Turn Your Ride into an E-bike with a Clip-On Motor

    Electric bikes have been around for over a century, but the concept remains astonishingly similar to its early days. Enter Skarper, a company founded by innovator Alastair Darwood, with a vision to disrupt this age-old industry. Skarper introduces a groundbreaking, clip-on electric motor that can turn almost any disc brake-equipped bicycle into a powerful ebike, without the need for an entirely new bike. This technology promises a significant leap in the evolution of electric biking.

    The legacy of electric bikes

    Electric bikes (ebikes) have a fascinating history that dates back to the late 19th century. Ogden Bolton Jr. earned the first US patent for an electric bicycle in 1895, featuring a hub motor nestled inside the rear wheel and a bulky battery attached to the crossbar. By 1897, Hosea W. Libbey of Boston devised an electric bike propelled by a motor integrated into the crank-set axle.

    While battery and motor technologies have advanced significantly, the fundamental design of ebikes has remained relatively consistent. These early innovations served as the building blocks for the modern ebikes we see today. The basic concept of electric motor-assisted pedaling has stood the test of time, with 2020 recording $41 billion in global e-bike sales, a figure expected to skyrocket to $120 billion by 2030.

    Skarper’s vision and innovation

    Skarper’s journey began in 2020, during the Covid-19 lockdown. Alastair Darwood, a passionate cyclist and inventor in the medical field, started the quest for an ebike. Faced with a high price tag for quality ebikes and unimpressed by existing conversion kits, Darwood saw a gap in the market. Most conversion kits required drastic changes to the bike, like replacing entire wheels or adding hub motors. These invasive alterations didn’t align with Darwood’s vision.

    Darwood honed in on a bicycle’s universal feature: disc brakes. Nearly all bike frames designed for disc brakes offered a consistent geometry. The space behind the disc brake rotor and the wheel presented an intriguing possibility. Could this space be used to drive the rear wheel without major modifications?

    Skarper’s ingenious solution

    Skarper’s solution is as brilliant as it is simple. The Skarper Clip-On Motor system requires users to replace their bike’s rear disc-brake rotor with Skarper’s DiskDrive. This custom rotor appears and operates like a traditional disc-brake rotor. Subsequently, a compact unit weighing around 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) houses a battery and a 250-watt-hour motor. This unit clips onto the bike frame.

    The DiskDrive rotor fits seamlessly into the clip-on unit, engaging with the integrated gearing. The motor’s internal gearing then turns the modified brake rotor, propelling the rear wheel. To ensure precise control and performance, a small sensor clips to the bike’s crank. This sensor monitors your speed and cadence as you pedal.

    Once in place, the Skarper system delivers an impressive 37 miles (60 km) of assisted cycling, at or just below the maximum legal speeds: 25 kph in the UK and EU, and 18 mph in the US. The unit can be easily removed for recharging, which takes just 2.5 hours.

    Chris Hoy’s support and investment

    Skarper’s vision for accessible, innovative electric biking quickly drew the attention of six-time Olympic champion and 11-time world champion cyclist, Chris Hoy. He recognized the potential of the Skarper Clip-On Motor and its capacity to revolutionize electric biking.

    The great value debate

    The main question that arises is cost. The Skarper system is expected to retail for approximately £1,000 ($1,190). While this price may seem steep when compared to some complete e-bikes on the market, the cost needs careful consideration.

    There’s a real value fallacy in buying a £1,000 ebike,” Darwood explained. “Battery and motor component costs are high, so you’re essentially paying for a motor, battery, and a bike built with unbranded parts that wouldn’t cost more than £100.

    Darwood’s argument underscores the investment in quality and design that Skarper puts into its product. Unlike conventional e-bikes built with non-branded components, Skarper’s system offers a reliable and integrated solution that doesn’t compromise on the quality of materials or performance.

    Skarper’s impact on e-bikes

    Skarper’s innovative approach to electrifying traditional bicycles opens new avenues in the ebike industry. The elegant simplicity of the Clip-On Motor design, combined with the fact that it doesn’t compromise the ride experience, presents a game-changing proposition.

    As Skarper gains momentum and introduces more options for ebike enthusiasts, it could redefine the way we view and adopt electric biking. The Skarper system shows that innovation often thrives in simplicity, offering a more accessible and efficient way to electrify your ride. With an advocate like Chris Hoy and the power of innovative engineering, Skarper is set to lead the next phase of the e-bike revolution.

    While the Skarper Clip-On Motor may not be the choice for professional racers, it is a viable, convenient, and cost-effective solution for cyclists who value convenience and affordability without compromising on performance.

    Magnus Johansen
    Magnus Johansen
    I'm a young and motivated individual. Inspired by the thousands of new possibilites and inventions the world has to offer, I dedicate myself to share my knowlegde. As a passionate writer and dedicated enthusiast of innovative ventures, I've embarked on a journey to uncover the stories, ideas, and inspirations behind the startup ecosystem.

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