Electric bikes conversion kits are on paper a really smart way of getting an electric bike. But they’re not for everyone and not necessarily the easiest or cheapest way of getting an electric bicycle.
Electric Bikes Experts argue the pros and cons of electric bike conversion kits;
There are so many benefits of electric bikes but diy electric bikes give a lot of extra flexibility and choice. For some people, it can make the whole electric bicycle experience even better.
The Electric Bike You Know and Love
The big benefit of electric bike conversion kits is you can take a bicycle you already own, ride and love, and convert it so it adds assistance. That way, you can be absolutely sure that you’ve got a bike which is the right size, the right colour, the right look and any other customization you like. We recommend getting parts from Chain Reaction Cycles.
|They allow people to tailor an e-bike to suit their individual requirements for the bicycle - Tony Flecchia|
The DIY Project You’ve Been Waiting For
If you just love a good project to get your teeth and toolbox stuck into, then converting your electric bike will be immensly satisfying. The shear number of customizations you can make, from buying complete kits to topping it up with extra bits and pieces from other bike shops.
Also, by building your own electric bike, you’ll also be competent enough to maintain and, if necessary, repair and replace parts if you have malfunctions. You can also then move your electric bike kit from one bike to another with relative ease, and if you like, sell a previously converted bicycle on.
Yes, You Can Save Money!
The electric bike components that make up a kit are by far the most expensive part of an electric bike. Either way, you’ll still be paying for the battery, the controller and the motor, which is the bulk of cost for an electric bike anyway.
When you’re buying a more expensive, complete electric bike, what you’re paying for is a better quality bicycle. Try and compare the costs of an electric bike kit to around the £1500 mark for a good quality e-bike.
|I had a perfectly good bike and just wanted a little extra assistance. Conversion was much cheaper than a dedicated ebike, and I had fun and satisfaction fitting it. The other bonus is that my bike hardly looks any different to a standard bike. - Paul Darnell|
If you’ve already got a very good quality bicycle you already like, then a conversion kit can be a smart way to get an electric bike. Otherwise, it may work out more expensive if you try and buy a new bike and a conversion kit separately than buying a complete bike - or you’ll end up with an electric bike that’s not really that good.
Electric bike conversion kits, like electric bikes, typically aren’t built from the ground upwards in the UK. If exchange rates are favourable, you can expect more affordable electric bike kits or even just better electric bicycles for your money.
Its not all good. Conversion kits are hard work, and aren’t always best for your bike, or you. That’s why we prescribe...
The Litmus Test.
If you’re not comfortable already taking a bicycle apart already, you might struggle with converting your bicycle with a motor in the wheel hub, fitting electrics and a controller and making sure the bike still rides well afterwards.
You need to be mechanically confident. There’s no ifs or buts around this. Even if you get your incredibly technical neighbour or even a bike shop to convert it for you, you need to understand how your converted bike goes together, in case something goes wrong and you’ve got to figure out how to fix it.
|You need to be mechanically, electrically minded and willing to put the time into the fitting kit - John Larkin|
Buying a conversion kit without having at least basic technical understanding of how to maintain a bike, could turn into a very expensive blunder.
“I’ll Start It Tomorrow”
Procrastination is the enemy of productivity, but some of us simply don’t have time for projects like this in the end. How sad might it be to have an array of brand-spanking new components gathering dust in your garage, having already forked out for them all?
You need to be willing and able to convert your bike, to give what it takes. And if you really don’t have time, its probably worth buying the complete bike. Maybe set aside a few weekends to get on with your conversion in advance before ordering.
The frustrating thing about electric bike conversion kits is there are inevitably going to be some things which don’t quite fit together, and you’ll end up having to make some compromises. It might mean just spending a bit longer pieceing your bike together, or spending more money on new or replacement parts.
The unfortunate thing is you never quite know what your bicycle will be like post-surgery, and this isn’t helped by the lack of reviews online, or reviews on different bikes. Beware, different kits may not be suitable for some bikes too.
Unless you’re totally confident buying any mix of electric bike parts, its a good idea to buy a branded conversion kit that comes with a warranty you can rely on. Look out for clauses in the warranty (and perhaps check beforehand).
Also, be aware that adding a conversion kit to your bicycle may void the warranty on the bicycle. It can also affect the resale value if you’ve added and removed a conversion kit before passing it on.
Here's four summary questions if you're still not sure where an electric bike kit is for you or not...
You might also like to take a look at Steve's story, and why he got an conversion kit.
Are You Buying to Save Money?
You can save money by buying an electric bike kit, but you will still end up paying for the most expensive components - the battery, the controller and the motor - which all add up. However, if you’ve already got a very good quality bicycle, then you will be able to save a substantial sum by converting it.
|If you're handy, own your own bike and want to save some money a conversion kit is a realistic option - John Larkin|
Do You Like DIY?
There’s no getting around the fact that you’ll end up spending a lot of time building and tinkering with your electric bike kit. You’ll end up with a bike that is more “your own” which is great, potentially, but you’ve got to be prepared to put the hours in.
If the idea of doing lots of DIY work doesn’t really appeal, then it may be worth spending that little bit extra and buying a complete bike. You’re buying convenience effectively.
Is Your Bike Fit for Purpose?
Its a bad idea to fit an electric bike kit to a rusting hulk in your shed. You should always try and use an existing bike that is in good condition, rides well without any kind of wobble and doesn’t have any serious mechanical faults. If in doubt, take it your local general bike shop and have them look it over first.
Are You Buying Good Parts?
There are some very good kits which are sold as whole electric bike kits. Although you might need a few cycling tools, the idea is you won’t need to buy anything else, and that also usually means that the complete kit comes with some kind of warranty, which is great in case something goes wrong.
If you’re comfortable buying in your own parts separately, or tinkering with complete kits such that the warranty’s might be void, there’s no stopping you. You should also take a look at this guide to electric bike parts.
|They need good attractive presentation as a composite boxed product, first class conversion documentation and availability of technical help from a dedicated competent adviser by phone or email for users who get into difficulties. No company has anything like this complete package at present. - Tony Flecchia|
David Henshaw of A to B Magazine, and cycling author Richard Peace have co-written an excellent book on the history, best practices and technology all in one handy book. Available on Amazon for a very reasonable price.
Did you know you can convert your existing bike to an electric bike using a conversion kit? Watch this video where experts argue the pros and cons of conversion kits.
Wondering where you can go to try out and buy electric bikes? Here's our list of recommended dealers.