Electric bike conversion kits can easily convert an existing bike into an ebike whilst saving you money against the prospect of buying a new ebike altogether.
The ebike market is a huge one and electric bikes have allowed people who need or want some pedal assistance to widen the range and scope of their riding. Increasing awareness around environmental issues, particularly sustainable and greener transport methods, has resulted in a growing demand for electric bikes that manufacturers are struggling to meet at times. If you’re struggling to find an ebike that suits you, then why not convert the bike that’s languishing at home unloved?
The best electric bikes mean riders can explore and experience different terrains and riding environments, and they’re a cheaper and greener form of transport to run and make use of. They can also just get you from A to B at a higher pace for less effort than a conventional bike which is a particular standout for those commuting or using them for work. The best electric bikes for commuting can save people a lot of time and effort on their way to work, not to mention money when compared to soaring fuel or train ticket prices.
Electric bike conversion kits are particularly appealing to those with a keen eye on budget. There are often electric bike deals available, but for many people, converting an existing bike will be the most cost-effective option.
If you’re weighing up an ebike vs an ebike conversion kit, one thing that may influence your decision is if you love the way a bike you own already rides. Converting your bike would allow you to continue enjoying the same ride quality, while introducing you to a new world of electrically-assisted fun.
Here at Cyclingnews, we’ve taken a look at the key points to consider if you are thinking about fitting a conversion kit to your own bike, including the various motor and battery options available. We’ve tested as many as we can ourselves in real-world riding conditions, worked out how easy they are to fit, and what kind of electric assistance they provide. Below, we’ve rounded up our findings, listing what we believe are the best electric bike conversion kits on the market right now.
At the bottom of the guide, we have also added some useful buying advice to aid potential purchasing decisions.
Best electric bike conversion kits available now
Swapping the front wheel is one of the easiest ways to convert any bike to an electric bike. That’s the approach that Swytch takes but a good system is more than just a motor and battery. The Swytch kit thinks through the whole system. The battery mounts to the handlebars and we found that a really useful detail. It is easy to disconnect and take it away for storage, so it doesn’t get stolen when you are out and about, or to lighten the bike when, for example, it needs to be carried up a flight of stairs.
The updated 2022 Swytch system makes use of a neat handlebar-mounted LCD display instead of the buttons on the battery it had before. There’s also a cadence sensor that attaches to your bike. It’s a well-thought-out system that looks and feels great.
To read all about how it works, and find out why we gave it four stars, take a look at our Swytch ebike conversion kit review.
For those who like the idea of electric bike conversion kits but can’t, or don’t want to deal with the added complexity of a mid-drive setup, the Bafang Front Hub kit makes things much easier.
Like the mid-drive system listed below, the Bafang Front Hub Motor kit covers everything required and gives tons of choice. We started by choosing our wheel size and display preference, then added the battery size and shape we wanted.
We did find it more of a time investment, given the installation process was more complex than both the Swytch and the Rubbee, but this allowed us to achieve a powerful, high-quality set-up.
To find out more about how we got on, read our Bafang Front Hub Motor review.
There are a number of simple install options on the list but the Rubbee X takes it a step further. We were really impressed with how easy it was to attach a mount to the seat post and click the unit into the mount. There’s no need to change the wheel like the Swytch – the motor sits on top of the rear tyre and a roller pushes it around from above. There’s also a wireless cadence sensor, as this is a cadence-based system that adjusts based on pedalling cadence, rather than torque.
There is a slick-looking 250 watt motor with a single battery in the base kit. If the 10-mile range of the base unit feels a little constricting, another battery can be added to double the range. Rubbee also has a handy phone app that can be used to change assistance modes.
We’ve spent some time testing it out, so why not check out our Rubbee X e-bike conversion kit review for more details.
Bafang is one of the largest and most well-known electric bike motor companies in the world. It’s been around since 2003, and in 2014 Bafang established a US arm to better support the US market. There are many well-known electric bike companies sourcing its components, so if you want to get in the game and source your own electric bike components, you won’t go far wrong with Bafang.
This particular option covers everything you need for a mid-drive motor conversion kit. As long as the bike you are starting with has a bottom bracket sized between 68 and 73mm, this kit will work. From there you can choose the front chainring size, the battery size, and what display works for you.
If you like the idea of a mid-drive system and you want it to have torque-sensing pedal assist then you’ve got a few of choices. The challenge with a system like that is complexity. For some people, it’s no big deal to take apart a bottom bracket but for others it’s intimidating.
The Pendix system does the same thing as other kits but it has a dealer network that handles sales, support, and installation. This comes with an extra cost attached, but the benefit is that you can feel comfortable that the system is correctly installed and your bike is ready for it.
