Franken-Fixie: A Hipster Bike with a Clean Republic E-Bike Kit

Pete PrebusThis is a guest post from Pete Prebus. Pete runs Electric Bike Report and is enthusiastic about spreading the word about electric bikes because they have great potential to get more people on bikes and out of their cars.

Yes, I know, an electric motor on a fixie bike is a little sacrilegious, but it might have its place as a simple and economical e-commuter bike.

Hipsters are cringing, but hear me out.

Recently I rode and reviewed the Critical Cycles fixie bike and it proved to be a simple and sturdy urban commuter that comes with an amazingly low price tag of $219.

Then I thought, What if we electrified this simple commuter with an electric bike kit that was equally simple and economical? Enter the Clean Republic Hill Topper electric bike kit.

Clean Republic Hill Topper Electric Bike Kit on a Critical Cycles Fixie
Clean Republic Hill Topper Electric Bike Kit on a Critical Cycles Fixie | Photo: Electric Bike Report

The Clean Republic Hill Topper is a 250-watt geared front hub motor kit with a simple on/off button that is attached to the grip. You can choose from four different battery options (sealed lead acid or three different lithium ion batteries). The kit that I recently rode and reviewed came with their standard lead acid battery and retails for $399.

The really cool thing about this combo is that you can get an e-commuter for around $675 (including shipping). From my experience there are a number of people looking for an affordable and durable e-bike option.

With a price like that you are going to have some compromises, but if you are a little adventurous, you can make it work.

First of all, the sealed lead acid battery Hill Topper kit will give you 10 miles of assisted range. If that is all the range you will need, then this kit will work well.

Clean Republic SLA Battery Pack
Clean Republic SLA Battery Pack | Photo: Electric Bike Report

Keep in mind that the charger for the lead acid battery is very small and light so you could take it with you, or you could have an extra charger at work. Clean Republic also offers their Sprinter lithium ion battery that provides 10 miles of range but it weighs 2.3 pounds compared to the lead acid battery which weighs 11 pounds.

10 Tips for Improving Your Electric Bike’s Range | Electric Bike Report | Electric Bike, Ebikes, Electric Bicycles, E Bike, Reviews
By the way, here are 10 tips on ways to improve your e-bike range.

If the 10-mile range is not enough, you could upgrade to the 20 mile lithium ion (4.5 pounds) or 40 mile lithium ion (6 pounds) Hill Topper kit, but that adds money to the price of this Franken-Fixie! The 20-mile kit is $795 and the 40 mile kit is $1295.

Also, here is a video from Clean Republic that provides some tips on the best riding techniques to get more range and longer overall battery life.

You will need to pedal!

The Hill Topper kit is meant to assist, it is not a totally free ride! At 250 watts it really helps you get over a tough hill, but you have to do your fair share of pedaling. The Critical Cycles fixie has a tall gear which make climbing hills tough, so the electric assist really helps with tackling hills on this single speed commuter. The Hill Topper kit is really meant to assist you when you need it, with the a push of the button!

The Clean Republic Hill Topper throttle
On/Off Throttle Button | Photo: Electric Bike Report

Since this bike and e-bike kit will most likely be ordered online, you will need to coordinate directly with Critical Cycles or Clean Republic for any warranty issues (Clean Republic is currently adding local dealers).

A local bike shop can help you with repairs and maintenance. The good thing about this simple e-bike set up is that there will probably be less repairs and maintenance!

Here are a few things I would change on this Franken-Fixie. The tire that comes on the 700c wheel Hill Topper kit is a little too big (700c x 38) to fit in the Critical Cycles fork, so I would recommend replacing it with a narrower size. If you live in a hilly area, I would recommend a slightly smaller chainring. And don’t forget to add a front brake!

How’s the ride? Fixies are not the most comfortable rides, but the narrow high pressure tires are efficient! The Critical Cycles bike does have the styley and comfortable BMX style handlebars that make it more comfortable compared to other fixies. The Hill Topper kit definitely takes the edge off of turning over a big single-speed gear!

Overall, the combined simplicity of the Critical Cycles fixie bike with the Clean Republic Hill Topper electric bike kit is pretty cool.

There are no shifters, derailleurs, or multiple chainrings and cogs. A single speed bike is pretty much the most efficient bicycle drive train. There is only one brake, although I would recommend adding a front brake! The e-bike kit is activated by a simple on/off button. The charger is so small and light that you can easily take it with you. This Franken-Fixie is the essence of a simple, minimalist e-commuter.

