- The most powerful but still legal mid-drive electric bike kit I've tested, can be unlocked for increased speed if you intend to ride off-road or on private property ~40 mph top speed
- Perfect for cargo style ebikes, fat ebikes and other heavy duty applications, pairs with cassettes, internally geared hubs and CVT systems and offers shift sensing modules specific to each application
- Runs at 48 volts and is available with two battery size choices, packs are available in downtube or rear rack styles and come with high quality Lithium 18650 cells
- The display works well enough (and is backlit) but is not removable and won't swivel, as with most kits the wires require some zip-tie work to clean up and add a bit of mess to the frame
One goal of electric bike kits is to extend the use and feature set of existing hardware… maybe you already own a bicycle that’s aesthetic appealing or comfortable to ride, maybe you’re hoping to “reuse” existing hardware in an effort to save money or maybe there simply isn’t a purpose built electric bike in existence that matches your needs. Bicycles have been around since the 19th century but most modern bikes adhere to standard wheel sizes, bottom bracket layouts and handlebar designs. Now, there are still dozens of variables within this “common feature set” but sadly, only a small handful were compatible with electric bike kits and mid-drives like the Bafang 8Fun BBS02 worked with an even narrower subset. What does it all mean! In short, you had very limited options and the products that were available often had to be ordered from China and didn’t come with great instructions, support or warranty service. Furthermore, the BBS02 suffered from firmware that wasn’t very refined and could burnout the motor more easily (especially under high voltage). Still, this was one of the most popular kits in 2013/2014 and many people opted into the adventure of buying, assembling and adapting their ride style to make it work. What the e-RAD 750 from Lectric Cycles offers is an evolved version of this earlier product. It’s still assembled by Bafang in China but follows the strict specifications set out by the US designers and engineers who have added better bearings, a tighter axle, more durable mosfet resistors, a shift sensing signal wire and optimized firmware and software that keeps it all running smoothly. To top it all off, while the standard Bafang BBS02 was only adjustable to fit 68 mm to 73 mm bottom brackets, the e-RAD products (including a 36 volt 350 watt and 500 watt kit) can be custom engineered by e-RAD to fit press fit bottom brackets like those commonly found on Trek and Giant bikes for BB86, BB90, BB93 and BB95 sizes and even the extra long 100 mm size found on many fat bikes. All of a sudden, that vast selection of traditional bikes that weren’t compatible with a mid-drive kit (at least a well known, relatively affordable and durable one like the BBS02).
This is all very exciting, especially because the 750 watt version featured in this review is also the most powerful (but still legal) option around. If you’re hauling serious weight with a cargo bike or doing steep climbs with a fat bike this is an excellent option. Worth keeping in mind however is the physical constraints of your bicycle frame, wheels and other components which probably weren’t designed with the additional 16 pounds of weight on the downtube and bottom bracket in mind. Also, the higher speeds and more rigorous extended use… I said this in the video review but want to reiterate here. This kit is powerful and can be unlocked to go quite fast (hitting the upper 30’s when using high gears). Not only can it become a legal liability if operated irresponsibly, it could also result in serious injury to yourself or others. Please keep the countless other enthusiasts and individuals like myself who are building a career in ebikes in mind when bending the rules and most of all ride safe.
In general, I’m a bit proponent of mid-drive ebikes because they keep mass low and centered on bicycle frames. They reduce unsprung weight which improves rebound performance if your bike has a rear suspension swing arm (like the Giant in this review) and they improve climbing power and efficiency by leveraging a gear cluster or CVT like the NuVinci in the rear. The eRAD kit is available in three sizes as mentioned previously and the 750 watt version covered here is at the top of the heap. It actually doesn’t weigh more than the 500 watt version but it does switch to 48 volt power which peaks motor output at 1,300 watts. This is the same as HPC’s 1300 watt motor but it’s labeled as 750 because that’s the nominal rating which adheres to legal restrictions. When you get this kit stock, it’s limited to 20 mph but the instant power and torque experienced at lower speeds is immediately noticeable compared with the 350 and 500.
The motor unit mounts directly to the bottom bracket of your bike 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. In general, the 750 watt kit is the loudest of the three but this is still a slower spinning mid-drive than something like the Bosch system which uses smaller chainrings. 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 750 watt BBS02 unit this motor feels similar but the benefits a lot from smoother starts and shift sensing which should result in longer lifespan for the system and your bicycle drivetrain. 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 and then pull the throttle for extra juice when climbing short hills. For those who plan on using this kit for off-road with steeper conditions e-RAD offers several chainring options from 34T, 36T, 38T, 40T and 42 Tooth. In addition to the smaller diameters with fewer teeth, all Race Face chainrings offer narrow wide tooth arrangements which improve chain retention by reducing slop from side to side. To make these work, e-RAD includes a custom spider (chainring adapter).
Chainrings and software are nice but to me, the really amazing part of this motor system when ordered in one of the larger custom widths or the BB press-fit configurations, is the machined improvements to the axle and casing. These guys actually tap the spindle tube and add extenders, they engineer new longer spindles which fit tighter and they create shims to adapt the system for press fit. It’s kind of amazing and something that would be very difficult for an individual to do themselves without some very expensive hardware. Here’s a deeper look at the shop and some of the engineering that happens to make these alterations.
Powering the kit is your choice of a mid mounted or rack mounted Lithium-ion battery solution offering 48 volts of power. The big question is whether to go with the 9 amp hour standard pack or upgrade for $200 more and get the 11.6 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. The smaller pack uses Samsung cells while the larger features upgraded Panasonic. 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 whether 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 a 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. During my tour of Lectric Cycles I was able to peer inside one of the Panasonic packs and was impressed with the hard point welding used to connect each 18650 cell. Many less expensive batteries use simple wires which are easier to shake loose and short circuit. To further strengthen their new battery design the company is using a plastic grid frame inside that holds each individual cell in place, that was cool to see. There’s a strong emphasis on quality with the e-RAD system and a thoughtful approach from guys who all love to ride and want to deliver a product that will endure under rigorous use (especially with this top end kit). 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… Use that LED battery indicator ;)
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. The dolphin pack has a bright blue LED which makes it easy to remember when it’s on but I’m not sure about the new pack. Once it’s 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) e-RAD offers 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. There’s some software out there that you can use to change the increments to 1-9 and I think e-RAD will do this for you if you want finer steps but the top end power and speed will be the same. 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 like the backlit and auto-off time (which defaults to five minutes). Depending on how you adjust the bike it’s possible to reach ~40 mph as mentioned earlier. 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. There’s at least one known guy out there who actually opened the battery and wired in his own lights so it is possible but this voids your warranty and could result in a fire so proceed with caution!
The e Rad mid-drive electric bike kits are some of the best I’ve reviewed to date and the 750 watt option is quite impressive. 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 of course, they cost more as well. 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. I thoroughly enjoyed the full suspension Giant and prefer this type of setup for off road and urban riding because the increased speed sometimes makes my back and neck stiff. 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. As someone who has had multiple concussions (while wearing a helmet) and hit parked cars (while filming reviews for this website) I would urge you to ride safe, I cracked one of my teeth in half when I was younger and am reminded daily that some body parts don’t heal ;)
- For the base $950 motor price the eRAD mid drive motor kit is compatible with 68 and 73 mm bottom brackets and for $1,200 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 750 watt motor size including 48 volt 9 amp hour and 48 volt 11.6 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