You have decided you want to get an electric bike and you have investigated the ready-to-ride E-bikes on the market. For some reason they don’t seem to be just what you want or the price is higher than your budget or desires allow. Why not convert the bike you already have to electric-assist? I met a local guy today who felt the same way. He decided to do what it took on his own to enter the world of E-bikes.
Tom took matters into his own hands and converted his existing bike using basic tools and his mechanical knowledge. Tom is an engineer, not a bike mechanic, but with the help of Amped Bikes in Orange County, CA, he now has the E-bike he was hoping for. He is quite happy with his new bike. And by his smile and enthusiasm, I can tell he is pleased with his accomplishment too.
I spent the morning with Tom. I rode his converted Trek 750C, and he rode my BionX powered Diamondback. We talked E-bikes and compared the differences in the two. He installed a 500 watt geared brushless motor and the needed items to make it all work. He is still fine tuning some of the pieces, but has been making his 16 mile round trip commute on the bike for over a month.
One thing Tom can’t wait to up-grade is the battery. Right now he is using a 36 volt SLA (sealed lead acid) set-up. When Amped Bikes ships him a new 36 volt lithium battery he will reduce the over-all weight of his bike, get better power, and increase the range. He also plans to swap out the thumb throttle for a twist one. That will make riding the bike more comfortable and allow the controls on the handlebars to integrate with each other better.
He had Bernie’s Bike Shop in San Diego install a steel fork to increase the strength needed for the front hub motor. Some help from Q-Bikes was in the cards too. He is also reworking the torque arm to look nicer and to allow servicing on the front tire to be easier. Installing the kit was not difficult. As he works out the small details, he will end up with an E-bike that works and looks good. That is his goal, and might be yours too.
Amped Bikes’ website is very informative. Tom has nothing but good things to say about their products and service. They offer a variety of kits and options. They can help you decide on the pieces you need to do your own conversion. And they will give you tech support to bring it all-together.
As I rode his bike I was impressed with the power and feel of the conversion kit. The motor is in the front hub of Toms’ bike. We discussed whether a front or rear mounting of the motor is better. There are many good reasons for both. This topic is covered in many websites and chat rooms on the net. We spent time talking about battery choices. The lithium battery Amped Bikes will supply mounts in the frame and should help round out his power needs.
Compared to the BionX, which has a silent motor, the Amped Bikes motor had a mildly quiet hum. Power wise, we both made it up my near-by test hill with ease. On the flat, Toms’ bike had a slight advantage in acceleration at the lower speeds, but the 48 volt BionX (supplied to me for testing by NYCeWheels) showed its strength in the 10-20 mph range. When the BionX topped out at 20, the Amped Bikes equipped Trek moved out at close to 25 mph. Both bikes have the juice to go faster, but are limited by their internal electronics.
The BionX is a much higher priced kit and comes with a power regeneration system and a very well laid out display console that monitors the motor settings and acts as a bike computer too. It also has a built-in torque sensor that gives a responsive and intelligent pedelec mode. The kit on Toms’ bike is operated with the throttle alone. Even still, the conversion kit from Amped Bikes worked great, was smooth, and at its price point is a good way to go.
So, can you convert your bike to electric power? If you can change a tire, do minor tune-up work, and have the basic hand tools needed, then I would say the answer is yes. There might be a few slightly tricky parts, but the instruction manual and the tech support from the supplying company should allow you to be successful. The web is full of videos and other info that can give you an idea of what you’ll be in for. If it does seem like too much, you can get a friend or a local bike shop to do it for you.
So, what are the choices? Front or rear hub motor? SLA or lithium battery? Battery capacity? Battery mounting position? Motor wattage rating? Thumb or twist throttle? ECU (electronic control unit) capacity? Cruise control? These are areas you will need to explore before ordering your kit. I would think most people and bikes would be best with a front brushless 350-500 watt motor, lithium battery, twist throttle, and the needed items to round out the conversion kit. There are a few more options too. Take your time and choose wisely.
The last and maybe most important decision is the company you order from. Don’t let price be your only indicator. Go with a firm with good recommendations and quality pieces. Search the web, talk to people with E-bikes, and go with your instincts. Take your time on the details when you do the installation. Follow the instruction manual and call for help if needed. Make sure the bike is in good shape and good quality. You can make the E-bike of your dreams.
Thanks for showing me your bike Tom. I sure we will meet again in the near future, Turbo.
P.S. Tom says he might be driving his workmates crazy with all of his talk of E-bikes, but I think he will get a few converts as they see the fun and thrills it brings him.
“Picture its bare-bones beauty. The delicate balance of power and elegance you use to make it fly. The tires singing on the pavement, chain purring on the sprockets, the seamless paceline hurtling you and your friends home at 25 mph. Beats there a heart so hard that it can’t love a road bike?’—Scott Martin.
Shops mentioned in this article—
Amped Bikes http://www.ampedbikes.com