how to make your bike an e bike
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The Most Affordable E-Bike: How to Turn Your Bike Into an E-Bike

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Jan. 19 2021, Updated 5:37 p.m. ET

If you haven’t heard of them yet, you’re in for a treat. E-bikes, otherwise known as electric-assist bikes, might seem like a fairly new innovation but their origins date back to the early 19th century. They might look like a regular bicycle with a few electrical components incorporated into the design, but these eco-friendly upgrades provide a pretty spiffy way of getting around. The best part is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on an expensive new e-bike, as we can help teach you how to make your bike into an e-bike with minimal ease. 

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how to make your bike an e bike
Source: Getty Images

Where do I get an e-bike?

You can buy an e-bike from a number of different manufacturers, many of which are listed in this blog post on Road Bike Rider. The problem is that most of these new bikes are going to cost you several thousand dollars — some might even cost the same amount as a used car. Those who are looking for less expensive options might consider converting their current bike into an e-bike using an e-bike conversion kit. These kits can be purchased through several online retailers like E-BikeKit.

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How to make your bike into an e-bike:

Not all conversion kits are the same, just as not all e-bikes are the same. According to a recent article by Men's Journal, some motors are best suited to mountain biking, while others are better on unobstructed straightaways. Some motors are tiny, nearly-soundless, and can fit inside a wheel hub or bottom bracket. At the same time, there are larger, more powerful options that offer better range or acceleration. 

Conversion kits include several components necessary for the upgrade including a controller, a motorized hub, and a battery pack. The motor can be added to the front or rear wheel of the bike, though each location comes with its own trade-offs, according to Men's Journal. For instance, a rear-mounted motor will give you better traction, but it must be compatible with your existing gearing and derailleurs. Front-mounted motors might make the front wheel heavier and harder to steer. 

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What’s the process for making your bike into an e-bike?

The process itself all depends on the kit. The most inexpensive kits contain the essential pieces, which can be incorporated into your existing bike frame as per the written specifications. Every kit is different and choosing the kit is all about preference. As for installation, the video above is a fine example of just how easy the actual installation process is. Again, this is just for one specific kit. You’ll want to make sure you follow your kit’s instructions when performing the installation yourself. 

In general, though, most kits follow the same simple installation steps:

Step 1: First, take the bike elements off the frame. An empty frame will make it easier to reassemble when you begin adding the e-bike components. 

Step 2: Install the rear or front motor onto the appropriate tire. Once that is secure, you can reinstall the tires themselves. 

Step 3: Install the switches or controller to the handlebars.

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Step 4: Install the battery box, but be careful about where you choose to put it. Larger batteries can offset the weight of the bike slightly. 

Step 5: Line the battery box, install the battery and connect the wires. 

Step 6: Finally, finish and test the bike. You might want to run it upside down at first to see how fast it accelerates and moves.

how to make your bike an e bike
Source: Getty Images
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How do I know which kit to choose?

There are so many different kits and styles, that nearly anything is possible. Therefore, the first step to upgrading your existing bike to an e-bike will be assessing your riding habits. You’ll need to work out a few details: Are the trips long or short? Do you ride over flat or more rugged terrain? Do you want a more lightweight bike or are you comfortable with a sturdy, heavier model? 

According to Men’s Journal, small, light motors work best for short trips on flat terrain, whereas stronger, more robust motors are better for longer rides or climbing hills. If you opt for a stronger motor, however, you’re going to need to be comfortable with the extra weight that comes with it. 

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Excess weight from the kit will invariably influence your bike's handling as well. Bigger motors and batteries might have to be mounted in different ways. Counterbalancing the weight from the motor, battery, controller and so on will be as much about balance as biking itself. 

how to make your bike an e bike
Source: Getty Images
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How powerful are e-bike motors?

No matter what kit you choose, your e-bike’s motor is going to have an upper limit of some kind. Each e-bike motor has a maximum wattage attached to it, as well as a maximum number of amps that can be drawn by the controller. These metrics translate to performance: higher wattages will grant more speed and increased climbing ability, while a controller with a high amp rating will increase acceleration potential. 

Are e-bikes really eco-friendly?

The environmental benefits of e-bikes are pretty obvious. These bikes can get up to 20 mph at full speed, which is fast enough to get you to work even if you’re running late. In warmer, less rain-heavy climates, these bikes might even make an excellent replacement for a car. According to Biofriendly Planet, e-bikes emit 23 times less carbon per year than most cars. No gas, minimal upkeep, and an affordable way to upgrade your existing bike? Sign me up!

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