- One of the lightest weight, most affordable electric bike kits available anywhere (project did not reach funding goal on Kickstarter and was canceled, Leed offers other kits)
- Modest 24 volt battery and 250 watt motor use quality parts but aren't very powerful
- Push-button style throttle must be held down to activate motor, no pedal assist option
The Pocket Bike Juice or “PBJ” for short offers an inexpensive, low impact way to convert a regular bicycle into a simple electric bike. It’s relatively easy to setup and so light, weighing just eight pounds total, that it doesn’t impact ride quality or make pedaling much harder even when the system is off or at empty. It features high quality Lithium-ion battery cells and a geared hub motor from 8FUN that’s quiet and durable. Depending on the options you choose the entire kit may cost under $500 which is pretty sweet. Now, you won’t be getting a variable speed throttle, pedal assist, much power or range here but it’s still fun to use and the customer support from Leed is good.
The motor driving this kit is a 250 watt geared design by 8FUN which is a trusted name in the space. In Europe, ebike motors are regulated to 250 watts or less but in the US, where 500 watt is common, this motor could be considered small and weak. Still, because it’s geared you get extra torque for starting off from rest and for helping up minor hills. It worked great for me on flats and could even begin climbing as long as I had some speed approaching inclines. If you plan to ride into the wind or encounter a lot of hills then you should expect to pedal along. Overall, the motor is quiet and the optional quick release levers worked very well with my bike. Just make sure to check how close the hub motor is to your forks and use the included washers to create appropriate space so it won’t rub (I talk about this in the video briefly).
One of the coolest parts about this kit is that it’s available in a wide range of wheel sizes. You can get the motor built into rims designed for 24″, 36″ and 700c or 29″ tires. If your bike has very small wheels that require 20″ tires or the new 27.5″ 650b diameter then you’ll have to pay an additional $120 but at least it’s available. This could be very handy if you’re building an electric push trailer because the 20″ wheel is common with Burley trailers and others. It could be a neat way to take the edge off pulling kids around ;)
The battery pack driving this system is super small and light weight but the cells are very high quality. Lithium-ion chemistry is used here which delivers many cycles before beginning to lose capacity (estimated at 800 in this case). The pack offers 24 volts of power and 5 amp hours of capacity which is very small (120 watt hours total) and not super powerful or long lasting. If you rode this system non-stop you’d probably go for about 20 minutes and reach ~5 miles depending on the wind, terrain etc. The upside here is that the battery pack is so small, it can literally fit in your pocket and it weighs under one pound. So you could hypothetically carry a couple of these packs around or leave one at work and one at home for a ~10 mile range. The charger is also relatively small and light weight so you could just carry it along with you in the mid-frame pouch because there’s plenty of room inside.
Connecting the motor to the battery is a simple controller that regulates discharge and a long black wire with a velcro encased button at one end. You plug one end of the wire into the motor, the other into the controller (which plugs into the battery) and you strap the switch onto your handle bar somewhere. The throttle button can be placed on the left or right handle, bar ends or drop bars. You can really get creative with this thing and I like that it’s so flexible but I was a little bummed that you have to hold the button down constantly to keep the motor running. Of course, this is a safety feature (in case you fall off, the bike will stop) and it’s not really that strenuous. The biggest drawback to the drive system is the lack of some kind of battery level indicator. You really just have to guess how much juice is left… but at least the bike isn’t weighted down much if you guess wrong :)
One quick battery tip: there is a toggle switch on the battery that goes from black to red when clicked. Black means off and red means on. Turn the battery off before plugging into the charger and once it’s full you’ll see a green LED on the charger light up and then it’s good to unplug (in order to avoid damaging the battery by overheating).
All in all this was an enjoyable kit to ride. As shown in the video, assembling a new electric bike kit can take time and money that you didn’t expect to spend (the purchase of a new tube and tire in my case) but it’s still much cheaper than a purpose built ebike. You’re not getting a lot of power, sophistication or drive options with the PBJ but you’re also not going to be weighed down. The highlights for me were the bag design, super small battery pack and good customer support. Most of the other parts resembled the Hill Topper or any other generic ebike kit. The front wheel design is easier to install than one that would mount to the rear (since there are gears and stuff to deal with) but the Pocket Bike Juice motor is so light that it really doesn’t impact steering and it’s not powerful enough to spin out so it makes sense there.
- Extremely small and light weight design, the battery could actually fit in your pocket
- With the entire kit only adding ~8 pounds to a bike, the ride quality is not impacted very much and pedaling remains fun and easy
- Relatively easy to install, use zip ties to keep wires under control
- Available in multiple wheel sizes 24″, 26″, 700c and 29″ with optional 20″ and 27.5″ for $120 extra
- Rims are available for both rim brake and disc brake configurations
- Optional $39 frame bags work very well keeping weight centered on the bike and looks nice
- Throttle button is easy to use and mounts very quickly in multiple locations (left or right handle, bar ends, drop bars etc.)
- High quality Lithium-ion batteries are light weight and durable, should last 800+ cycles
- Geared motor design provides extra torque for starting and climbing situations (though the motor is not that strong)
- Great customer service, kit arrived quickly and in good shape
- All of the little extras start to add up… Have to pay for a tube, tire, computer, bag, quick release levers and possibly for the correct rim size
- The 24 volt battery combined with the 250 watt motor don’t offer that much power
- This kit doesn’t offer a whole lot of range with just 120 watt hours of juice, but it’s light and fast charging
- Recommended use is with steel forks, may weaken carbon or suspension forks (though with such low power I felt okay using it with my shock setup)
- No variable speed throttle (like a twist throttle would offer) and no pedal assist mode
- You have to hold the throttle button down at all times to power the ebike, may get tiring
- If you have a twist shifter like I have, you may have to get creative with throttle mounting as it will overlap the shifter and make it trickier to do when riding
- No real way to determine how much battery capacity is remaining, might want to approximate using an optional cycle computer (thankfully the kit is light at ~8 pounds total so if you do run out, it’s not as hard to pedal)