eBike Conversion: The Best of Both Worlds
by Brent Robinson on Nov 05, 2023
Cycling is a great way to stay active, explore the outdoors, and enjoy adventures with friends and family. However, challenges such as age, ailments, injuries, and safety concerns can make riding a traditional bike difficult for many.
Electric bicycles (eBikes) offer pedal assistance, making riding easier and more enjoyable for everyone, regardless of fitness level or mobility.
The best part about eBikes is that you control the level of assistance. Turn it up for a sweat-free ride to the office, or turn it down for a heart-pumping mountain bike ride. eBikes give you the electric boost you need to ride more, extend your range, get healthier, and save the planet.
The US eBiking revolution is exploding, with the market growing by 190% to reach $2.25 billion in 2022. The average eBike buyer is 54 years old, with many citing health challenges as their primary motivation for buying an eBike. But younger generations are catching up, as eBiking loses the “but it’s cheating” stigma and is quickly becoming the next gotta have it technology gadget.
With this demand, there is a wider range of cost options available. However, the mean price of an eBike in 2022 was still $4,247, leaving many people looking for more affordable eBiking options.
When it comes to embracing the electric biking revolution, you have choices. However, it all boils down to finding the sweet spot between quality and affordability.
This guide explores the options available for purchasing a new eBike and presents a compelling alternative: converting your existing bicycle into an eBike. This union of a quality bike with an affordable electric motor offers the best of both worlds
This guide explores the options you have for buying a new eBike and gives you a compelling alternative: converting your existing bicycle into an eBike where a quality bike meets an affordable electric motor–the best of both worlds.
Your Path to Electrifying Rides: Buying New or Converting Your Bike
High-end eBikes: The Cream of the Crop
High-end eBikes represent the pinnacle of both bicycle and electric technology. Boasting top-tier bicycle components alongside the latest in mid-drive motor technology from reputable brands like Bosch, Specialized, and Shimano, these eBikes offer an unrivaled riding experience. However, the premium features come with a hefty price tag starting at $4,500 and can go way up, like this Specialized eBike for $15,000.
Mid-tier eBikes: Balancing Act
Positioned as a middle ground, mid-tier eBikes offer a balanced mix of decent bicycle components and electric functionality. While they may not have the high-end frames or the cutting-edge motor technology, they provide a satisfactory riding experience for the daily commuter. These eBikes usually come with hub motors and range between $1,000 to $4,500, with options like this Rad Power RadRover for $2,500.
Budget eBikes: Economical Entrants
Budget eBikes are the most pocket-friendly option, making electric biking accessible to many. They typically feature lower quality frames and components, paired with hub motors. The electric tech might be older or use bolt-on solutions akin to what you'd get in a conversion kit. Prices start at $500 to $1,000, featuring choices like this Walmart Hyper Bicycle 26” 36V eMTB 250W Hub Drive for $348.
Conversion Kits: The Goldilocks Solution
Imagine coupling the high-quality frame and components of your existing bicycle with the electric boost from a mid-drive motor. Conversion kits from manufacturers like Tongsheng and Bafang, who also supply motors to some mid-tier eBike brands, allow you to do just that. By converting, you retain the essence and quality of your beloved bike while upgrading it to an electric version at a fraction of the cost of a new eBike.
Your existing high-quality bicycle + Our Mid-drive Motor Conversion Kit = An eBike with superior ride quality and electric performance without breaking the bank.
Sounds Awesome? Here’s Four More Reasons to Convert
Here’s why upgrading your current bicycle to an eBike using a conversion kit is a smart move.
- Save Money: Owning an eBike doesn't have to break the bank. Upgrading your existing bicycle is a cost-effective option compared to buying new. With quality conversion kits ranging from $500-$1,000, you save a good chunk of money, especially when new quality eBikes starts at $2,500.
- Customize Your Ride: Now you have options for your eBike technology like power: 500 or 750 watts, battery size: 10 or 20 amp hours, and type: torque or cadence sensing. Unlike buying a new eBike with fixed features, upgrading allows you to choose a kit with the exact features and specifications you want.
- Revitalize The Bike You Love: You’ve already invested in a bike. You have the brand you love, be it a Cannondale Capstone, a Terratrike Gran Turismo, or an Electra Townie. It has the component package that works for you. Converting it is an upgrade to get it back on the trail for years to come.
- Avoid the Landfill. By upgrading your existing bike, you you're keeping one more old bike out of the dump. What’s good for the pocket book is good for the environment.
