What is the best type of electric bike conversion kit?

The best type of electric bike conversion kit for commuting is a rear wheel hub motor.
For more challenging off-road use a mid-drive motor is the best option.

A good quality rear wheel hub has very few moving parts and is simple to install and maintain. They feel natural to ride and are quiet and unobtrusive.
If you plan to take your bike off-road, and into more challenging terrain, a mid-drive motor is the better choice. Bikes with mid-drive motors tend to be well-balanced and because the motor uses your gear system you can take advantage of the power of your motor through a wider range of conditions.

Further down the page you will find a detailed examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the seven different types of conversion kit available.

Many riders love their front gear hub motors. They deliver quiet, smooth power and a front hub motor can be quickly and easily fitted to most bikes. The reason the rear wheel hub is a better choice is due to the better traction and handling that comes with rear-wheel drive. If you cannot fit a rear hub motor on your bike, a good quality front wheel motor is a great alternative.

Extremely low cost electric bike conversion kits can be found online. By and large, you get what you pay for. Cheap lithium-ion batteries can be dangerous. Motors that fail whilst in use could send you flying, and cheaper lead-acid batteries will limit how far you can travel. In the final analysis, the best type of electric bike conversion kit is the one that gets you where you want to go safely.

The tables below list the strengths and weaknesses of friction drive systems, all-wheel-drive, concealed motors and rear wheel motor drives. If you have more specialist requirements these may be for you.

Choosing the best type of electric bike conversion kit for your needs.

  1. Powered rear wheel hub.

    Great for day to day commuting through flat, or hilly terrain, or where road conditions are less than perfect. Some of the best hubs are fully self-contained and come with gear cassette already attached. Installation is simply a matter of swapping out your existing rear wheel.

    Unfortunately rear wheel hubs will not fit all bike frames. In addition, they can make bikes feel tail-heavy.

    Great for most city commuting.

    Not recommended for mountain biking as the front of the bike is so much lighter than the rear.

  2. Mid-drive motor.

    Low and central mounting of the motor makes the bike feel well balanced and stable. Great for both road and off-road use.

    Unfortunately the motors put a lot of strain on your chain and gears.

    Best option for gravel and mountian bikes.

    Difficult or impossible to fit to may bike frames.

  3. Powered front wheel hub.

    Great for day to day commuting through easy terrain. Several models are very easy to setup and you can be up and running in under an hour.

    On the other hand, they can feel less sure-footed than rear wheel drive electric bikes and high powered front wheel hubs can damage your bike forks and/or cause you to lose control.

    Ideal for easy city commuting.

    Not recommended for off-road use or mountain biking.

Seven types of electric bike conversion kit curently available

The best type of electric bike conversion kit

  1. Powered rear wheel hub.

    Great for day to day commuting through flat, or hilly terrain, or where road conditions are less than perfect. Some of the best hubs are fully self contained and come with gear cassette already attached. Installation is simply a matter of swapping out your exisitng rear wheel.

    Unfortunately rear wheel hubs will not fit all bike frames. In adition, they can make bikes feel tail-heavy.

    Easy to fit to most bikes.

    Able to take more powerful motors than front wheel hubs (as the rear of your bike is stronger).

    Some rear wheel hubs are able to sense speed and pedal effort – and apply power to match.

    Rear wheel drive provides good traction and better handling.

    May be less visually prominent than a front hub.

    Concentrates all the weight on the rear wheel. this can make your bike suseptible to unintended ‘wheelies’.

    The weight of the hub can significantly increases rolling momentum.

    Can be more difficult to install than front hub motors as you may need to attach gears.

    Does not make use of the bikes exisiting gears. As a result, the motor has to work harder (and use more power) or the hub requires its own internal gearing system.

    Cannot be used on bikes that have a hub grear systems.

    Fixing punctures and changing tyres is more difficult due to the weight of the wheel.

  2. Mid-drive motor

    Low and central mounting of the motor makes the bike feel well balanced and stable. Great for both road and off-road use.

    Unfortunately the motors put a lot of strain on your chain and gears.

    The best weight distribution. Weight is both central and low on your bike.

    Works with front and rear disc brakes. Good braking is especially important on an electric bike.

    Forces from the drive system are applied to the strongest area of your frame.

    Good traction as the motor drives the rear wheel.

    The system makes use of exisitng gearing so the motor is more efficient.

    You can use standard bicycle wheels. Your bike will be more manouverable and responsive.

    Suitable for higher power bikes.

    More difficult to install than hub motors and cannot be retrofit to many bike frames.

    Motors attached under the bike frame can be damaged by rocks/kerbs etc.

