Buy premade electric bicycle? Build electric bike conversion? What would you do?

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reikiman's picture
Last seen: 2 months 1 day ago
Joined: Sunday, November 19, 2006 - 17:52
Points: 8447
Buy premade electric bicycle? Build electric bike conversion? What would you do?

I'm curious what the thought are on buying commercially made electric bicycles, versus doing an electric bike conversion? There are trade-offs between them and I'd think there are plenty of people pondering this question.

For example would it be waycool to just BUY an electric bike without having to do the conversion? I've looked at dozens of commercially made electric bicycles and usually they're well constructed, the wiring harness fits the bike exactly, they've made sure to use water proof connectors, etc. On the other hand not all electric bike makers do a good job.

For example building your own means you can decide exactly the bicycle YOU like, and do a conversion on THAT bicycle, rather than be limited by design choices made by electric bike manufacturers. I like my Electra Townie and there are only a few electric bike makers with similar design, Pedego being the closest.

For example building your own means doing the conversion and a conversion electric bike is unlikely to be as clean as a commercially made electric bike. Every conversion I've done has involved some compromises and hackery. It can be fun doing that hackery but I'm thankful we don't have much rain here in California because my electric bicycle conversions would not be safe in the rain.

For example - I have an observation from the electric car world that probably applies to electric bicycles. An electric car conversion tends to take months and doesn't scale very well to the millions of electric cars we need on the road to make a significant impact. It's much better for mass market car companies to be making electric cars by the hundreds of thousands, than it is for someone to do an electric car conversion. Similarly electric bicycles potentially can make an even bigger impact than electric cars if only 10's of millions of electric bicycles were being used every day in the U.S. Will there ever be 10's of millions of electric bicycles if everyone has to do an electric bike conversion?

That's enough questions .. now, I'd like to hear answers.. ;-)

Last seen: 4 years 9 months ago
Joined: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 - 02:39
Points: 98
Re: Buy premade electric bicycle? Build electric bike ...

with a retrofitted electric bike, you can separately resell the bike or the kit.
with a factory built integrated elec. bike, it's hard to separate. Yuo have to resell the entire ebike.

Last seen: 7 years 4 months ago
Joined: Friday, February 12, 2010 - 14:27
Points: 38
Re: Buy premade electric bicycle? Build electric bike ...

There is nothing like a real Townie for a conversion mule. That is the ONLY chassis we stock for conversion purposes. Bear in mind that the Pedego is probably a limited production item as Townie is enforcing its patents regarding foot forward bicycles. Currie has already modified their Townie like Zuma so that is now a conventional chassis. I understand that Trek and Townie are already in court on this issue. So Pedego is on thin ice. Their disc front, band style rear brake is another good reason to modify a Townie. The front brake locks up and the rear brake does next to nothing. We know as we dumped one at Interbike and between myself and my business partner, we've got about 8o years of pretty much crash free adult riding expertise between us.

JTH/Amp Brothers Electric Cycles/MI

Last seen: 12 years 6 days ago
Joined: Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 20:12
Points: 3
Re: Buy premade electric bicycle? Build electric bike ...

I would just love to buy what I want off the peg but the problem is poor choice from small market size. It may seem that there are a lot of electric cycle companies but their total range and output is less than that of a single large normal bicycle company.

Therefore reluctantly I’m going to go the kit route as I can't find what I want, and I'm not really fussy.

Also small market means high price. I’m probably going to buy a front hub 1000W 48V kit with battery on EBay from China for £500. That’s half the price of named western brands (that often just put their badge on Chinese kit) but it’s still a very high price for what it is. Problem is low volume manufacture.

tri-lobe's picture
Last seen: 11 years 11 months ago
Joined: Saturday, May 28, 2011 - 15:59
Points: 18
Re: Buy premade electric bicycle? Build electric bike ...

I ended up making my own bicycle frame because I could not buy off the shelf what I was after.My simple needs for batteries between headtube and seatpost,low centre of gravity for good handling.Next was dual suspension for comfort...Lastly disc brakes for safety..

I am more than satisfied with the outcome,I might update the hub motor and batteries as time goes by, but the homemade frame will serve me well for all my cycling needs....It presents well, handles well and I get great comments from other people....except from the lycra clades.....hehehe...


robert93's picture
Last seen: 6 years 6 months ago
Joined: Thursday, August 13, 2009 - 12:28
Points: 240
Re: Buy premade electric bicycle? Build electric bike ...

What I see being the problem with a pre-built turnkey production e-bike is......
High Price
Proprietary, non-serviceable parts
Lack of support after the sale,
SELLING support after warranty.
Electrified design may interfere with standard bicycle servicing, such as flat repair, or even truing the rims/spoke replacement.
Also, if you are trying to 'think green' and already have a bike thats not electrified, you are adding to personal inventory.

Shortfalls of kits:
"some" assembly required... even the best kits will not have the "finished" look of a factory ebike
installation may call for alteration of the bike frame in ways that are unsafe.
Customization may require buying additional parts to get the design you want
you may have to re-design your bicycle controls to accomodate the kit design
replacement parts may not be available for repairs, making the entire kit expendable (very wasteful design)
on rear wheel conversions, downgrading drivetrain may be necessary to fit the motor
advanced features may be lacking, or hard to install (pedal assist sensors, ect.)
Some kits arent even designed for the standards bikes have been built for since the sixties. Having to cut dropouts to a larger size just to get a motor in is not only bad design, its dangerous. If the axle isnt designed well, why should the rest of the motor be any better?
The donor bike may not have the design integrity to take the stress of a motor, and supports such as torque arms and battery carriage.

The drawback to either is, there doesnt seem to be a "Rolls Royce" or "Mercedes" of standards for either solution. Most products seem to be from poor to midline standards on durability, reliability, and serviceability. Until ebikes are so common that every hardware store stocks what is needed to repair them, I dont see this changing. On the other hand, I dont see that kind of market saturation happening until the quality goes up. i see a self-starving food chain.

Last seen: 11 years 5 months ago
Joined: Saturday, May 2, 2009 - 00:24
Points: 32
Re: Buy premade electric bicycle? Build electric bike ...

22,000 miles and going strong.
Not sure what was more fun building it or riding it!
All the "Shortfalls" were really the fun challenges.
Happy riding...


Last seen: 11 years 9 months ago
Joined: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 - 12:35
Points: 4
Re: Buy premade electric bicycle? Build electric bike ...

I have been a e-bike fan for over 5 years and I went to many configurations of DIY bikes/hub/controllers /batteries... then I stumble on a commercial ebike sold by (Igo electric) Timing was good and I got one, the price is very interesting, when you add-up costs of parts it is a very good deal, ($999 - $1495) it uses a motor directly connected to the crankshaft (very neatly done) so the gears are functional . It is not a speed monster but great torque and there is a very good potential to explore modifications... Right away I installed a Cycle analyst and the first results indicate a gain of about 25-30% in range compare to my Crystalyte 408 with 36V/10 Ah. The overall quality of the bike is very good, radical look, full suspension, disc brakes, both pedlec and throttle controls, the motor is rated 250W witch is small compare to other and the noise level is so low that the noise from the tires cover it. I really suspect it can handle more voltage & Amps, with a bigger controller, and change of gears. (The cables use standard color coding for phase, hall effect, brakes and throttle so the experiments should be easy) I will give it a serious series of test and keep you posted.

So to answer your question, I am pleased with the purchase of this (Off the shelf eBike) plus I think I will have hours of fun this later on trying other configuration on it... So the DIY in me wont go away

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