How to convert a bike to electric | Electric bike conversions explained
There’s a good chance you have a bike lying around your house that isn’t getting much use. It’s time to convert it to electric power! Electric bike conversions are becoming more and more popular, as they offer many benefits over traditional pedal bikes. In this article, we will explain what an electric bike conversion kit is, what it does, and how you can convert a bike to electric. We’ll also answer some common questions about electric bikes and conversion kits, so you can decide if this is the right option for you.
Let me ask you a question. Do you have a bike lying around that isn’t getting much use?
If so, it’s time to convert it to electric power! Electric bike conversions are becoming more and more popular, as they offer many benefits over traditional pedal bikes. In this buyers’ guide, we will explain what an electric bike conversion kit is, what it does, and how you can go about converting your own bicycle. We’ll also answer some common questions about electric bikes and conversion kits, so you can decide if this is the right option for you.
So whether you’re looking for an environmentally friendly way to commute or just want a fun new hobby that gets rid of all the sweat from biking up hills – read on! Let’s get started with our guide on how to convert a bike to electric today.
In addition to the fundamentals of converting your bike to an electric bike, we explain all of the popular models along with their features, plus the safety questions you need to ask.
Keep reading to find out everything there is to know about converting your bike into an e-bike!
- What are bike conversion kits?
- Is it possible to convert a bike to electric?
- Types of e-bike conversion kits
- Powered E-bike Kits: Front Motor Wheels
- Mid-drive Electric Bike Conversion Kits
- Rear-mounted Friction Drive eBike Conversion Kit
- Is it safe to convert a bike to electric?
- Where can I get an electric bike kit?
- How much do they cost?
- Our verdict on E-bike conversion kits
What are bike conversion kits?
An electric bike conversion kit can be installed on most regular bicycles. The exception is the high-end racing bikes with thru-axle forks. To convert your bike to electric, you must acquire and replace one or more standard wheels. Conversion kit suppliers sell kits that include a battery, motors, LCD displays, and batteries as well as other wires or accessories. After you’ve finished converting your bike, it can reach a maximum speed of 15.5 mph, which is the legal maximum for electric bicycles in the United Kingdom.
Is it possible to convert a bike to electric?
You may be surprised how many different types of regular bikes can be converted to electric. Whereas the bike conversion kit craze started with mountain bikes, the move to healthy commuting has seen regular leisure bikes, hybrids and gravel bikes and speedy road bikes join the bike kit revolution too. What’s more, ebike conversion kits are available for most bike wheel sizes from 20 inches upwards. This includes even the Brompton style foldaway bikes (although some adaption may be required), children’s bicycles and even tandems!
Types of e-bike conversion kits
Electric bike conversion kits come in a variety of formats.
- Mid-drive Conversion Kits. Most electrical bikes have mid-drive conversions. Here, the weight sits below the frame and power is applied to the crank for an easier feeling. The only downsides are prices and difficulty of installation. Different frame designs mean finding the exact parts that are needed to work is difficult and adjusting the parts can be even harder.
- Friction Drive Kits. A conversion roller presses onto the tyre, which causes the wheels to spin in the opposite direction. The idea seems like a good one, but achieving it is a lot more difficult. The electric motor needs to be kept in contact with the wheel at all times, requiring constant throttle and torque input from the motor. The least popular method to convert a bike to electric.
- Rear Hub Motor Conversion Kits. The electric motor is fitted into the rear hub and replaces your existing wheel. This type of electric bike conversion is more common in mountain bikes as it gives more power to the back wheel when going uphill. One downside is that the electric bike conversion kit is heavier than other electric bikes and you may need to adjust your brakes for additional stopping power.
- Front Wheel Electric Bike Conversion Kits. This is the most common type of electric bike conversion kit and it replaces your front wheel with an electric one. It’s usually cheaper, easier to install and there are fewer parts that can break. The electric motor is smaller than in mid-drive conversions, but it’s still powerful enough to get you up hills. The latest front motor kits even remove the need for a PAS sensor making installation even simpler. So if you’re thinking of trying to convert a bike to electric then this is the easiest conversion kit to install.
In this buyers’ guide, we will draw attention to the easy install front wheel ebike conversion kits.
Powered E-bike Kits: Front Motor Wheels
The most convenient electric bike conversion kits are probably the most common for converting bikes to electric. These kits have a front-wheel hub motor and are supplied with everything you need to convert your bike to electric.
Sounds easy but take care when choosing the type of front motor wheel kit. The front wheel and parts on Amazon and eBay are regularly available, all look complicated but all are around £150, and they contain parts that you never have heard of – brake sensors, pedal-assist sensors etc. These types of kits with multiple parts are difficult to install. The complexity of parts and the number of cables means that installation is far from easy.
Easy Fit eBike Conversion Kits
There are front motor kits that take simplicity to a whole new level. Known as easy fit kits, they need only three parts – an electric wheel, a battery, and a battery holder.
