E-bike Conversion Kit vs E-bike? Pros and Cons

Last Updated on July 13, 2023 by Igor Karni

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Buying an electric bike can be expensive. And some people are too tied to their old regular bikes to actually change to an electric one. That’s why more people are choosing an e-bike conversion kit to transform their beloved old bikes into electric ones.

Buying a new electric bike or a conversion kit? The pros: installing an e-bike conversion kit lets you keep your original bike, saves a significant budget, and is relatively easy to put in place. The cons: converted e-bike still does not feel like an e-bike. You will need to carefully manage weight distribution and wiring.

It’s not the easiest way to get an e-bike. Still, considering the prices for new e-bikes, it may be the cheapest one.

There are many advantages and disadvantages of getting an e-bike conversion kit with a battery. In this article, we would like to share some thoughts and experiences with such kits.

What is an e-bike conversion kit?

An e-bike conversion kit with a battery is, essentially, an engine placed on a special tire of the bike. This engine works with a battery (usually a lithium one because they offer more advantages than other types of e-bike batteries).

E-bikes also have an LCD display to see some of the settings of the bike and how much battery is left, the speed you are traveling at, an assisted pedaling system, and a controller.

To transform your regular bike into an electric one all you have to do is install the kit. But just like with normal e-bikes, this doesn’t mean your bike will become a motorcycle. You still have to pedal to make the engine work.

An e-bike offers an assisted pedaling system. This means you don’t have to pedal as much as with a normal bike. This can be a great relief in the summer because you won’t sweat nearly as much as you would in regular circumstances.

Read also: Can traditional bicycles be converted into e-bikes? And, How fast do e-bikes lose value, depreciate?

You will find many e-bike conversion kits in the market, some are quite advanced and come with GPS and other technological features. All these fancy features are usually the last thing you need to notice when buying a conversion kit.

Before getting interested in the cool gadgets, you first need to consider how much the kit weights, the quality of the engine and the battery, etc.

What to expect from a conversion kit?

Not many e-bike conversion kits come with a battery. And, before you complain about it, it makes sense to mention that this minor inconvenience could actually be something good.

Since the battery is one of the most important parts of an e-bike, being able to choose it yourself independent of the e-bike conversion kit you get, it’s an advantage.

Let’s first talk about the general features you should pay attention to.

Conversion kits have different types of hubs:

Front hub conversion kits

These are the most common and cheapest hubs out there. They are very easy to install and require almost no special tools (if so, usually the kit includes them). All you have to do is replace the front wheel of your bike with the one that comes with the kit and run the wire from the hub to the controller.

Rear hub conversion kits

Such a kit is placed on the back tire. Rear hub conversion kits are pretty much the same as the front hub ones. But they are better because there’s less distance between the hub and the rear rack. This means you use less wire and the weight placed at the back of the bike helps with its balance.

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Friction drive conversion kits

All that such kits do is push the wheel along. They are super easy to install, but will not be useful in wet weather because when the rubber of the tire gets wet, it becomes slippery and there’s no friction. So such a conversion kit will produce hardly any electricity to move your e-bike along.

Which conversion kit is the best?

Well, that depends on how you want to use your e-bike, but generally speaking, a front hub is usually better for all types of use.

How to select a battery for a conversion kit?

The volts

Now, let’s talk about the battery. Consider voltage and capacity, usually, an e-bike needs 12V but you can find them with 24V to 72V.

Of course, the higher the voltage, the higher the power and speed of your new e-bike. If you use your electric bike to go to work or for short rides around the city, you don’t really need anything higher than 24V.

Read also: How to select the best city e-bike (with examples)? – also in this article, and this article. And, How much does a good city e-bike cost?

But if you like speed or ride long distances or go through tough terrains, something between 36V and 48V comes in handy. We do not recommend buying 48V or higher batteries because they are more expensive.  If you don’t really use it at its maximum power, it would be a waste.

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The amps

When we talk about the capacity we mean how far you can ride your bike with one charge. Capacity is measured in amp-hours or watt-hours. 10Ah is a common measure for e-bike conversion kits.

Easy Tip: You must be thinking “Well, the higher the capacity, the more hours I get to ride”. Yes, that’s right, but the higher the capacity, the heavier the battery will be.

It’s important to consider the weight because the bike itself is already heavy enough.  It also has to carry your weight and if you carry a backpack, that’s also extra weight. So, the more the bike has to carry, the harder it will be to gain speed, and if you force the battery, the faster it will drain.

