Convert me! The pros and cons of retrofitting a kit to an existing bike.

March 25, 2019

Convert me! The pros and cons of retrofitting a kit to an existing bike.

Converting your bike to an e-bike is a popular option with many people who already own a bike. So, if you are thinking about converting your bike (or getting us to do it for you) here’s a couple of things you need to consider.

Is it worth converting my old bike or am I better getting a new one?

The answer is that it depends on how much you like your old bike. We can fit most, but not all bikes, with one of our kits. If you really like your existing bike and find the bike really comfortable, it’s probably worth converting. If you paid more than $600 for the bike when it was new and that was in the last 10 years, it’s probably also worth converting. Our rule of thumb is that if a bike was over $600 new it’s worth converting because it will have quality parts that are easy to replace if needed and the frame is likely to be well made. If your bike was under $600 new, you would be better off getting a new e-bike as the components will be better and the frame and forks stronger.

If your bike is relatively new and/or well maintained, conversion normally costs around $150-$200 to do the fitting (on top of the cost of kit). We can convert older bikes too, but the expense will go up if we need to service the bike or replace components first to make the bike safe or work with a kit. 

The other difference is that an integrated e-bike will be designed as an e-bike. The bike may have an integrated battery and internal wiring loom (so that it looks neater) and may come with lights, racks, chain and mud guards, things that normal bikes often don't come with but can be useful for commuting. We may have to make some compromises, such as moving gear cables, when retro fitting. But note, we never compromise on safety and will let you know if we don't think your bike is safe to fit with a kit.  

An advantage of fitting a kit is that you can always remove the kit from the bike and put it on a different bike if you need to in the future. 

Retrofitting a bike with a kit is also a good way of getting a lighter than average e-bike (as long as you start with a light weight bike such as a flat bar road bike or a single geared bike). 

What kind of motor can you fit?

We sell three kinds of 250W retro fit kits: a front hub motor, a rear hub motor and a mid-drive motor. Each motor type has advantages and disadvantages, although the difference between motor types are not as great as what some bike sellers and bike forums suggest. We generally make the decision on which kit to fit after we’ve looked at your bike and seen what will work best with your existing components and talked to you about how you intend to use your bike. For example, we don't fit front hub motors or mid drive motors to carbon fibre bikes, but we can often fit a rear hub motor. 

In short hub motors offer more assistance than mid drive motors, but mid drive motors are slightly more efficient so you get more distance out of a battery charge. Another difference is that you can only have one chain ring at the front with a mid drive motor, but you can have multiple chain rings with a front or rear hub (which means your existing gears remain the same and that can be useful for example on a touring bike or if your bike has lots of gears and you like to use them). With a mid drive motor, it's easier to change a tyre than with a hub motor, so you can keep your quick release wheels if you have them. 

For more information on the advantages or disadvantages of each motor type you can read our blog on the subject on this website. 

Can you look at my bike and tell me what would work best?

Absolutely! You can bring your bike to us and we can have a look and give you a more accurate quote or if its difficult to bring the bike to us, you can take pictures of the following parts of the bike and/ or we can look up the specs on line and tell you what we can fit. When we do a quote, we need to know the make and preferably the model of the bike as well. For example- model: Sedona, make: Giant. This can generally be found on the bike itself. If you can’t find this or can only find the make, we need pictures of:

  • The bike frame, so we can see where to best put the battery and the motor.
  • Wheel size (if we are fitting a hub motor). 
  • The brakes and brake levers the bike has. This is because we can’t fit certain motors types with certain brake types. For example if your bike has back pedal brakes , we can't fit a mid-drive motor. We also like to know if your brake levers are separate to your gear levers or integrated into one unit.
  • What kind of handle bars the bike has. This is so we know that there’s room to fit the pedal assist display or so that we can work out an alternate mount if necessary. 
  • Whether the bike has rack mounts or not. This is so we know whether we can fit a rack battery or not.
  • Type of gears that the bike has. A hub geared bike, for example, requires a front hub or mid-drive motor and we need to see if there is space to fit the motor with the gears.
  • Type of forks and suspension that the bike has and what condition the forks are in. This is because the taper of the forks makes it impossible to fit some kits. Also, we can’t use a mid-drive motor on most dual suspension bikes. Some forks may be damaged, old and very brittle, or too thin (on cheaper bikes) to fit a kit with.
  • What the bottom bracket looks like (the axle which attaches the cranks to the bike frame). The style of the bottom bracket can affect what type of motor we use.
What’s the cost of fitting a kit and how does it compare to getting a new e-bike?

Costs of kits vary between $1,400 for a front or rear motor kit to $1,600 for a mid-drive motor kit. Cost of fitting is generally $150-200 but can be more if we need to change parts on the existing bike.  A new e-bike from us will cost from $1,800 up to $2,500. An integrated e-bike which costs less than $1,500 is likely to use components of an inferior quality as the maker can not afford to spend much on either the electrics or the bike! We know this through the experiance of fixing many of these bikes. 

Where do you put the battery?

Generally, if the bike has a traditional triangular style frame, such as a man’s style racing bike or hybrid, we put the battery on the down tube as this keeps the weight of the battery low and the bike well balanced. If the bike has a low step through frame, such as a townie or a women’s style hybrid bike, we will generally mount the battery on a rack.

What does a kit come with? 

  • 250W Bafang (8 fun) motor (built into a wheel for a hub motor). 
  • Light weight lithium battery with high quality samsung cells– 36V, 10 or 12 amp hour, rack mount or down tube mounted 
  • Controller
  • LCD display incorporating speedo, battery meter, odometer, trip meter, clock and Pedal Assist System
  • Pedal assist controller and sensor or torque sensor. 
  • Australian approved charger (charge time from empty 5 hours)
  • Water proof connectors and wiring loom 
  • Tektro disc brakes and levers