- A smooth, powerful, sophisticated electric bike conversion kit compatible with front or rear wheel
- Offers five hall sensors vs. three on most ebikes providing smoother ride and more torque
- Narrow design accommodates rear cassette and offers power regeneration, kit is relatively expensive and wireless display is a bit clunky and loose on some handle bar setups
The Falco HX 500 is a quality electric bike kit, and it costs a bit more as a result. Most ebike conversion kits use small or medium sized geared hub motors with basic control systems. By comparison, the Falco Hx series is direct drive (gearless) offering regeneration and multiple battery options along with either twist throttle, trigger throttle, pedelec or torque sensing pedal assist (or a combination of these three). It’s the kind of drive system you’d find on a higher end electric bike (light weight, slim, wireless) but you can get it stand-alone to use with your existing bike. The kit I reviewed used a 500 watt motor and was fitted to the rear wheel (I’ve also tested the front wheel design which is simpler to install but changes the way steering feels). These motors offer 40 Newton meters of torque, but you can upgrade to the Falco Hx 1500 for 60 Nm of torque or the Hx 750 for 80 Nm of torque (I realize that the numbers seem backwards; the 1500 offers 1500 watts of power at lower torque but is fatter and won’t fit with a cassette).
At the heart of this kit is a 500 watt direct drive (gearless) hub motor that you can either order on its own or built into a wheel size of your choosing (it can be spoked into 20″, 24″, 26″ or 700C to fit virtually any bicycle). The rims have angled holes to add strength to the spokes and are indented to reduce loosening over time. Considering that it’s gearless, this motor is actually pretty slim and light weight. It rides pretty quiet but cuts out abruptly at 20mph (to honor US legal restrictions). I wish they could smooth this out because it can be a bit jarring and doesn’t happen on other kits I’ve tried. Whereas most direct drive ebike motors employ only three hall sensors, the Falco motor uses five. These sensors detect wheel rotation and provide feedback to the controller allowing it to be more responsive and smooth. My favorite part about this kit is that it offers five regen modes that will reduce wear on your brakes and extend the range of your ride if you activate it while coasting down a hill. Alternatively, you can use regeneration as a way to add rigor to your ride or as an exercise machine using a track stand. While the motor coasts relatively smoothly when turned off it still suffers from some cogging (as shown in the video review). Note that the motor output can be changed from high torque to high speed and adjusted to be responsive or more dull if you get the optional $50 USB dongle and download their software. Here’s a video overview with the founder explaining how it works.
There are lots of choices to make with this kit and one of them is which drive modes to activate. The demo unit shown in the video review is setup with “triple drive” and can is configured to let each system override the next: torque to cadence to throttle. I love that you get to choose from these options but it adds to the price and I couldn’t tell a huge difference from one mode to the next. I also would have liked a throttle only mode at level zero vs. nothing… You can achieve this experience by turning the bike off so it felt like they missed an opportunity here.
The battery on this bike presents a few more options including size and configuration. The standard size is 36 volts of power and 11.6 amp hours of capacity which is a touch above average. It uses light weight, long lasting Lithium-ion cells and weighs ~5.5 pounds. You can upgrade this to a 48 volt pack that offers more power and can propel the bike faster if you get the computer console option and an unlocked kit. I’d say, if you do a lot of climbing or weigh over 180 pounds the 48 volt option is worth considering. The next choice is whether to get a rear rack mounting battery or a downtube canister. I personally prefer the canister design because it keeps weight lower and distributes it more naturally across the frame. It’s also easier to remove for charging. Still, it will take up the space where your water bottle cage might otherwise mount and some bikes just don’t have braze ons here or aren’t setup for it.
The last big consideration with this bike is whether to get a twist or trigger throttle (you’ll need it if you want throttle mode) and whether to pay extra for an LCD computer (which will show you the voltage, battery capacity, speed and provide readouts for ANT+ devices like heart rate monitors). The LCD is grayscale, a bit clunky (though removable) and includes a button pad break out with plus and minus to make it easier to reach and interact with when riding. I don’t think this accessory needed to be wireless and I’m sure that adds to the cost. I like that it’s removable but prefer the smaller, sturdier feeling designs on BionX and Easy Motion systems.
The Falco Hx kits provide a lot of options for custom configuration, work with non-Falco batteries and can be unlocked for higher speeds. I enjoyed test riding the kit and appreciated how quiet, smooth and small it was but feel there are a few oddities like the lack of a “throttle only” mode and jerky 20mph cutoff. Admittedly, I’m not the kind of person who builds ebikes from scratch but I could still appreciate the options and versatility of this kit. I also like how cool it looks in the all-black finish. It can be a little tricky to find online but the Electric Cyclery in Laguna Beach, CA carries it and will ship nationally in the USA. I don’t love the wireless communication box (required for use with the LCD panel) and didn’t see a big difference in torque sensing vs. cadence sending (they both could have been smoother) but realize this kit has been growing over the years vs. launching with all of these options at once. The software really lets you dial things in and the engineering team that built this has been a leader in the space focusing on durability, heat reduction and torque sensitivity so there’s a possibility that they will release updates to improve how the system performs and I’m sure their next project will be even more refined.
- Can communicate wirelessly with optional computer console and with ANT+ heart rate monitors
- Offers cadence sensing pedal assist, torque sensing assist, trigger throttle or twist throttle
- Compatible with a wide range of batteries or you can get the Falco rear rack or canister designs
- 5-phase hall sensors provide a smooth ride with additional torque, motor is designed to run cool
- Uses 15 embedded sensors to measure motor current, power, voltage, temperature, magnetic field and torque
- Provides five levels of regen that charge the battery and reduce wear on brake pads if used instead of brakes to slow the bike down
- Compact design provides enough room for rear cassette and is also relatively light weight at 9.9 pounds
- Optional computer displays speed, distance, trip time, battery voltage, battery capacity, battery current and heart rate (with ANT+ device sensor)
- Off-road upgrade for increased speed offering 1,000 rpm with no load delivers 25 mph or 30 mph top speed in pedelec mode using 36 volt or 48 volt battery respectively
- Multiple activation sensors including throttle, crank sensor, torque sensor or combination
- Trigger throttle box and display panel are large and less aesthetically pleasing than some other ebike systems
- The “off road” package is required to unlock higher top speeds and costs extra (hardware based, cannot unlock later if you get a regular kit)
- Have to charge the wireless display separately with additional plug attachment (batteries should last several weeks)
- Display panel attachment uses a quick release that doesn’t secure as well on smaller bars 25mm in diameter (may require rubber strips or extra padding)
- Older models have less smooth cut off at 20mph, firmware updates have improved this on newer models
- Wireless communicator box adds clutter to the system (required for wireless display)