So, you’ve decided to augment your bicycle with some new tech, and are in the market for innovative options. It’s a great choice, since you will be saving on manufacturing costs and reducing emissions, while adding a new level of versatility to your bike that helps you ride faster and more efficiently.
If you live in the UK, your journeys may take you through areas that sometimes involve reaching the top of high hills. Riding long distances can often be tiring, especially if you have just finished work and all you want to do is to get home and relax – and that’s where an e-bike comes in.
Often lauded for their ability to ease stresses and strains on their riders, most notably because they make it significantly easier to climb difficult hill ascents, an e-bike conversion kit may just be the perfect tool to transform your bike into the perfect mobility option for you.
What is e-conversion?
An e-conversion represents an alternative to buying an electric bike. An e-bike comes with a battery and motor installed as standard. Instead, when you convert your bike, all you need to do is purchase a kit that will add electronic help to the pedalling power of your regular bike.
The obvious reason why people decide to opt for e-conversion is because they already own a very good bike - or at least one which is able to perform at a good level. So, enhancing your current bike to combine the facets of both choices may well be a more desirable option to having both a standard bike and an electric one.
However, you will be making it heavier and possibly less manageable by installing equipment that could potentially run the risk of making it less efficient than a normal bike, which is something many people fear when considering the switch. It’s also why there are a high number of cyclists that are passionate about their bikes ‘the way they are’, who don’t love the idea of changing their core features and aesthetics.
Pricing is also an important part of the decision-making process, and it’s worth remembering that high-performance e-bikes can be pretty expensive. This is another discouraging factor for honourable cyclists with years of experience on their legs that have invested quite a lot of money on their current models already.
So why might you prefer an e-conversion over simply purchasing a new e-bike? Aside from saving money, the added benefits may provide a new dimension to your cycling experience, and with a bit of research, you could reap the rewards of a better all-round all-in-one bicycle.
What are the options available to convert your bike into electric?
There are different solutions that will allow you to enhance your current bike with electric assistance, and they can be quite different to each other in the way they actually work. There are essentially four ways you can make your bike electric, and those are by attaching a motor to:
- The front wheel
- The back wheel
- The cranks and bottom bracket (BB), transferring energy via the drive train. .
- To the section of the rear arch which touches the tire, propelling the bike as a result
The front-wheel approach represents a good option since it doesn’t have a lot of the mechanical paraphernalia that you have at the back wheel, nor the chain that goes into the gearing. In order to have the motor at the back you will have to deal with all that equipment, while at the front there is nothing else other than the brake levers (which you will need to replace anyway).
Classic e-bikes tend to prefer the BB choice, as they are neat and convenient, and arguably the most efficient, since the BB is where you are pressing and generating force. When converted, question marks have been raised over the aesthetics by enthusiasts and this conversion requires a lot of hard work and technical knowledge.
The simplest way when doing it yourself is to install a kit that sticks to the back of the bike and touches the tire. That way, you will only need to mount it to the seat post since it will clamp underneath your seat. The machine sits on top of the wheel and propels the bike forward as you ride it. It consists of purchasing one single unit and attaching it to your bike with a single tool - super easy.
Which brands can help me to e-convert my bike?
Estimated installation time: one hour
Founded in 2017 by Oliver Montague, Swytch aims to create a sustainable future by turning drivers into cyclists, while reducing the emissions of vehicle manufacturing processes. Initially a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, it raised over £400,000 to help turn the novel idea into a reality.
The way Swytch delivers the system is unique, as it provides you with a new wheel - not just a hub motor – which nullifies the need for you to install a motor on the front wheel yourself. And as per their website, you simply provide them with the right measurements and they send you the required parts across in roughly six weeks.
The system includes a wire that goes up to the front wheel and attaches to a special battery pack that you have to mount to the front handlebars, avoiding the potential nightmare of having to manage tons of wires going all over your bicycle. A second wire, connected to sensors on the rear wheel hub, tells the battery pack how much the rider is pedalling.
A provided mount allows the battery to be removed whenever you reach your destination, and only takes a few seconds to unhook. Remember, if you get tired of electric biking and fancy some conventional cycling, you can always switch back to the traditional approach by simply unhooking the power pack - a totally painless procedure.
