Electric bicycles have been with us for quite some time now, and although I’m a huge fan of the industry I do have to say that I’m quite disappointed with most of the models available on the market.
No, I’m not talking about the high end models like Greyp and Haibike (if you can afford them go for it, you’ll not be disappointed) – I’m talking about the “Regular Joe” e-bikes, the ones within the $1000 range. Within that price range, or even a few hundred dollars above, you can only expect models which, in the best scenario, perform like a broken moped and look like a Fiat Multipla – quite disappointing from my end.
This is the reason why I started researching the electric bicycle conversion kit industry, since I wanted to have a cool looking electric bike, but I wasn’t ready for selling one of my kidneys to actually afford it.
So, I invested a good portion of the last 10 months within my garage, working on my donor bikes, testing various systems, brands and models just to end up with this article you’re just about to read.
I spent weeks and months in going through all the available info and I, finally, succeeded in building my own e-bicycle and now my goal is simple – I want to share all that knowledge and tips with *you*, through this article. So, welcome to my list of best electric bike conversion kits for the upcoming year!
First, invest in to proper gear before you even start with your electric motor journey
Driving an e-bike is so much fun, especially if your donor bike is of better quality. The speed, the wind, the movement – it’s just pure pleasure. Unfortunately, double the fun means double the risk.
The regular speed of a normal bicycle driver is in-between 10 and 15 mph, depending on the corners and effort you put in to cycling. One would agree that that’s the most comfortable speed to drive around – not only can you react to your surroundings on time but your injuries are also minor, especially if you’re wearing regular bicycle protecting gear.
Now, the story changes once you take the same bicycle, route and protective gear – but double the speed and add more torque.
All of a sudden you’re having a constant surge of power below your tires, you’re adapting to a much faster driving style which is nothing similar to your past experience with the same bike. More time is needed to react to your surroundings and, if you fall, you’re hitting the obstacle in front or below you with much more speed and a higher risk for serious injuries.
I am not joking around, by installing the below mentioned kits you will be able to hit speeds which are more then enough to catapult you 5 meters away from your impact point, so just try to imagine the amount of obstacles you can hit within that route, including the bones which can break.
So, if you’re blasting 30 mph down the road in your tight shorts, stylish gloves and a $20 brain bucket and hit something (or something hits you) then believe me, you’ll not be as safe as you think you’ll be. tight shorts and a $20 brain bucket will not offer enough protection in case something happens while you’re blasting 30 mph through the road.
In other words, gear up! Get a proper helmet, knee and hand protection.
Second, yes, by installing the electric bicycle conversion kit you’re voiding your warranty
There is currently not even *one* brand which supports this venture of ours. It doesn’t matter what type of conversion kit modification it is – as soon as you install it you’re voiding your warranty. Even if you try your luck (and believe me, I tried it), you’ll get a generic statement how any sort of tinkering around your bike is voiding the warranty – which is true.
So, if you’re not ready to lose your warranty, the best possible option would be to leave that one in the garage for weekend drives, and get an older bicycle as your main test subject and future daily driver. But, again, try to be smart here, a donor bike has to be of higher quality, you can’t go with a fossil bike – I mean, you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it since you can’t built a safe machine out of it.
Third, be smart when choosing your donor bike, grandma’s ol’ bike is not the best option
I’m not going to deep when it comes to your donor bike, since I believe you already own one. If not, then the only word of advice from my side would be to get a full suspension bike, since it’s far more enjoyable to ride at speeds above 10 mph then one without it.
Also, mountain bikes were built to handle high speeds, since you can easily hit 50 mph down a hill, and their frames are of much higher quality then those of city bikes. Thus, they are more reliable on a day to day basis as an e-bike since the concept of driving 30 mph+ is within their blood.
What you need to know before purchasing an electric bicycle conversion kit
Most kit’s don’t come with a dedicated battery pack. The kit’s within this price range don’t come with a battery pack and charging cables, which means that you have to buy them separately. If you’re entering this industry with a long term plan, then I would personally recommend the 48v Flying Horse ModWheel Li-ion E-Bike Battery, it’s one of the best investments I have made and I can’t tell you how much I love this thing.
If you want speed, then a 1000w 48v kit is the way to go. Generally speaking, you will get around 30 mph out of a 1000W 48v pack, and it’s just more comfortable driving around and knowing that you can reach 30 mph.
Have time on hand, the assembly of a electric bicycle conversion kit (although straightforward) can take up to two hours, depending on your skills and your donor bike. If you’re like me, you’re going to look at it as a fun Sunday DIY project, so regardless if it’s one or five hours of work, I actually enjoyed the process and hope you’re also going to have fun building your e-bike.
