Here, we’re bringing you everything there is to know about an e-bike conversion kit.
What is an e-bike conversion kit?
While the idea of riding an electric bike might seem exciting, they can err on the expensive side. So if you’re not sure about paying what could potentially be thousands of pounds for one, you may want to consider a conversion kit.
An e-bike conversion kit lets riders transform their regular pedal bikes into an electric cycle. They do this by either buying electric wheels powered by a battery and motor, swapping out the standard wheels in the process. Or they fit a battery to the bike and power it through something called “pedal-assist”.
Regardless of the option selected, you can expect conversion kits to come with a motor, LCD display and a battery, with all the necessary chains and accessories. After installation, you can reach a speed limit of 15.5 mph, which also happens to be the UK speed limit for e-bikes.
How much do they cost?
Much like e-bikes, the cost of conversion kits varies depending on the option you choose and the place of purchase. Kits for the front wheel and rear wheels (additional info on that shortly) are more affordable than those fitted on the mid-drive of the bike.
There’s also the installation cost to factor in unless you happen to be a cycling pro who is nifty with bike tools. Otherwise, you’ll need the conversion kit to be attached by a professional. Essentially, you could spend anywhere from a few hundred to almost £1,000 for an e-bike conversion kit.
Different types of conversion kits
The most common and cheapest hub is the front one. It’s easy to install and doesn’t need any special tools. That means you might be able to install it without professional help – though it’s always best to get someone who knows what they’re doing. With a front hub, you need to replace the front wheel of your bike and run the wire to the hub controller.
Rear hub conversion kits are comparable to the front hub and therefore cost a similar amount. There’s less distance between the hub and the rear track, however, which means you won’t use as much wire and the balance is slightly better than a front hub because the weight is concentrated on the back.
Mid hub conversion kits tend to be more expensive as they are the popular option. This is because the balance is better when it’s in the middle of the bike, giving you a smoother overall ride as a result.
Where can I get one?
A handy Google search for “e-bike conversion kits” should return plenty of options. They are in high demand right now, so don’t be surprised if certain retailers have sold out. You can get them on Amazon and eBay – though you may decide it’s best to purchase one from a specialist cycle site, especially if it’s your first time buying a conversion kit.
What's the performance like?
Regular bikes that convert into e-bikes might not be as smooth a ride as an actual electric cycle. Sometimes regular cycles struggle to distribute the extra weight, which leads to a clunkier – albeit faster – ride.
As a result, riding can be slightly more challenging and possibly even more dangerous while adding extra pressure and weight to fragile parts of the bike. You may also notice battery issues if it isn’t integrated into the frame correctly.
An exposed battery that gets too much sunlight and heat can cause the bike to become unsafe while you’re riding it and increase the chance of an explosion. This is less of a concern if it’s installed correctly, however.
Are there any safety risks involved?
In general, e-bike conversion kits are safe – especially if you buy them from a trusted retailer and get professional installation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the research, though, and make sure your bike is compatible with a conversion kit.
If the bike isn't designed to store and protect the battery, you could be at risk of it coming loose during a ride – or, even worse, the battery exploding. Again, this is unlikely to happen, but it's vital that you check to see if your bike is compatible and ask the retailer any questions if there's something you're unsure about.
Are they friendly to the environment?
Converter kits tend to be more environmentally friendly than electric bikes. That’s because a regular bike needs emissions of just over 200kg of CO2 during the manufacturing process. E-bikes, on the other hand, require almost double the amount, while a conversion kit needs around 50kg of CO2.
Are e-bike conversion kits worth it?
E-bike conversion kits might just be worth it, but it really depends on the type of cycle you have and your budget. If you already have a high-end regular cycle worth thousands of pounds, you may decide that upgrading with an e-bike conversion kit is worth it, as you don’t want to change your bike.
However, cheaper e-bike options are coming to the market as they grow in popularity. That means you can pick up entry-level ones for around £500, which could be even more affordable than a conversion kit.
Summary: e-bike conversion kits
If you’re attached to your current cycle but would like to add an electric option, a conversion kit is definitely worth exploring further. But if you’re after a brand-new bike, it might suit you better to look at the e-bike options currently on the market.