Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit review

A really useful conversion kit that's great fun on all types of bike and is especially good for commuter and town duties

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(Image credit: Paul Grele)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

The Swytch Universal eBike Conversion kit is well made and well thought out. It can transform an ordinary bike into a much nimbler machine that's ideal for commuting and town errands. On a lighter-weight road bike it isn't quite so useful due to the extra weight over the front wheel and the swapping of natural ride feel for electric motor assistance, although it's still great fun. If you can get it at the 50% pre-order discount price and swap some car journeys for e-bike trips, it's worth it.

For
  • +

    Swytch offers 50% off pre-order and with that discount £500/£625 is a fair price

  • +

    Straightforward to fit

  • +

    Fun uphill

  • +

    Would be really beneficial for utility riding

Against
  • -

    Can deaden steering feel

  • -

    Riding dynamics can be compromised if fitted to a lightweight bike

  • -

    A lot of weight on the front end

The Swytch Universal is a well constructed and thought out electric bike conversion kit. The motor is in the hub of the Swytch front wheel that replaces your own bike's front wheel.

Fitting the Swytch kit to a bike is straightforward and easily reversible. (see the video above about how to fit it). The instructions are clear. I swapped the system over from one bike to another in about an hour or so. 

The handlebar-mounted battery pack functions well. It unlocks from the holder easily and has a convenient carry handle. The settings - on top of the battery pack - are easy to adjust and assistance can be altered on the move without problem.

The system has been reliable during the (winter) test period. 

The Swytch system is billed as being universal, meaning that it will fit to nearly any bike and fit easily. The drawback to this is that all the weight is on the front end. The battery pack mounts to the front of the handlebars and the motor is in the front hub. This could be alleviated by moving the battery into the frame area or over the rear wheel. However there are so many variables in doing this it could get very complicated for a universal kit. Not all bikes have a front triangle in the frame or it is a small one. Not all bikes have a rack or can accommodate one and so on... Swytch has chosen a path that can allow their kit to be fitted to the most bikes.

Swytch e-bike kit

(Image credit: Paul Grele)

How fast is the Swytch e-bike conversion kit?

I had a fun evening ride with tech writer Simon Smythe where he was on his fixed-wheel Mercian and I was using a winter-spec Genesis Equilibrium with the Swytch fitted. On the homeward half of the ride we decided to race a little and whilst Simon would ride away from me on the downhill and flatter sections (I was hitting the resistance in the system) I would steamroller up the hills and overtake again. We dubbed this 'Bot Racing as it makes you feel like a machine: you can maintain the same speed regardless of the gradient.

UK e-bikes are restricted to 15.5mph but I found the assistance didn't cut out once the bike reached this speed. Going faster than 15.5mph the motor was still operating but was supplying much less assistance relative to power through the pedals. There's a chance it was inadvertently derestricted for off-road use. Its claimed maximum speed is 32kph or 19.9mph.

The resistance I mentioned makes it feel a bit like an old-fashioned turbo trainer, this is compared to the almost flying sensation that you get on a light and sorted bike. The Swytch somewhat dulls the dynamic style of riding. However on that ride it was enormous fun.

How long does the battery last?

Swytch battery mounted in front of the bar

(Image credit: Paul Grele)

On this ride the battery was fully charged at the beginning and after one hour (17 miles or so with hills) had just used two bars out of five. I wasn't being particularly frugal with the assistance and pushed it hard. The claimed 50km/30mile range seems truthful to me, but obviously some restraint using the power level and assistance would squeeze a bit more out.

There is some motor whine when power is being applied and this only stops when you stop pedalling and are freewheeling. All the time that you pedal there is a bit of noise. I noticed it less and less as the testing went on. 

Swytch e-bike kit

The battery unclips from its mount

(Image credit: Paul Grele)

Pedal Sensor

The Swytch kit uses a sensor attached to the crank

(Image credit: Paul Grele)

I concluded that although the Swytch system is fun and with its ability to get you across roads quickly and up hills like a robot, on a light road bike you notice the steering deadened by the weight, riding dynamics are compromised and although you can push past the top assisted speed it feels like a slog. However, this is not its natural home. Read on...

Swytch e-bike kit

Pinnacle Stratus is now a Swytch bike

(Image credit: Paul Grele)

I decided to move the Swytch kit across to my wife's Pinnacle Stratus town bike. It's not light at 14.2kg/31.3lb but it is representative of this type of bike. It has mudguards and a rack too. The Swytch kit added 3.7kg to the overall weight and it now weighed 17.9kg/39.5lbs. There is a smaller difference in added weight compared to the Genesis as this bike's front wheel was heavier than the Genesis's (1.84 kg vs 1.3kg)

Swytch e-bike kit

Handlebar bracket with battery. View from top

(Image credit: Paul Grele)

In keeping with the 'Dutch' style of riding (everyday and utilitarian) I decided to run a few errands around town. I wore the clothes that I would if I was to walk or drive; jeans, T-shirt, jumper and trainers. No cycling kit whatsoever (maybe a helmet). Just the bike, a lock and a small rucksack.

Reigate has hills in nearly all directions and my house is near the top of one of them, but not quite. There is a short and steep incline for the for the first quarter mile which is quite an effort (usually first gear) especially with cold legs, in jeans and on a 40lb bike. Well, I sailed up the slope in a middle gear and didn't break a sweat, and this was with both power level and assistance in the middle settings.  There then follows a long downhill, where gravity helps out, but the boost still really helps at junctions and traffic lights where stopping is required. I found that there is no need to change down gears to get a swift getaway and keep out of the way of impatient cars and I pretty much left it in the same gear all the time. One turn of the cranks and the boost kicks in and you're back to 15.5mph really quickly. I was across a crossroads from a standing start after the lights had changed from red to green before the cars caught me - a much safer situation. 

