How to Convert Your Bicycle into an Electric Bicycle

Man on electric bike.

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If you want to get around town quickly, riding an electric bike is an excellent way to do it. Aside from their time-saving abilities, e-bikes can help you burn calories to keep you healthy and fit. Sure, the motor certainly makes it easier to go uphill, but the ride will still elevate your breathing and heart rate to deliver a stellar cardio workout. Plus, you’re likely to cycle more frequently because riding an e-bike is easy and fun! This guide will show you how to convert a bicycle into an electric one.

Why Choose an Electric Bike?

In addition to the many health benefits, hopping on an e-bike is great for the environment. The average midsize car produces 0.79 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile, contributing to air pollution and climate change. Meanwhile, e-bikes are completely carbon-free. In fact, they don’t produce emissions at all, so riding one can significantly reduce your environmental impact. 

As awesome as e-bikes are, they can be a bit pricey. Luckily, you can make your own using a regular old road bike and a conversion kit. Turn old faithful into an electric beast with this step-by-step guide. 

1. Choose Your Bike 

First things first: make sure your bike can handle the conversion. If your bike is relatively new and rides well, it’s probably up to making the switch. However, if your bike is rusty or needs new tires, wheels and accessories, you may as well buy a brand new one. 

Since you’ll invest a hefty sum in a conversion kit, you want to make sure the bike will last a good, long time. Opt for a steel frame that’s more durable, albeit a bit heavier than aluminum or carbon fiber. Look for one with standard wheels and a wide front frame triangle that offers enough space to mount the battery and motor. In many cases, a mountain bike design is ideal for e-bike conversions because it can handle extra weight and torque. 

2. Pick a Conversion Kit 

Conversion kits come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s bound to be one that suits your bike — and your budget. Most kits come with a controller, a battery pack and a motorized hub that you can add to the rear wheel for better traction and control. Make sure it’s compatible with your gearing and derailleurs before making a purchase!

If you’re converting an older mountain bike or beach cruiser, a basic system with a front-wheel motor will work better. This way, you don’t have to worry about shifting compatibility. Choose a bolt-on kit that comes with all the parts, tools and instructions you need to get the job done. Ultimately, the right choice for a conversion kit will come down to compatibility, motor power, mileage and accessories like gauges, LCD screens, brake levers and, most importantly, your budget. 

3. Select a Battery 

Very few conversion kits include a battery, so you’ll have to purchase one separately. There are plenty to choose from, so if you’re unsure which one is best, choose a battery that’s the same brand as your conversion kit. Choose between a 36, 48 or 52-volt battery. The higher the number, the stronger and more powerful your motor will be. If you’re riding on flat terrain, a 36 or 48-volt battery will suffice; a 52-volt is ideal for climbing hills. 

Power isn’t the only thing you have to consider. Battery capacity is important, too. If you plan to make shorter journeys and charge your bike more often, a 10 ampere-hour should do. However, if you make long trips daily, a 20 ampere-hour battery is best. Regardless of which kind you choose, it’ll likely recharge in two to six hours. Purchase an aftermarket charger to juice up your batter up to 400% faster than the stock model. 

4. Make the Switch

Gather your supplies and clear space to convert your bike. If your conversion kit is rather basic, you might need a few zip ties, a set of pliers and an installation wrench set to do the job right. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the kit and battery on your bike properly. Take a few photos as you work to ensure you’re connecting the right cables and know how to disassemble the setup if you ever want to switch out your bike. 

How to Convert Bicycle into Electric: The Test Ride

Finally, take your whip for a quick test ride. Does the bike start and stop properly? Are any parts rubbing together and making strange noises? Use zip ties to secure any loose wires and practice riding your e-bike in a safe space before taking it to the streets. Start slow and wear a helmet. With a little time and patience, you’ll be speeding around town in no time. Tell your friends you read this guide on how to convert your bicycle into an electric one.

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