If you are considering purchasing an electric bike or an e-bike conversion kit and want to know more, you’re in the right place.
The main difference between the two, and the question on most cyclists’ minds is price. Converting a bicycle to electric power is typically cheaper and offers more customisation options than buying an off the shelf electric bike. If you’d like to explore more about what makes e-bike conversion kits and ready-made electric bikes different, we’ll be going through the key pros, cons and capabilities below.
Key Differences Between Electric Bikes and Conversion Kits
There are many differences between electric bikes and conversion kits, but we’ll skip the jargon and provide you with a helpful outline of the primary distinctions.
What is an E-bike Conversion Kit?
An e-bike conversion kit is something you attach to your existing bike to power it with electricity. It’s a motor you mount onto your bike and it requires you to pedal for power output. It’s great for those that already have a bike they like and can be cheaper since you are not buying the body of the bike. They usually work with a lithium battery because of their many advantages over other types of e-bike batteries.
What is an Electric Bike?
An e-Bike is a bicycle that is powered by the use of electricity. The motor helps you pedal, and if you hit a hill, it will assist in pushing your weight up that hill with little to no effort from the rider. An e-bike can be purchased as just the frame or as a complete bike, including all necessary parts. The only real difference from an e-bike conversion kit is that everything is built-in and ready for you to ride straight away.
E-bike and Conversion Kit Cost Difference
Generally, an electric bike conversion kit will be cheaper than a ready-made electric bike. This is mainly because you’re only buying the electric bike components and not the whole bike. There is some overlap in cost if you compare super cheap factory-made e-bikes with higher quality e-bike kits.
Some e-bike conversion kits include a battery, and some don’t, which could affect the price. But, you’ll need one to get going so factor the battery price into the overall cost of converting. Like anything, generally, you get what you pay for. But, what’s important to note with both e-bikes and kits is that a higher price doesn’t always mean better quality. Take the time to understand what you are getting for your money.
What Comes With an Electric Bike Conversion Kit
Conversion kits contain three components, an electric motor, battery, and controller. While some conversion kits include all three of these components others only provide the motor and controller, leaving the third component as a separate purchase.
Generally, electric motor conversion kits come in three varieties: front hub motors, rear hub motors, and mid-drive motors. Of these options, the easiest conversion would be a front hub kit followed by the rear hub and lastly the mid-drive motor.
Installing a mid-drive conversion will be more complicated due to potential frame compatibility problems and the need for additional tools.
Types of Front & Rear Hub Motors
The two different configurations of hub motors are the Geared Hub and Direct Drive.
Gears within the housing of these motors reduce high-speed to lower speeds. Most geared hub motors come with a freewheel, which is helpful for when you are not using the motor. But, this also means that regeneration braking isn’t possible.
These motors have no gears and rely on magnets and alternating current to provide power. This motor will generate drag when not in operation, but it does allow regenerative braking depending on the sophistication of the controller.
Is an E-bike or E-bike Kit Better for Customisation?
Building your electric bike from a conversion kit is the best way to customise your ride to suit your needs. Some allow you to select the battery separately, whereas others offer you the option to buy an extra battery for those longer rides. When it comes to replacing the battery, doing so with an e-bike kit will be much easier than replacing a factory-built e-bike battery. This is mainly because the batteries are often packed into a custom housing.
Electric Bike Kits: Optional Components
Some optional components that can be found in some electric bicycle kits include:
Pedal Cadence Sensor – for incorporating a pedal-assist feature into the controller.
Torque Sensors – these provide more responsive pedal assist capabilities.
Motor Temperature Sensors
E-Brakes – these shut off power to the motor when braking.
Battery Chargers – Basic units charge more slowly. More advanced models can charge at higher rates and offer sophisticated charging cycles for longer battery life.
Front/rear lights – these are sometimes integrated into the kit.
Pros of an Electric Bike Conversion Kit
- Many cyclists can feel like they’re more in control as they are involved in the assembly process.
- Most conversion kits are difficult to install, but there are some easy to install e-bike conversion kits that come with all the tools needed to complete the task.
- You get to keep the bike you love. Many riders become emotionally attached to their bike, buying a new bike isn’t always advantageous in this case.
- If you do enjoy putting things together, this will prove useful in the future when something inevitably breaks or needs an adjustment. Having put it together, from start to finish, you’ll be much more familiar and ready to tackle common maintenance issues or changes that crop up with electric bikes.
- If you already have an ideal bike that you love but want to convert, the cost of a conversion kit is much less than buying a new one.
- You will be able to pick and choose from a variety of preset specifications, including motor type, battery life, and add-ons.
- If you need a custom-built bike, such as for a tandem or trike, trying out the kit market to make it exactly what you want is often the best option.
- The electric bike kit can be installed onto a different bicycle in the future if you want to swap or upgrade.
- You will have more opportunities to upgrade your electric bike kit in the future because of changing technology. For example, you could upgrade the battery as you need more range, or upgrade the voltage/controller for increased speed.
Cons of a Conversion Kit
- Unfortunately, if you aren’t a person who likes DIYing, turning your bike into an e-bike could be a con for you. While some electric bike conversion kits can take several hours and many tools, there are e-bike conversion kits like ours that are very easy to fit and can even be done within minutes.
- Some electric bikes have most of the functions built-in which can be a pro and con. Conversion kits will leave everything on display such as the wires that connect everything. If you want a completely built-in and hidden operation, a conversion kit could not be what you’re looking for.
- When converting a bike to an e-bike, you may find there is some added work that needs to be done for the conversion process to proceed. This could include installing better tires and brakes. If you plan on adding a mid-drive kit then it is likely more strength will be needed for the chain and gearing system due to the added stress of increased motor output.
- If you buy a hub motor separately from the wheel it may need to be re-laced into your existing wheel. You can however buy e-bike conversion kits that make this easy by replacing the front wheel completely with the kit wheel.
- If you do not have a bike to convert, you will need to purchase the frame and parts that are needed.
- Since the bike will become heavier, it will be harder to carry it upstairs or put it inside a vehicle. You may also need to pump the tyres up more often, which isn’t a massive inconvenience.
In the past, when electric bikes were on the rise but hadn’t yet gained widespread appeal, many people struggled to get their hands on one. There are now many options for both electric bikes and electric bike conversion kits.
It’s up to the individual user which type of electric bike best suits their needs. For example, a factory-made bicycle may be preferable for someone who is unconcerned with customising components of the bike and has a bigger budget. Someone searching for a cheaper and more customisable option might prefer converting an existing bicycle into an e-bike.
There is a range of options and kits available for any budget and every different style of rider. Whether you’re looking for a cheap electric bike conversion kit with a battery or mid-range bike, there will be one out there that suits your needs. To find the perfect e-bike conversion kit, you first need to figure out how much you are willing to spend and what kind of features you want your e-bike kit to have.
Even if you do not have a bicycle to convert, there are plenty available for purchase that comes with an electric conversion kit so be sure to factor in the price of the bicycle itself into your budget.
Thanks to evolving technology and government regulation, e-bikes are becoming more popular than ever before. The future is bright for electric bikes and conversion kits have continued to become better and better, which means less hassle during the conversion process as well as greater speed, performance and safety features than ever before.