Fitness isn't a fixed point. Instead, it's a process that ebbs and flows. Sometimes that means it ebbs more than it flows and getting back into things can be hard. If you've had a bike kicking around for a while but your fitness isn't where you want it to be there's no reason to let that stop you.
The promise of electric bikes is longer days and faster speeds. More climbing and less work. The reality is that there's still plenty of work, if you want there to be, but the barrier to entry is lower. Get out there and have fun with a little help from the motor. It can be a great way to get back into the sport after a break or an injury. It can also be a great way to get into the sport for the first time.
To make things even easier you can convert the bike you know and love. It's yet another way of lowering the barrier of entry. Instead of taking a risk on a new bike, work with what you've got. Keep reading to see a list of electric bike conversion kits that will work on a mountain bike or jump down below to see a few things worth considering.
Best Electric Mountain Bike Conversion Kits
Bafang is one of the largest and most well-known electric bike motor companies in the world. They've been around since 2003 and in 2014 Bafang established a US arm to better support the US market. There are many well-known electric bike companies sourcing Bafang components. If you want to get in the game and source your own electric bike components you won't go wrong with Bafang.
This particular option covers everything you need for a mid-drive motor conversion kit. As long as the bike you are starting with has a bottom bracket sized between 68 and 73mm this kit will work. From there you can choose the front chainring size, the battery size, and what display works for you.
The most natural feeling motor is going to be a mid-mounted motor. If that works for you and you also like the idea of doing some pedaling then the very best is a mid-mounted motor paired with a torque sensor. Instead of the system knowing you are pedaling and adding power, a torque-based system adds a percentage of pedal power. Max torque available on this system is 80Nm but depending on your chosen assist level that 80Nm will add between 36 and 300 per cent to your pedaling. To keep it simple, think about it as an amplifier. If you pedal harder, you go faster, just like a normal bike, but now your muscles have extra support. Not only does this feel natural but it’s gentler on trails making it an especially great option for a mountain bike.
If you like the idea of something from Bafang but you'd rather look beyond a bottom bracket conversion then this is an option. With mountain bikes a bottom bracket installation might have clearance issues on the trails. It's also always going to be more difficult than just swapping a wheel. With the front hub conversion kit all you have to worry about is getting the right size wheel. Fortunately, there are options for 26, 27.5, and 700c wheel sizes. Whatever you need, Bafang has a way to make it work.
As already discussed, swapping the front wheel is one of the easiest ways to convert any bike to an electric bike. That's the approach that Swytch takes but the company has really polished the whole package. The battery mounts to the handlebars and it's easy to take with you so it doesn't get stolen. While riding there are lights on the top of the battery pack to show how much battery you've got and what assist mode you are in. There's also a cadence sensor that attaches to your bike. It's a well thought out system that looks great and conforms to EU regulations.
The C1 kit from Cytronex offers another take on the idea of swapping a front wheel. There are three pieces to the kit and it's available pre-installed on a bike, with installation, or on its own. If you choose to install the kit on your own bike, start by choosing if you are in the UK, the EU, or the US. The kit will include a motor that conforms to the regulations applicable. Then, choose if your bike has disc or rim brakes and what size wheel. The battery sits where a water bottle would normally sit and the rider interacts with the system through a control button, it's easy to install too.
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Electric Bike Conversion Kits: What You Need To Know
1. Check your local laws and regulations
The most important thing you need to do when considering an electric bike conversion is to check the laws and regulations where you are. It's much easier to go afoul of what's allowed when buying a kit. A lot of the time if you buy a bike the manufacturer has been through the process of ensuring what you are buying is okay in your location, buying a kit puts a lot more of the responsibility on your shoulders.
The laws governing electric bikes are hyper-local. They change depending on what country you are in but, for example in the US, different States have different laws and it can even get more local than that. Check the size of the motor, does it have a throttle, what is the max assisted speed, as they all change the requirements.
Depending on the system you end up with there are different requirements. Some systems will make trails off-limits. Other systems might be okay but require insurance. Make sure you have an understanding of what you are getting and what that means for riding it in your location.
2. Make Sure You Get a Battery
There's not a huge explanation needed for this. You need a battery; make sure the kit you select has it. Not all kits include it. If you find yourself browsing through options and landing on something with an unbelievable price look for the battery. You can source the battery yourself but be sure about what you are getting.
3. Types of Conversion Kits
Mid-Drive Conversion: The best electric bikes tend to be mid-drive and the same is true of conversion kits. The weight sits low in the frame and the power gets applied to the crank for a more natural sensation. The only downside is pricing and packaging. Different standards make it challenging to figure out exactly what you need and there's more work involved in adding the parts.
Electric Bike Wheel Conversion: Swapping either a front or rear wheel for an electrified version is a good balance. The conversion process is very simple and depending on how the battery mounts the weight distribution can be quite good. Powering the wheel does change the way the power delivery feels and making the front wheel heavy can affect the handling of the bike. If mid-drive seems overwhelming this is an excellent option.
Friction Drive Conversion: This type of system doesn’t really work with anything other than slick tires. There’s none in this list for that reason but you can still get a sense of what they are. If you’ve got a mountain bike you use for commuting duties you could change tires and make one of these systems work. A roller pushes against the tire on the wheel and when the roller turns the wheel turns. This strategy isn't all that efficient but it's simple. It's easy to make these systems work but at the end of the day, it doesn't work all that well.
4. Should you buy an electric bike instead?
When it comes to electric bikes the price is in the motor and especially the battery. Frames and components benefit greatly from economies of scale. Large manufacturers place huge orders and get great deals on all the pieces. That means if you are converting a bike, you already own, you are purchasing the expensive pieces for the conversion. In turn, that means you might not get much of a deal on an electric bike conversion.
If you are considering converting a bike you own to electric power only for cost savings, think hard about it. In most cases, it's just not going to be worth it. Not only that but a great conversion kit on an average bike isn't going to be a lot of fun. There are some inexpensive electric bikes out there that are excellent to ride so if the price is the driving factor that's a better option.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't convert a bike you own. If you have a good bike you love then consider a conversion. Finding a new bike can be a challenge and sticking with what works has advantages. Just know, it might not be a cost-saving.