The Misadventures of Thud (Ebike Racer)

October 8, 2012

Endless-Sphere builder Thud (Todd) is a furniture designer with a small workshop in his basement. He has some CNC equipment and fabricates his own drive systems which make it possible to build fast electric bikes using inexpensive RC technology. Thud’s focus is to use very cheap but powerful solutions such as the Turnigy 80-100 outrunner motor (80mm in diameter, 100mm in length) which cost only $100 direct from China (Hobby King).

To run a motor like this requires a custom gear reduction system so that the motor spins much faster than the speed of the wheel. Thud fabricates these gear reduction system in his garage and builds race bikes, mostly out of BMX bikes. He is known best for his 2-speed gear reduction system.



The Turnigy 80-100 motor is hit or miss when it comes to quality, and they often need to be rewound with higher grade copper wiring to make them reliable. Since Thud has a box full of these low cost Turnigy motors that he got surplus, he decided not to bother rewinding them.




In September of 2012, Thud decided he wanted to attend an electric bike race 2700 miles away from his home in Riverside California.  After some flip flopping on whether he wanted to make the 45 hour drive or not, his adult son Brady who just got released from the military agreed to go and share the driving, so Thud hit the road with his electric race bike in tow. What ensued is a myriad of break downs and mechanical failures that plagued him the entire trip. He was barely able to finish a race out of the 5 he entered because of one hard luck story after another.


Lifeforphysics and Thud


Here is a list of the breakdowns that happened come race day:

#1) motor failure while doing practice laps (Turnigy fault)
#2) Blew a battery fuse on a friends LiPo pack in the 1st heat race (DNS= did not start)
#3)  Castle HV-160 overheated and shut itself off during the 2nd heat race
#4) the ebike fell over loading it up & broke the hydraulic brake front brake lever
#5) 3 flat tires on the gas bike Thud brought for his son to race…some chain mis-adjustment issues for the practice sessions & 1st race
#8) The gas  bike had carburetor issues, running  like a dog in California…tuned for Michigan altitude, she ran like a champ once back home in Michigan when Thud figured out the problem (too late for the races)


This pretty much sums up Thud’s day at the races.


So after the race after making this big drive to California, Thud decided to get some R&R and see the Pacific Ocean for the first time and take an electric bike ride down the beach in Santa Monica with his friend Green Machine. Not so fast, before he could get out of Riverside, his trucks’ power steering pump broke. Thud spent the good part of the morning wrenching his car back to running condition in 90-degree California desert heat. So the truck made the trip to El Segundo, where they were just a 3 mile ride to the beach.

So on 3 bikes, Thud, his son and Green Machine hit the road to make the short ride. Not so fast…within a few minutes of riding on a borrowed electric bike, Thud managed to strip the freewheel on the rear cassette.

On his son’s bike the front brake stopped working. The 3rd bike was having its brand new battery show issues it never showed before.  The ride look doomed.

No problem the group decided to ride through the black cloud that was Thud’s bad luck and do the 25 mile round trip ride with no front brake on one bike, and a 2000 watt charger on tow to make up for the bad battery. The great news is we managed to make it all the way to Santa Monica and back.




And even met a guy Thud has only seen on TV, Ultimate Fighting heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum riding through Venice Beach on the long ride home. It was Thud who recognized him and me who grabbed the photo opportunity.



As night fell (after a few more battery issues) we barely made it to an El Segundo patio bar where we had drinks and waited for a friend with a truck to come get us:



So it turned out to turn into a pleasant trip for Thud and son, and the next morning he would hit the road and make the long drive to Michigan, home sweet home again.

Not so fast Thud….your bad luck curse will not escape you that easily,  just because you managed to leave California:




By Thud’s account:  “I was riding passenger when the cow showed up…I thought we cleared her but she jumped into the side of the truck as we passed and we broke her neck with the windshield. We drove 1000+ miles with the passenger being totally blind and the wind screen pushed in like a balloon for 10″ and occasionally dripping glass on who ever was in that seat.”

In addition, Thud’s camera bit the bullet on the trip and the above pics had to be taken from his flip phone’s camera.

Luckily no one except for the wandering bovine was hurt, and Thud’s bad luck streak ended after the slaughter.

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.


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