Beginners Guide on How To Convert a Regular Bike to an eBike
Part 1 of eBike Conversions For Beginners - Introduction to eBike Conversions
Let’s face it, a good eBike is expensive but it is possible to save thousands of dollars on the cost of a brand new eBike. In this beginners guide on how to convert a regular bike to electric, we look at
- the different options available to upgrade your current bike to a quality eBike
- examine what’s inside various conversion kits
- we also look at some safety and legal considerations
- average costings
This Introduction to eBike Conversions is the first part of the series: eBike Conversions for Beginners. The next three parts are DIY step by step guides on
Five reasons why you would want to convert your bike?
- Savings of thousands of dollars over a decent retail eBke
- You already have a bicycle and see no point in having both
- Can’t find a retail eBike that suits your style or supports your weight
- You don’t want to be stuck with a particular company’s electronic hardware
- It’s exciting!
Nowadays it is increasingly possible to buy budget eBikes for a few hundred dollars but the quality of the bicycle components themselves can sometimes leave a lot to be desired particularly for long commutes and trail or mountain riding. However budget eBikes are a fantastic introduction to the world of eBiking. You can read the 8 Questions You Need To Ask Before Buying an eBike Online here.
If you already own a decent regular bicycle or are prepared to buy a suitable secondhand bike, then for a few hundred dollars it’s possible to convert your bike to a top quality eBike with the exact specifications you want.
You do need to be handy though and not afraid to get your hands dirty. But with the right conversion kit access to decent bike tools and a confident attitude you should be able to upgrade your bike within an hour or two.
While on the subject of tools, apart from those found in a standard bike kit, for mid-drive conversions you will also need a crank extractor and chain rivet extractor
What type of conversion kits are available?
There are three general types of conversion kit i) a front wheel hub motor kit ii) a rear wheel hub motor kit and iii) a mid drive motor kit.
The conversion kit that you choose will determine how easily the conversion is completed, as well as how long it will take.
All conversion kits will include as an absolute minimum a motor and a controller. Also included will be a combination of a pedal assist sensor and/or a throttle assembly. The controller will either be a separate component or built into the motor. One of its main jobs is to control the amount of power going to the motor.
You will also need a battery to power the motor, the higher the capacity the better. Some of these kits will include a battery, others will only offer it as an option. The battery, arguably, is the most expensive component on any eBike and will therefore add to the overall cost of any eBike conversion kit. It’s therefore important to know how to look after your battery properly.
Shop for batteries for eBike
Hub Motor Types
Hub kits are made up of a front or rear wheel with a hub motor built into the center of the wheel. The hub motor literally drives the wheel moving the bike forwards.
A front wheel hub motor kit is the fastest and easiest way, if you’re an eBike beginner, to convert your bike because there’s no messing around with your gears or chain.
Once installed the sensation is that of being pulled along when riding. Because of this, these front wheel conversions are considered better for commuting on flat roads. This is because there is a tendency for the front wheel to spin (if you’re not careful) when riding on rough terrain or riding up steep hills. It might also be advisable to change your front forks for stronger bulkier ones to cope with the added weight of the new front wheel.
The rear wheel hub motor kit is a little bit more difficult to install compared to the front wheel because you have to navigate the chainset. However, the extra weight on the back gives you more grip and control of the road and therefore more torque for whatever type of riding you want to do eg mountain biking, trail riding, steep hill climbing etc. It also feels more of a ‘natural’ ride to many eBike riders. The sensation is that of being pushed along which adds to the general fun of riding such a conversion. The big bugbear is when it comes to having to replace a flat tyre as it is a much heavier wheel to remove.
Overall hub kit conversions are an easy and cheap option for eBike beginners or budget conscious people, to work with.
Shop for hub kit conversions on Amazon or Leeds Bikes or BangGood
Mid drive Motors
The other type of conversion kit is the mid drive or crank motor kit.
All mid drive kit conversions sit near the pedals and crankshaft and are better than the rear hub kits for off road riding. Because of the mid drive’s position on the bike and the lower center of gravity, this can make the bike feel safer and easier for eBike beginners to ride. It gives a much more natural feel when pedalling similar to that of riding a regular bike.
Mid drive motors are generally found on high-end eBikes particularly mountain bikes and the conversion kits are significantly more expensive than the hub kits.
Mid-drive motors were designed to address potential shortcomings in hub motors. They have a great gear ratio, offer more power and control, are less likely to overheat and are fantastic for climbing steep hills. They also tend to be smaller and lighter than hub motors.
However, because of the location of the mid drive motor it is a more complicated job to convert your bike especially for a complete beginner to eBikes. But if you’re confident, maybe more experienced you might be interested in 6 Simple Steps to Convert A Regular Bike To An eBike using a mid drive motor conversion kit.
Shop for mid drive kit conversions at Amazon
What comes inside a hub motor kit?
Motorized hub wheel. In both front and rear kits, you’ll get a wheel with a hub motor in the middle. The rear wheel hub motor will also include a free wheel – generally 7-speed which may or may not be already screwed on to the wheel. The free wheel is for your gears. It may also have torque arm attached to the wheel (rarely). The wheel may or may not come with a tire.
More expensive kits will include a battery but in the main you will need to get a battery separately. It is also worth noting that the battery voltage generally needs to be the same as the motor. For example if you used a 36V battery to run a 48V motor, there won’t be enough power for it to work.
