- A feature rich, reasonably priced, electric bike kit with trigger throttle and cadence sensing pedal assist drive modes
- The battery pack mounts into a sturdy universal rear-rack that can support ~55 lbs and includes pannier blockers
- You get to choose from a wide range of wheel sizes, front or rear mounted motor setup and add a cassette of gears from 1 to 6, 7, 8 or 9 but that costs $25 to $50 extra, you can choose from silver or black for motor casing color
- Installing the cadence sensor for this kit can be more tedious and it only offers five magnets vs. 12 on some other kits I've tested, the battery pack, tail light and main display have to be powered on separately which can be easier to forget when you stop riding
The Cruiser Kit from Electric Bike Outfitters is unique in that it offers a rear-rack style battery pack vs. one that mounts mid-frame on the downtube. This rack style battery used to be more common in the ebike kit space but has become less popular in recent years due to balance and handling limitations. Basically… they are rear heavy and position weight higher up which can be less stable when parked and more dangerous if tipped. I personally tend to prefer the lower center of gravity that mid-mounted batteries offer but recognize that for some applications, like step-thru frames, the benefits of easily mounting the bike and comfortably standing over the bike when stopped become more important. And so, for this demo we were using the ~$500 Crosby model from Pure City Cycles which looks beautiful and perfectly illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of the EBO Cruiser Kit. The Crosby comes stock with its own silver rack which was replaced here by the handsome and sturdy black battery-mount rack that is included with the EBO Cruiser conversion kit. This bike also had fenders, a comfortable saddle and swept back handlebars for that upright relaxed cruiser feel which all remained in tact. Basically, the e-bike kit itself is plug and play… you can choose a front or rear mounted wheel with motor pre-installed and it’s designed to work with traditional brakes or disc brakes. There’s definitely some screwing around and effort that goes into getting everything setup correctly (especially the cadence sensor) but it looks great and rides well once complete. My biggest complaint about this particular build was actually the kickstand that comes with the Crosby… it barely held the bike up once the heavy battery pack was mounted to the rear rack and I think I’d replace that immediately if this was my own bike, Amazon has several adjustable kickstands on offer.
There are lots of choices when it comes to this electric bike kit and the first major one is wheel size. It’s an easy choice though because your bike will probably only accommodate one size! The Crosby I was testing with here had 26″ wheels so that’s the size used for the review. Electric Bike Outfitters offers 16″, 20″, 24″, 26″, 27.5″ and 700c or ~28″ which is common on city bikes. If you aren’t sure what size wheel you need, look at both sides of the tires on your bike and try to find a measurement… You might see some air pressure ratings like 30 to 50 PSI and likely the size such as 700x35c. If you’re ordering the bike online or through a shop just read the details in the description or call Electric Bike Outfitters for help, their website is pretty nice and easy to use. So the next choice is whether you want a front or rear mounted motor. For those who might want to swap between their traditional unmotorized wheels I recommend a front motor because it’s much easier to install and take off. For those who plan to ride more and want the best traction and steering I recommend he rear motor but it can end up costing $25 to $50 more if you add sprockets to work with your gearing system. The Pure City Crosby I was testing with had an 8 speed setup stock so the kit also had to have 8 gears to work properly. Note that you can choose from a single speed design and 6, 7, 8 or 9 speeds. The final question to ask yourself is whether you want silver or black. The spokes are always silver so that hub tends to blend in more but the rim has a black accent on it so both end up looking alright in the end. I found that the front motor operated more quietly… both offer the same power rating of 350 watts nominal and are internally geared which allows them to feel peppier when starting and climbing but also tends to wear more quickly than a gearless direct drive motor. The motors whir a bit (especially at low speeds and under heavy load) but are warrantied for a year. I’d estimate that the motor on its own weighs about six pounds.
Powering this kit is a beautiful slide-in rack mounted battery with premium Samsung Lithium-ion cells. The batter and rack are colored black to match each other and the pack feels well protected when locked into the controller box surrounded by the rack. The tubing on the rack is a bit oversized but may still work with clip-on panniers and you get pannier blockers on both sides of the rack to keep bags and cargo from snagging in the wheel. My favorite part about the whole setup is the integrated LINEO LED light by Spanninga. It feels really polished and has a built-in reflector… but unfortunately you have to turn it on and off separately from the battery and the main display. It’s actually not a huge deal because this allows you to operate the light when the kit is completely shut off (perhaps you’ve almost completely discharged your battery but still want to ride safe). All things considered, the battery, rack and light all work very well and offer an above-average capacity of 36 Volts, 11.6 Amp hours for a total of 417.6 Watt hours which should go 17+ miles per charge on throttle power alone for a 170 lb rider on flat paved terrain. You can extend your range by pedaling along and using the lower settings in pedal assist.
