- A versatile geared hub motor ebike kit with rear rack-mounted battery pack, integrated rear light keeps you visible and can be used even if the motor is display is turned off
- Lots of options, different colored hub motors, rims, and racks, front or rear mount design, single speed or 7, 8, 9 speed cassettes, custom wire lengths for cargo bikes etc.
- Excellent customer service and phone support, EBO has been around since 2015 and offers a 30-day money back policy as well as a one year comprehensive warranty
- Rack batteries position weight high and towards the back of the bike which can add to frame flex and change handling, the rack battery weighs more than the downtube option
Warning, in some configurations this electric bike kit is classified as a moped or motorcycle and may not be ridden on cycling trails or paths. It may require licensing, insurance and lights when used on public roads.
Electric Bike Outfitters (EBO) is a Denver, Colorado based company that has been in business since 2015, and is now expanding to other states and even shipping ebike kits worldwide! The founder, Jason Livingston, has always struck me as a relaxed and honest guy. His 30-day return policy and one-year warranty is reassuring and unlike some of the cheaper options, there’s phone support here and a lot of ways you can customize it to work with your bike perfectly. EBO products are sold directly as well as through electric bike stores will perform conversions for customers who don’t want to get their hands dirty. What sets the Cruiser kit apart from the Burly is its rear rack-mounted battery setup. This gives you extra storage space, frees up the mid-portion of the frame for lower stand-over hight on a step-thru, and adds an integrated backlight for safety. There’s a 36 volt and 48 volt option, which is what I reviewed. The higher voltage supports higher watt output from the motor but adds ~$300 to the price and a bit of weight. Downsides to the Cruiser kit include more weight being high up and towards the back of the bike (which could add to the weight of a rear mounted hub motor). You get to choose the hub motor casing and wheel color (black or silver) as well as one of two display types (simplified LED console or fancy LCD with integrated USB charging port for portable electronics). You can also select either a trigger, half-grip, or full-grip twist throttle, and hand wheel size from 16″, 20″, 24″, 26″, 27.5″, 28″ (or 700c), 29″ or even fat bike rim! That means you could convert everything from recumbents, to kids bikes, to full-sized city bikes, tandems, trikes, and even mountain bikes, as long as you can figure out a way to mount the battery pack. Electric Bike Outfitters will even create cables that are longer than normal, so you can mount the display, battery, and throttle in the best possible locations vs. compromising. I saw this in action when Jason showed both a Raleigh Detour step-thru and front loading cargo bike which both had the EBO 48v Cruiser kit installed! You can see the EBO headquarters location and workshop in the video review above, and it’s clear that Jason is organized and detail oriented. Compared to most purpose-built electric bikes, the 48 Volt Cruiser conversion kit is affordable and flexible, but not quite as beautiful looking because of the extra cables being run along the frame. The cables blend in better if your bike frame is black or dark grey like the Giant road bike example shown towards the end of the video. Settings wise, you can lower the top speed to feel safer, make the throttle active in assist level zero so you can ride like a scooter, and even enable cruise control so your wrist won’t get tired! There are just so many options, but the default configuration is a 20 mph top speed with throttle override (at full power) in assist levels 1-5 but not zero. I was told that cruise control is disabled by default and the bike starts in assist level zero for safety reasons, and that makes sense. This kit can be adjusted to go faster, and used as a Class 3 speed pedelec, up to ~28 mph, or a Class 4 off-road product with the throttle offering over 20 mph top speeds. You can dig in confidently, and experiment with options by using the online manuals that Jason has edited and clarified. You can also just call EBO and reach him for quick questions. In short, this kit will transform almost any human powered bicycle with rear rack mounting options into something a bit more fun, efficient, and capable. If you’ve got an approachable cruiser that just isn’t as fun to ride because it only has one gear, this is an easy way to make it fun again, or go further! Indeed, pulling electricity from the grid to ride further is actually more efficient in most cases than a human being eating and digesting more food and then pedaling a bike on their own! The EBO 48V Cruiser kit is the second lightest system in the EBO line, and I found that it was extremely satisfying and capable on flat pavement and packed dirt for my 135 lb body weight. As a more active rider, I prefer the nimble feel of geared hub motors but there is some compromise with handling because of the higher rear-mounted battery. There are many situations where it makes perfect sense, and others where one of the Burly kits, with mid-frame battery packs, might be a better choice.
