Electric bikes are great fun to ride, and there are a lot of different models you can choose from when you’re looking for your first eCycle. One option new eBikers have is to install an ebike kit on their regular bike frame.
At first glance, this may seem like a good way for
new bikers to break into e-riding. Most of the people who take up eBiking
already have experience with pedal-powered bikes, and many have a mountain bike
or pavement cruiser available to work with.
However, before you invest money on a kit, take the time to answer these questions. What are the upsides of an ebike conversion kit? How much trouble is it to convert a human-powered bike with an electric motor, and is it worth it? Maybe most important, is this the best way to get on the road with an electric bike of your own?
What Is an Electric Bike Conversion Kit?
Electric bike kits are compact electric motors that can be affixed to the frame of regular bicycles to convert them into motored bikes. They range in power from around 250 watts to over 750 watts. They’ll typically add between 12 and 25 pounds to the total weight of a bike. Depending on the type of bike you’re converting, powered speeds can average between 15 and 20 mph, with ranges of 12 and 40 miles.
DIY kits are popular options for some people who
are new to eBiking. Maybe they’re tinkerers at heart? Maybe they already own a
mountain bike that they love? For those who already own mountain bikes, a
conversion kit can feel like an investment. An electric kit will help them
conquer steep hills and tough trails – especially an e-conversion kit with
pedal-assist function – using the familiar bike they’re already used to.
Conversions are also a niche hobby among bikers who
already have at least moderate amounts of experience working with electric
motors and what can sometimes be very complicated gearing mechanisms.
Converting a pedaled bike to electric is also attractive for some young people
who live in dense urban areas or for people who already commute on a bicycle
and would like a bit of a boost without getting rid of their old bikes.
Electric bicycle conversions have a certain appeal, but
there are more than a few downsides to installing one, especially for
first-timers. For one, the conversion takes time and experience to do
correctly. Unless you’ve worked on motors and bike modifications in the past,
it can be hard to properly install an electric motor onto a bicycle that wasn’t
built for it.
If the bike wasn’t specifically built for holding a motor
and battery, you might run into more than one issue during the conversion. Even
with professional installation, many bicycle frames simply can’t handle the
added stress a power drive puts on them. Installing a 750-watt electric motor
on a tubular steel frame that was never meant to handle the extra weight can
push your bike past its limits. For this reason, it’s always important to
follow a kit’s manual and have your converted bike checked out by an expert
before trusting it on a trail or city street.
And placement of the motor and battery can also pose
problems. With the bike’s frame, it may make sense to place the motor/battery
to one wheel over the other – front or rear. But adding the extra weight without
carefully considering the riding balance will likely result in an eBike that’s
hard to ride and difficult to maneuver.
Conversion kit bikes have another drawback? They’re
performance isn’t much better than purpose-built electric bikes. While it’s
tempting to think a conversion is quicker and less expensive than a ground-up
electric bike build, this usually isn’t the case. A typical conversion kit,
without any labor costs factored into it, can range between $500 and $1,000. A model
that was built from the wheels-up as an electric bike falls into that same
price range, with some pedal-less models dipping into the $200 to $300
Unless you have your heart set on converting your
favorite bicycle into a powered rider, you may be best off with a purpose-built
eBike. With a dedicated power bike model, you can be sure that the
frame can handle the extra force a motor puts on it. Also, eBikes are
very likely assembled by the factory to a product standard that’s been tested
and tested again to make sure it’s safe, which a DIY kit bike can really never
The range, speed and power you’re likely to get out of an eBike is
also probably better than what you can expect from a conversion kit. Even
middle-tier eBikes deliver between 16 and 25 mph for speed. And the range
you get on a single charge is competitive with converted bikes – especially at
the high end of the power spectrum.
eBike Conversion Kits: the Verdict
So . . . this might seem like a lot of information. Buy
outright or convert existing. Which you prefer ultimately depends on what you
want to get out of your electric-assisted bike. But to recap, let’s look over
the pros and cons of using an electric bicycle conversion kit.
Conversion kits have a place in the eBike world. But
they are definitely a niche product. Some people love being able to ride the
bike they’ve had for years – just with an added electric motor. Others enjoy
the technical challenge of converting a conventional bike into an
electric-powered powerhouse. For most people, however, there’s no significant
advantage to the performance, durability or price you get over a
|You can use your current bike, which is already fitted to how you ride. ||Your bike’s frame may not be able to support the motor weight or the increased speed. |
|You may enjoy the challenge if you’re a mechanical hobbyist. ||If you can’t install the motor yourself, you’ll need to spend extra money on labor costs. |
|You could save on initial costs (but don’t forget to factor in the battery). ||Placing a new motor on an old bike is not a practical investment in the long run. |
||Your maximum speed will probably not match a pre-built eBike. |
||You won’t have the advantage of product safety testing. |