The most natural-feeling electric bike conversion kits are going to be those a mid-mounted motor. If that works for you and you also like the idea of doing some pedalling, then the very best is a mid-mounted motor paired with a torque sensor.
Instead of the system knowing you are pedalling and adding power, such as the Rubbee X cadence-based system above, a torque-based system adds a percentage of power. Max torque available on this TongSheng system is 80Nm but depending on your chosen assist level, that 80Nm will add between 36 and 300 per cent to your pedalling power.
To keep it simple, think about it as an amplifier. If you pedal harder you go faster, just like a normal bike, but now your muscles have extra support.
Types of e-bike conversion kits
Friction drive conversion
A roller pushes against the tyre on the wheel and when the roller turns the wheel turns. This strategy isn’t all that efficient but it’s simple. There’s very little challenge with making it work but, at the end of the day, it doesn’t work all that well.
The best electric bikes tend to be mid-drive and the same is true of conversion kits. The weight sits low in the frame and the power gets applied to the crank for a more natural sensation. The only downside is pricing and packaging. Different standards make it challenging to figure out exactly what you need and there’s more work involved in adding the parts.
Electric bike wheel conversion
Swapping either a front or rear wheel for an electrified version is a good balance. The conversion process is very simple and, depending on how the battery mounts, the weight distribution can be quite good. Powering the wheel does change the way the power delivery feels, and making the front wheel heavy can affect the handling of the bike. If mid-drive seems overwhelming, this is an excellent option.
How to choose the best electric bike conversion kit for you
If you are interested in fitting an electric bike conversion kit to one of your own bikes, it’s best to consider your own personal requirements first and do plenty of research. You’re in the right place, as this guide should help you with a lot of that.
As a first step, make sure you are aware of the laws regarding e-bikes in your region. Then you may want to choose a conversion kit based on your range and journey needs. If you live in a hilly city for example you may want something with a little more top-end power. Lastly, check whether or not the system is compatible with the bike you plan to fit it onto. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself think about getting a quote for installation from a reputable bike shop.
Do all electric bike conversion kits come with a battery?
The short answer is ‘not always’. You need a battery, of course, so when browsing online, make sure the kit you select has one included. Since not all kits include a battery, you might find yourself browsing through options and landing on something with an unbelievable price. If that’s the case, just double check it’s got the battery included. If not, then it is possible to source the battery yourself, but be sure about what you are getting.
How fast do electric bikes go?
This is hard to answer specifically as electric bikes are, on the whole, designed to assist pedalling rather than replace it, and it is the same with electric bike conversion kits. The measurement of the power of the motors is in wattage and, in effect, the higher the wattage of the motor, the faster speeds it will be capable of achieving. However, the speed is often limited as a result of country-specific regulations. In the UK, the assistance an e-bike can legally provide is up to 25kmph (15.5mph) and, after that point, the bike can go faster but without any assistance from the motor. Anything faster would not meet the UK’s electrically assisted pedal cycles (EAPC) criteria, would be classed as a moped or motorcycle, and need to be licensed and taxed appropriately. The laws are different depending on the country, with the United States, for example, allowing more powerful motors – although individual states have their own legal frameworks.
Which bike is best for electric conversion?
You should consider the condition and componentry of your old bike. With an electric motor dramatically increasing the torque, using a low-quality or worn drivetrain will result in poor performance, with shifting being affected and the chain skipping or even snapping. Another important consideration is the brakes, adding the extra weight of an electric bike conversion kit and increasing potential speeds will put more stress on the brakes as they try to curtail momentum. We recommend choosing to convert a bike that has disk brakes as they will provide far better braking performance.
I haven’t heard of a lot of these brands, are they safe to use?
In the world of electric bikes there are a lot of brands you may not have ever heard of. There is a boom going on so new brands are popping up all the time. Not only that but Europe, and especially the US, are playing catch up to the trend of electric bikes. You will probably stumble across a lot of unfamiliar brand names.
Consumers have a tendency to look away when they encounter a new brand. It’s not a bad strategy most of the time but in the electric bike world, including conversion kits, you’ve got to be more open than that. If you aren’t open to names you’ve never heard of you will find the options limited. A lot of the names you may come across are unfamiliar to you but have a solid history behind them.
That doesn’t mean you should go forward blindly. Do your research and be careful with your money, like always. The only thing that might be different is a need for being open to new companies. At the very least be willing to look a little deeper, read reviews, do some research. The brand you’ve never heard of might actually be a well-established brand from a different part of the world.
Is converting my bike to an electric bike worth it?