The motor that comes with this kit is a planetary geared design that Jason modified to work with a wide variety of forks and rear dropouts. The Aluminum alloy shell is tapered or “stepped” inward to avoid scraping the frame, this is a problem I have encountered with some older kits such as the Hill Topper. The EBO planetary geared motor is built onto a 12 mm threaded axle with 9.8 mm flat cuts on each side, which fits into most standard sized dropouts and pushes agains the frame as the motor turns. By default, the kit does not come with an external torque arm to spread the force of the motor, because it is not as powerful as many of the other EBO motors, but you can pay a bit extra if you do want a torque arm because of softer or failing dropouts on individual bikes. The left side of the casing has threaded eyelets for mounting a disc brake rotor, but the rim of the wheel also has machined sidewalls so the kit is compatible with linear pull caliper or v-brakes in addition to disc brakes. The motor is spoked into each rim by hand, with thicker 12 gauge spokes that increase strength. Jason unscrewed and opened one of the motors so we could look at the copper winding and planetary gearing inside. The gears were plastic, which is not uncommon for motors like this, I have found that it is still very durable but also quiet and lightweight vs. steel or aluminum gearing. Please note that in the video review I mounted my camera to the frame for some shots, and these make the motor sound louder than it actually is because the frame vibrates as you ride. This motor freewheels efficiently when you coast, only weighs ~5.75 lbs total, and ramps up smoothly vs. feeling jerky. The hub spacing sizes you can oder from EBO are 100 mm (for front wheel fork mounting) or 120 mm or 135 mm hub spacing (for rear wheel mounting). If you opt for a rear wheel configuration, you’ll usually get better traction from the tire because weight from the rear rack battery placement and your body is distributed towards the back of bike. This dropout set also tends to be stronger than a fork (especially a suspension fork)… but it can be more difficult to install a rear wheel, and more crowded with shifter cables. A rear wheel setup will have at least one sprocket, and the EBO Cruiser kit can be configured with a single speed, 6, 7, or 9 speed cassette to replace your existing hardware. This kit is compatible with multiple chainrings too, so you could end up with a 21 or 24 speed bike, and that’s rare for purpose built electric bikes. The really neat part is, the motor operates independently from the pedal drivetrain and won’t add additional strain to your chain, sprockets, or derailleur the way that some mid-drive motors do. If you currently have a quick release wheel setup, the Burly will replace it with a solid threaded axle and nuts. You’ll have one additional cable to worry about (protruding from the right axle), and this is something to be very careful with. Try not to let the bike tip over and bend this cable, or let it snag on foliage or rocks as you ride along. It’s a vulnerable point for most hub motor powered ebikes!
Powering this kit is a Lithium-ion battery pack, made with Samsung 18650 cells. They’re configured as 13 in series and 4 in parallel to offer 48 volts and 11.6 amp hours (though Jason advertises 11 to exceed expectations). Hub motor powered ebikes tend to feel zippy and fun, but aren’t as efficient as most mid-drives. They work easily with throttles, don’t require a custom frame design to interface, and aren’t as vulnerable to rock strikes (lowering your mid-frame ground clearance as a mid-drive might). The battery pack itself is heavier on the Cruiser rack design than the Burly mid-frame design, it’s ~7.6 lbs vs. ~7.1 lbs, and it interfaces with an aluminum alloy rack which you need to mount to the bike frame somehow. I love that this rack can be ordered in silver or black, and appreciate how far back it can be positioned from the seat stays, in order to allow your saddle to come way down without colliding. Again, the rear rack battery frees up the middle portion of bike frames and can be used with many recumbents and cargo bikes easily, but it does position weight further back. Ideally, you want weight positioned low and center on the frame to improve handling and stability. Lithium-ion cells are known for being relatively lightweight but also very durable and long lasting. They don’t develop a memory if you forget to charge them right away, but they are still heat and cold sensitive. Jason recommended recharging after the pack had been depleted to around 20% vs. recharging after every short ride. He explained that this would allow for more full cycles, and help the cell chemistry last longer. If you go below 20%, I was told that there’s a chemical change in the battery cells and this could be hard on them, shortening their overall life. It’s best to store the battery pack in a cool, dry location, and you can charge it either on or off the frame. It locks securely to the rack and is easy to slide off and lift because there’s a molded handle at the back. There’s also an on/off toggle switch and an integrated light. Before you can ride, the on/off switch needs to be turned to the line (on) but you can always use the light by pressing the rubberized button on top… this is a great safety feature, and will probably still work even when there’s not enough power to run the motor because LED lights are so efficient. One thing that this battery does not have that the EBO Burly does, is an integrated USB port. Yes, there is still a port on the fancy LCD display, but not the battery pack itself, so you cannot use it as a portable energy bank. The battery charger is pretty basic, providing 2 Amps of power output for regular charging speeds, and it’s a little bulkier and heavier than the 36 volt charger at 1.9 lbs. As a closing thought on the battery, make sure you turn it off once the bike is finished riding… and always turn the display off before dismounting. Since the LED light can also be left on, this is a third step to remember each time you go for a ride.