    Has more moving parts than hub motors. Therefore less reliable and more servicing required.

    More wear and tear on drive-train. You will need to repalce your chain and gears more frequently.

    Less options to choose from. Fewer mid-drive conversion kits are sold.

    Noisier than hub drives.

  3. Powered front wheel hub.

    Great for day to day commuting through easy terrain. Several models are very easy to setup and you can be up and running in under an hour.

    On the otherhand, they can feel less sure-footed than rear wheel drive electric bikes and high powered front wheel hubs can damage your bike forks and/or cause you to lose control.

    A great way to get started.

    Easy to fit.

    Works with most bike types.

    Spreads weight more evenly between both wheels.

    Lots of varieties on the market with low cost options available.

    Gives your bike all-wheel-drive.

    The wheel can slip. Bike handling is not as good as rear wheel drive systems.

    Not suitable for high power motors due to poor traction and forces acting on the forks.

    The weight of the hub increases rolling momentum and reduces manouverability.

    Additional sensors are required to detect pedal effort (a legal requirement in some juristictions).

    Does not make use of the bikes exisiting gears. This means either the motor either has to work harder (and use more power) or the hub requires its own internal gearing system.

    Applies significant additional forces to the front forks. These are more likely to fail than other motor attachment points.

    Safety Risk: if the motor failed and locked up you will be taking a trip over the handle bars.

    Not usually compatible with front disk brakes.

    The easiest motor to steal.

Less common types of electric bike conversion kit

  1. Rear wheel friction drive

    These are simple devices with few moving parts. For this reason means they tend to be lower cost and require less maintenance. In addition, they are lighter weight. Furthermore, they are easy to fit and remove from most types of bikes. You can completely disengage them when not in use.

    On the other hand, as they rely on friction between the wheel and a roller they can be less effective (or fail) in wet or muddy conditions. They may also struggle with nobbly tyres.

    The simplest and easiest system to install.

    When you disengage the motor there is zero drag.

    You can quickly remove the drive from the bike with no tools. This is good for security as you can remove the motor when you park your bike.

    Some very low cost friction drives are available.

    Simple system with few moving parts so minimal maintenance requirements.

    Fits on a wide range of bikes.

    More power to weight than a hub motor.

    Friction drives can slip in wet and muddy conditions causing you to lose power.

    Not suitable for high power bikes. There is a limit to how much power can be applied through friction on a tyre.

    Friction drive systems do not usually have the sensors necessary to be road legal in most jurisdictions.

    Increased tyre wear.

    They tend to be noisy as they are rubbing on your tyre.

  2. Internal (concealed) motors

    Quiet, discrete, lightweight and great for giving you a little extra help.

    On the other hand, they have the smallest batteries and the lowest power motor. You will be paying a lot for a low level of assistance.

    Almost invisible, so your bike looks sleeker than a traditional electric bike.

    Super light weight option.

    Ultra quiet motor.

    Concealed drive is less likely to be a target for thieves.

    Designed as a training aid to provide a little extra boost when needed.

    Low power and much less assistance than a traditional eBike motor.

    Designed to work with smaller batteries resulting in a lower range for the bike.

    Does not comply with road rules for pedal assistance.

    Expert installation is required.

    Expensive.

    Using conclealed motors may be considered ‘cheating’ – especially in races!

    When engaged the motor continually drives the crank. Consequently, they are unsuitable for use with gear hubs that usually require you to stop pedaling for a moment when changing gear.

  3. All wheel drive.

    Offer the best traction on snow, sand and ice. In addition, with two motors your bike should be able to get you out of trouble.

    Unfortunatley they are difficult to set up, heavy, expensive and more difficult to maintain.

    The best traction on difficult surfaces like snow and sand.

    Built in redundancy if one motor fails.

    It is difficult to get the two motors to work at the same rate. This can result in instability.

    Very heavy.

    Higher purchase costs.

    More to maintain.

    Higher energy drain.

  4. Rear Mounted Motor Drive

    Very cheap systems are available. However, there is little else to recommend them.

    Low cost options available.

    Works on bikes with disc brakes.

    Good traction as the motor drives the rear wheel.

    The system makes use of exisitng gearing so the motor is more efficient.

    You can use standard bicycle wheels. Your bike will be more manouverable and responsive.

    Cannot be used with most gear systems.

    Few models available.

    There are few high quality versions of this system.

    More difficult to install than hub motors.

    Has more moving parts than hub motors.

    More wear and tear on drive-train.

    Noisier than hub drives.

In summary, the best type of electric bike conversion kit for your needs will depend on the type of cycling you plan to do… and how far your budget will stretch.

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