- An affordable, efficient mid-drive electric bike kit that's compatible with nearly any bike frame, it offers five levels of pedal assist and throttle mode
- Physical shift sensor is customized for derailleurs, internally geared hubs or CVT's and reduces mashing which will extend the life of sprockets and your chain
- Available with two 36 volt battery size options and either mid-mount or rear-rack design, the kit is also available pre-installed and through 50+ US dealers
- Because it's a kit, the wires are not internally routed and create some clutter, also the LCD display is not easy to swivel or remove
Lectric Cycles is an electric bike manufacturer based in Tempe Arizona that makes a line of kits and pre-made ebikes called e-RAD. These mid-drive kits can be adapted to fit just about any bike frame (road, city, cargo or fat) which is pretty unique. What at first resembles the Bafang 8Fun BBS01 or BBS02 kit (only with a different logo) is actually something quite different… and much better in my opinion. These kits are based on forth generation designs from Bafang but offer upgraded bearings for extended use, higher quality mosfet resistors for improved durability under heavy load, refined firmware and software for smoother and safer starts and an additional signal cable for use with a physical shift sensor. The 350 watt kit is available in range of sizes including the stock adjustable 68 mm to 73 mm bottom bracket, four press-fit sizes (BB86, BB90, BB93 and BB95) for use with Trek and Giant frames as well as an extra wide 100 mm fat bike configuration.
I’m a fan of mid-drive ebikes because they keep mass low and center, reduce unsprung weight (if your bike has a rear suspension swing arm) and improve climbing power and efficiency by leveraging a gear cluster or CVT in the rear. The very similar “8Fun” design became popular in the US in 2013/2014 but many customers struggled to order direct from Bafang China and felt underwhelmed with the lack of support. Some dealers bought these kits in small bulk orders to install, resell or use for repair parts but ran into liability issues. One huge limitation that everyone faced was the lack of sizing options and shift sensing customization… What Lectric Cycles has done with the e-RAD kit is deliver a superior design, with shift sensing and chainring options and back it up with solid customer and dealer support (including manufacturer insurance). Now, whether you buy direct or for your own line of bikes or conversions as a shop you get a more complete product. The eRAD kit is available in three sizes and the 350 watt version covered in this review is the smallest and lightest which is great for around town use and those who want to actively pedal along.
At the heart of this kit is a 350 watt e-RAD mid-drive motor unit. It’s a geared design that mounts directly to the bottom bracket (that tube where your crank arms come out). It’s black, relatively small and surprisingly quiet during operation (noise increases as the motor spins faster, often in lower gears). Built right into the motor casing is a controller that has been customized by Lectric Cycles for smooth starts. As mentioned earlier, the bearings inside have been upgraded along with the mosfets which are switches that control electromagnets for acceleration. When compared side by side with a standard 8Fun unit this motor might feel similar in terms of power but the benefits of upgraded hardware should result in longer lifespan and reduced potential for overloads which can kill the motor (if you try to start full throttle while using a high gear and overload the system). This is one of the only mid-drive systems I know of that even offers throttle mode and I love that it overrides pedal assist because that gives you a sense of control and maneuverability. I often ride in the lower 1 or 2 assist levels and then pull the throttle for a bit of kick when climbing short hills. For those who plan on riding off-road, there are several chainring options including the RaceFace NW with a smaller diameter, fewer teeth and better chain retention. The really amazing part of this motor system (if ordered in one of the larger custom widths) is the combination of longer axles, threaded extenders and shims that Lectric Cycles designs and produces on-site in Arizona. This isn’t something that most people could do themselves and extends the usefulness of the product in an amazing way.
Powering the kit is your choice of a mid mounted or rack mounted Lithium-ion battery solution offering 36 volts of power. The big quest is whether to get 11 amp hours or 14.5 amp hours of capacity (for an additional $200). The more amp hours you get the further you’ll go but it also increases the weight by about half a pound. I’m writing this review at a time when the company is moving towards a new case which is lower profile and sleeker looking but the original “dolphin” case was also pretty nice. They both offer LED power level readouts so you can tell whether the pack is fully charged whether it’s on the bike or being stored separately. The packs are both locking and removable which is handy if you commute or need to reduce overall bike weight for transport on a car or bus rack. One big difference however is the lack of USB charging port on the new pack, it’s not a deal killer (I rarely use these power ports when riding) but it is a change. Inside the pack, Lectric Cycles uses the highest quality Panasonic cells which are known for being energy dense and very reliable (light and long lasting). I was able to peer inside while taking a tour of their shop and was impressed with the hard point welding used to connect the cells. There’s truly an emphasis on quality here and a thoughtful approach from guys who all ride and want to deliver a product that will endure under rigorous use. Keep in mind, to extend the life of your battery it’s best to store it in cool dry places, extreme heat and cold can be hard on it. Also, try to keep it above 50% when storing for long periods so it doesn’t completely run dry, check in every couple of months for a quick top-off.
