Perhaps you are considering an electric bike but you are attached to your existing bike – whether for personal, financial or other reasons. Never fear, with the increasing number of electric bike kits on the market, a kit can readily convert your favorite bike to an electric bike with the same features found on manufactured e-bikes.
Perhaps you are not starting with a currently owned bike but have your heart set on a bike but would like the additional enhancements of an e-bike. You can purchase that favored bike and, with the simple addition of an electric bike kit, you will get that e-bike you want customized with your desired bicycle features + power.
In many instances, you can save money by getting a good quality conversion kit and putting on your better quality bike, allowing you a more custom model e-bike with more advanced capabilities. If you shop for a good quality second hand bike, then outfit it with a good bicycle conversion kit, you can end up with a high quality e-bike at a fraction of the cost of those assembled by manufacturers.
Though one word of caution: you must realistically evaluate your technical skills or add the additional cost of a skilled technician to install the conversion kit if factoring cost savings is your incentive for purchasing an electric bike conversion kit. You must also have the patience and skill to research the matter and make a suitable choice as not all kits will fit all bicycles.
Questions to ask when buying an e-bike kit:
· Is this electric bike conversion kit for a diy enthusiast or should it be fitted by a qualified fitter only? If you have a favorite bike shop you might check if they fix e-bikes. Electric bike servicing and repair is not readily available at all bike shops- nor is bike conversion kit installation or servicing. When considering a conversion kit, you might check in with qualified bike service centers in your area and select a model that can be maintained close to home. Some work may require that you send the bike or parts to a specialist or manufacturer service technician.
· What technology is utilized by the e bike conversion kit? The majority of the conversion kits available on the market use hub motors and are most typically offered ready spoked into a wheel. Many of the systems use a throttle control while some more sophisticated models such as the BionX have pedal sensors so that the power kicks in when the rider begins to pedal (pedelec).
· Is the conversion kit meant for front or rear wheel attachment? Enthusiasts are particularly passionate about one option or the other and readily cite the advantages and disadvantages of each. In short, the front hub motor is easier to install and will equalize the weight of the bike if the batteries are on the rear. Many prefer the handling though a draw back is that the front forks can be more susceptible to failure- especially if the frame is aluminum- with steel forks and a torque arm, failure is less likely. The rear hub motor is less noticeable and allows for more torque due to the additional rider weight over the rear wheel. If the dropout fails it is less likely to cause injury. A rear hub kit however is more challenging to install as you have to worry about gearing, the derailer and may not accommodate a 7-speed freewheel which is common on most bikes. Due to the added weight in the back the bike can become unbalanced and harder to handle if the battery is in the rear as well.
· What is the complete list of requirements for any bike to which you intend to fit your conversion kit? For hub motor kits you’ll need to check your frame’s rear dropout width and what gearing the system is compatible with – you’ll often find rear hub motors only work with screw-on type freewheels. The wheel size is important in determining the fit.
· What is the battery mounting requirements? With all types of kits, you’ll need to find out the battery mounting requirements and if that suits your particular bike frame and riding style. Is the battery to be mounted on a rear rack, frame or the seat post?
What different kits are available?
Favored among our readership were the following for ease of installation, maintenance, chargeability and performance. While a couple were well loved for their versatility, another couple were noted for the particular circumstances in which they out-perform others.
Currie Electro Drive by Currie Technologies: This is a chain drive system which comes ready mounted to a 26in rear wheel (700c fitting possible with re-spoking). It is a great entry level power kit due to its relative ease of installation and its operability. The optional second battery pack allow this conversion kit to double the initial 15-mile range for a total of 30 miles. The thumb-actuated throttle with battery gauge allows for ease of use for beginners.
eBike Rear Wheel Electric Bike Bicycle Motor Conversion Kit by eBike: This rear wheel electric motor hub kit is intended for a 26″ wheel and reaches speeds of 23 mph. At 500W it is a powerful motor that is able to go the range of 20+ miles on a single charge. The brake shuts off the motor automatically which increases the length of ride due to energy saved and improves safety.
eBike Front Wheel Electric Bike Bicycle Motor Conversion Kit by eBike: Same specifications and range of use as the e-bike rear wheel kit above but additional ease of assembly due to the attachment to the front wheel. See our considerations above in determining if the front or the rear wheel version of this conversion kit is right for you.
Phoenix II Cruiser System by Electricrider: This strong and durable conversion kit is popular due to its ability to appeal to all preferences having options that make it for the front or rear wheel and accommodating 20″, 24″ and 26″ wheels. This powerful motor allows the bike to reach speeds up to 41 mph and fans have clocked over 50,000 miles on some older systems which are still in use.
E-Assist Ebike Conversion Kit by E-Assist: A powerful conversion kit for 28 inch bicycles with a long range on a single charge and the power to handle hills.
BionX: This is a pedelec system with regenerative braking. A favored conversion kit for touring or commuting due to its pedelec system and a favorite among recumbent bicycles and some folding bikes. The versatile design allows for use on different size bikes with a rear hub motor which is ready-built into a 24in, 26in or 700c wheel. The battery can be mounted on rack or frame allowing the rider to distribute the weight as desired.