Swytch Bike Legal Issues

Last week, I had visit from a UK trading standard officer and as it was unannounced, had me a little worried for a few seconds. He asked if I dealt with ebikes. “Yes, I do service and repair work on them, the same as standard non-assisted bikes however I do not sell them”. He went on to ask if I had done any ebike conversions. “Yes, a few over the last three years, all using Swytch kits”. He went on to explain the legalities of doing such conversions here in the UK. We had an interesting chat which highlighted a few things I wasn’t aware of.

In short, they obviously take a dim view of the flood of cheap escooters currently offered for sale on the internet. Not only from the legality of them being ridden on UK roads but also from the risk of battery fires. Only last year, a battery fire claimed the lives of almost an entire family only a few miles away from this workshop.

Ebike conversion kits are also on their radar as there’s potential for quality control issues as well as the chance of non-certified/incorrect chargers being used. It was pointed out that although it’s not technically breaking any laws, any ebike conversion I undertake does make me the legal “manufacturer” of that cycle and libel for any future issues. As such, new tags and documentation has to be produced including:

  • Marking the bike with a UKCA mark.
  • Drawing up and signing a UK Declaration of Conformity
  • Creating and maintaining a technical file for UK Declaration of Conformity and keeping for at least 10 years.
  • Place my name and address on the bike to identify me as the manufacturer.

The Bicycle Association of Great Britain (BA) have a page about ebikes which is well worth a read.

BA statements and briefings: e-bike road and fire safety

With regards to conversion kits, the BA have the following concerns:

  • Fork and frame safety – There is no practical way of testing to confirm the frame you intend to fit the kit to has an appropriate safety margin for the extra loads. Just guessing it “should be ok” just doesn’t cut-it.
  • Brakes – The brakes may not be up to the task with the extra power and weight that’s been added.
  • Handling – The extra weigh of these kits, especially on the front bars and forks could adversely affect the bikes handling and is an unknown until fitted.
  • Warranty – The kit will usually void any warranty the bike may.

The Swytch kits seem to be well made and quality items. However what this means for bike shops such as myself is for any ebike conversion I do, I would need to somehow create a legally binding report on each bike that states the frame, forks, brakes etc. are up to the job as well as keeping the relevant documentation mentioned above. This is clearly something I cannot do. In short, trading standard are less then keen on the general public converting their standard cycles into ebikes. They consider the only safe option for consumers is to purchase factory build ebikes from reputable manufactures. I have contacted Swytch for comment. They just say the liability of fitting their kits is exactly the same as fitting parts to a non-assisted cycle like new handlebars or saddle but it seems like there’ a lot more to consider. What does this mean for ebike conversion kits? I don’t know but I’m afraid I won’t be undertaking any more from now on.