Turn Your Bike Into an Electric Bike

Christa E

Member
Converting Your Bike into an E-Bike.

If you enjoy riding your bike on a fairly consistent basis you've most likely learned about electric bikes or pedal-assist bikes. It's no secret that e-bikes are becoming more prevalent for commuting, running errands, and just getting around faster on two wheels. If you already have your own bike, converting it might be a cost-efficient option to spending a lot of money on a pre-built one. With the right conversion kit, you'll be ready to turn your regular bike into an electric one and save money.

Deciding How to Convert it

This process is simple once you identify what to look for. You go through the same process when buying a regular bike.

What sort of lifestyle needs do you have? Are you commuting to work in the city on level pavement or do you want to go off-road and down long, hilly paths? For many people, making an educated decision can involve a lot of research regarding different kits and their functions. Some conversion kits will come with a wheel and parts to go on your bike and can be as simple as changing a flat. Some kits can go up to $2000 and some are less than $200. Factors to consider are the assembly of the kit, level of customer support, quality of the kit, the complexity of the connections, warranty, replacement parts, etc.

Types of Bike Conversion Kits

There are many different kits available, from motors that fit into a wheel hub that are small and soundless, to larger and more powerful kits. This post will discuss the more popular kits: front, wheel, and mid-drive.


Front Wheel Electric Bike Conversion Kits

electric-bike-outfitters-clydesdale-2-0-kit-review-new-1200x600-c-default.jpg


Electric Bike Outfitters Clydesdale 2.0 Kit Review

When picking a front hub motor or a rear hub motor there are several factors to look at to ensure you get the proper kit. The major difference is weight. You want to make sure that weight is distributed uniformly, from front to rear. Most batteries are mounted in the middle or back of the bike, so a front hub motor could equalize the weight distribution. A front motor might make the front wheel heavier and harder to steer, but the rear-mounted motor will need to fit with your derailleurs. The front motor is mounted in the center of the front wheel, making it very easy and simple to install. It's recommended to install a torque arm to handle torque since there isn't a lot of traction on the front wheel and a powerful motor would spin out the front tire.

A front motor essentially pulls you while a rear motor feels like you're getting push assistance.

Pros
  • Easy to install, perfect for beginners (no rear derailleur adjustments, chains, etc.)
  • Changing out flats are easier
  • Keeps the motor system separated from rest of bike
  • Weight distribution is balanced whether the battery is centered or rear placed, making it easier to pick up
  • All-wheel drive because you power the rear wheel by pedaling
  • Compatible with internally geared hubs

Cons

  • Front end is heavier, reducing option of front forks (aluminum vs steel)
  • More pressure on front fork, which may not be suitable for aluminum forks and may bend or even break the drop-outs
  • Must consider the distance between dropouts
  • Could be harder to lift up to a curb
  • Nor as much traction as with rear motor, the front tire might spin out especially on loose pavement or steep incline
  • Some people are not used to the "pulling" feel

Because installation and maintenance are so simple, this might be the best option for everyday commuters, especially riders who don't go off-road or on trails very often. If you want a simple, safe, reliable ride this seems like a great option. This option is wonderful on paved roads, and changing a flat is super easy.

Rear Wheel Electric Bike Conversion Kits


2018-superpedestrian-copenhagen-wheel-electric-bike-review-1200x600-c-default.jpg


Superpedestrian Copenhagen Wheel Review

If you want a powerful motor, over 500W for example, a rear hub motor is a great option. The more powerful the motor, it's very likely that it will be heavy, over 20 pounds. Many riders find the rear hub motor to be a better option, with better handling, weight distribution, traction, grip, etc. Because the front wheel remains light, you don't need to worry about the type of front fork and since all your weight is on the motor in the rear, you will get better traction in any condition.

Rear motor hubs feel like you're being pushed, which most riders are already used to. You also have a greater option with more powerful motors.

Pros

  • Great balance and traction, including wet or off-road conditions
  • Because the weight distribution is in the rear there are fewer spin-outs on loose pavement or dirt
  • Can use more powerful motors than with front wheel
  • The hub motor blends in with the gears, so it doesn't stand out
  • Smoother acceleration
  • Wider range of motor power options, can handle high torque


Cons


  • Not as easy to install, need to work around gear system (chains, derailleur, etc.)
  • Universal torch arm highly suggested
  • Depending on battery placement, may cause weight distribution problems to rear, making it hard to carry or may affect handling
  • May be prone to unexpected wheelies during acceleration
  • Limited to 7-speed freewheel
  • Derailleur gears are only option, not internal hub gears
  • Rear wheel and spokes under more pressure
  • More powerful motors require larger spokes

This type of conversion kit is typically better suited for off-roading or hilly cyclists who don't mind a little bit more maintenance. Additionally, this might be a better kit for more experienced bikers.


Mid-Drive Electric Bike Conversion Kits

electric-bike-outfitters-mountaineer-mid-drive-kit-review-new-1200x600-c-default.jpg


Electric Bike Outfitters Mountaineer Mid Drive Kit Review

If you live in an area that requires being able to climb long and steep hills, this conversion kit is a good option. A mid-drive motor powers through the drivetrain of the bike.

