By now you’ve probably heard about the electric bike, an exciting innovation in personal transportation that is rapidly catching on among commuters everywhere. Electric bikes are much like traditional bikes, except they make use of an electric hub motor to supply additional power to a cyclist’s pedaling power. Lithium ion batteries power electric bikes, and the motors can be turned on or off, giving the cyclist the option to use pedal power, battery power, or a mixture of both.
An electric bicycle can still function as a traditional bike, allowing the rider to toggle the electric power on or off at any time. This makes them a versatile transportation option for commuters. According to the European Journal of Applied Physiology, electric bikes provide health benefits much like traditional bikes.
Many cyclists have been put off by the electric bicycle’s high average price and sometimes-strange design features. However, there is a really easy way to convert a traditional bicycle into an electric bike, which allows you to save money and retain the original appearance of your favorite bike. To give you a better idea of the conversion process, let’s go over a simple installation with a basic electric bike conversion kit.
Measure and Pick Up a Kit
Electric conversion kits come in several configurations and are quite versatile. These kits will work on all sorts of bikes such as mountain bikes, road bikes, beach cruisers, trikes, and much more. However, to successfully convert a bike, you have to know whether you need a front or rear-mounted motor. The motor goes on the wheel that’s not attached to your pedals and gears.
Electric bike motors come mounted in a special wheel, so you also have to measure your wheel size to ensure that you pick up the right kit. This part is a little trickier than it seems, as you have to measure both the width of the wheel and the width of the tire for a proper fit.
The easy way is to simply look at your bicycle tire, which should have the measurements on it. A tire that reads “26 x 1.5” is indicating a tire and wheel size of 26 inches, with 1.5 inches of tire included. Some tires are measured in millimeters, such as 700c tires, so you’ll find something like “700 x 23c” which indicates a 700-millimeter tire and wheel size.
If the measurements are worn off, you may need to measure manually with a tape measure. To do this, all you have to do is take your wheel and tire together and measure across the length of them at the widest point. This diameter will be measured in inches unless you have a 700c tire which is measured in millimeters.
Finally, you will need to measure your front drop spacing (for a front-mounted motor), which is the space between the two front forks that hold the front axle of your bike. This is measured from inside to inside between the two forks, and the spacing should match whatever specifications are put forward by the company that makes the electric bike kit you choose.
With the measurements done, you’re ready to pick up a kit. Whether you’re shopping online or going to a bike shop that specializes in conversion kits, you can easily find several types of kits and select for power, functionality, motor type, battery type, wheel size, mount configuration, and more.
Make the Conversion
Once you have the bike kit you need, you are ready to make the switch. For a basic electric bike conversion kit, this can take as little as 5 minutes.
First, remove your old wheel and then fix the electric bike wheel and motor to the front (or rear) forks. Remember to fit any included washers or nuts into place. Then, tighten the axle nuts, which use a standard 3/8” wrench.
After the motor and wheel are on, hook up the necessary cables. A motor cable runs from the hub motor to the throttle and can be run along the frame with Velcro straps or zip ties. The throttle is mounted on the handlebars.
There is a second battery cable which runs from the motor to a lithium ion battery, is typically mounted on the frame or carried within a bag that hangs on the bike. This cable can also be run along the bike frame with Velcro straps or zip ties.
After you have mounted the battery and throttle, hooked up the cables, and fixed the cables to the frame, you’re ready to turn on the li-ion battery. If all goes well, your bike is fully converted and ready to ride.
Now you know what it takes to convert a traditional bike into an electric bike. The process is pretty straightforward for a basic conversion kit. There are other kits out there that offer greater power and more robust functionality, which take closer to an hour to install because they require more steps. Whatever the type of conversion kit you go with, you’ll find that converting your favorite bike is pretty easy. Happy riding!
This article is written by Jeffrey Martinez. He is a freelance writer and conversion kit specialist at LEED Electric Bike. In his free time, he loves working on bikes in his immaculate garage. Jeffrey is passionate about sharing his knowledge of bicycle maintenance with anyone who will listen.