- Simple front hub motor wheel-kit with a basic on/off button designed to convert most bikes to electric
- Very affordable, especially if you're using an existing bike, easy to install and light weight
- No LCD display so it's hard to tell how fast you're going or how much battery capacity is remaining
- No pedal assist mode, Works best with steel forks, make sure you measure your dropout notch and wheel diameter to ensure fit
Clean Republic (renamed Hill Topper in recent years) has been around since 2009 selling one of the most affordable, simple and light weight electric bike conversion kits on the market. I have actually owned two of these kits, fitting them onto mountain bikes and road bikes alike. This is one of the least expensive ways to get into the world of electric bikes but the offering is very basic… you don’t get a computer, integrated lights or even a throttle, just a button that velcro’s onto your handlebars for “go”. It works well enough however and there is a chip inside the controller that reads the RPM of the motor, optimizing power use. Limitations aside, for many applications this kit is adequate and the company has been reliably selling it for quite some time with new battery options and even a smaller 20″ wheel kit on the way soon! I am a huge fan of the new “kit economy” setup that weighs in at just ~8lbs total and only costs $399. With this kit you can effectively create a sub-40 pound electric bike for under $650 including a basic bike and that’s awesome!
This kit will not turn your bike into a moped or carry you up steep hills, especially if you’re a heavier rider, but it will make riding and climbing a lot easier. In fact, one person who lives on the island of Bonaire added it to his tandem bicycle and was very impressed with how much easier it made the ride (especially on windy days) for him and his friend. The motor offers 250 watts of power and is paired with 24 volts coming from the battery, which is definitely on the low end for ebikes. Depending on the battery configuration you choose this bike could go from 8 to 40 miles and weigh between 8 and 12 pounds. Pricing for these kits ranges from $399 to $1,295. The motor is a geared 8FUN design that offers a bit more torque and runs relatively quiet and smooth.
The battery pack is grouped together with the controller and battery management system in a little black bag. There are two wires protruding from the bag; one wire is for charging, the other connects to the bike for riding. The Lithium-ion batteries used in the Hill Topper are very similar to older laptop batteries and are fit into a brick configuration. The pack itself has straps that connect to your seat, rear rack or top tube. It’s a simple design that you can customize easily (as shown in the images and video above). I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to cram my battery pack into a water bottle that could easily fit on the down tube but ultimately settled on a black canvas pouch instead because it looked better. I bought an adjustable Topeak Modula Java water bottle cage that could hold the canvas pouch and this worked great. I also considered the Salsa Anything Cage which could fit a much larger pouch but ultimately didn’t need the extra size. Another good option is the Battery Frame Bag from Leed, another ebike kit maker with very similar kits to the Hill Topper.
Before going too much further it’s very important to cover the hub motor and wheel itself. This is the core of the kit and is designed to easily swap out with your existing front wheel. Two important things to consider here… First, make sure your bike has a steel front fork or purchase one online to use instead of carbon or aluminum. You could take the risk and use a torque arm to lessen the impact on other fork materials but steel is recommended and it would be a bummer to break your bike and faceplant. The second important consideration is the width of your dropout notches. These need to be 7/16in (11mm) or you’ll have to file them down. I tried to use this kit with my both my Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike and Secteur road bike and they were too narrow at 5/16in (9mm). I ended up buying a Schwinn City 7 that worked great but required two extra washers to keep the hub from scraping the fork. Just look at the pictures here and the measurements provided, reach out if you have questions… it’s not a great feeling to get a kit and realize it might not work, or would require modification.
In summary, Clean republic has identified a lightweight minimal solution and packaged it into four kits by price, weight and range. This really speaks to the tinkerer inside of me that sees all of these very expensive full ebikes and wants to make one of my own. The front hub setup is a bit uncommon, but ultimately distributes the weight evenly across the frame which is nice. The battery pack and wires aren’t beautiful, but they get the job done and can be organized well enough with zip ties. The kit isn’t super strong but for what you’re paying it is very effective and on par with the standards in Europe that limit motors to 250 watts. Check that your bike will work then give one of these kits a try.
- Very affordable, works with existing bikes (just make sure your fork is steel and the dropout notches are wide enough (11mm) or be prepared to file them yourself)
- Light weight, one of the lightest kits available because it’s super minimalist
- The on/off button works well with drop bars or bar ends because it’s easy to position vs. many other kits that rely on plastic handlebar mounts
- The hub motor offers good torque and is lightweight, the wheel plus motor weighs just ~8lbs
- Battery packs come in many configurations at different price levels to suite your needs
- No throttle option or pedal assist, just an on/off button that mounts with velcro
- The axle is pretty wide and may not work with your bike, check that your dropout notches are 11mm
- The kit may require some adjustments to work with your bike, depending on your fork you may have to get extra washers
- The wires can be long and unsightly but that’s the tradeoff for flexibility in mounting options
- No computer to measure speed, distance or remaining power, no integrated lights
- The wheel arrived in decent shape but needed to be trued after shipping, the spokes were just a bit off and I could hear my brake pads scraping on the uneven side of the rim
- The disc brake setup didn’t match the configuration of my road bike, it was too far out towards the side… required some washers and experimenting to get right