Let’s imagine that you have charged the battery, mounted and locked it to the frame, turned it on with the toggle button and maybe activated the rear light. Now, you can finally press the power button on the control pad! Actually, you hold it for a couple of seconds, and then the LCD screen (or LED console) comes to life. The default display hardware is a beautiful backlit LCD with integrated USB Type A charging port, but EBO does offer to swap it for a basic LED console to reduce handlebar clutter and limit the fancy look of the kit (which could attract unwanted attention in some situations). As much as I love the LCD, and will be focusing on it from here on out, the LED pad is nicer than average because it shows a speedometer in addition to the current charge level and assist mode. Neither one of these two display panels is removable, but both can be swiveled a bit to improve readability or reduce glare. So, the LCD shows all sorts of menus but only uses three buttons to operate. And, they are located within reach of the left grip, on a remote button pad. This control system combines simplicity with depth, and is intuitive to use, without requiring that you look down all the time once you get the hang of it. The power button in the center of the remote button pad allows you to cycle through trip stats like odometer, trip distance, average speed, max speed etc. and the up and down arrows allow you to raise or lower the assist setting. By default, the bike is set to assist level zero, so the throttle is inactive. Once you arrow up to 1-5, the pedal assist sensor goes live and you can instantly use the throttle with full power. Again, it ramps up smoothly and feels a bit more refined than some of the other systems I have tried, but is definitely more zippy than the EBO 36V Cruiser or Burly kits. I prefer to pedal with an efficient, lower level of pedal assist, with occasional bursts of power to catch up with friends or climb hills, and this system lets me. Whether you’re riding in bright light or darkness, the LCD should be viewable, because you can hold the up arrow to activate backlighting. Holding down will activate walk mode if the bike is not moving more than 6 mph already. If you enable cruise control in the settings (by holding up and down simultaneously) you can then hold the down arrow if you’re using the throttle at any set speed above 6 mph to activate cruise control and give your wrist or thumb a break. It’s a feature I don’t see a lot, and one that some people might really appreciate for long commutes our touring. There are so many settings to explore here, including lower top speeds… or more or less sensitivity in the cadence sensor. Jason convinced me that eight magnets was enough for their cadence disc (verses 12 magnets that I have seen on some other ebikes and kits). He explained that the disc itself is smaller and less likely to be bumped, but also still very responsive. Apparently, some people want to set their cadence sensors to be less sensitive, so that the bike won’t surprise them if an accidental partial pedal stroke is made, and you can indeed make the cadence sensor less responsive with the settings menu here. The cadence sensor itself is one of the more difficult parts to install with this kit, because it requires a bottom bracket wrench and crank puller (or help from a shop) to get off and on. You have to take the crank off first and actually slip the sensor and magnetic disc over the spindle. It’s not an easy clip-on design, but the benefit is that it should be more sturdy and reliable in the long run. In short, I appreciate that the display you get with this kit is so useful and that this bike can be customized to perform as you prefer. It’s not limited or locked up like most purpose built ebikes… it even gives you USB power for maintaining a phone, music player, or lights on the go. When conducting this review, Jason had explained that the display had a 20 second lag for the current speed to register (based on their new firmware that works with 36 and 48 volt motors. I was thankful that Jason was aware of the issue and honest about it as we talked on camera, he has since resolved this issue (late February 2018) but I wanted to keep this note for those who might have an older version.