Pros

  • Weight distribution is low and centered
  • Easy to change a tire
  • Climbing hills are easier because of gearing
  • Better steering and handling
  • Doesn't affect spokes as a hub motor on the wheel does
  • Can cruise at high speeds on level terrain
  • Easy to lift
  • Removing any wheel is easy because no motor components to remove
  • Some systems compatible with internally geared hubs


Cons

  • More wear and tear on drivetrain components (cogs, derailleur, etc.)
  • Need to know how to shift gears climbing up hills, good for expert bike riders
  • Can be more expensive than hub motor
  • Kits are more complex to install than hub motors
  • May be louder and not as stealthy


This option is great for experienced bike riders, especially those who need to climb some serious hills. This may not be the fastest or quietest option, however.

There's a lot of great information on our forum regarding these different types of motors for more research options.
 
Cool! I don't know a lot about transforming bikes into e-bikes but doesn't it make your bike a lot heavier though. Might as well just buy a cheap light one.
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
We just jumped on both options...a geared hub kit form Bafang for a very good donor bike, and a new state of the art mid-drive from yamaha. I'll post back when we get them both going and report our findings.
There is a dizzying array of options out there already and the whole ebike thing is reviving the bike industry as a whole - in a big way.
 

StmbtDave

Active Member
"Need to know how to shift gears climbing up hills, good for expert bike riders"

My wife is most certainly not an expert bike rider so I had concern with her dealing with the concept of boost levels along with having to shift gears. We bought her a Trek Electra Loft which has the Bosch mid drive motor along with an 8 speed internal gear hub. She can change gears whether moving or stopped so she doesn't have to worry about shifting into a lower gear before stopping. An internal gear hub is a great option for the less experienced rider.
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
@Browneye , where did you purchase your Yamaha mid-drive?
I'm located in southern CA - so Fullerton Bicycles. Very nice shop with an outstanding reputation, and big-time Giant Dealer.

I ordered 2019 Giant Explore+ 3 "Powered by Yamaha"

For the rest of the readers, Yamaha introduced their own brand of ebikes this year as well. It's been reported that the Giant version of the motor is better than what Yamaha put in for themselves. However Yamaha did put a double chain ring on theirs which I thought was pretty cool. Supposedly Yamaha has been making bikes for over thirty years, but I've never heard of them. I surely have heard of their motorcycles and outboard motors though. 👍

I would have bought the Yamaha, but they don't offer a version like the Explore - there's one similar - the Cross Core, but non-suspension fork, and skinny tires.
Then there's the YDX Torc, it is a mountain bike style, a bit too offroady for me. Then the two road bikes, and a 'city bike the Cross Connect which is the CrossCore with fenders and all that stuff, rigid fork, an urban commuter type/style of bike.




The Giant gets rave reviews, as does the Yamaha mid-drive unit. Super quiet and very nice integration and smoothness. Their combination of sensors for PAS makes it just super smooth - the harder you pedal the harder it assists, plus the 5 assist modes for dialing how much you need/want.
Plus a frame designed to accommodate the ebike parts so everything integrates very well, upgraded components like hydraulic brakes, Diore derailure, 700c wheels, and a nice suspension fork. Both the Trek Verve and the Yamaha CrossCore have a rigid fork - for an ebike I really wanted a suspension fork and bigger tires - both for comfort and hitting surface obstacles at speed - like expansion cracks, apron entry lips, bumps and humps, potholes, etc.

I have Schwalbe Marathons coming, an adjustable stem to raise the bars some, and a suspension seatpost. And I have a really nice rear cargo rack I've moved from bike to bike in the past, it mounts on the seat post. The Explore does have tangs and mounts for all of the accessories if you wanted them.

The fully fit-out Giant with fenders and lights and all that, is the Quick-E, but rigid fork, and I don't need/want fenders and all that as I'm a fair weather rider in southern CA - it just never rains here. LOL

I got about 15% off for ordering the last 2019 model - unchanged for 2020. And I like the color better - it's gray with green accents whereas the 2020 is satin black with blue accents. They come with 'crosscut gravel' tires but I've ordered Schwalbe Marathons - best rated for low rolling resistance and highest puncture resistance.

There...probably WAY more than you wanted to know...or you already knew. 🤣

 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
Since this thread is about conversions, here's what we chose for the wife's Specialized Roll...
650b x 2.3 tires, disc brakes, super comfy and she just loves it. So it's a good candidate for a conversion.



This kit has the larger Bafang geared 500w hub - notice the 170mm overall diameter - there is a smaller 158mm one rated from 250-500 depending on voltage, and then the super mini 250w, like what Grin sells. Comes with a panasonic-celled shark pack, and should be a direct drop-in for this bike. I'm a pretty accomplished DIY'r, even worked at a bike shop when I was a kid, been riding for over fifty years, so don't anticipate any insurmountable problems.