Companies such as Leeds Bikes do offer full kits with battery at very affordable prices.
The motor controller will either come as a separate unit or may be hidden inside the motor itself – on a large hub or may be mounted inside the battery pack. So while this gives a cleaner look and makes your DIY project easier, the downside of such integrated units is that it can be difficult to repair or upgrade later on.
What comes inside a mid drive motor kit?
The mid drive motor One of the differences between a mid drive kit and wheel hub kit is that there is no separate controller. This is because it is built into the motor which is very common with these types of conversion kits.
Additionally the kit will include a pair of crank arms (which the pedals connect to) and a possible choice of hydraulic sensors or e-brake levers.
The rest of the components are pretty much the same as the hub kits ie throttle, pedal assist, possible display unit and possible battery.
Conversion kits can vary widely in how much they cost depending on what type of kit you choose.
Generally speaking, it’s possible to get a good hub motor conversion kit for between $150 to $400. These prices do not include the battery. For a couple hundred more you can get a full hub kit including battery from Leeds Bikes.
Mid-drive motor conversion kits are more expensive. You can expect to pay closer to $400 to $1000 for these kits.
Things to think about before converting your bike
Be aware of the eBike laws in your region. For example in many parts of Europe throttle only eBikes are a no-no. In fact if you have a throttle even with pedal-assist, it has to to cut-out at 3.7mph (6km/h). The motor thereafter can only run when you’re pedaling.
Your Bicycle Considerations
One of the most important things to consider is whether your bicycle is suitable for the particular conversion you have in mind and how and where you attach the electrical components.
For a comprehensive breakdown on the suitability of your bike for a conversion project read Seven Must Do Actions Before Buying ANY eBike Conversion Kit.
You can also learn how to source a suitable secondhand bike for your eBike conversion project here
Depending on the physical size and form factor of the battery it can be placed behind or in front of the seat tube, on the down tube or the crossbar. You can also place it on a rear-rack and even in front of the handlebars.
To balance out the weight of the front hub many riders will place the battery nearer to the backside of the bike and vice versa if you’ve installed a rear hub motor. For a better center of gravity the battery can be placed on the downtube. If you already have a water bottle installed it’s often easiest to install the battery on the existing fittings.
Types of Tools Needed
You will need a standard bike toolkit including wrenches, spanners, flat and crosshead screwdrivers plus a crankarm extractor and pedal wrench depending on which conversion you choose to do.
Typical eBike Batteries
Torque arms like this improved version from Grin Technologies reduce this risk by absorbing the force on the axle. The arms remove any stresses from the metal drop outs and transfers it further up the fork to give more security against the rotating torque that the electric motor will impose on it.
In this introduction to eBike conversions for beginners we’ve covered the five main reasons to convert your regular bike to an ebike such as:
- Financial savings
- Ownership of an existing bike that you like and is suitable for conversion
- Unable to find a suitable retail eBike for yourself
- Desire for flexibility with electronic parts
- It’s exciting and immensely satisfying!
We also looked at the types of conversion kits available with the pros and cons of each type, the things to think about before diving in including legal and safety considerations.
Plan in advance. Know your bike’s capabilites. Have the right tools to hand.
Then convert your regular bike to the quality eBike you want with your exact specifications while saving yourself potentially thousands of dollars. The fastest and cheapest way to do this is with a hub kit expecially if you are a complete beginner to eBikes.
You can follow a step by step guide on converting your bike by clicking on one of the links in the yellow box below – eBike Conversions for Beginners.
Which ever option you choose, you will end up with an affordable better specced eBike than if you’d taken the retail route.
[Read Why Buying a Cheap Big-Box Store eBike Might Be A Good Idea]
eBike Conversions for Beginners series
- Part 2 is a step by step guide on converting your bike with a front wheel hub motor kit
- Part 3 is a step by step guide on converting your bike with a rear wheel hub motor kit
- Part 4 is a step by step guide on converting your bike with a mid drive motor kit
- Part 5 covers the 7 best eBike hub conversion kits for heavy and overweight people
You might also be interested in reading Bike Accessories You Didn’t Know You Wanted which includes tips and tools to keep your bike and yourself safe on the roads and having a look at the review on eBike specific helmets for fast eBikes
Seven Must Do Actions Before Buying ANY eBike Conversion Kit
Got an old bike that you want to convert? Learn the 7 Must Do Actions Before Buying ANY eBike Conversion Kit and save time and money with proper preparation
7 Best eBike Conversion Kits for Heavy and Overweight People
Heavy eBike rider? Here’s the 7 best hub and mid drive eBike conversion kits for people weighing 280 pounds plus. eBike Conversions for Beginners Series Part 5
Rear Wheel eBike Conversion – 5 Easy Stages – Newbie Guide
Part 3 of eBike Conversions For Beginners. Step by step guide for complete beginners to build an eBike with a rear wheel hub motor kit in five easy stages.
Complete Beginners Guide – eBike Conversion In 6 Easy Steps
Part 2 of eBike Conversions for Beginners – Step by step guide for complete beginners to build an eBike with a front wheel hub motor kit in six easy steps.
6 Simple Steps to Convert A Regular Bike To An eBike
Part 4 of eBike Conversions For Beginners. Step by step guide for intermediate beginners to build an eBike with a mid drive motor kit in six simple steps.
Last update on 2023-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API