When I was considering getting an electric bike one of the alternatives I considered was to put a conversion kit onto my ordinary bike instead. So, I did some research to find out whether or not conversion kits are a viable option.
So, do electric bike conversion kits work? Electric bike conversion kits work by attaching a motor to one of the wheels that makes them turn when you push a throttle. Most conversion kits also have cadence sensors that allow for extra power when you are pedaling.
There are a number of questions that people have when they’re looking to get a conversion kit and there are a number of considerations to be made when considering getting one instead of an electric bike.
What Are Conversion Kits?
Conversion kits are a set of components that you can buy to transform your bike into an electric bike. These components typically include a wheel that is meant to be attached to a motor that comes with it, the necessary wires and a throttle. If the conversion kit includes pedal assist then it will also come with an LCD that you can use to control the level of assistance and a cadence sensor that senses when you are pedaling. Some conversion kits will also come with disk brakes to use with the wheels.
Some conversion kits also come with batteries but they commonly do not. This means that it will be likely that you will need to buy the battery and the charger separately. It is important to get one that works with the motor so you should check with the conversion kit manufacturer to find out what battery you should get.
The wheel that comes with the kit will normally be meant to be placed at the rear but there are conversion kits that come with wheels that are meant to be placed at the front. I would recommend choosing a wheel that is designed to be placed at the back since it will cause the extra weight that it comes with to be spread out more naturally. Whereas, if you were to put the wheel at the front it would cause the extra weight to be at the front which will feel weird and could make it difficult to take corners on the bike.
The wheels will most commonly be 26 inches wide but you can find wheels sized at 24,22 and 20 inches as well.
The kit and battery will normally add 30 pounds of extra weight to the bike. This will cause the bike to become more difficult to handle and to pedal but will have a lot of extra power.
The brakes that the kits sometimes come with are often not very good but since the conversion kits will be adding a lot of power to the bike it will be important for you to have good brakes. So, if you do decide to get a conversion kit you should consider getting a good set of disk brakes in addition to it.
The range that you will be able to get out of the e-bike will be entirely dependant on the battery that you buy. It is recommended that you get a lithium battery since they are more powerful and longer lasting. Typically, the best battery that you can get with conversion kits is 48 Volt 20 amp hour batteries which can add about $380 to the price of the kit.
If you opt to get a 48 volt 20 amp hour battery then you can expect to be able to get around a 40-mile range on a single charge but that will depend on how fast you ride the bike and over what terrain.
The cost of the kits without batteries will typically cost around $300 and the batteries can add a further $300 to this price. Some of the better kits can cost up to $1000.
The conversion kits will normally limit the maximum speed that you can go at to either 20mph or 28mph if not you will normally be able to set the maximum speed using the LCD.
Pros of Using a Conversion Kit
There are a number of benefits to using a conversion kit over a getting a custom-made e-bike that I will list below.
- Lots of power
Conversion kits can add a lot of power to your electric bike. When you buy an electric bike straight from a bike shop it is rare that you will be able to make it more or less powerful but since you do it all yourself with conversion kits you will have the ability to make the bike as powerful as you want.
Another benefit of using a conversion kit is that, even though they can cost up to $1000, they are still cheaper than most e-bikes sold by bike stores.
- Use your own bike
Since conversion kits only require that you replace a wheel it means that you can use it on any bike that you want. So, if you like the ride of a particular bike then you will be able to convert that one.
Cons of Conversion Kits
Despite having some benefits over electric bikes there are some drawbacks to getting conversion kits that you should consider.
- Usually can’t be used in the rain
Since you will need to be attaching the batteries to the bike yourself it means that you probably won’t be able to do it in a way that will allow you to use it in the rain.
Often, manufacturers of e-bikes that you buy from bike shops, will put integrate the batteries into the frame of the bike which will protect the battery from rain, mud and dust which will allow for you to be able to use the e-bike in harsher conditions without fear of damaging it.
- Not as good
Even though conversion kits do allow for you to have pedal assist, which provides you with extra power as you pedal, it’s rarely as good as what you will find on actual e-bikes.
Higher quality electric bikes will make use of a torque sensor that can moderate the level of power assistance provided by the electric motor in a much more precise way than cadence sensors can which are what conversion kits normally use.
- You have to do it yourself
If you’re not a very handy person when it comes to building things then using a conversion kit could be somewhat difficult for you since there are a number of things that need to be done.
- Might get the wrong battery for the motor
One of the benefits of getting an electric bike is that you know that the battery and the motor will work well together. But, with conversion kits, it can be difficult to tell what battery you should get to go with the kit.
Common Questions About Conversion Kits
Does it have regenerative braking? Regenerative braking is where the battery gets recharged when you brake on e-bikes that have this ability regenerative braking can add up to 15% onto the max range. This is a feature that you are very unlikely to find on any conversion kits.
Will I still be able to pedal and change gears? Conversion kits give your bike extra power when you pedal and when you push on a throttle. With that being the case, you will still be able to use the bike just as you would normally. So, yes, you will be able to pedal and change gears as normal.
Should You Get a Conversion Kit or an E-Bike?
Deciding on whether or not to convert your current bike into an e-bike or whether to buy one ready-made can be a bit of a challenge.
One of the main things that you should consider is the size of your budget. High quality ready-made electric bikes typically start at around $2000 but prices are gradually coming down so you might be able to find one for above $1000. Yet, you can get a conversion kit and battery for around $600 so if money is an issue then you could be better off getting a conversion kit.
Another thing to consider would be just how much you intend to ride the bike. If it’s your intention to be putting a lot of miles into the bike then you may want to get a proper e-bike since they are going to be build to a higher quality and be more reliable. You will also probably be able to find one that has a large maximum range and they often come with 2-year warranties.
How fast can electric bikes go? Due to local laws, electric bikes are limited to either 20 mph or 28 mph (15.4 mph in Europe). If you can cycle faster than that then there is nothing stopping you from doing so but the electric motor won’t be providing you with extra power. Sometimes conversion kits are not limited so the max speed will be the maximum speed that the electric motor can get you up to.
How much do electric bikes weigh? Due to the electric motor and the battery electric bikes will normally add about 20 pounds to the weight of the bike.