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 most of us.
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Fortunately, though, there is a way that we can convert our current bike to a power-assisted one, without having to spend big money on a dedicated e-bike.
A conversion kit will enable you to take any ordinary old bike and, by adding a few bits, transform it into your very own power assisted e-bike. And best of all, it costs a fraction of a purpose-built e-bike.
The most expensive tip the scales at 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 charger into a plug socket.
One such system is the Universal Kit from Swytch. Centred around a front-hub based motor, it is powered using a battery and controller pack mounted to the handlebar, bar-bag style. A sensor around the bottom bracket must also be attached, as this detects pedalling and then applies power evenly while the cranks are spinning.
One of the neatest and most integrated looks, the Universal ECO kit costs £450, placing it at the upper end of the conversion kit market. It is, however, a complete kit, requiring no need for any other parts. It’s a case of attaching and then going.
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 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 was that 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 for the whole system; just don’t forget the strap to stop the bracket from rotating when the battery is mounted.
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.
If after riding your bike with a conversion kit you don’t think electric power is right for you, it’s a simple reverse task to strip back the parts and put it back to normal.