Summer’s here and everyone’s out and about, but there’s nothing like having pedal a chunky old bike uphill to take the joy out of cycling. For casual cyclists with the budget to go the extra mile, electric bikes are a bit of an investment but a great solution to struggling with your standard, pedal it yourself bicycle.
But before you decide to drop all that coin on a fancy new electric bike, couldn’t you just make one, for less?In this article you will learn how to make an inexpensive electric bike at home. Now, let’s take a look at how you’d pull off making this electric bike.
Why Make an E-Bike When You Can Buy One?
In case there are any doubters in the crowd, let’s be very clear about this: this isn’t for everyone, and not in a bad way either. If you have the money to go with a brand new electric bike, with all the bells and whistles, more power to you.
Depending on what you’re looking for in an electric bike, you might find that what you envision could be bought for cheaper from the shop pre-manufactured. That’s definitely an option as well, especially if you’re in the market for something a little more high-performance.
If not, there are a few things you’ll want to know before deciding whether or not to start putting together your new and improved bike.
Start with what you’ve got
The beauty of doing it yourself is that you can reuse things that you already have lying around. Using parts that you already have is the best way to save money.
Don’t buy tools if you don’t have to. Borrow or make do with the things you’ve got around you. Bike parking spots make for a great public place to set up your motor if you don’t have a rack at home or a place to put it together.
Also, you can rent a soldering machine and a set of wrenches from your local hardware store instead of buying and now you’re on your way to building your e-bike with little financial damage.
Step 1: Get Your Parts Together
Even if this isn’t your first time putting together anything mechanical, take a moment to figure things out before going out to shop. You need to know exactly what you need for your specific requirements before you start spending your hard-earned money.
The Bicycle Itself
Envision where the battery and hub motor will go if you’re purchasing a bike for this project.
That’ll help you choose between bikes with slightly different frame sizes or made of a different material.
If you already have a bike, you’re off to a great start. Steel or aluminium frames are great for hub motors and will work fine. If it is a carbon fiber build, it might be better to get a bike to use specifically for your electric bike, since carbon fiber doesn’t do well under the weight and action of the motor.
Figure out what kind of battery you’re going to go with. Batteries are measured in watt-hours or voltage and capacity. Watt-hours are calculated by volts times amp-hours, which is how capacity is measured.
The more voltage, the more power your battery has, and the faster your bike goes. The more capacity, the longer you can keep that battery switched on.
Batteries usually come in voltages of 24v, 36v, 48v, or 72v. If you’re just looking for a little boost to help you get around the block or to the supermarket and back a bit quicker, 24v will work just fine. More ambitious plans, like traveling to another city or transporting something on your bike might require a battery that’s more in the 48v or 72v range.
In terms of capacity, 10Ah, or amp-hours, is the starting capacity for most batteries. It will be enough for daily tasks but an additional 20Ah is a good investment if cycling is a regular mode of transportation.
You’ll also want to think about how you want to install your battery onto your bike and purchase accessories accordingly. There are battery bags and holds available that fit either on the back of your bike or hanging from the bar, above the pedal.
A standard electric bike conversion kit includes a hub motor in a wheel, a throttle, and a speed controller, and may feature different displays and gauges depending on the unit. You will be able to get a kit for a reasonable price that includes all the elements that you’ll need to get your electric bike up and running.
These kits will come in 500 W (watt) and 1000 W, and are compatible with 36 V and 48 V batteries.
Speaking to the in-store specialist and describing how you intend to use your e-bike will allow them to give fairly accurate recommendations in terms of what wattage to go for.
Step 2: The Conversion Process
Once you have your parts secured, it’s time to put it all together on your bike. Prepare the work area; the process isn’t too labor-intensive but you’ll want the space to be able to work on either side of your bike freely.
First comes the wheels
Replace one of the wheels of your bike with the wheel that has the hub motor. Bolt the speed controller to the frame and the throttle to the handlebars. Conversion kits are made to be fairly intuitive so you will not find that any of these steps are too complicated or require a lot of expertise in mechanical work.
Connect the battery and conversion kit
If you purchased your battery and conversion kit from different locations, the connection may be slightly different. A simple solder will help to connect them though, and it won’t significantly affect overall performance after the bike is all put together.
If you want to avoid this sort of issue, especially if you’ve never soldered before or don’t have the equipment, then make sure you purchase all your parts from the same location and you won’t have to deal with this slight complication.
Carefully connect your battery to your controller and the hub motor. Make sure that you don’t create a short circuit by touching the exposed wires together, which is not a comfortable experience and might damage connectors or other parts of your setup.
When you purchased your battery, you also bought a holder for your battery, which will fit somewhere on your bike. Affixing this to your bike should be a matter of following the instructions and putting the screws in a place where indicated.
Zip ties to the rescue
Zip ties are a convenient, cheap, and easy way to finish your installation.
The wires that connect your hub motor and controller will be dangling around, which creates a tripping hazard and also takes away from the overall aesthetic of your bicycle, so it’s best to tie them up to the frame of your bike with some well-placed zip ties or some other alternative.
That’s all it really takes. It’s not a complicated process, and with the convenience of conversion kits being sold retail in bundles, a lot of the guesswork is taken out of the equation.
Final Few Things To Consider
The type of bicycle is an important consideration that’s been mentioned: don’t go with carbon fiber bikes, which are not made to take the additional weight of your motor. Consider that you are installing a motor and battery that is going to push your bike faster, so don’t skimp out on the frame of the bike when you’re deciding on what base to go with.
Law and order
You’ll want to look into the legal restrictions of having an electric, or motorized bike, in your city or country. Depending on the area, there are different rules and regulations surrounding this sort of vehicle. If you opted to go for a faster motor or more powerful battery, make sure that you don’t need an extra license to ride your revamped bicycle around town.
Money, money, money
Lastly, make sure to do your homework before investing in parts for your new electric bike. Take advantage of sales and understanding the market in your area. Specialty dates like store anniversaries and cultural holidays like Black Friday are also great ways to increase savings on your project.
If you’re not in a rush to complete your electric bike, plan ahead and you’ll be all the better for it.
Get it done cheaply
Cycling is going to continue to be a major method of commuting, particularly over short distances. Electric bikes are a great alternative for the average cyclist who just wants to get around without having to break a sweat every single time.
While buying one outright is always an option, it’s easy enough – and extremely affordable – to put it together yourself. Who wouldn’t love to save a bit of money and still have an amazing ride, one that you put together yourself?
So what are you waiting for? Time to get your hands dirty and build that bike – and save yourself money in the process!