Converting Bicycle to Electric
Every electric bike conversion project starts with both a bike and a conversion kit. In this post I’ll share with you what I look for in a bike to determine if it is suitable for an electric bike conversion.
After completing four electric bike conversions to date, I have a really good idea of what to look for and the problems that can crop up.
Once you have a bike and a conversion kit that are compatible with each other, you can get started assembling it all into a finished electric bike.
By making sure that everything is compatible before you start assembly can save you hours of frustration.
In future posts, I’ll explain the details of conversion kits and how to put it all together into a working electric bike. I’ll do an electric bike conversion from start to finish and show you step by step what I’m doing and why.
Why not just buy a complete electric bike?
Before I talk about what kind of bike would be good for converting to electric, I want to point out that there are other options to owning an electric bike other than building your own.
There may be some good reasons why you should just buy a complete eBike
- You find one that you really like
- Has a price point you are willing to pay
- You aren’t mechanically inclined
- You don’t want to take the time to do your own conversion
If some of those points apply to you, maybe just buying one is the best way to go, nothing wrong with that.
There are several reasons why you would want to make your own
- You can’t find a pre-made eBike that you like
- You want higher quality components at a better price point than a manufactured eBike.
- You want to select the components that you want
- You like working on your own projects
- You are mechanically inclined or want to learn how to be
- You want to learn more about the electric bike system by working with it
- Want to learn all about your eBike so you can service it
- You like the satisfaction gained by making something yourself
There is a third alternative to buying or building and that is paying someone to do a conversion for you. Maybe you just want to buy an eBike but don’t like the manufactured ones. There are many bike shops now that are doing custom conversions with excellent results. They usually sell complete electric bikes too. This way you can get the benefits of an eBike conversion without having to do the work yourself.
If you have read this far and are ready to build your own electric bike, then read on.
The features to look for in a bike for an electric conversion
There are many aspects of a bicycle that will make one easier to convert than another. I’ll share with you my opinion and experiences that will hopefully make your bike selection easier and make for a successful electric bike conversion.
Make sure the bike that you are starting with is safe to ride. This includes many issues that I am not going to list here. Take your bike to a bike shop and have them check it out. This is very important. Maybe get a tune up while you’re there. It’s easier to start with a bike that is in good working order.
The brakes need to be of good quality, have good pads, and be adjusted properly. This is extremely important. If you have any doubts about your brakes, have someone check them out before riding with or without electric assist.
Brakes on an electric bike are a critical component. After adding heavy batteries and a motor, it is going to put a lot of pressure on your brakes. Just like in any vehicle, the stopping distance is going to increase as the weight of the vehicle increases even with good brakes. With faulty brakes, you might not be able to stop at all.
The brakes can be rim brakes and sometimes they can be disk brakes. It depends on the type of motor selected. If you have a particular motor in mind, check with the brake options that it allows. Some hub motors have a disk rotor mount. Otherwise, they will require rim brakes. Mid-drive systems are the most flexible in that they allow whatever braking system the bike comes equipped with.
Comfort and fit
Make sure the bike is comfortable and fits your body dimensions. If the bike doesn’t feel good before the conversion, it probably won’t after the conversion. There are some changes you can make like a different seat or handlebars. There are some things that are not practical to change like frame geometry.
Depending on the kit, almost every wheel size is supported in some fashion or another. Some sizes make for better conversions than others. Wheel size depends on the type of kit.