How can I convert a bicycle into an electric bike?

How can I convert a bicycle into an electric bike?

To start you need a bicycle with a solid frame. Next, you need to find a conversion kit which will comply with local road regulations for electric bikes.
The design of your bike and the type of cycling you do will dictate what type of conversion kit is best for your needs.

What type of bike can I convert to an electric bike?

Some bikes are more suited to conversion than others. Having a sturdy frame is essential if you want to convert a bicycle into an electric bike.

An electric motor is going to apply different (and stronger) forces to your bike frame than it was built to withstand. To survive these additional forces you need to select a bike with a strong frame. Most importantly the bike needs to have strong ‘dropouts’. Dropouts are the part of the frame where the wheel axles attach to your frame.

If you can, use a bike with a solid steel frame for your conversion.

Alternatively, a bike with a well-built aluminum frame will do the job. If you plan to attach a hub motor to a bike with an aluminum frame be sure to install a ‘torque arm’ to spread the force exerted by the hub motor through the frame of your bike.

We do not recommend fitting a conversion kit to a bike with a carbon fiber frame. The forces exerted by the motor may damage the frame. At worst it may fail when you are traveling at speed.

Selecting an electric bike conversion kit

Electric bike conversion kits are advertised on sites like eBay or Alibaba at bargain basement prices. At the other end of the scale, ‘premium’ conversion kits can cost thousands. So how do you select the kit that is right for you?

Convert a bicycle into an electric bike: Recommendations

  • Buy a kit which includes all the components you need.
  • Ensure your kit comes with a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery.
  • Check carefully the technical specifications of the conversion kit to ensure it is physically compatible with your bike frame.
  • Check that the conversion kit is designed to make your bike comply with government regulations.
You may save a little money by shopping around and buying each component of a conversion kit separately. However, it will be more difficult to connect the components together and you need considerable expertise to ensure your battery, controller, charger, and motor are completely compatible.

Battery type is a critical consideration when converting your own bike. Lead acid batteries are likely to be the cheapest option. However, they are significantly heavier and less durable than Li-Ion batteries. They will also only be able to power your bike for a relatively short distance.

Lithium-Ion batteries have a potential to catch fire or explode. Avoid cheaper unbranded batteries and ensure you use a charger that is designed to work with your battery. Using the wrong charger with a battery is likely to shorten the life of your battery or in a worst case cause your battery to burst into flames.

Choosing a drive system

Several different drive systems are available. Selecting the right drive systems will depend on the type of bike you are converting and the style of cycling you enjoy.

Drive types:

  • Powered wheel hub for the front wheel.
  • Powered wheel hub for the rear wheel.
  • Rear wheel friction drive.
  • Mid-drive motors.
  • Internal (concealed) motors.
  • Rear Wheel direct geared drive
  • Two wheel drive.

For a discussion of the pros and cons of these different systems see related question.

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