I then arrived at my first destination, I locked up the bike, removed the battery pack, did the errand and then was quickly on my way again. The second task was on the other side of the hill that I'd just ridden down. I had a few refills to do at our local Zero Packaging shop and was carrying some jam jars to fill and a milk bottle to exchange. This ends up quite heavy so I tend to walk or *ahem* drive... The refills fitted into my rucksack and then back home up the final hill.

When I returned home I found that I was completely unsweaty, had saved a car journey or more than an hour's walking (in two different directions) and easily carried a heavyish load. Moreover it was really fun.

Another day, another errand. Today I needed to pop to the post office and walking would be too long, a car journey would seem wrong, my main road bike too vulnerable to theft, so I hopped on the Pinnacle x Swytch. I locked it to the lamppost, removed the battery and didn't worry about it. Then I maxed the settings for the way home and flew up the hill in outer ring and fifth. Hilarious. Remember this is a 40lb bike now. This is its place for me.

Value

The value in the Swytch system is that it can convert an ordinary bike into something much more useful and fun. It will save unnecessary car journeys and save you money too. But at £999 or £1,249 I would struggle to justify the outlay especially when you can buy a whole e-bike - the Ride 1Up for example - for $1045 (c. £800). Sorry UK, this is USA only! I did get to try the Ride 1Up out and it too was enormous fun. 

However, Swytch has a pre-ordering system whereby if you sign up on its website you can get 50% off. So that makes it £499.50 for the Eco and £624.50 for the Pro kit. It's an unusual business model but there you go.

So now at £500-625 it represents much better value for money and my interest is piqued once more. For me I'd choose the Eco pack as I would use it primarily for short local journeys and you only lose a small amount of assistance at the top end of the settings and the light. I'd save the money. If you want help riding longer journeys, say for leisure, then the Pro is probably the one to get with its longer range.

Conclusion

Although there was some fun to be had with it on a road bike, I found the weight dulled the steering and general riding dynamics were compromised. The top assisted speed of 15.5mph, whilst able to be ridden beyond, wasn't especially fun. Hills were a hoot though.

This kit really suits town riding and commuting and could normalise using a bike for short utility journeys, especially for people who are not particularly into cycling. It also makes a fairly heavy bike into something much more enjoyable to ride as well as being more practical to boot.

With fuel prices going the way they are this could be an answer to saving some money long term with the added benefit of less car pollution and reduced road crowding. It will take a while to offset the cost of purchase against fuel alone but when you add in the residual costs of car ownership (insurance, MOT, Road Fund Licence, servicing, depreciation etc etc). It could, in some circumstances, replace a second car for some families. If you can get it for around £500 then it may well be worth trying out to see whether it can make a difference for you.

Here's a short list of observations for potential buyers.

1. If you're riding at night you may find that a front light is partially obscured by the height of the battery pack. The more expensive Swytch Pro kit has a built in 200 lumen light on the front, however. It is a bit more to be seen by than to see with though.

2. There is a one-pedal-revolution lag before the motor kicks in. Equally if you stop pedalling then the motor carries on for a second or so longer. So stop pedalling if you want to brake and stop or do a slow speed manoeuvre!

3. You could probably run this on a single geared bike with no issues. Simplicity and save some weight.

4. 15.5mph top assisted speed may or may not suit your riding type. It's the law however. Other territories are allowed to use the 19.9mph/32kph setting.

5. Needs 10mm dropout in forks. The axle outside of that is 12mm diameter and it uses an 18mm nut. You may need to carry an extra spanner to fix a puncture.

6. Fitting is pretty straightforward and the instructions are clear.

7. The rim measures 25.5mm wide externally and 19mm internally. This means that generally tyres between 28mm and 62mm width can be accommodated easily. I ran a Continental 28mm road tyre reliably.

8. You can ride without the battery to save some weight but be aware that there is more resistance in the wheel than with a normal bike. If you lift up the front and spin the wheel it will slow within a few revolutions, where a good wheel will spin for a long time.

9. You can't really 'lift' the front end over a pothole. Fit a sturdy tyre and keep your eyes open.

10. The power assistance setting (adjustable on the move on the top of the battery pack) gives you more or less help as you require. All settings will get you to 15.5mph but a lower one will require more leg work.

Specifications

  • Battery weight: 2.077kg
  • Wheel and hub weight: 2.518kg (700c)
  • Bracket, sensor and wiring: 0.425kg (actual)
  • Cost: £1249 Pro RRP. 50% discount with pre-ordering though = £499.50
  •             £999 Eco RRP. 50% discount with pre-ordering though = £624.50
  • Power: 40Nm torque
  • Duration: 50km at 125W average power output (Pro)
  •                     35km at 125W average power output (Eco)
  • Pro Battery capacity: 250Wh (36V 7Ah)
  • Eco Battery capacity: 180Wh (36V 5Ah)
  • Max assisted speed: 25kph/15.5mph

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Paul Grele

Over 40 years cycling in a variety of disciplines including road riding, commuting, a self-supported Land's End to John o' Groats trip, XC mountain biking and several Polaris Challenge two-day events. Adventure, escape and fun are the motivations for my riding. I also love bike and kit design and have fillet brazed a couple of framesets using Reynolds 853 steel tubing for myself. A very satisfying experience to ride your own bespoke bike!

Height: 180cm

Weight: 66kg