A the end of the day, this kit is using proven hardware (a geared hub motor and cadence sensor) that isn’t as fancy as some of the newest ebike technology, but gives you lots and lots of options for how to operate it. Even though cadence sensors are known for producing more of an on/off feel, the motor has been designed to ramp up smoothly, so it isn’t as jerky or startling. The control systems are intuitive, but deeper than normal, and not locked. This kit will appeal to people who don’t have bottle cage bosses or space to mount a downtube battery, and people who just want to keep their downtube open and clear for other accessories or easier mounting. It’s a great (perhaps the only) choice for people who have step-thru frames or unique frames like the cargo bike we saw. The only caveat is that you need mounting points for adding a rear rack. Some bike shops can actually drill holes into bike frames and weld on threaded bosses, but that’s a bigger deal. Having access to 350 watts to 815 watts means you can overcome hills, power through wind, or simply ride further… maybe keeping up with a partner or friend easier. The big trade-offs are weight distribution and the cost of the kit, you can save money by going with the 36 volt option. There’s always a trade-off between cost, weight, and performance with bicycles, and this was one of my favorite kits on offer for a single-person electric bike experience. For people who want more power, check out the 48 volt 500 watt Mountaineer kit from EBO. Note also, that some frames may behave differently with a loaded rear rack, the Raleigh Detour step-thru that I tested suffered from some speed wobble when this kit was installed. The front motor installation will be simpler, but may have been contributing to how the bike steered and that wobbling affect. Big thanks to Jason and his team for hosting me and partnering with me on this review. It was nice to catch up with him and see how the product has been refined since 2015. He is expanding in a way that seems sustainable, definitely growing, and I love that his support is still above average for the industry (at least the kit industry). It’s part of the slightly higher pricing, and also what makes dealer sales possible. I was impressed to hear that several Denver ebike shops actually carry his kits and offer them as an alternative over purpose built products. There’s something to be said for recycling an existing bike, breathing new life into an old favorite, or building a truly custom setup that isn’t available anywhere else. That’s exactly what I saw with the cargo bike build! For people who want to actually lower the top speed of their electric bike, this kit can be adjusted, and I see that being appealing for a more relaxed neighborhood ride.
- EBO has been in business since 2015, they offer a generous 30-day return policy with a one year warranty, and they ship worldwide… I trust them a lot more than some of the generic kits found on Ebay
- The Cruiser kits offer a lot of choice in terms of color, both the hub casing and rim can be ordered in silver or black to match your bike
- Whether you’ve got a recumbent, kids bike, folding bike, city bike, or mountain bike, it seems like Electric Bike Outfitters can build a wheel to fit your bike because they spoke in-house and build to order
- EBO uses nicer parts on their rims and thicker spokes to handle the additional forces of a hub motor, their new Julet connectors are water tight and color-coded for easier assembly and repair
- Safety is a big focus for me, so I appreciate the more sensitive cadence sensor, adjustable top speed settings, different throttle options (trigger, half-twist, and full-twist) as well as the brake lever motor inhibitors
- If your bike uses hydraulic brakes, EBO does have an optional sensor and magnet unit that can be screwed and glued on to enable motor inhibiting, but it’s not as elegant or simple as the stock mechanical brake levers, but it’s a nice option to have
- The display panel is large, easy to read, full of interesting settings to experiment with (and EBO has a nice manual to help you do so on their website), and it has an integrated USB charging port, though the display cannot be easily removed for protection at bike racks or wet days
- Even if EBO eventually goes out of business or changes some of their kit hardware, you should still be able to get parts and have your battery case re-packed because they are not software locked and follow an open industry-standard vs. being proprietary
- Given that the battery pack weighs ~7.6 lbs, it’s great that there’s a handle built into the top, so you can carry it more securely, I suggest storing it in a cool dry location and avoiding extreme heat and cold
- On the one hand, installing the hard-mounted cadence sensor takes more time and tools than one that is glued or zip-tied on, but on the other hand, it is going to be more secure this way, and I found that it worked very well during the ride tests
- The hub motor can be setup in a front or rear wheel configuration, and EBO offers single speed, 6 to 9 speed, and Shimano and Sun Race cassette options