Read also: How much does an e-bike weigh? And, What is e-bike range on a single charge?

The way we see it, if you don’t ride that often or don’t go through rough terrains, you will be fine with 20Ah or less.

If you multiply the voltage and the capacity, you get the Watts (Wh), which are the number of kilometers per hour your bike can ride with one charge. The higher the watts, the more you can ride without recharging (depending, of course on the weight the bike carries).

E-bikes with 500Wh are incredibly powerful, but also heavier and more expensive than others. If you don’t really need this amount of energy, simply go for an e-bike with 300Wh or less.

The mounting

Now that this is clear, you have to choose between frame-mounted batteries and frame bag or rack-mounted batteries.

The first ones bold onto the frame, usually where the water bottle holder is placed. And the other ones are placed in the back of the bike for a weight issue. It is easier to ride with the weight on the back part of the bike. These batteries don’t come in cases designed for such a small place as the water bottle holder.

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This e-bike has been converted

Which e-bike conversion kit should I get?

This is a popular question, but there is no definite answer.

It all depends on what you do with the bike and how much do you use it daily. For example, if you just use it to go to work or to go for a short ride, you do not need that much power (unless you are a speed enthusiast).

For this type of light use, a conversion kit that offers 350W and 10Ah is great for rides shorter than 50kms.

But if you travel long distances or go through tougher terrains like mud, dirt, rocks, and constant ups and downs, get a more powerful one with 40Ah and 500 or 700Wh.

Read also: What is the difference between a regular e-bike and a speed e-bike? And, is it legal to derestrict electric bicycle speed?

And if you have a bigger budget, you can get yourself an e-bike conversion kit with a battery that also includes an LCD screen. Such kits usually also include a GPS and show you all the important settings of the bike while you ride, so you know that everything is going smoothly.

Pros and cons of getting an e-bike conversion kit

To summarize everything we have talked about, let’s narrow it down to the pros and cons of getting an electric bike conversion kit:

The pros:

  • You get to keep your beloved old bike, the one that you have been using for years and you are emotionally attached to.
  • To buy a conversion kit is way cheaper than buying a brand new e-bike.
  • Conversion kits are not hard to install, they usually come with clear instructions and all the necessary tools, so you don’t really need to pay someone to install it.
  • If you ever need or feel like changing your old bike, simply get a new one and re-install the conversion kit. They last for years and only need an annual revision as any other e-bike does.
  • If you feel adventurous, you can create your own conversion kit by buying the best parts of the best e-bike conversion kits out there.
  • If you ever feel like needing a higher speed or a more powerful bike, try changing the battery you already have for a more powerful one instead of getting a brand new conversion kit. Just make sure the new battery matches the kit’s features.
  • All the kits have, at least, 1 year of warranty.

The cons:

  • Some people buy front hub conversion kits without noticing that their common bikes have a smaller or larger wheel, meaning they need to either buy a new back tire to match the front one or change their conversion kit for a smaller one.
  • Even though conversion kits really improve your bike’s performance, they still do not entirely feel like an e-bike.
  • Since the bike will become heavier, it will be a bit harder to carry it upstairs or to put inside a vehicle.
  • Tires may deflate more often than before because of the weight they carry, but it is not as dramatic as it sounds, simply check them every two weeks or so.
  • It could take you a few days to adapt from using a regular bike to an electric one, especially if the kit you installed is heavier than expected.
  • Some people prefer to buy the most expensive kit thinking it’s the best one for them when actually is designed for a specific type of rider.
  • If you don’t take enough time and patience to install the conversion kit yourself and mess it up in a hurry, you could end up with a damage conversion kit and it could be dangerous on the road.

So, what do you think? Is the e-bike conversion kit with a battery the one for you?

Related questions

Does an e-bike conversion kit include an accelerator? Please notice that e-bike conversion kits do not include an accelerator. Such kits do not make your bike a motorcycle and there are speed and use regulations for this type of transport.

Electric bicycles are electrically assisted modes of transport. You still have to pedal an e-bike. It will not run by itself unless you buy a throttle bicycle, which is essentially a motorcycle.

Can I accidentally get an electric shock from an e-bike conversion kit if it rains? Don’t be scared to electrocute yourself if it rains. E-bike conversion kits are designed to be completely safe under all kinds of weather conditions, including heavy rain.

Read also: Can electric bikes get wet? And, Can I ride an e-bike in winter?

Here is a quick video introducing the Swytch e-bike conversion kit. Very easy to install and pleasure to use:

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