Wherever you look it seems that e-bikes are everywhere and for many people they present the perfect solution to keep them riding. There is one thing that does sit in the way of getting an e-bike for many of us though and that’s the cost. Until Carrera brought out its new sub-thousand pound Crossroads Electric, almost all good e-bikes cost well into four figures; many being prohibitively expensive for many of us.
So what if you’re not sure about taking the leap and buying a dedicated power-assisted bike? Apart from borrowing an e-bike from a willing friend or bike shop one of the ways you can have a dabble is by fitting an e-bike conversion kit.
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A conversion kit will enable you to take any ordinary old bike and, by adding a few bits, convert it into your very own power assisted e-bike. And the best feature of a conversion kit is the cost. Even the most expensive costs just a few hundred pounds, representing a relatively great value way of seeing if e-power is for you.
Which kit is best?
Do a quick search for conversion kits on the internet and you are provided with an almost bewildering variety of different conversion kits, most of which seem to require you to have some knowledge of electrical systems, soldering and a Heath Robinson approach to adapting a bike to carry all the associated parts. But delve a little deeper and there are a few dedicated kits that just require a basic level of bike mechanics and the rest is as simple as plugging a phone into charge.
One such system is the Universal Kit from Swytch. This is based around a front hub based motor and powered using a battery and controller pack mounted to the handlebar bar-bag style. Of course it’s a little more sophisticated than just plugging in and going, you also need to mount a sensor around the bottom bracket. This is used to detect pedalling and to then apply power evenly whilst the cranks are spinning. The Universal ECO kit costs £450, so is at the upper end of the conversion kit market. It is however a complete kit, so no need for any other parts, and it also has one of the neatest and most integrated looks out today.
The kit we tested was for rim brakes, but a disc brake version is also sold.
Fitting the kit
Our experience fitting the kit to an old Genesis Equilibrium was actually quite straightforward. Starting with replacing the front wheel, it’s a simple matter of removing the old wheel, swapping tyre and tube and then inserting the new, motorised wheel. The only slight issue being the axle was a tight fit in the fork dropout.
Attaching the battery and controller was a breeze. A bracket clamps either side of the stem and acts as the base of operations of the whole system. Don’t forget the strap to stop the bracket from rotating when the battery is mounted though.
Fitting the bottom bracket sensor is the trickiest part. You need to remove the left hand crank arm and clip the circular unit around the bottom bracket axle. This is pretty tight and might require a little trimming with a knife to ensure it clicks into place properly. Then run the associated cabling neatly along the down tube to the control unit.
Finally it’s just a case of neatening the other cables, turning the system on and getting out and riding.
There are lots of other, similar systems on the market that will work in a comparable way so you don’t need to use the Swytch system described. And if, after you’ve ridden your bike with the conversion kit, you don’t think electric power is for you it’s a simple task to strip the bits and put it back to normal.