- Apparently this kit is named the Cruiser because the battery rack design works great on cruiser bikes! It frees up the center of the frame and is ideal for step-thru models
- Being able to transform an existing bike into electric with multiple drive modes and higher speeds like this for just over $1.4k seems pretty good to me, there are cheaper kits out there, but most of them don’t offer this level of performance or support
- For those who want a really compact display, or just less flashy hardware on their bike, EBO offers a black LED control pad with integrated buttons (shown in the pictures above), and I like this thing because it also has a basic speedometer! most other LED control pads only show your battery charge level and assist
- You can activate walk mode to help move the bike by holding the down arrow if it is standing still, if you enter into the menu settings you can activate cruise control and then when riding over 6 mph, hold the down arrow for a few seconds to set cruise speed, in the settings you can also enable throttle mode at assist level zero if you want… or even remove the throttle and only use pedal assist only as a Class 3 ebike going up to ~28 mph, there are just so many options
- Before shipping each battery, the team at Electric Bike Outfitters actually drains and refills it to test all of the cells, I was told that they experience a 1% failure rate and by testing like this, it saves you time and hassle as the end consumer
- The actual motor casing has been custom designed by Jason, the founder of EBO, and he made it fit on a wider number of narrower forks like the Giant road bike in the video above, it works with linear pull brakes or disc brakes (you can mount dis brake rotors directly to the side of the hub casing)
- Hub motor ebikes can often have more pedal gears to work with than mid-motors (because they can easily support multiple front chainrings), and shifting gears causes less wear because the motor power is separate from the pedaling drivetrain
- The battery charger is a bit basic, only offering a standard 2 Amp power output, and it’s not super compact or lightweight at ~1.9 lbs… still, it should fit into your backpack or other bags easily for charging on the go
- Rear-rack mounted batteries position weight high and towards the back of the bike vs. low and center, which changes handling and can make lifting the bike more difficult, consider removing the battery before lifting and transporting the bike
- Unlike a purpose-built electric bike, kits usually have extra wires that aren’t as hidden or neat looking, the battery mount slide connects to the downtube with two bolts vs. three or some even sturdier custom designs
- The 8-magnet cadence sensor worked pretty well, and can be adjusted for sensitivity in the settings area of the display, but it simply isn’t as fluid or dynamic as a torque sensor or multi-sensor, there’s a bit of lag starting and stopping
- Geared hub motors tend to produce more buzzing noise than gearless, especially when running at higher power, this one is about average but you can always get the lower powered 36V kit if you want to be stealthier
- The rear rack battery has an integrated light, but it isn’t controlled by the LCD computer, you have to physically turn it on and off each time you ride, there also is not a USB port on the battery… just the display
- Installing a kit like this will take a bit of time, energy, and possibly additional tools like a crankset puller and bottom bracket wrench, you might even want to get your local ebike shop to help you, and that adds to the price
- For some of the older versions of this kit, the display panel might have a 20-second lag before showing your current ride speed, I was told that this has since been resolved with a software update, apparently the speed sensor is integrated into the motor hardware, the delayed readout was a minor annoyance and could cause confusion at times
- This isn’t a big complaint, but the USB charging port on the battery pack has been disabled (to reduce phantom power draw over long periods of disuse), there’s a second USB port on the lower right side of the LCD display panel, but sometimes it’s nice to use the battery itself as a backup power source off the bike
- Most hub motors have the power cable entering into the axle from one side, and this can be a point of vulnerability if the bike tips or you ride close to obstacles that could snag or scrape it, a few of the new Dapu motors have their power cables tucked very closely (behind the disc brake rotor) but I don’t think that you can order them aftermarket as kits
- Turning this bike on and off requires two steps, which adds a bit of time, you first have to click the battery pack itself on and then press the power button on the control pad, just remember to turn it all off before dismounting, transporting, and storing to prevent accidental activation
- Official Site: http://www.electricbikeoutfitters.com/ebo-cruiser.aspx
- More Pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/jXW2h1Vs7oan2qRH2