If your main goal is to drive up and down a hilly road everyday, be sure to get a good quality donor bike and opt for a Mid Drive Electric Bicycle Conversion Kit paired with the above mentioned Flying Horse battery.
Good disk brakes are a must, if your bike has V brakes keep in mind that you’ll burn through them within 40 days of driving. I’m not kidding – if your assembly is not coming with disk brakes, install them additionally.
Last but not least, your bike will be heavier after the installation, obviously, so some owners opt for a bicycle stand to make their life easier (or flip the bike upside down, whatever is your thing).
How did I test the below mentioned conversion kits?
I personally own an Alstruism X9, a foldable mountain bike which I got a few years ago. This little MTB has been a donor bike for several different electric bike conversion kits and was acting as my main testing unit for the past 10 months.
I drive it everyday to work and, within 20 days of active driving, I can usually cover around 250 miles, which was the ideal distance for testing various setups. So, during the testing period I followed the same methodology (routine?) with every conversion kit that I got, which consisted of these steps:
1.) I would rate the brand, shipping and handling of the package.
2.) Once I got my hands on it, how complicated was the assembly.
3.) How does the motor handle my batteries.
4.) Last and the most important – how was the motor handling my fat ass (220 lbs) for 250 miles
Now, out of 10 kits which I tried, I have to say that 7 of them were not worth a place within this list, especially the Chinese brands which (really) wanted to be on this list. So to not waste your time, I decided to list the best front wheel drive electric kit, the best rear wheel drive electric kit and one Mid Drive electric bicycle conversion kit to cover all three categories, which you can find below the image:
Best Rear Wheel Electric Bicycle Conversion Kit
If this is your first electric bike conversion project, then the rear wheel kit is your best bet. Once it’s up and running, you will not only be happy with the speed and overall results, but also skip several hours in general maintenance.
Why am I saying this – our bicycles need chains and gears to run properly and those same parts are causing friction which, after some time, affect the movement of the wheel. To combat that, you need to regularly oil the parts which are under stress. But – with a rear wheel electric conversion kit you don’t have to worry about that, since there is no friction. The power is applied directly to the road and, thus, less maintenance is required.
AW 48V 1000W Rear Wheel Electric Bicycle Motor Kit
Now, if I would have to pick out the best rear wheel drive electric conversion kit, I would definitely point out the AW 48V 1000W Rear Wheel Electric Bicycle Motor Kit. In terms of speed, the 48 volt and 1000 watt motor are best in class and can generate a maximum speed of around 30 miles per hour, depending on your weight, battery, road and the model of the bicycle.
I personally used a 11.6 Ah Lithium Ion pack to test it through 20 days, and with that one I was getting a stable 15 miles through most roads, even going up-hill. Keep in mind that this kit is suitable for road use, not mountain climbing. This rear electric bike conversion kit is not coming with a battery pack (I’ll recommend one below), but it does come with a charger , LCD display and Battery Charge indicator.
The 1000W motor is strong enough to get me going from a dead start (220 lbs) to a stable speed within a few seconds with no incline problems of whatsoever. Steep hills need to be peddled through to keep the speed steady though.
One funny thing is that the speedometer and the odometer have a small lag on them, since the power is instant, one can see that the numbers on them are not updated immediately.What surprised me though was the silent motor, whatever I did I couldn’t hear it, just the wind and the sound of the tire on the road.
It took me a few tries when it comes to fitting the wheel in to the drop outs, just to ensure the spacing between them is right (bolts, casette, etc).
What I would recommend is that you pair it with a good battery pack that can power 1000 watts, specifically the ones with Panasonic cells – don’t skimp on them!
- What I liked: Powerful motor, high efficiency, overall speed, disk brakes are included, one year warranty.
- What I disliked: The calipers are good, but replace them after the first 250 miles, speedometer software could be better.
- Special note: No battery included. I would personally recommend the 48v Flying Horse ModWheel Li-ion E-Bike Battery, it’s one of the best investments I have made and I can’t tell you how much I love this thing. It features Panasonic Cells, which is a huge deal.
- Price: Expect to pay around $250, but for updated prices click here.
Best Front Wheel Electric Bicycle Conversion Kit
Although there are several reasons on why *not* to go with a front wheel electric conversion kit, there are also more then enough of them to actually understand why there’s still a market for it.
Sure, they are not good for the rain, torque is almost non-existent due to the weight distribution and you’ll need to pedal your way through most of the hills. But the fact is – they are damn cheap, easy to install and to maintain over the next few years.
