What’s the Deal with E-Bike Conversion Kits?

What does it take to install one of these kits on your bike? Here’s a video showing part of the process, but from what I’ve been told it is not overly difficult and can be done at home by most people.  For more on videos and information on the installation process head over to this e-bike install page.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on electric bike conversions and if you’d recommend it to a friend who could benefit from having one.  Let’s hear it.

 

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  • Chuck

    I have been working with ebike kits for several years, ever since cobbling together my first home made ebike which I built on a tandem frame and replaced the rear seat with a snowboard and custom racks to carry up to 8 bags of groceries.  It was a fantastic first effort but was heavier than some cars I think.  That first bike was built with parts that I begged for, borrowed but never stole.  I think I invested about $400 total.  It was throttle operation only and I rigged it up so that I could lock the throttle on full power and then pedal furiously to wherever my destination was.  I had a few close calls with that setup so I went back to the drawing board.  Several iterations later I ended up with a much more expensive, but much more competent system by BionX on my Surly LHT.  Fantastic setup except for  top speed issue.  The BionX is easy to install and offers a decent proportional assist mode which is really the right way to do it in my opinion.  Throttles are fun but it’s not a bike if you are throttling along the road – its a moped.  Eventually I found my way to higher tech mid-drive systems.  I tried the Cyclone (cheap Chinese cr@p), the EcoSpeed (too expensive and too noisy), and the Stoke Monkey (way too dangerous) . At the moment, I’m riding a high performance rocket ship built around the Panasonic mid-drive system that I lifted out of a wrecked Kalkhoff.  It’s not exactly a kit bike because you can’t buy the kit – you need to find a complete bike to lift it out of.  But, I have to say it is the best of the best.  Quiet, smooth, powerful (at only 300W), fast and efficient.  I say, anything that keeps people out of cars is a good thing.  We should be encouraging ebikes – it is an enabling technology.

  • http://socialentrepreneurship.change.org/actions/view/twenty-first_century_metric_america_in_your_state BeholdersEye

    I think, get your kit on…I like biking but there is a limit how far I’ll go everyday on a bike, an electric bike will get me on one allot more and further, all the better then using a freakn car.

  • Dell Wilson

    I could see recommending this to someone with physical disabilities. But for anyone healthy, I would recommend an unassisted bike for the health benefits. As long as I’m healthy, I don’t think I will ever consider an eBike.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Starry/100000742238449 Tim Starry

    why not just buy a segway?

    • Anonymous

      A segway wouldn’t give one an opportunity to pedal at all….just stand and go.  I think most people see the point of an e-bike to assist them, not do all the work for them.  Hopefully it’s not just used to sit on, but to help people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to cycle (either for physical, health or distance reasons).   
      I know everyone has a different opinion, and we don’t all have to agree, but I see an e-bike as a useful tool for people who otherwise might not be out there on their bike (and like I said before, hopefully they’re doing as much of the work as possible).  I just don’t see any benefits to a segway at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001389015328 Joel Ike Phillips

    I like it as a tool to overcome physical handicaps that may prevent the enjoyments of cycling.  I dislike it as an aid for when you just don’t feel like doing the work.

    Great article, as usual…..

  • Anonymous

    I actually love the idea of an e-bike….especially if it encourages people, who would not normally be biking, to get out there biking.  

    I get intimidated when thinking of biking the big hills in Austin (between my asthma, and not having the built up physical strength), but love being out on a bike.  An e-bike would encourage me to get out there and attempt it.  I would definitely use my own power as much as possible.  
    Anyway, obviously I love the idea of an e-bike conversion….we need more people attempting to bike, and less cars on the road! 

  • http://twitter.com/BicycleLab Victor Jimenez

    I use to think that electric bikes were a joke. But after riding one and talking with friends that ride I get it.
    I am actually going to build a super ebike family truck for around town. With an ebike I can ride across town at 25mph pick up my son and ride home. A quick trip. If I do this on a regular bike its going to take just too much time and I am more likely to drive the car than take the bike.  There is also a population of people that would never commute. An ebike might help get those people out of the car and on the bike

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Great answer, Victor.  You seem to have the same thoughts on e-bikes as I do….thanks for giving us your perspective.  I’ve never used one, but I know my Wife would get out there more if part of her commute was assisted.

  • Bikeboy999

    My friend built up a recumbent trike for his wife to use a few years back. She has a back problem that prevents her from pedaling. She wanted to get out and he loves to ride. I think this coming summer season she will pass fifteen thousand km. And every so often he sees her attempting to pedal w/o e assist she would not be riding. All the work was done by ridemore.ca, who chose name of store which repairs, installs and sells eat assist mainly so that folk will ride more. By the way, escooters have been banned on mups in Ottawa.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Thanks for your comments on this, Bikeboy.

  • Marty

    Great idea for those that need it. If this gets cars of the road, awesome! I may need it to keep up w/Darryl next time he takes me riding those Austin hills! ;D

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Hahahaha, nice one Marty.  I enjoy riding with you no matter what kind of bike you’re on or how fast you’re going.

  • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

    Thanks for your comments so far….this topic going to make for an interesting discussion and I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say.

  • http://twitter.com/HellBillyB Bravo Tango

    Ebikes are great and I would def recommend them to anyone looking to swap some of their gas sucking car miles for a pedal assisted ride. Ebikes are a blast to ride and to build. There are definitely trade offs between buying a kit to put on your bike and buying a complete ebike.

    Installing your own kit on a bike is a learning experience and you need to keep that in mind if you decide to do one yourself. Some of the advantages of installing your own kit are being able to choose the type bike you want, developing an understanding of how the system works, and being able to choose components (controller type, battery type, size of hubs). You will need to have some mechanical and electrical ability and patience to do the installation. 

    When buying pre built ebikes you need to be concerned with the bicycle itself especially on the lower $$$ ebikes. They tend to sacrifice bike quality to get a cheap unit price. So you end up with a good electric hub on a crappy bike. Find somewhere local to you that sells ebikes and start exploring there even if you end up purchasing online. Keep in mind that you are not going to find a GOOD new ebike for less than $1000.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Thanks for your input and information on this subject.  Very appreciated, my man.

  • Kodiak1968

    Any time you can get someone on a bike, any bike, thats great. If you scoff at these your a dumbass. Way to many cars on the road

  • Juliestarling

    When we were looking into this for me two years ago, we found that the cost of buying a conversion kit and having it installed was very close to the price of  buying a built-up electric bike.  Now that more companies are offering electric bikes at $1000, conversion may cost more.  However, if you can do the conversion yourself, you would save the hundreds of dollars they wanted to charge me to do that.   The advantages of a pre-built electric bike though are that you can choose your style of battery, computer, and whether you want a throttle or not (learned about that last one after the fact).

    People who feel these things are cheating just don’t understand what it is like to have health problems or be very out-of-shape or surrounded by massive hills ( all 3 for me when I bought one), so that riding a normal bike it more than few miles is daunting.  Electric bikes are also great for carrying a big load.  My electric bike got me in shape and improved my asthma enough over the course of a year so that I can now ride a regular bike 30+ miles in this very hilly Maryland area.  I still use it for grocery runs.

  • http://about.me/Aaronthestrong Aaronthestrong

    Cool article! I totally see the benefit of doing this for a commuter…but something about it just feels like cheating to me :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Starry/100000742238449 Tim Starry

    I think I just threw up a little