- A solid all-around mid-drive electric bike kit with shift sensing, pedal assist and throttle override offering 500 watts of nominal power output
- Two battery size options, available in downtube or rear rack styles, optional Race Face performance chainrings for people who encounter lots of hills or enjoy trail riding
- Compatible with 68 to 73 mm bottom brackets as well as press-fit BB86, BB90, BB92 and BB95 and 100 mm fat bike frames!
- 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
[UPDATE] I was told by Chris Head from e-RAD that they no longer sell the 500 watt mid-drive, they are focused on the 350, 750 and 1,000 watt models which I have reviewed here.
e-Rad is a line of kits and electric bike conversions created by Lectric Cycles out of Tempe Arizona. 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 kits (only with a different logo) is actually something quite different… and much better in my opinion. These kits are based on forth generation designs of the BBS02 and are manufactured by 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. That means, these motors can sense when you shift gears and respond by dropping power momentarily to reduce mashing. The 500 watt kit is available in range of configurations including the stock adjustable 68 mm to 73 mm bottom bracket, four press-fit sizes (BB86, BB90, BB93 and BB95) that work with Trek and Giant frames as well as an extra wide 100 mm design for use with fat bikes.
I’m a big proponent of mid-drive ebikes because they keep mass low and center on bicycle frames. They reduce unsprung weight which improves rebound performance if your bike has a rear suspension swing arm and they improve climbing power and efficiency by leveraging a gear cluster or CVT like the NuVinci 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. There really wasn’t a warranty or representatives to work with if you needed parts. Some dealers bought these kits in small bulk orders to install, resell or use for repairs but often 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 their custom designed e-RAD kits 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 from them or through a shop you get a more complete and lasting product. The eRAD kit is available in three sizes and the 500 watt version covered in this review strikes a balance between weight, power and price. It’s their best selling model and often preferred for e-mountain bikes because it delivers 25 amps vs. the smaller 350 watt kit that only offers 18.
At the heart of this kit is a 500 watt geared e-RAD mid-drive motor unit. It mounts directly to the bottom bracket (that tube where your crank arms come out) and comes with two y-plates for strength, like torque arms for the motor… It’s black, relatively small and surprisingly quiet during operation. During my test rides I found that noise increased as I shifted to lower gears and had the motor spin faster. This is a slower spinning mid-drive than something like the Bosch system which uses smaller chainrings but it offers significantly more torque power. 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 that’s perfect for the trail. I often ride in the lower levels assist level of assist and then pull the throttle for extra power when climbing short hills. For those who plan on using this kit for trails or steeper hills there are several chainring options available 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 or the BB press-fit cofigurations) 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 it 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 question is whether to go with the 11 amp hour standard pack or upgrade for $200 more and get the 14.5 amp hour pack. 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 regardless of if it’s mounted to the frame or not. 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 between the older and newer pack design 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 each 18650 cell. Also, with the newer design there’s a plastic grid frame that holds each individual cell in place further reducing the potential for them to rattle loose on rough terrain. There’s a strong emphasis on quality with the e-RAD system and a thoughtful approach from guys who all love 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 a cool dry place, extreme heat and cold can be hard on it. Also, try to keep it above 50% charged when storing for long periods so it doesn’t completely run dry and check in every couple of months for a quick top-off.
Operating this electric bike conversion 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). 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 powers up the LCD display. I like that the control pad is mounted separately from the display and can be fit snug next to your grips for easy access while riding. If you’re using this e-bike kit for a cruiser (with extra long bars) they offer an extender cable so the button pad will reach… just ask when ordering. So, the LCD 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 but did notice that it’s not designed to swivel or be removed which could be an issue in terms of glare, wear and tear or vandalism if you leave the bike outside a lot. 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. Depending on how you adjust the bike it’s possible to reach ~30 mph but this changes how the bike is viewed legally and may put you at risk of violating local laws if used improperly. 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. 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 500 watt option is my personal favorite. The 350, 500 and 750 watt kits look similar but you can tell which one you’ve got by looking at the bottom of the unit (in case you’re buying this second hand). The more powerful options include more copper wiring inside to handle increased current and if you go all the way up to 750 watts the voltage switches to 48 vs. 36 which can hit nearly 40 mph when unlocked and haul extra large loads on cargo bikes etc. Whether you get this as a DIY, purchase through a shop who can help you install it or choose one of the pre-built Electra or Origin 8 models from e-RAD, 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 their brand. I often hear forum users discussing the system components offered by Lectric Cycles, 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 accessories and 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. If you’ve already got a bike you love and don’t mind getting your hands dirty (or paying a shop) this could be a great option.
- For the base $850 motor price the eRAD mid drive motor kit is compatible with 68 and 73 mm bottom brackets and for $1,100 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 500 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