Operating the kit is fairly standard and the display and control systems are very adaptable so they should work on a wide range of handlebars. First, you charge the battery pack up (either on or off the frame) and then you mount it to the bike. From here, you’ll need to press the power button on the battery before you can actually turn the display on. Not all ebikes require this extra step and I’ve found that it can be easy to forget and leave on after a ride. Once the pack is on, you press the center circular button on the control pad and this brings the LCD display to life. I like that the control pad is mounted separately and can be fit snug next to your grips for easy access while riding, they even offer an extra long cable for use on cruiser bars. The display mounts to the center of the handlebars and sits just above the stem, I saw it installed on cruisers, city bikes and mountain bikes without issue. Once on, you’re shown speed, battery level and assist level (default 1-5) which is controlled by pressing up and down on the pad. You can also press left on the pad to view average speed and max speed or right to view trip distance, odometer and time. This is all fairly standard but the really interesting bits are buried deeper in the system, by pressing the power circle two times rapidly in succession you enter into the advanced settings. By using the passcode provided by Lectric Cycles or your dealer you are able to adjust wheel size, top speed and other defaults. Overall, the display and control pad are fairly standard but they enable you to do a lot with your bike because they are more open. It’s worth noting that the LCD has a built in light sensor for use at night. The only downsides about this display are that it doesn’t swivel easily to reduce glare, it isn’t removable (which can be handy if you park outside or in a rough public area) and it isn’t wired for lights. If you want to add a headlight and backlight you’ll probably need to get stand alone units like these rechargeable Cygolites (I’ve tested and like them) but that means they can be stolen easier, have to be charged separately and can add to the clutter of wires and displays already present.
The e Rad mid-drive electric bike kits are some of the best I’ve reviewed to date and the 350 watt option is perfect for a budget minded individual who doesn’t mind pedaling along on hills or when carrying larger loads. Take note that it’s not much more expensive to get the 500 watt system which significantly improves power (jumping up from 18 Amps to 25 Amps). The kits look similar but the more powerful options include more copper wiring inside and if you go all the way up to 750 watts it switches to a 48 volt system vs. 36 which handles heavier loads and steeper grades more effectively. Whether you get this as a DIY, purchase through a shop who can help you install it or choose one of the stock Electra or Origin 8 setups that Lectric Cycles offers, you’re getting a nice drive system. There’s a lot of value being offered here in my opinion and they’ve clearly focused on building a better product over hyping it. I often hear forum users discussing the system components, excited by the opportunity to convert a fat bike, use a continuously variable transmission like the NuVinci or upgrade a full suspension bike. For those who already have a Bafang 8Fun kit, Lectric Cycles does sell many of their upgrades independently and this can be a great way to improve performance or fit. Given the warranty, solid customer support and dealer network being built by this company I feel like it’s a great way to go if you don’t mind the extra cable clutter and a bit of time and energy spent converting. Alternatively, you could look into something like the IZIP E3 Peak which is also a mid-drive that offers throttle and assist but your choices for cockpit layout, motor size and battery size all disappear, you don’t get shift sensing and the throttle cuts out at 6 mph if you aren’t pedaling which limits how you ride.
- For the base $650 motor price the eRAD mid drive motor kit is compatible with 68 and 73 mm bottom brackets and for $850 you can get it custom built for BB86, BB90, BB92, BB95 with press-fit (Trek and Giant) or 100 mm for fat bike frames
- Optional left or right mounting trigger throttles and twist throttles, this is great for people with crowded handlebars or those who are left handed and prefer a different layout
- While the motor is assembled by Bafang and resembles the other 8Fun kits I’ve reviewed, it uses higher quality bearings, mosfet transistors and chainring designs as well as an integrated shift-sensor wire and firmware to control it
- Mid-drive designs usually reduce unsprung weight and offer improved balance because they are low and center on the frame, they are also more efficient with paired with a gear cluster or CVT because they provide mechanical advantage for the drive system
- Two battery size options are available for the 350 watt motor size including 36 volt 11 amp hour and 36 14.5 amp hour for improved range, the stock option is downtube mounting but rear rack designs are also available
- Solid one year comprehensive warranty with a 1,000 cycle guarantee on the battery pack, quality Panasonic Lithium-ion cells are light weight and durable
- Available direct online either as a customized kit or pre-built into an Electra Fast 5, Moto 3, Townie or Origin 8 Fat Bike
- Great dealer selection with over 50 shops in the United States who can install this or receive and build your bike
- Quiet and relatively smooth to operate, extra firmware and software optimization has been done to delay the throttle when starting from rest for safety and reduced wear
- The cables for this kit have to be arranged and connected to the frame using zip-ties which can look a bit cluttered, many times they are a bit too long (one size fits all) and this leads to some jumbling, looks best on black frames because they blend in
- The stock brake levers are mechanical so if you have hydraulic brakes on your bike you will have to ask for the universal brake sensor and then glue or zip tie in the sensor and magnet
- The older “dolphin” style battery packs had an integrated USB charger for your phone or other portable electronics but the new ones (while slimmer and sturdier) do not
- The battery pack has to be powered on independently from the main LCD display panel, this takes a few extra seconds and could be confusing if you forget and then wonder why the system isn’t turning on
- If you want to add lights to your ebike they cannot easily be wired into the battery pack here (though it has been done by some hobbyists), you’ll need to buy aftermarket self-powered lights like the Cygolite Metro 400 combo