frame, but it  seems Adam got unlucky, and the donor bike he chose was a defective one:

 

repaired swing arm

It was now back to the workshop to  build a custom replacement swing arm out of a steel.   Adam doesn’t seem to mind…all about the learning curve. Says Adam.“You could actually resume my workflow like that : Build, Ride, Crash, Improve, Destroy, start over… I don’t really see the breakdowns as fails : I learn from them and keep improving things at each iteration. I push myself too, constantly going over my modest limits.” Good thing Adam does not mind buildring, riding, breaking and rebuiliding because this something that he does  a lot and seems good at.  In the next video he breaks the bike’s swing arm again:

 

 

 

 

Adam welded the swing arm solid again.  He did not bother painting the frame. Function over form,  Adam just needed the bike running so he could continue riding and shooting videos.  Also in his workshop he had designed an electric powered camera dolly, and it was out to shoot his most refined video yet. This video he actually took the care to plan every shot and shot  mulitiple cuts  like  a pro film maker, plus spent extra time editing. You can see Adams film making skills really blossoming:

 

Things were ticking nicely. The bike was running good, the video was coming together.  But shortly after shooting this video on a pleasure  ride, the bike had its final crash. Adam writes:   “3 weeks later when out riding with a friend, searching new trails in the backcountry, I jumped a 1 meter drop on a gravel road. I landed quite badly (remember i’m somewhat a punk when riding) I heard a loud and strange noise, and I immediately knew something was wrong. the bike looked fine but upon closer inspection, the swingarm mount on the main frame had almost totally broke and I could see a tiny fracture line going all around it. Game over. Total riding hours on this frame, about 30, 90% of hard offroad. We still got back home riding, I was toting my friend at 35km/h with a broken frame for  four miles!”

 

 

 

With his frame destroyed, Adam is looking to build his own full suspension frame for his next project. Very few builders take on building an ebike from scratch, but Adam is up to the task, especially having such bad luck with a name brand frame.  Currently Adam is just waiting for the chromoly steel to arrive. Here is a sneak peak on his newframe design.

 

We wait anxiously for Adam to finish his new bike and get us some more footage uninterupted by frame failures.

Adam is an inspiration to people everywhere who want to go out and build something that is life changing and then display it artistically (via youtube) for the world to see, to judge,  and to  be influenced  by.   The essence of what Adam is trying to capture is in the true spirit of a new breed of new ebikers who use super powerful bikes to transform their lives in way that is difficult to express in words.  Via the medium of video, Adam is getting very close to capturing the thrilling experience of guerrilla ebike riding.   Adam’s work definitely smashes with a hammer the  ebike is for  lazy commuters and nerds stereotype, and shines a new powerful light on the joys of ebike riding. We look forward to publishing his future videos.

 

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.

8 Comments

  1. what, no frame repairs? There’s nothing wrong with welding cracked frames, when each crack gets scabbed over, doubling the cross section of the overloaded member. 

    Adam needs to meet a professional tall bike builder: PETER STANLEY, builder of ELECTRIC TALL BIKE

    • Peter, i love your bike.

      We would like to feature it on our site…can you send me some photos?

    • I don’t have the equipment to weld aluminium, and I could not do a heat treatment afterwards! I like steel better

      • Yeah as far as i know it is very difficult if not impossible to weld to an aluminum frame that has already been heat treated. That is why cromo frame is usually the frame of choice for ebike customizers.

  2. This story is amazing and I also look forward to your next build

  3. Nice

  4. Very cool, hope the new build went well.

  5. Great article.
    His new “LMX” frames are a true work of art, and are almost exactly what I have been imagining and hoping someone would build….and I will buy that gear if I can.

    Before I go on with research, I was just wondering : on his original bike with the failed weld : Did he fabricate that red swingarm, or is that part of the original bike frame ?

    What is that bike frame?

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