Pedal assist is a great option to have on any electric bike in my opinion because it incentivizes pedaling allowing you to get more exercise, stretch your legs, focus your hands on steering and let your fingers relax (vs. pressing a trigger throttle or twist throttle). The great news for the EBO Cruiser is that it offers both assist and Throttle mode so you can choose how to ride and even override with the throttle at any time. I use this strategy a lot… riding in level two or three in pedal assist then stepping it up with the throttle to pass a fellow rider, get up to speed quickly from a stop sign or climb a short hill. Once my objective is complete I release the throttle and go back to pedaling. One complaint about the EBO Cruiser kit (and most of the Electric Bike Outfitters systems) is that there is no throttle-only mode. You have to be in PAS 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 to use the throttle. But at least you can use full power with the throttle, it doesn’t matter which PAS mode you’re in. Another question mark I had while riding was how well the limited five sensor cadence disc was performing. I was impressed to be honest, I see a lot of 12 magnet sensors these days so five had me worried. Apparently EBO plans to upgrade their sensors in the future but the five magnet setup really wasn’t all that bad. The real challenge is getting it on when installing the kit. You have to take your crank arm completely off which can be a two person job and require special tools… this might be worth paying a local shop to help with but that adds to the overall price of the kit.
The final consideration here is operation and the kit is pretty standard… You do have to power the battery and display on separately, there’s a toggle switch at the rear of the pack and a power button on the remote pad usually mounted near your left grip. Lots of ebikes and kits function this way but I’m always forgetting to turn the battery off after each ride so hopefully you’ll remember on your own ebike ;) Once powered up the display shows battery charge level, speed, assist level, odometer, time, temperature and a few more readouts. It’s a lot to take in but the screen is easy to read in light or dark because it’s backlit (just hold the up arrow for a few seconds). The brake levers included with this kit are wired into the system so anytime you pull, they will cut power to the motor and that’s important for pedal assist mode. To me, this kit is a winner because it’s flexible and relatively affordable. You get literally everything you need to convert most bicycles to electric for under $1,000 and you get a one year warranty to boot. These days you can get some entry level electric bikes starting at ~$1,500 and the wires will all be integrated and you won’t have to do much work compared to a kit… but those tend to be lower quality bikes with limited sizing options. On the flip side, many purpose built quality cruisers like those from Pedego cost $2k to $3,500. There’s room for improvement refining this kit by swapping the cadence sensor for one with more sensors that’s easier to install and integrating the battery, light and display with fewer on/off buttons but for the price it’s a good setup.
- Color coded wires are easy to setup, the motor cable has a quick disconnect point that makes servicing the wheel (front or rear) much easier
- You get brake levers with integrated motor inhibitors here which could come in handy if you upgrade to pedal assist (much more affordable to do when you buy the bike vs. later since it uses a different controller)
- I like trigger throttle because it allows you to use your existing grips and twist shifter but you can upgrade to a twist throttle if you prefer
- Available in a huge assortment of wheel sizes including 16″, 20″, 24″, 26″, 27.5″ (650B) and ~28″ (700c) so you can convert folding bikes, kids bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes etc. and they all cost the same
- This kit offers more Amps for increased starting and climbing power vs. the entry level EBO Commuter, that model is 14 Amps and this one is 17
- The mechanical brake levers are compatible with traditional designs as well as disc brakes and the motor has a mounting pattern for use with a disc brake rotor
- You can override pedal assist with the throttle at any time but there is no throttle-only mode so you’ll need to be in 1-5 to use it
- The rack-mounted battery pack comes with a built in Spanninga LED light that looks great and works whether the bike is powered on or not
- The pedal assist cadence sensor requires more effort to install and the units I saw only had a five sensor disc which isn’t as responsive as the 10 and 12 magnet designs
- You have to power the battery pack on as well as the display unit to get the bike going… this adds a bit of time to each ride but also makes it easier to forget to turn the battery pack off when you park – same thing with the rear light, it is activated with a separate rubber switch at the rear but this isn’t so bad if you just want the light on and aren’t using the battery to power the bike
- The cadence sensor only offers a five magnet disc vs. 10 or 12 on some newer hardware I’ve seen from other companies, it sounds like Electric Bike Outfitters might upgrade this in the future and frankly, it worked alright during my tests
- Official Site: http://www.electricbikeoutfitters.com/ebo-cruiser.aspx
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/h6PnBBzKCNJymLzt7