Pedaling a regular bike is great for recreational purposes and is even good exercise. But it can get exhausting after a certain time and distance. It is also common to wish to increase the speed after a while without having to pedal away to death.
In those moments, you might find yourself wondering how great it would be if you could turn that very bike into an electric bicycle. So, can you convert a regular bike to an electric?
Most of the time, these are just dreams, but luckily, this one does not have to be. That’s right. What if we told you that you could convert your regular bike into an electric one without much hassle?
All you need is a little thing called a conversion kit and you can do exactly that. Let’s take a look at what it takes to make this happen.
What’s a Conversion Kit?
A typical conversion kit contains an engine which goes on top of one tire of your bike. This engine runs on a battery that is usually a lithium model. Apart from the motor and the battery, which is rechargeable, many modern e-bike conversion kits also come with a whole bunch of cool features that you can add to your bike.
It’s not the toughest thing to do yourself and there are a lot of choices in the market. You will still need to do some amount of pedaling, which is the case with e-bikes anyway. But here’s what you can broadly expect from these kits.
Many good conversion kits come with an LCD display. This will tell you about the settings of the bike and will display the battery consumed/remaining so that you can plan your trips. It is usually placed near your bike’s handlebar like you would with a motorbike.
Now, there isn’t a need for too much pedaling compared to what you would have to do with a traditional bike. This will make your cycling activity in difficult weather a lot easier and give you a boost in terms of speed.
What Are Your Options?
Now let’s see what various manufacturers offer. There are plenty of choices from kits with basic features to advanced ones.
Front Wheel Conversion Kit
If you have an old mountain bike and want to test the waters in the e-bike world, you can get a front-wheel conversion kit. This is basic but it will serve the purpose.
These kits come with a motor that should be installed at the bike’s front wheel, which eliminates the problem of compatibility. For beach cruisers and older model mountain bikes, something with a 26-inch wheel will do.
If you have a newer model of a mountain bike, the wheel size will be 27.5-29 inches. So, be sure to check that before ordering the kit. You will find the details printed on the tire.
Some companies sell conversion kits that come with a motorized front wheel, a tire and a controller. The lithium battery and its charger are components you will have to get separately.
Concealed Conversion Kit
Then there is the second type, which is a concealed kit. It is called so because you don’t see the motor. That’s because it is supposed to be installed in the seat tube and the power goes into the crank’s axle.
Some companies like Vivax Assist come with installation because you need a specialist for the job. The motor is about 200 watts and the crankshaft is driven through the battery and a bevel gear. You also don’t see the battery because it is in a cage.
The motor is activated through a switch that is on the bike’s handlebar and the manufacturer claims that it will run for at least one hour. The entire kit weighs about 3.9 pounds.
Folding Bike Conversion Kit
The third type of conversion kit is for folding bikes. For instance, if you have a Brompton folding bike, you can find a whole bunch of conversion kits for your bicycle.
Most of them come with a hub that goes in the front wheel along with a battery that goes in a bag that also goes in the front.
Pick the right manufacturer and you can also get a torque sensor that goes at the bottom and a clip-on power pack. If you get a kit from Swytch, you can expect a range of 31 miles on a single charge.
There are other manufacturers which provide lightweight motors which can extend your new e-bike’s range. You can also add a thumb throttle or a twist-grip throttle with some of these kits which means you can expect power without having to pedal the bike.
It will give you a top-assisted speed of about 25 miles per hour and a range of up to 40 miles. Brompton bikes are also compatible with rear-wheel conversion kits.
These replace the bike’s rear triangle with a steel or titanium unit along with a battery. The kit weighs about 30 pounds and gives you a range of 18 to 55 miles.
Mid-drive Conversion Kit
And finally, when looking for conversion kits, you will find a whole lot of mid-drive models, especially if you are looking for them online.
These are used even with commercial e-bikes and the motor is placed at the bottom bracket which is near your bike’s pedals.
These are popular because the weight is at the bottom of the bike which gives it extra stability. But be careful if you’re taking your bike out on rocky terrain. Obstacles are a problem and the motor can get hit.
Thanks to growth in technology and the public’s love for DIY-ing, these are actually easy to install with a few basic tools. You just need to remove the bike’s bottom bracket and place the drive in front of the down tube.
However, while picking these motors, make sure you check your local laws. In some places, the e-bike you make using certain conversion kits is considered mopeds.
You must also compare the different kits from manufacturers because some of them offer frames that are lighter than others.
For instance, Pendix is a German brand that makes a system that weighs about 12 pounds and gives a range of 17 miles. And it works for folding bikes too.
Advantages of the Conversion
As is the case with most of these convenient options, there are ups and downs to converting a regular bike into an e-bike. It is wise to look into them before making a decision.
This might be the biggest benefit of using a conversion kit. Commercial e-bikes from well-known manufacturers can cost thousands of dollars. This is not something everyone wants to do or can even afford to do.
But using a conversion kit, you can bring the costs down to a few hundred dollars which makes them a preferred choice as long as you can handle the mechanics of the installation.
Don’t Need to Buy a New Bike
The other big benefit is that you don’t need to worry about what to do with the bike you already have. Converting your mechanical cycle into an electric one means you can stay with the comfort of using the bike that you are familiar with and have already paid for.
So, whether you have an old bike or a new one, the money you already spent is not something to worry about. It’s like getting an upgrade for a low price with a lot of benefits. And who doesn’t like that?
Disadvantages of the Conversion
But it’s not all peachy but you should expect that. The cons are not devastating enough to not consider buying the kit entirely. But it’s something you should know before investing in one.
Takes Time and Effort
There are a lot of benefits to getting a conversion kit. Instead of trading your regular bike for a brand new e-bike. But it does not come without its own set of challenges. For starters, the installation is not always easy or quick.
The easiest of them all still requires you to add the motor hub to the bike’s wheel. Even this is quite complicated with all the disassembling and putting of the bike back together. Unless you are familiar with the electric components and the operation in general.
You can choose to call a professional but keep in mind that it will cost you a few pretty pennies.
Not the Same as a Branded E-bike
As you would expect, converting your bike to an e-bike is also not the same as getting a branded one made by a commercial manufacturer.
The experience is not going to be the same and some of these motor hubs can be heavy which might mess with the balancing act of riding a bike.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know the options in the market and the pros and cons of getting a conversion kit, you are ready to move to the next level.
Luckily for you, that’s browsing the models and picking one. There’s not a lot more research to be done. Good luck and happy shopping.