The easy-fit hub motor kits have built-in magnetic sensors which detect when your converted e bike is moving. A step ahead of cheap e-bike conversion kits, the data collected by the hub motor is fed back to an intelligent controller and power assistance is adjusted to within 1/10th of a second. That’s more than fast and makes for a comfortable ride on your new electric bike seem effortless.
What’s more, a clever suite of electronics sits within the battery holder that removes the need for tricky PAS sensors and annoying brake sensors. Incorporating a 6-axis gyroscope, magnets and a unique software algorithm, the easy fit ebike controller removes all the additional hardware that you’ll find on cheap Amazon ebike kits. The flip side is that the price increases for the technology that you use. That said, for an easy fit bike kit delivered to your home, you may be surprised at the price. For those existing bike owners looking to convert a bike to electric, easy fit kits are worth considering. The easiest choice for cyclists looking to convert a bike to electric.
How easy to install the easy fit kit?
Installation of electric bike conversion kits is simple and only needs a few simple tools. If you are converting your existing bicycle to electric, follow these steps.
- Remove the front wheel from your electric bike and replace it with the electric wheel supplied in the electric bike conversion kit – ensure that you get this right as electric wheels are not interchangeable.
- Place the electric battery into its holder and fit it to your bike frame – ensure that you get this right too as electric batteries are not interchangeable.
- Lock the bike battery in place – this is a good way to secure the battery and stop it from moving around.
- Attach the electric motor to your electric bike battery – one cable provided is all that is needed to fit to your now converted electric bike.
- Download the app, locate and calibrate your electric bike wheel.
You are now ready to ride your electric bike!
Do you need to add a tyre and inner tube?
Popular ebike conversion kits, such as the Swytch kit, fail to provide a trye or inner tube with their ebike kits. Additionally, cheap Amazon kits are supplied without the tyre and tube you need to use the bike you converted to electric.
Again, this is where the easy fit bike kits have an advantage. Each easy fit e bike conversion kit has a new tyre and inner tube pre-installed. Not only does this reduce the time taken to get going on your converted e-bike but, as most typical bike users will tell you, removes that annoying and frustrating tyre change most of us dread.
If your ebike kit doesn’t come with a tyre supplied, here’s what you need to do.
Install a new tire to the front wheel from the conversion kit. Check if the tyre is directional and if not ensure they have a mounting position to allow the tyre to mount. To switch tyres and tubes you’ll need both levers and pump. If you want more information on doing this, we’ve got a link to some video guides on how to remove and install a bike tyre below.
Front Wheel Motor Kit Sizes: What’s Available?
You’ll find that all kits cover the three most popular sizes. That is 26 inch, 27.5 inch and 700C front wheel sizes. The wheel size is more important than the tyre width. With your specific wheel diameter you still have a wide range of tyre sizes that can fit to the electric wheel supplied in your kit. For instance, a 700C wheel can accommodate all 700 tyre sizes including 700x25C; 700x32C; 700x35C; 700x40C and so on. So, certainly, with the Swytch kit and the cheap Amazon kits, you only need to order the correct wheel size.
With the easy fit front wheel conversion kits, you need to be more specific when you order. As each conversion kit includes a fitted tyre and tube, you’ll need to find the tyre size written onto your existing tyre and order a match. That said, tyre widths can be different if you’re willing to accept a close match to receive your electric bike kit quickly. For example, the difference between a 700x32C and 700x35C is only 3mm. Can you even see the difference with the naked eye?
Then ofcourse, if it is so important to you that your front wheel and rear wheel have matching tyre sizes but your preferred ebike conversion kit is out of stock then consider this. Buy the correct wheel size with a close match and swap the tyre in the ebike kit for the existing tyre on your bicycle. For UK cyclists hoping to convert a bike to electric, you’re back in the game!
Connect the cables: One cable to rule them all!
Your new electric front wheel will have a 9-pin waterproof connector. This needs to be matched with the 9-pin waterproof connector from the battery holder. An embossed arrow on each side helps direct a sound fit. Align these two arrows first and then gently push together until you have a solid connection.
Your ebike conversion kit will come complete with cable ties to tidy up and manage cable lengths and prevent them from sticking on the spokes and catching the cranks. Make sure to leave enough slack, enough but not too much, to ensure that the fork can turn sufficiently and without hinderance.
Attach magnet disc and PAS sensor
Magnet discs with a split design that fit within the crank and are retained by the retention ring are required for many e bike conversion kits. Next, mount the sensor directly to the frame to allow it to detect if a crank has moved. For most ebike kits, these discs and sensors are essential for the bike battery to know when and how much electric power to provide.
The exception to the rule is the Easy Fit kits which do away completely with the need to add external sensors and discs. The latest technology computes the speed and incline as you cycle and adjusts the electric power accordingly. The intelligent choice to convert a bike to electric.