Throughout the year, Swytch also makes a pre-order option available on its site which allows customers to access a half-price discount – meaning you could get one of these kits for £500 if you order it at the right time. This makes the ‘switch’ a financially viable alternative, considering the price of buying an e-bike outright.
In return, you’ll be receiving a neat, stylish and convenient option that processes 250watt standard power and a torque figure of up to 40nm. It also weighs just 2kg and can be easily removed once your bike has been locked away: something you’ll want to do since an estimated 77,000 bikes were stolen in the UK last year!
For some cyclists, the Swytch e-bike converter might translate into an uncomfortable option however, as it slightly changes the handlebar's overall manoeuvrability and the motor wheel adds approximately 1.5kg of weight. Previous Swytch customers have reported feeling some fatigue when climbing a hill, but experienced a superior ride on flat terrains, so it does a fantastic job at moving around the city with electric assistance.
- Big savings when purchased half-price
- Well designed
- Very easy to install
- Removable battery
- Could take as long as 12 weeks to deliver your product
- Standard power and torque, so alternative e-bike conversion kits could provide better performance
- Reduced handlebar manoeuvrability
- Big price difference when not purchased with the half-price discount
Estimated installation time: eight hours (for an experienced enthusiast)
Bafang is known for distributing a variety of e-mobility components globally, ranging from motors to batteries and displays. Additionally, the brand is known for offering e-bike conversion kits, and a wide range of customisation options alongside them.
You will have to know your way around bikes, and own (or have access) to a set of tools and be able to perform some technical activities i.e. taking the cranks off your bike. With Bafang, e-converting becomes a real project, where you will have to be knowledgeable enough to understand their catalogue and what the best options are for your needs.
The plus side? You have more options to create an e-bike that’s tailored to look and feel the way you want it to. You can modify the weight, torque and power to suit your riding style, and can even add a throttle.
It’s also worth remembering that the responsibility to comply with regulations lies in the hands of the user the moment they take to the road – so we advise to make sure your modifications are road legal.
The downside? Mounting a battery that sits on your rear wheel and weighs 3.5kg can be more inefficient than other options. Certain components will also come with long wires, since they need to be compatible with a range of bikes, which means you may need to make additional modifications for the end result to look neat and tidy.
This approach is tailored to modification enthusiasts, and given the joint hub and battery price of around £700, you may need to think twice about this option if shortening cables and re-soldering is not your thing.
- High quality components
- Freedom to install your favourite components and create a new bespoke bike
- Risk of exposed wiring
- Is one of the more expensive options on the market
Estimated installation time: one hour
Rubbee is an e-bike conversion kit provider that supplies a battery and a wireless cadence sensor unit. It sits atop the tyre on the back wheel, and since the device clamps onto the seat-post, it presents a compact solution that’s easy to install.
Retailing at £500, Rubbee’s option represents the same cost as Swytch’s alternative – provided you purchase it during the discount period – and is a good starting point if you’re reluctant to tinker with wires and cables.
The 2.8kg unit is fitted with a rear LED light for safe night time riding, and is compatible with a corresponding smartphone app to deliver power and battery data. The drive motor is also designed to provide grip in all weather conditions, though current customers have stated that it can be noisy on wet terrain.
The added contact to the tyre and the extra tension on the frame may also be an unappealing prospect - particularly if you love the natural aesthetic of your bike - and a range of just under ten miles could pose a hindrance to riders that need to make long journeys.
- Straightforward installation procedure
- Noisy in certain conditions
- 10 mile e-range is not suitable for long rides
As with all-things mobility, the number of solutions available to you are constantly expanding, and e-bike conversion kits are no different. Our advice for customers shopping around is to do so with diligence and knowledge. Aesthetics, regulations and comfort are some of the key determining factors in what you’ll be choosing, so opt for the choice that addresses your prevailing needs: after all, purchasing an e-conversion kit is an investment that you’ll likely stick with for a prolonged period of time, and if you use your transformed e-bike daily, you’ll want it to be as user friendly as possible.
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