E-bikes have been hogging the limelight recently as a new and environmentally-friendly method of urban transportation. They possess all the benefits of a normal bike bonus the exhilarating electric-powered joyride that normal bikes lack. While electric bikes make commuting and getting around the city and urban areas much faster and easier, they cost well into three to four figures. High-quality e-bikes are both super-efficient and sleek but can be too hard on your wallet.
Fortunately, for all those innovative minds who don’t mind turning a few screws, you can easily build your own electric bike in a way that is more budget-friendly and a much cheaper option.
Let’s have a look at what your options could be and find the best ways to build an e-bike so you could soon be zipping around the city passing cars in traffic and spending only a fraction of the cost to do it.
Step #1: Choosing a Bike for Conversion
In order to convert a conventional bike into an electric one, all you need to have is a bike in good working order and a conversion kit. Choosing your desired bike for conversion is an essential step in making sure that the bike is both comfortable and well-suited to your needs and expectations. If you already have a bike laying in your garage and are ready to rig it up, then you’re all set, if not, start shopping online or find one at your local bike shop. There are certain aspects you need to consider when picking out a bike for conversion:
- Make sure that the battery fits into the water bottle mount.
- Choose a lightweight bike since the battery and motor will add considerable weight.
- Look for bikes that have extra-wide handlebars so you can fit the controller and other e-bike accessories.
- Choose a bike that features a strong frame with beefy dropouts
- Make sure your brakes are dialed in for a maximum performance
Step #2: Choosing the Best E-bike Conversion Kit
Now that you have chosen your bike, you will need an e-bike conversion kit. The conversion kit allows you to perform the installation yourself and turn your old bike into an electric one with almost the same quality and performance as retail e-bikes and at only half the price.
Another advantage of choosing an e-bike conversion kit is that the installation is fairly easy and requires basic technical skills and some knowledge of electrical systems. Most e-bike conversion kits have almost everything needed for the installation including the motor, display controller, charger, fancy brake levers, and other accessories. Conversion kits usually don’t include the battery so you will need to choose it separately, although there are some electric bike conversion kits with batteries, they’re usually much more expensive.
Types of e-bike conversion kits
If you search on google for e-bike conversion kits you’ll notice a huge amount of different types most of which are as easy as plugging a phone charger to install them. The options available are abundant but here are a few examples that you might want to consider.
Direct hub motor kits
Direct hub motor kits are the most common type available and generally the lowest-cost option with the fewest compatibility issues. With the direct hub kit, you can replace either the front or rear wheel, or, if you want to go all fancy, you could have both front and rear wheels electrified.
Front hub kits are easier to install but they are not as durable to keep up with large motors. They can cause burnout and make the bike harder to steer because of the heavier weight on the front wheel. The rear hub system, on the other hand, is more powerful but the wiring is usually more annoying than on a front-wheel kit. Additionally, they offer more traction but you need to make sure they fit well into your gearing system and derailleurs.
Prices for front or rear wheel hub kit range between $300-$500 including the battery. Ultimately, choosing between a front or a rear hub wheel depends on your preferences and interests.
Mid-drive conversion kits
The mid-drive motor is another type of conversion kit that replaces the crankset by directing the power to the crank offering excellent performance and torque. This drive system is by far the most efficient, allowing you to take advantage of all your gears instead of being limited to a single-gear ratio which is common with front and rear hub motors.
Another advantage of mid-drive kits is that they balance the weight of the bike making it steadier on steep hills. The downsides to mid-drive motors are that they can be tricky to install especially for the inexperienced as the bottom bracket needs to be completely removed to allow room for the motor.
Additionally, they are 3 times more expensive than direct hub motors and need a special frame design to fit the motor. Ultimately, the mid-drive conversion kits are less recommended for those who are new to e-bike conversion.
Step #3: How to Choose the Ebike Battery
Most e-bike conversion kits don’t include the battery which is a key component and one of the most expensive parts of an e-bike. Choosing it separately will get you in advantage since battery choice helps you establish the speed you can travel with your e-bike and how long a charge will last. Before you decide on your e-bike battery, an important step is to learn more about the basics of battery parameters and then decide what you need and what you can afford.
In order to choose the best battery for your needs, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- How far do I want to go?
- How fast?
- What’s the weight of the battery?
The main specifications you need to consider for your battery are voltage and capacity.
Battery capacity is measured in amp-hours and determines how much energy can be stored by the battery and how far you can ride your bike with one charge. As a general rule, a higher capacity translates to more range per charge. Certainly, the actual range may vary depending on the terrain, weather, level of assistance, number of stops, rider’s weight, etc. But generally, it is recommended to opt for a high-capacity battery since this will decrease your chances of running out of battery and increase the range. However, you should bear in mind that higher capacity means a bulkier and more expensive battery which are important factors to consider.
Voltage determines the power required to run the motor. A higher voltage battery will have a higher power, speed, and stronger response from the motor. If you plan to use your e-bike for short-distance traveling such as going to work or cruising around the city, a 24V battery would come in handy. However, if you opt for more speed, longer distances, and rougher terrains, a 30V- 48V would be ideal.
Since the bike itself will be already heavy when you install the conversion kit, it is recommended that you take the weight of the battery into consideration before purchasing one. Another thing worthy to note is the size of the frame you will be installing the battery into. Some battery packs do not fit particularly well in the frame triangle and you may need to drill an extra hole or two. If you have a hybrid bike with an 18’’ frame you will normally have plenty of space. But with full-suspension bikes, mounting the battery in the frame will be much more difficult.
Step# 4. Installing the e-bike conversion kit
Once you’ve chosen your e-bike conversion kit, installing it is actually quite simple especially if you’ve changed a flat tire before. You can find the installation details in the user manual that comes with the kit. Still, we will provide you with step-by-step operating instructions to make the installation safer and way more fun.
When you open the kit, you will most likely see the following components:
- Hand-Built motor wheel
- Battery and Charger (depending on the kit)
- Brake levels
- PAS (pedal-assisted system)
- Removable motor lines
- One cable system
2. Install the hub motor
Installing the hub motor, depending on whether you chose the front or rear hub system requires the following:
- Remove your old wheel and transfer the tire and inner tube to the new wheel.
- Adjust the brakes and bolt the speed controller on the frame of the bike and the throttle to the handlebars.
- If the kit happens to have other accessories, attach them where necessary.
- Inserting your new electric motor hub wheel into the fork and making sure the nuts are tightened securely.
3. Mount the battery
Once you’ve chosen where to mount the battery, you need to connect it to the speed controller and the throttle. These should have compatible plugs to make the connections easy. Be careful though to avoid battery wires touching together as they can create a short circuit and produce a dangerous spark.
4. Install the display
- Determine a suitable spot for the display for easier use.
- Release the screws and fit them on the handlebar.
- Adjust the position and tighten the screws.
5. Install the brake levers
- Remove the original old brake levers.
- Install the new ones on each side by connecting brake lines to new electric brake levers.
- Fit the throttle.
- Tight the screws.
6. Test it out
Test your new e-bike out in an area where there is not much traffic so you can get used to it before you take it out on the road.
Behind those catchy headlines, going through the rigmarole of securing all that big money to buy an e-bike has left many people wondering whether they can simply build one from scratch or convert a conventional old faithful bike into an electric one without having to break the bank. Follow the steps above and you can have your very own power-assisted electric bike.