It’s also good to know that the front system physically separates the motor from the rest of the bicycle parts, which means that your bike will be easier to service with conventional bike parts, without any complicated hustle with broken chains and worn-out rings. Also, the front setup gets fewer flat tires, which in return means less disassembly and assembly scenarios.
In summary, a good front wheel setup will act as a simple solution with very low maintenance, best suited for city riders. Now, for this category I picked the JAXPETY 48V 1000W Electric Rear Wheel Ebike Hub Motor Conversion Kit, let me explain why.
JAXPETY 48V 1000W Electric front Wheel
If you’re looking for a front wheel conversion kit you’re probably converting an older bike and you’re looking for a simple, cheap solution to enter the e-bike industry, and the Jaxpety front wheel solution offers exactly that.
This conversion kit costs around $150, requires basic knowledge of how to do electrical wiring combined with intermediate knowledge of technical “bicycle” know-how, comes in a 48V 1000W option and offers all the power you would need for creating a secure and useful city bike.
Keep in mind that this is the most affordable front conversion kit, which means that the company did cut corners a bit. The cables are not sleeved well, the bag in which it comes is small, the motor casing is weaker and (probably) less shock resistant then the competition so, overall, the whole setup screams “I’m a road and paved trails kit, not a MTB solution”.
But don’t be mistaken, the kit can handle 30 mph speeds with a 48v Lithium battery with no issues, once you get it off the ground that is. Acceleration and torque are almost non-existed, which means that you’ll have to pedal a bit to get off the starting point – but that’s why you’re getting the front wheel, isn’t it?
- What I liked: Affordable price, easy installation, good quality tire
- What I disliked: Terrible documentation, check YouTube for assembly videos if needed
- Special note: As with all models, you don’t get the battery with this one either, so be sure to get it separate. Either check the “most bought together” items or, again, go with my recommendation, which is the:48v Flying Horse ModWheel Li-ion E-Bike Batter
- Price: Expect to pay around $150, but for updated prices click here.
Best Mid Drive Electric Bicycle Conversion Kit
As I mentioned it a few lines above, Mid Drive Electric Bicycle Kits are designed in a way that they can give you more torque. So, in comparison to wheel hub motors, a mid drive motor is more useful in hill climbing. Unfortunately, there are not that many good options on the market, most manufacturers focus on rear drive models, with one exception, the Bafang series of mid-drive engines. They currently feature several models, but I would like to point out the 750W version of it, the BBS02B.
Bafang BBS02B 48V 750W Mid Drive Electric Bike Motor
The Bafang BBS02B 48V 750W Mid Drive Electric Bike Motor Conversion Kit is your best bet when it comes to mid drive kits, not only is it the most popular model but it also offers huge amounts of power. Keep in mind that the 750W of power and a max speed of 20mph is not what’s selling this unit, it’s the torque. A bike with this motor is not only suitable for city tours and normal roads, but also trails, hill climbing and cargo bike use.
The motor is quite easy to assemble and install, it can mount to any frame with a bottom bracket between 68 and 73mm (sorry “fat bikes” fans). I was amazed by the color LCD display, the information it offered and the several options it had. There are 9 different pedal assist levels, speed, odometer and battery level. To my surprise, everything was working without any issues, the numbers were refreshing quickly and there was no lag.
As you can see in the images above, this mid-drive kit is replacing your chain, rings and cranks – so if you’re hosting multiple gears up front, these will be replaced by the chain ring on the kit and, thus, you’ll end up only with the gears on your cassette. It’s also good to note that the motor can’t sense gear changes, which means that it will work harder if in a higher gear, draining more power and putting a strain on the chain and its rings – leading to excessive wear and over-torquing.
Aside from that, this setup is often being used by manufacturers like Trek, Cube and others, so if you’re looking for a reliable mid drive kit, this is the way to go. Personally I was amazed by the power and reliability.
- What I liked: The torque is amazing, 1 year warranty
- What I disliked: The assembly can take a few hour, quite expensive.
- Special note: Again, the battery is not included. Check out the 48v Flying Horse ModWheel Li-ion E-Bike Battery
- Price: Expect to pay around $450, but for updated prices click here.
It’s an expensive investment, but worth the money
Regardless if I’m driving to work or just enjoying the local sunset on my favorite spot, the truth behind the electric bike movement is that it gives you the freedom to explore your city and its surroundings in a completely different way. Just keep in mind that with higher speed comes a higher risk, so gear up, watch out for your surroundings and have fun with your new toy!