Ebike conversion kits and converting your bicycle
Posted on May 05 2015
Ebike conversion kits and converting your bicycle
"Can you retrofit an ordinary bicycle to become electric?"
That's a question we hear a lot in our electric bike shop. It's a fair question and the short answer is "yes", but you might have heard many variations on that answer, including "what kind of bike do you want to convert?", "yes, but it might not come out cheaper", "yes but you can only have this battery if.." or "why do you ask?". The reason it's like this is that while we are capable of converting almost every type of bicycle into electric bikes (tricycles, recumbents, load bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, single speeds, whatever), it doesn't always means it's a good idea in terms of value for money, the ideal finished electric bike product, or safety when derelict bikes with steel wheels and non-existent brakes are concerned. We use and recommend the eZeebike conversion kit for conversions but if you're not sure whether to go an electric bicycle or a conversion kit, consider these pros and cons:
Pros of converting
- providing an electric bike with every combination of size, colour, bike style, choice of groupset etc available on the vastly larger bicycle market (compared to the current ebike market)
- customising your e-bike to come up with some creative stuff or special purpose ebikes, such as cargo electric bikes
- taking advantage of specials here and there, such as end of season stock from big brands (Giant, Avanti and other stores usually have big discounts around this time of year to clear out old stock) and then turning them electric.
- being able to buy a bicycle from your local or favourite bike store, turning it electric and still being able to go there for routine servicing as a long time customer of theirs (of course in this case we also recommend you suggest that they become one of our dealers!).
But there are some things they aren't much good for, such as "I'm going to save money by converting my old rusting clunker bike that's been sitting in my backyard for 10 years". We've got nothing against restoring old bikes, we're all for it. The problem is the attitude of saving money against all else, which leaves you with an old bike with unsafe brakes ("no, I don't want to upgrade them, I don't want to spend any money on it..."), uncomfortable seat and sitting position and all the other things which contributed to the rider abandoning it for so long. Except now it's electric so it goes faster and is used more often and things go wrong with the brakes, gears, rear wheel, headset, chain etc. You're left with another abandoned bike, a waste of money on a conversion kit and we have a bike out there with our name on it which isn't being loved - everybody loses.
Then there are some cases that are borderline as to whether or not we would recommend the conversion route over buying a complete purpose built electric bike. These are the cases where a customer wants to convert their existing bike, because they like their bike. Sounds reasonable, but there are some things to weigh up:
Cons of conversions
- your bike won't feel the same after it's been converted. It will have gained weight and will look a little different and generally you'll be using the motor when you ride it. This is particularly true for lighter bikes like road bikes or flat bar road bikes. Bikes that feel the change less are those with front suspension, hub gears, a bit more weight and wider tyres.
- if you had bought a complete e-bike, you'd still have your bicycle that you love to ride on those times when you just feel like having a bicycle or you could sell your old bicycle so someone else can use it.
- Another bicycle around the place, even if you're not using it, can be useful - lend to friends and guests, use as a backup bike etc
- Many people experience their riding fitness go up from riding around an electric bike (sounds funny but remember you need to compare how much you'll ride an e-bike compared to how much you're currently not riding any bikes at all). So after some time, you might find that you'd be up for pedaling an ordinary bicycle more often than you thought.
- The complete electric bike usually is better value for money. This is because there is no labour to pay and we get the bikes all from one place and so do you - only 1 set of people in the middle taking your money. While a conversion is still affordable, you usually miss out on some goodies like the inbuilt lights, mudguards, nice pannier rack, kick stand, cycle computer and the parts on our e-bikes are higher end than most entry level commuting bikes. The retrofit kit retails at $1500 with the 36V 10Ah battery (and comes with 2 Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres!!). Generally we charge $200 to install it, so you can do the maths - find a retail bike you like, add its cost to $1500 and $200 and you'll get the final product's price, then compare with our range of electric bikes for sale.
Still not sure? Come into the shop and have a test ride of the conversions we have done and our range of complete e-bikes. Compare how they look and feel, what parts and accessories are on them and the price tag. Generally speaking, if you fit one of the complete e-bikes and you like them, then they are the way to go for you. If you don't fit any of them or just don't fancy their style or colour or have something else in mind, then we'll be happy to retrofit the bike of your choice. We have convreted many types of bikes, some photos of which are here.
Please see our product page on the eZeebike retrofit kit for more details on our kit and the options and prices available.