 
Last edited:

Browneye

Well-Known Member
Hi Browneye,
Could you please share the link of the seller for the Bafang kit

Seller is 'Greenergia' - they have a presence (not sure what) in Las Vegas, they ship the 'Bluenergy' products from China. I'm fairly certain you can buy the same thing from the latter whom is a popular seller on Aliexpress. I've had good luck with aliexpress in the past for other electronic items. Greenergia does the warranty and tech support for here in the US - another thing that gave me some comfort/confidence. I call it a $700 experiment.

@stanmiller gave good reports of success getting products from this Bluenergy company through Aliexpress. Was enough to convince me to drop the $$ to try them out. If the stuff turns out to be junk we can either replace it, or just get her a new bike. 🤣

Based on her riding style a hub-drive will work well for her, and I test rode a number of bafang-hub ebikes - they were really nice, quiet, powerful, seemless.
She can start pedaling and then hit the throttle and let the drive do the work. Neither one of us are very fast on a bike - we're old. LOL

EDIT: BTW, StanMiller also suggested I get an extra cassette, which this kit comes with, so I could simply swap out the whole wheel assembly if I needed or wanted to, or for some kind of failure. Maybe I'll even get an extra tire and disc rotor to complete it.
 
Last edited:

Thomas Jaszewski

Well-Known Member
Rule one in kit building. What happens when you call the support number to help you sort an issue? Is there even a phone number? Hmmmmm.....
 

Thomas Jaszewski

Well-Known Member
@Thomas Jaszewski, do you have good US sources for conversion kits?
Besides me?

Kidding aside...It’s all about budget. What kind of bike? How will you ride it? How fast do you want to ride? What’s your commitment and skill level? Many are happy using forums for support and research and are buying from selected Amazon sources. I’d be careful as there’s a large China presence with zero support. Give me some sense of your wants and I will respond. HarryS and others here are kit builders and can add to a helpful discussion.

Premium kits from EBikes.ca. Mid drives from Empoweredcycles and my association with California EBike, but those are mid drives not suitable for everyone.

I think brand names are important, Bafang if from a parts stocking dealer, MAC motors, MXUS from west coast cycles fro fast bikes. eZee gear drives are top notch. But this is just a tiny sampling. Share which bike you’d like to kit and you’ll get great feedback. Free of sales pitches.
 

Thomas Jaszewski

Well-Known Member
@Thomas Jaszewski, we come from that 'Stranger Things' era where we built model rockets, model planes, and things with parts from Radio Shack. We've got this e-bike kit thing in the bag.
But you’re not the core market. Believe me. I get the craziest calls. A few minutes ago, 8:30Pm a fella wanted a new throttle for his Schwinn, did I have one... and how can he tell where and how the throttle connects. The joys of actually answering support calls....
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
From my research I would have bought from Luna, Grin (ebikes.ca) and leeds ($$$), even bafangusadirect.
All north america. Luna is just up the hiway from us here. I nearly got in the car and went and bought a bafang mid-drive from them.
But I think the geared hub option is better for her. And I think I can keep it running.

Oh, definitely not the 'core market' LOL And yeah, model rocket club in 8th grade. You can still buy Estes rockets!! Got to do that with my kids, and pin-hole cameras too. You don't find that stuff in schools any longer.

To give you an idea, I bought a new motorcycle in the early 70's that came from a bicycle builder in Austria. It was a brand new style of bike from an established company that wanted to build motorcycles. No one in this country had even heard of them before. It never went back to the dealer. We learned how to keep them running or we were out of luck. ;)

The bikes were imported and sold by a guy named John Penton, and the factory in Austria was called KTM. The rest is history as they say.

This an example of one of many vintage restorations I've done over the past 20 years. It just so happens it's the same bike I had as a teenager.

Thread-jack over... LOL

 
Last edited:

Browneye

Well-Known Member
See Thomas - I called it a 'IGH' here too - I thought that's what they were - an internally geared drive hub. 🤣
Our parts kit is due today...battery soon. Anxious to see how it works out.

EDIT: BTW, picked up my new bike today...wifey was just a little jelly. LOL "Oh, YOU get a NEW bike??"

I ordered a half-twist grip from Luna today - I think it will work out better than a thumb throttle on her Roll - it has the shimano shifters integrated with the tektro cable disk brake handles. I just dont see how there would be room there, unless you move the front controller way over - it looks like it would put the brake lever nearly out of reach. I wonder if she'll ever use the front derailleur again. [shrug]
 
Last edited:

stanmiller

Member
I ordered a half-twist grip from Luna today - I think it will work out better than a thumb throttle on her Roll - it has the shimano shifters integrated with the tektro cable disk brake handles. I just dont see how there would be room there, unless you move the front controller way over - it looks like it would put the brake lever nearly out of reach. I wonder if she'll ever use the front derailleur again. [shrug]
A thumb throttle is purpose built and better in my view. You engage the thumb throttle momentarily to get going or to maintain momentum when navigating at lower speeds. It's ergonomic and a valuable tool.
 
Last edited: