If you want to move around in a quick and easy way, an electric bike, also known as an e-bike, will have you covered!
However, e-bikes can be a little pricey, especially if you already have a bike in your garage! If you want to know how to convert your bike to an e-bike, you’re in for a treat!
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get this project done. So without further ado, let’s hop in!
What You’ll Need for the Conversion Project
One of the best ways to get the electric bike conversion project done in a short period of time is to have as many necessary tools at your disposal as possible before starting.
This isn’t only good for making the project faster, but to make it happen in the first place. In fact, a lot of people have been considering the conversion project for years, but aren’t motivated because they don’t have all the tools around.
Here’s a quick list of the general supplies used in the electric bike conversion project:
An electric bike motor, throttle, and speed control hub (usually come together in a conversion kit)
An electric bike battery pack and a charger for the battery
Installation wrench set and pliers
Suitable gear sensor (optional)
A Bike Lock (optional)
Keep in mind that every bike model is different, so you might find yourself needing an extra specific tool here and there because of your bike model.
For that reason, you might find yourself needing more tools, such as duct tape, silicone sealants, or other items along the way.
A Step by Step Guide to Convert Your Existing Bike to an Electric Bike
Now that you’ve gathered all the items needed for the project, it’s time to get handy! In the following section, you’ll find a simplified electric bike conversion guide that walks you through every step in the way:
Step 1: Make Sure Your Bike Can Handle the Conversion
One of the things that most new DIYers overlook is the possibility of the project in the first place. However, if your bike is relatively new and rides well then it’ll probably be suitable for the conversion anyway.
Since you’ll invest quite a hefty sum in a conversion kit, you don’t want to install that on a donor body that’s severely lacking. Make sure that the bike has a nice seat, tires, wheels, as well as decent accessories.
Another thing you want to check in your bike is the frame materials. The most popular materials used for making frames are steel and aluminum.
As a rule of thumb, a bike with a steel frame would be much more durable than aluminum. If you have a steel frame, you’ll need to carefully inspect it for any signs of rust before starting your conversion project, so you can replace the rusty part beforehand.
Aluminum has the advantage of corrosion resistance, although they’re generally less durable than steel.
Additionally, the newer your bike model, the better. An old bike might require unique tools that you may not find available. Also, although this project might save you the costs of a new e-bike, you still need to have an emergency fund ready for any missing or necessary parts.
Lastly, here are some features and design aspects that will yield the best conversion results:
Mountain bike design. While many bike types can be converted to electric ones, mountain bikes are usually made of steel and aluminum, so they can handle the extra weight and torque.
If your bike has a carbon fiber frame, you should consider switching it for a more durable frame first
Standard wheel sizes, such as 16, 20, and 26 inches. The accessories and tools for these bikes will be readily available and will over a more stable ride with an electric motor
Wide front frame triangle and handlebar. This offers enough space to mount your conversion kit and accessories comfortably and protect them from jamming and overheating.
Bikes with easily accessible controls and cables are much easier to convert than complicated ones
A bike with front disc brakes will be more suitable for stopping an electric bike on a steep hill
Step 2: Decide on an Electric Bike Conversion Kit
One of the easiest ways to make your bike go electric is by using an electric bicycle conversion kit.
These kits usually come with all the strictly necessary tools that you need to make your bike electric, including a wheel with a hub motor, speed controls, and a throttle.
Other kits might also include a variety of accessories to make your electric bike even more advanced but aren’t necessary, such as LCD screens, gauges, and brake levers.
Make sure that you pick a bolt-on kit that comes with all the needed parts as well as a clear instructions manual to make it easy to install.
There are various types of conversion kits on the market, including front and back wheel types. Both of them will work well as long as they have a wheel that’s exactly as large as the wheel you have on your bike.
The choice for a conversion kit depends on a variety of aspects, such as motor power, overheat protection, mileage, and your budget.
Step 3: Select a Suitable Battery with Enough Capacity
As a rule of thumb, conversion kits don’t come with batteries, so you have to pick one on your own. If you’re unsure, the safest road to take is to buy a battery of the same brand as your conversion kit.
Ideally, electric bike batteries are categorized into 36, 48, and 52 volts. Voltage defines the amount of power that the battery is able to deliver at a time and has nothing to do with lasting longer.
Keep in mind that a battery with a higher voltage will work better for powerful motors but it will be bulkier and possibly cost more.
Based on this, if you’re going to use your bike for flat terrain cycling, the 36 and 48-volt battery should do. However, if you want your bike to climb hills and tough terrain, a 52 volt is your best bet.
For the capacity, choosing a battery with a capacity of 10 or 20 Ampere-hour should do. The choice here depends on how long your journeys are and how often you want to recharge the battery.
Step 4: Remove the Bottom Bracket and the Wheel You Need to Replace
There are different types of electric bike conversion kits on the market. However, most of them use the same idea for working.
Simply, you replace one of the wheels on your bike with the motor hub-connected wheel that comes with the kit, whether it’s a front wheel or a rear wheel. The process of removing a wheel is similar for both front and back wheels.
You start by loosening the rim or the cantilever brake. If the wheel you’re removing also has a disc brake, you’ll need to take it off too. You can simply do that by removing the spring, clips, or pin used to hold the pads in place.
If you’re removing the rear wheel, you’ll need to hold the derailleur backward while holding the frame with your non-dominant hand. After that, pull the frame up to unhook the chains.
If you’re removing the front wheel, it would be easier to turn the bike upside down, loosening the brake cable, and adjust the quick release lever to the open mode, the wheel should then come right off as you lift it.
Step 5: Transfer the Tire from the Old Wheel to the New One
Ideally, it’s recommended by manufacturers to buy new tires and the inner tube for their wheel. However, if your tires and inner tube from the old wheels are in mint condition, you can install them on the new wheel.
To do that, you need to empty the tire from any air, so that it’s easy to manipulate. After that use your hand or bicycle tire levers to pull off both the tire and the inner tube.
To install them on the new wheel, you’ll only need to repeat the process but in reverse. Make sure that you remember the air pressure of the wheel before removing it, so you can restore a similar air pressure in both wheels when you’re done.
Step 6: Install the New Wheel to the Bike
When your new wheel is ready, put it back on your bike and connect it to the brake system. Once again, the process should be as simple as reversing the removal process.
For rear wheel replacement, you’ll also need to adjust the wheel chain to make sure that it’s a snug fit.
After that, complete the step by closing the bike’s wire brakes and rim over the wheel using a lever. If the bike uses disc brakes, reattach the pads and secure the clips with pliers.
Check if the brakes need any kind of mechanical adjustments, such as aligning the caliper or pumping the brake lever.
Step 7: Attach the Throttle and Speed Controller
Most conversion kits on the market are designed so that the speed controller and the throttle are easily bolted on the bike without having to do any electrical adjustment.
Make sure that you check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to install them correctly on your bike.
The kit should also come with the necessary bolts to secure the speed controller in place. This is usually on the bike frame above the chains.
Pick a suitable spot on your handlebar that makes it easy to reach the throttle, and attach them too.
Some conversion kits will take over the gear shifting process in the bike, so you’ll also have to remove the shifting cable while leaving the brake cable intact.
In some cases, this step might create some wire clutter. In that case, don’t attach them until you mount the motor on the bike and secure loose wires.
Step 8: Connect Components to the Battery
To complete the main electrical system, you need to attach the power source. Unpack the battery and read the instructions carefully about attaching the speed controller and throttle to the battery.
Make sure that you’re positive about the cables you’re connecting because wrong connections can cause electric shorts, sparks, and malfunctions.
Ideally, most manufacturers will make the connection process as simple as attaching wires to their respective slots.
Step 9: Test the Motor’s Placement
Some electric bike motors will use the bottom bracket as an anchoring point, allowing you to slightly rotate or adjust them to sit comfortably on your bike without getting in your way or be interrupted by wire clutter.
Before securing any bolts and mounting the motor, make sure that you test out the ideal way to position the motor on your bike to keep everything in a good balance.
The most important part here is to make sure that no wires would be scraping against the motor, which puts them at risk of wear and tear.
Step 10: Mount the Motor onto the Bike
With everything in order and going perfectly, it’s time to secure the motor on your bike by attaching it to the right spot, whether it’s on the bottom bracket or in the place of the water bottle holder.
This spot is ideal because it keeps the center of gravity well balanced between the back and front of the bike.
If you think the motor is a bit too bulky to fit on your bike’s frame, you can install it in the basket on the back or front of the bike. But keep in mind that this might throw you off balance in
Step 11: Install Display and Controls for the Electric System (Optional)
Some conversion kits will also feature different accessories along with the main system, such as an LCD system, gear sensor, controls, and more.
Of course, you can attach these before mounting the motor on the bike. However, it’s always a smart move to connect the main system first and make sure that it runs properly before attaching any extra tools and gadgets.
This way, if anything fails, you’ll be able to troubleshoot it quicker because you have fewer variables to isolate and test.
Step 12: Connect and Secure Any Loose Wiring
After giving the electric system a test run and making sure that it starts well, you need to make sure that all the wires are secured in place.
Use zip ties to secure any loose wires and attach them to the frame of the bike for safety and convenience.
Step 13: Give Your New Electric Bike a Test Run
Everything should now be ready for you to try out the bike for the first time. Give the bike a final round check to see if any parts are rubbing together then take it for a spin!
When you’re back, make sure that you charge the battery for the first trip and consider investing in a new bike lock to protect your investment from theft.
How Much Would the Conversion Process Cost You?
The answer to this question would vary greatly depending on the type of converting kit you’re going for as well as its specs.
However, we can estimate the expenses based on the rates of the mid-range converting kit options on the market.
From there, you can expect to pay a little higher or lower depending on the performance and the brand of your conversion kit.
As a rule of thumb, a decent converting kit with 48-volt power would cost you anywhere between $300 to $700, with some premium options reaching up to $1,000.
For a casual rider, a 36-volt kit would be more suitable, which usually costs anywhere from $200 to $500.
Add this to the average price of a good electric bike battery should range from $350 to $500, depending on its capacity.
Don’t forget to add the costs of any necessary tools you might need for the project, although that shouldn’t account for a significant change in the costs.
Based on these numbers, the electric bike conversion project is expected to set you back anywhere between $650 to $1,500.
Should You Buy a New e-bike or Convert Your Existing One?
As you can see, the conversion process would still cost you a hefty sum, which is why some people question whether buying a new e-bike is a better option to go for after all.
Before assuming that, you should keep in mind that a brand new e-bike isn’t cheap too. In fact, some electric bikes might cost you up to $2,500 or even $3,000 depending on the brand and the specs.
So, a lot of riders believe that converting an existing bike to an electric one is a wiser option from a financial perspective, especially if you’re looking for a powerful model.
However, simple e-bike models for casual riders can cost as much as a conversion kit with a battery pack. But, that’s where the sentimental value comes into play!
Many people have a strong attachment to their bikes and would rather modify them into an electric model than buy a new one. In that case, going on with the conversion should be a better option.
There you have it! A complete guide that shows you how to convert your bike to an e-bike in simple and easy steps!
Besides financial and sentimental points of view, there’s also the hassle of going through such a DIY project.
So, if you find the project a little overwhelming or you have no time to do it, a new e-bike would be more suitable for you, provided that you can’t reach a professional who can do the conversion for you.