In this crowded urban metropolis, cycling can be a great alternative to cars, motorcycles, and especially public transportation.
But for city-slickers who, like myself, do not possess any measurable form of lower body strength and stamina to even walk from one end of the mall to the car park, the idea of relying solely on one’s physical prowess to get from point A to B can be quite daunting. I can barely break 2,000 steps a day on my smartwatch, let alone pedal to my office 10km away.
Well, luckily Bulacan Customs Electric Bike Conversion is here to make the switch that much easier. Proprietor Alex Matias gives his belly a little rub as he tells me he’s not much of an athletic cyclist, either. Yet he does most of his commuting on a bicycle. His secret? Electric motors.
This isn’t our first encounter with Alex. In a previous article, Alex revealed himself to be the actual builder of a battery-powered folding bicycle that another chap claimed was his own handiwork. He was in the early stages of establishing his business back then and did not even have a name for it.
Now, though, his shop goes by Bulacan Customs—a homage to Alex’s roots as a Bulaceño as well as his grandmother, the founder of Bulacan Garden Corporation. His humble workshop sits in the middle of a plot of land that one can only describe as a plantita‘s paradise.
Here, Alex and his team of mechanics can convert any pedal-powered bicycle into an electric bike providing varying degrees of assistance. Each conversion is customized according to the needs of each and every client. Alex starts by getting to know his customers, and finding out where they intend to use said bicycle. From here, he proposes a build suitable to the owner’s purpose and budget.
One example of Alex’s builds is his personal pedal-assist bicycle. The frame of this bike was supplied by Bambike, and is locally handmade out of bamboo. Bulacan Customs fitted this bike with a mid-drive motor fixed to the bottom bracket of the frame.
In this configuration, pedal power is still the primary propulsor of this bicycle. A cadence sensor detects the motion and the speed of the pedals, and supplements the effort put in by the rider with electric power—sort of like how ICE engines use electric motors to fill in the gaps in torque. You still have to do the work; the motor just adds to your input.
Another conversion Bulacan Customs commonly undertakes is fully electric adaptations. At this point, the bicycle starts to behave more like a motorcycle. Twists of the wrist control an electric hub motor that drives the rear wheel. The only time one would have to pedal a bicycle like this is if it runs out of power. Otherwise, the pedals are completely unnecessary save for using them as foot pegs to rest your feet on.
Pictured here is an NSU Quick 52, a post-WWII-era 50cc moped from Germany that Alex has converted from gasoline to electric. This project shows off the full extent of Bulacan Customs’ capabilities. The tank is a custom reproduction of the original adapted to have the charger plug in place of the filler neck. The gauges have also been retrofitted in-house. From panel beating to bespoke bodywork, and from mechanical to electrical jobs, Bulacan Customs can make a one-of-a-kind product just for you.
A purely motor-driven e-bike such as this can do serious speeds as it no longer relies on a human element driving it forward. According to Alex, he has ridden his NSU up to about 70km/h, and reckons it could go even faster if only he was brave enough to do so.
Alex has taken on many interesting projects throughout his six years of building electric two-wheelers. One that he is particularly fond of is this green tricycle based on a Chinese replica of the Honda Joker. He even recalls building a proper electric big bike.
However, without enough displacement to brandish, it was not expressway-legal, which led to the owner scrapping the project altogether. For now, though, Alex chooses to focus on building custom electric bicycles.
According to him, the most basic commuter with a top speed of 35-40km/h and a range of 50km should set you back about P35,000 excluding the donor bicycle. Options such as higher top speed, longer range, and the quality of parts can drive the price up from here.
At these prices, it’s inevitable for one to compare these custom bicycles to a cookie-cutter e-scooter or e-bike from the likes of Sundiro Honda, Fiido, or Nakto. For one, going the custom route can be as cheap and as expensive as you want.
But for the same price as a built e-bike, Alex maintains that a custom build can be superior in terms of quality and performance. But the real differentiator is the fact that building a custom e-bike means the end product is tailor-fitted to you. Again, Bulacan Customs is about more than just retrofitting batteries and motors. They are about building special pieces unique to each and every customer.
As our conversation came to a close, Alex made an excellent point about taking the electric leap. “Consider it as an investment in the future,” he says. Going electric might not be the most convenient path to take, and neither is it the most economical.
But forking your hard-earned cash over for an electric vehicle of any kind here and now ensures that the technology moves forward. Feeding the demand incentivizes those in the industry to develop the products further so they can get better for the generations to come.