There are loads of reasons to install an electric bike conversion kit to your current bike, but the question of whether it’s worth doing is going to depend on your circumstances. For many kits, once the installation has been completed, it will be an arduous task to remove it again, so one of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself is whether or not you want to retain the ability to use the bike as a ‘normal’ bike. If you expect to be flitting between the two (powered and non-powered) then a kit that can simply be folded out of the way – like the Rubbee X – might be perfect, but you might instead prefer to simply buy a second bike for the convenience.
The second question is to assess the state of your current bike, if you have one at all. If you don’t have one, then the cost of buying a bike, buying an electric bike conversion kit and then fitting it, is probably not going to be worth the time, effort, or money involved. However, if you have a bike that is in reasonable repair, then the value for money – and effort – will be greater.
Beyond the financial and practical element, the question of ‘is it worth it’ will also depend on the amount of use you get out of it. E-bikes can be incredibly motivating and enjoyable and if converting your standard bike to electric helps you to ditch the car on a regular basis, then the answer becomes clear.
If you want a monetary answer to this question, then there are ways to work out whether the investment is worth it. Take a moment to think about your current car usage and work out the cost per day / mile, including fuel, parking and running costs. Try to work out how many journeys, days or miles you will use the bike for after it is converted. Once you know this, you should be able to work out the reduction in car running costs per mile / day and, with that, you should be able to work out how many miles / days it will take for the electric bike conversion kit to pay for itself.
Should I just buy an electric bike instead?
Remember to consider all your options. You have a bike in the shed you haven’t touched for many years and it seems like a perfect candidate for conversion to an electric bike. It might be, but it’s also just as possible that it’s a better candidate for a sale. Sometimes it’s better to take the money from that sale, and put it towards an electric bike someone else built.
As with anything, consideration for the end-use during design and build can have advantages. A quality electric bike conversion kit might end up being very close to the price of a complete electric bike. If a company starts with a clean slate and designs an electric bike, it’s easier to keep costs low and integration high. Really consider why you are thinking about converting your bike and whether it makes sense compared to what’s on the market. In some cases it will but in others, it won’t.
Are electric bike conversion kits legal?
The kits themselves are entirely legal, and fitting them to your bike is equally so. However, the question of legality arises in relation to where you then plan to use your newly powered electric bike. The answer will vary hugely, depending on where in the world you’re based, and which kit you choose.
For example, in the USA, there are different classes of e-bikes that vary by their power, speed limitations and whether or not they have a throttle, and each class is subject to different rules. Things are a little more simple elsewhere, with the UK stating that anything with a speed limiter of over 25km/h is classes as a moped, while anything up to 25km/h (15.5mph) is classed as a bicycle.
Before you complete any purchase, make sure you have an understanding of the local laws that govern electric bikes, which is where our guide to e-bike classes comes in handy.
How do you install an e-bike conversion kit?
Sadly, there is no single and simple answer to this question. Each electric bike conversion kit works in a different way and therefore fits onto your bike in a different way too.
The most simple options are the friction-drive kits, such as the Rubbee X, which place a roller onto your rear tyre. In the example of the Rubbee, you simply need to mount the device onto your seat post, with the roller placed against the tyre. However, more complex systems require the removal of drivetrain components and wheels, and the installation of wiring. These are far from impossible, but they may require some tools and a bit of patience.
How much does an electric bike conversion kit cost?
Prices will depend very much on the conversion kit in question. Some are available for as little as £250 ($350), while the more high-spec and integrated kits can fetch as much as £750 ($900).
Will a bike shop fit my electric bike conversion kit?
It’s understandable that you might not want to take on the arduous task of fitting your electric bike conversion kit yourself. You might not have the tools, the know-how, the confidence, or simply the time to invest. Luckily, almost all bike shops will be happy to fit it for you.
Some systems, such as the Pendix kit listed above, are only sold via physical stores and the fitting is sold as part of the overall package. However, with kits bought online such as the Bafang kit, the shop will most likely charge you for the time it takes, which will add to the cost of the overall conversion. In our opinion, knowing that it’s been done correctly and safely is worth spending extra.
Individuals carrying out the instructions in this guide do so at their own risk and must exercise their independent judgement. There is a risk to safety if the operation described in the instructions is not carried out with the appropriate equipment, skill and diligence and therefore you may wish to consult a bike mechanic. Future Publishing Limited provides the information for this project in good faith and makes no representations as to its completeness or accuracy. To the fullest extent permitted by law, neither Future Publishing Limited, its suppliers or any of their employees, agents or subcontractors shall have any liability in connection with the use of this information, provided that nothing shall exclude or limit the liability of any party for personal injury or death caused by negligence or for anything else which cannot be excluded or limited by law.