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The Different Types of E-Bike Conversion Kits

The Different Types of E-Bike Conversion Kits

If you ride a bike long enough, eventually, you’ll grow restless. Not over the course of a long bike trip—that’s more likely to leave you feeling sore. Rather, over the course of bike ownership, you’ll start to long to do a little more with your bike. The simplicity of the bicycle can be a blessing and a curse in that respect. If you’re starting to feel this way, consider making some big changes to your bike by converting it to an electric bicycle (or e-bike). Regardless of where and how you like to ride and how adept you are at working on your bike, you’ll find a kit that fits you. We’ll help you explore the different types of e-bike conversion kits so that you can make the best possible choice.

Front-Hub Kits

Perhaps the most popular conversion kit for first-time retrofitters is a front-hub motor kit, in which an electric motor powers the front wheel of the bike. Front-hub kits make an ideal starting point for bike upgrades because of their high degree of compatibility. While a manual bicycle must satisfy some prerequisites to take on a front-hub motor—namely, a wide enough fork for the front wheel and sufficient space for the motor and battery—most bikes easily meet these requirements. As such, aspiring e-bikers are less likely to find out the hard way that they can’t make use of their kit.

Compatibility and ease of installation come with downsides, however, for the more serious cyclists among us. The most common concern for those converting to front-hub e-bikes is acclimating to the boost of energy coming from in front of the rider rather than from behind. The feeling of the bike pulling instead of pushing takes some getting used to. Perhaps more challenging is that a front-hub e-bike kit is not the best choice for taking on off-road circuits that feature steep inclines—situations where pushing rather than pulling would be more beneficial. For city riders who don’t have to deal with inconsistent terrain, however, a front-hub kit can be a great way to power up a bike.

Rear-Hub Kits

By working with the rear wheel instead, rear-hub motor kits are perhaps a more natural upgrade to a bike than a front-hub kit. Because it’s the rear wheel that connects to the bike’s gears, many riders will enjoy the feeling of the motor pushing them forward. (Of course, others feel it pushes them forward too much—everybody is different.) However, this natural upgrade might be too good to be true for inexperienced tinkerers. Working in tandem with the bike’s gears means installing the motor around the bike’s gears, which can call for a delicate touch that amateur bike mechanics simply don’t have. Overestimating one’s ability to convert a bike to an e-bike from the rear wheel can lead to frustration or a bike that now needs professional repairs.

If you have the know-how to install a rear-hub motor on your bike (or know someone who’s happy to help), it can be a worthwhile addition to your bicycle. Rear-hub kits can incorporate high-powered motors that often boast 750 watts of battery-backed power. They may be unwieldy for riders in high-density areas, however. Do you have to get your bike from street level back to your fourth-floor walkup? This can be cumbersome in the best conditions, but with the bike’s weight even more unbalanced, you’ll have to carry it with care.

Mid-Drive Kits

Some e-bike kits work with the bike’s drivetrain instead, moving the motor from the wheel hubs to the center of the bicycle. These mid-drive e-bike kits connect to the bottom bracket and supply power directly to the transmission for a smooth and powerful ride. Unlike a hub motor kit, which places extra weight at the front or rear of the bike, a mid-drive conversion kit offers central weight distribution for a natural feel as you ride and easy carriage as you transport it. Working in concert with the transmission helps a motor know just how much power to supply for tricky terrains, such as steep hills, and when to max out on flat and paved roadways.

While a mid-drive conversion kit would seem to offer the best of both front-hub and rear-hub motors, take note that installation can be a challenge. Compatibility issues also loom large here. A variety of bottom-bracket designs across traditional bikes means that a kit may not always fit. Perhaps counterintuitively, it’s more recent bikes that tend to feature frustrating variations in bracket construction. If you can ascertain that your existing bike will be a good fit and you have the technical skills to install a kit that’s more challenging than a front-hub motor, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a mid-drive motor kit for years to come.

All-in-One Wheel Kits

An all-in-one wheel kit does exactly what it says: It contains all the necessary e-bike components within a modified front wheel. You can spot an all-in-one kit on the road by looking for its characteristic discs over the spokes, giving the wheel the appearance of a solid construction. For ease of installation, an all-in-one is tough to beat. Its consolidated design makes it even simpler to install than a traditional front-hub kit. However, this simplification comes with some major drawbacks, particularly for riders who want to get the most assistance from their e-bikes. Incorporating the battery and motor into the front wheel imposes limitations on their size and power. You’ll find that most all-in-one kits bear motors that top out at 250 watts, with battery life is insufficient for long or challenging trips. If you don’t demand high speeds, long distances, and hill-busting power, this kit can be a good fit, but its inherent limitations can frustrate more ambitious cyclists.

Finding the Right Kit

Across the different types of e-bike conversion kits, you should be able to find a configuration that suits both your existing bicycle and your level of technical expertise. Ebike Essentials offers complete electric bike motor kits for novice and more experienced e-bike enthusiasts alike. Whether you want to go with the quick and easy installation of a Bafang front-hub motor kit or reap the many benefits of installing the Bafang BBS02 mid-drive motor kit, you’ll find everything you need in one of our kits. We’ll even include the battery of your choice to give you the simplest start to e-bike conversion you could ask for.

The Different Types of E-Bike Conversion Kits

by Alan Hubbs