Hi Richard here from eBike Sussex, this short article explains why we do not advocate conversion kits and why they are potentially a lethal modification to your bike. With the rise of eBike sales in the UK the number of conversion kits and companies offering conversion kits has risen. We have had first hand experience of these systems and here is our opinion of them and why they are problematic for all involved.
You must have seen them! People whizzing by on an old dog of a bike with a battery cable tied to the downtube and their feet not moving. A three to six hundred quid plastic mess designed to make a conventional bicycle move without pedal power. We get them in the shop regularly: the throttle has burnt out, the battery keeps sliding off the frame, the motor won’t work… the list goes on. These repairs take up valuable time in our service centre, if only the customer had done some research before making the decision to buy an ebike conversion! It is always better to buy a purpose built electric bike instead of trying to make a normal bicycle electric.
An electric bike conversion is usually the practice of turning a standard bicycle into an electric bicycle with the help of a wheel mounted motor, a battery pack mounted to a frame or rear luggage rack, and controls mounted in the handlebars. It is a terrible idea unless the bicycle manufacturer offer it as an upgrade that they themselves have tested and ensured the bicycle can safely take the motor system. An example of this is the Tricycle we sell that can be modified with the manufacturer’s electric bike system to become an Electric Trike. We don’t mind selling and fitting this system because it is safe to user and other road users. Ask in store for details.
So why am I so against conversion kits? Unless your bicycle was specifically designed to take the extra weight and stresses of an electric system you are invalidating your warranty on your bicycle and endangering your life and others in the process. Your bicycle forks for example were never designed to fit on your bicycle with a motor mounted onto it. The stress tests and stringent regulations for producing products are pointless if you are going to overload the component with a heavy aftermarket electric bike motor. Your forks/frame could snap whilst riding!!
Wheel mounted motor electric bike conversions are especially not advised as the rims and spokes are not designed to take the stresses of the extra torque and motor weight. It is a regular occurrence for spokes to loosen and/or snap through use with wheel mounted motor conversions. This is a serious design flaw and aftermarket motors that are fitted into wheels (as a hub) should have extra strength spokes and be checked regularly to ensure the rider and other road user’s safety. There is a reason why the wheel mounted motor electric bikes we sell have been purpose built are priced at £1,350 and up. They have been designed with careful consideration to the laws of the country they are manufactured for and with consumer and public safety in mind.
On top of this your suspension was not designed to take the extra weight of an electric system in that position on the bicycle. Our electric bikes have carefully selected suspension systems that are factory set to cope with the higher speeds and stresses of an electric bike. You can lose control if your suspension does not dampen the road/track at high speed. On top of this you will likely damage your suspension if it bottoms out with the additional weight of rider and electric system.
The next problem with Electric Bike Conversion Kits is that many are first produced for foreign countries where our traffic laws are not the same. For example your electric bike must cut it’s motor power at 15mph to be road legal in the UK. Also ‘throttle systems’ where you do not have to pedal to reach 15mph speeds are also not road legal in the UK. So the Electric Bike Conversion Kit you buy could be fitted to your lovely road or mountain bike and if you are caught exceeding these speeds you could have the electric bike confiscated and a hefty fine. Perhaps worse than that would be the situation if you hurt another road user and needed to pay for their and your medical bills to recover. It really isn’t worth it.
As electric bike specialists we have serviced and repaired many bikes and electric bikes over the years. If we knew an electric bike conversion kit system that was safe we would advocate, sell and fit it. The reality is there are no aftermarket systems or short cuts that are worth making when it comes to electric bikes. Cheap things are rarely good and good things are rarely cheap. Please ride safely!
To summarise, if you are going to buy an electric bike conversion kit please ensure it is being fitted to a brand new bicycle that the manufacturers of the bicycle and ebike kit agree is safe to work together. This is your life we are talking about!
Electric Bike Specialist