This e-bike is vehicle that blends human power and electric assist well. As a bike commuter you probably want to get some exercise but you may not want to show up dripping in sweat when you get to work.

The Clean Republic Hill Topper Front Hub Motor
250 Watt Front Hub Motor | Photo: Electric Bike Report

This single-speed fixie e-bike could also be decked out with a rack and some bags or using a Burley Travoy would be a great way to run errands around town . The extra electric assist really helps with hauling a load.

If you are looking for an economical way to get an e-bike, this combination may be worth exploring further.

You can purchase the Critical Cycles at their website or Amazon and you can buy the Clean Republic Hill Topper electric bike kit at their web site and create your own Franken-Fixie!

Who knows, maybe some hipsters would like the Franken-Fixie?

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11 thoughts on “Franken-Fixie: A Hipster Bike with a Clean Republic E-Bike Kit”

  1. Rockfish says:

    Certainly an interesting concept, but it seems at cross purposes on a number of points. Who, exactly, is the target market for electric assist bikes? I doubt it’s the same market as for fixies! If you need electric assist, either because of fitness or topography, why would you want a fixie to begin with? Second, if you are really into the clean lines, simplicity and light weight of a fixie, why would you want to add 15lbs of battery and motor to it? Or tow a trailer?
    You can actually get a pretty decent bike with gears for the nearly $700 this rig costs.

  2. Ted Johnson says:

    Pete: Did you continue to use this bike in fixed-gear mode even when you had the Hill Topper on it, or did you flip the hub over into freewheel mode?

    @Rockfish: Personally, I’m a fan of both coasting and gears. But the reason I own a Ridekick is because some days I want power assist for hauling, and other days I don’t.

    Similarly, one of the nifty things that I see about the Hill Topper is that it is so easy to remove — especially of you buy a solid axle quickrelease with the system.

    Imagine someone who lives in a city, and only wants to own one bike; someone who needs occasionally to haul cargo and groceries, maybe up hills.

    I can imagine using the e-bike-plus-Travoy mode for cargo days, and the clean fixie mode for all of the other days.

  3. Joel says:

    The whole idea of e-bikes appeals to me, yet, I find how it could be abused by those who do not want to pedal at all.

    Those who do not pedal at all could cause a side effect, it could aggravate people who do not want human powered two wheels on the roadways let alone “powered” bicycles.

    Just another excuse to license and regulate bicycles. I have read the multiple reasons for not licensing bicycles, the cost to benefit ratio, discouraging the very behavior needed to conserve fuel, improve health, etc., etc. High powered hubs could be the make or braking point for licensing e-bikes just like putting a motor on a sailboat makes it a motorboat.

    At 250 watts, this hub is not going to be “pedal free.” I have no problem with anyone using a 250 watt hub of any kind because it is definitely an assist and not a sole source of propulsion.

    In many ways it fits with the “fixie” mentality, when everyone else needs a 750 watt hub to do their hauling, true fixies get by with 250 watts.

    Fair enough.

  4. Pete says:

    Hi Rockfish,

    This experiment was put together because a fixie is a simple and economical bike and so is the Clean Republic e-bike kit. The target market probably wouldn’t be the average fixie rider but someone who is looking for a simple, low maintenance, and economical e-bike.

    Ted makes a great point below that the Clean Republic kit is easily removable for someone who doesn’t always want electric assist.

    There are plenty of other bikes that could be used with the Clean Republic kit.

  5. Pete says:

    Hi Ted,

    I only used the freewheel mode. A true fixie e-bike…..yikes!

  6. Joe says:

    Can you plug in headphones? will it power my 1980s Sony Walkman II?

  7. Jussi says:

    Hi Ted,

    “Yikes! A true fixie e-bike.” I have been ridding a fixie for the past few years in the ‘fixed’ mode with the Hill Topper kit and it is a lot of fun. It takes a little getting used to and the extra acceleration and speed makes you slide around a little when you have to stop in a hurry but it is a blast to ride. No reason to combine the two other than it is really fun. Give it a try and like Pete recommends I would add a front brake.

  8. Auto Rack says:

    I only used the freewheel mode….

  9. Arthur says:

    The target market is people who want a cheap bike with electric assist

  10. James says:

    What size front tire would you recommend for this bike.

  11. Brent says:

    Thanks for the post. I just built a black and yellow single speed with the 12 mile lithium ion Hilltopper kid. It’s awesome, I love it. I can’t believe I can ride around this mountainous college town in Boone North Carolina on a single speed bike.

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