Attach the phone holder to your handlebar
The advanced easy fit conversion kits are controlled by your smartphone. So you will need to attach a simple phone holder to your handlebar. Almost every ebike conversion kit will include a mobile phone holder for your bike. They are not expensive for ebike kit suppliers to supply but they are necessary. Your ideal phone holder should be non-intrusive, removable but secure when in use. If you’re not happy with the one supplied with your e-bike conversion kit, it may be a good investment to purchase an alternative. It will hold your expensive phone, after all.
Install and Launch the Ebike Kit Smartphone App
You will need to download the ebike kit app to connect your phone to the ebike controller, using Bluetooth, and also to calibrate your converted bicycle on a flat surface. This is an important step as the electronics housed in the battery holder will calculate the amount of electrical power needed based upon your speed and also your incline.
The reality of most users of e-bike conversion kits is that once the assistance level is set, they set and forget. For example, I myself always have my pedal assistance level set at 50%. This gives me the right balance of battery life and electric power. Once set, I don’t feel the need to change the electric power provided choosing simply to enjoy my ride. Having chosen to convert a bike to electric, keep it simple.
Setting the pedal assistance on your smartphone removes the need for an additional controller. Some ebike kit retailers include a handlebar controller with throttle within their e bike conversion kits. This is an additional piece of hardware that is not necessary, takes up rare handlebar space, and is most probably illegal to use on the road. See our article on the legality of ebike controllers here.
Mid-drive Electric Bike Conversion Kits
Many of the commercially available bikes feature a mid-drive system with a motor mounted at the base of a rim near a pedal. They can be placed lower on bikes that improve the stability – but be careful – they can be damaged should they make contact with the ground. It can be done by purchasing an aftermarket conversion kit with a medium drive unit. Bafang primarily focuses on complete bike designs but has also launched a mid-drive e-bike conversion kit at Amazon along with wheels, hubs, motors. Mid-drive is the traditional choice for e-bikes but may be too challenging for retrofitters wanting to convert a bike to electric.
Rear-mounted Friction Drive eBike Conversion Kit
Some people who are older might remember a model from the 1980s or 1990s that was a box that attached to the front wheels of your car. This box used friction from a flywheel powered by a motor to operate the drive mechanism. The strategy, on the other hand, has not gone away and is now utilised by friction drive electric bike conversion kits. Most prominently, Rubbee which as an e bike kit is a great choice for people who need a fast and reliable electric bike. Rubbee’s base models boast an average weight of 2.7 kg and have 16 km of range.
Is it safe to convert a bike to electric?
The standard e bike conversion kit technically safe. Some people have questioned whether using electric motors on pedal bikes is safe, but others believe it’s perfectly fine. What you must be aware of is that many converted electric bicycles can be considerably more powerful than permitted by present legislation. The UK government says an electric motor can have a maximum power output of 250W. The motor musn’t propel the electric bike if travelling more than 15 mph. All electric bicycles not complying with these rules must be labelled as motorcycles or mopeds and must be registered and taxable.
You can read more about the safety aspects of trying to convert a bike to electric here.
Make sure you get a battery charger
E-bike batteries have to be charged regularly and this must be using the charger that is designed to work with the battery.
It is a common mistake for electric bike owners to assume that all electric bike batteries are the same and use universal chargers.
This isn’t true, so you should always get your charger from the manufacturer of your electric bike.
Where can I get an electric bike kit?
Electric bike conversion kits are available at various online retailers but most of the online retailers are selling out and most recommend customers order them in early 2022. Swytch was one of the largest Ebike converter kit sellers currently selling all the kits. The customer who wishes to purchase this item has to register with Swytch to place an order. It can be 12 weeks before a Swytch kit arrives and so you may want to search for electric bike conversion kits online.
How much do they cost?
The price for a conversion kit differs depending upon where it is purchased and the kind of kit you need. The e bike kit for rear wheels can be cheaper and easier to install than the mid-drive versions and is also the most common. The Easy Fit front wheel kits are simpler to install than all other ebike kit types but can cost more to convert a bike to electric.
The average electric bike conversion kit price is around £400. The kits differ in power, quality and size so you need to have a good look before buying one. Some electric bike kit costs around £500 but others reach more than £2,000. As electric bicycles become more popular, cheaper electric bike kits are becoming available.
Our verdict on E-bike conversion kits
The Bafang BB219 – 48V 750W mid-drive bike kits offer best performance. These kits are reliable and have plenty of power. If you have tight budgets then look at the Easy Fit e-bike waterproof conversion kits. It offers adequate range for the commuter and should be reasonably easy to install.
Questions about converting bikes to electric
1. What are electric bike conversion kits and what do they do?
2. How do you know if a bike can be converted to electric power?
3. What types of bike can be upgraded in a conversion kit installation?
4. What are the different types of owning an electric bike over a traditional pedal bike?
5. How much does an electric bike conversion cost compared to buying an entirely new electric bicycle?
6. Are there any special safety considerations I need to be aware of when riding my electric bike?”