Bosch's War on Self Repair

The bike industry, like many others is plagued with proprietary standards and incompatibilities but despite this you can still fix everything yourself with common tools even if the proprietary parts are heavily marked up, you are still able to buy and install them yourself. But one company would like to put an end to this, requiring you to return to an approved repairer for any servicing.

With the price reductions in high capacity batteries the popularity of ebikes has been on the rise. I believe these are truly wonderful things that can solve many transport issues cities are facing. But there is one change I do not welcome. These ebike systems contain myriad of complex components, circuit boards, motor controllers and software. All of this is proprietary to the company that manufactures the ebike system. This is true across all of the ebike system OEMs, I am not aware of any mainstream systems utilizing standard parts or open source software however Bosch takes the cake for the most restrictive system and abuse of control.

Ebike systems contain a lot of complex software that needs to be configured and diagnosed for issues from time to time. A program is developed to preform these actions. Typically the user may download this software and connect to their ebike system via usb or bluetooth and preform updates, diagnose issues and tweak settings. This software and the protocols used are proprietary however anyone may download it for their own personal use.

Bosch however has decided that their software may not be used by anyone other than approved repairers. If you own a bosch equipped ebike and wish to do something as basic as a firmware update or check for issues, you will be required to take your bike to an approved repairer and pay to have them plug in a cable and press update. As the owner, you have little power to do anything with your own hardware.

Bosch isn’t alone in this move, they are part of a worrying movement to create locked down devices under full control of the OEM after sale. The restrictions in the ability to repair your own things is creating a throwaway society where we prefer to buy new items rather than fix the ones we have simply because it’s far too difficult and costly to repair things now.

As a society we must resist these changes and take back control of our own items. Unfortunately this tends to be something you think about after sale when you have an issue and find you are completely out of luck.

If you are looking for an ebike, while I don’t have any systems to recommend that are good in the freedom department, Shimano’s steps system at least provides you with some level of access.