Bonus: A Rewarding DIY Project: Converting your bicycle to an eBike can be a fun and rewarding DIY project. It's a great way to learn more about your bike and how it works, adding a layer of personal connection to your upgraded eBike.
Double Northwest Arkansas Bonus: If you still want to convert but aren’t the Do-it-yourself-er type, we’ll do it for you.
Get The Mid-Drive, Not The Hub Motors:
Whether you're considering a new eBike or a conversion, you've likely come across the terms mid-drive and hub motors. Premium bikes utilize mid-drive setups, and some mid-tier bikes do too. Hub technology, still in use for it’s low cost, is the older of the two, and has limitations that the mid-drive overcomes:
- Riding Experience: Hub motors are integrated into the wheel, either at the front or the rear. Front hubs create a sensation of being pulled along, while rear hubs feel like you're being pushed. In contrast, mid-drive motors, mounted at the bike's center, make the pedal assist feel more natural, like it’s working in harmony with your efforts.
- Efficiency: The placement of hub motors at either end of the bike can compromise traction and power transfer, making them less efficient. Mid-drive motors work in concert with your natural pedaling making better use of the power it provides.
- Weight Distribution: Mid-drive motors' central location ensures an even weight distribution and a lower center of gravity. This leads to better handling and stability when compared to hub motors, which can skew the bike’s balance.
- Power: Because the mid-drive is connect directly from the pedals to drivetrain it is able to put more power into the push. This is power for tackling hills, headwinds, and heavy loads that hub motors just cannot provide.
Torque Sensing Beats Cadence Sensing:
How the motor works to give you assistance is based on two methods,torque or effort sensing motors and cadence or speed sensing motors. Premium eBikes and some mid tier brands use torque sensing mid-drive motors while many of the mid and low tier brands still rely on hub motors to keep prices down.
For premium bikes, the primary manufacturers are Bosch, Specialized, Shimano, and Yamaha, among others. For everyone else, there are two primary manufacturers in China, Tongsheng and Bafang. These two companies make integrated motors as well as conversion kits.
The Tongsheng motors such as the TSDZ2 are mid-drive motors with a torque sensing controller system. The Bafang models like the BBS02 are speed sensors.
When it comes to conversion kits, the Tongsheng torque sensing motors have three key advantages:
- Rider experience: The controller in the Tongsheng measures the effort (torque) you put into each pedal stroke and adjusts the level of assistance accordingly. This gives you a more natural and intuitive riding experience compared to the Bafang cadence sensing motor, which provides assistance based on the speed of pedaling, often resulting in a less precise control.
- Battery Efficiency: The nature of the torque sensors means the Tongsheng constantly evaluating your pedal strokes and adjusting the amount of power it sends to the motor to maximize the battery usage. The Bafang is all on unless you stop pedaling, or a brake or shift sensor cuts off power, chewing up battery unnecessarily and shoring your range.
- Simplified Installation: The Bafang motor has three more external sensors than the Tongsheng. These all have to be routed and concealed along the frame. The brakes, in particular can be a challenges with new hydraulic systems.,
So What Does It Take To Convert My Bike?
We’ve done it hundreds of times and we’ve experienced so many of the common pitfalls that it seems pretty easy. Still, it’s not as hard as you might think.
Remove the old components.
First, you will need to remove the pedals, crankset, front derailleur, and bottom bracket from your bicycle. This can be the . Mostly because it requires some unique tools.
You’ll need a crank puller, a chain breaker, and a bottom bracket tool that is specific to the manufacturer of the bottom bracket.
Check out your local bike shop where you can find these. You might buy them, they may rent or loan them, or they might do the removal for you.
Install the motor.
The motor slips right into the now empty bottom bracket housing. It attaches with a few brackets and a locking nut. The locking nut does require a special tool but it’s provided with the kit.
The biggest challenge here is sometimes you won’t have clearance to slide the motor into the housing. This is usually caused by the welds inside the housing where the frame tubes all come together. These are slight ridges that you’ll need to smooth down and a Dremmel works great for this.
Install the battery.
The two most common battery mounts are on a rear rack or on the downtube. Batteries come in a dozen different sizes and shapes so you’ll want to make sure that your battery profile fits the geometry of your particularly bicycle frame.
Install the display and Sensors
The display allows you to control your eBike and monitor its performance. Mount the display on your handlebar in a convenient location.
All kits have an odometer or speed sensor that mounts on the rear left chainstay with two zip ties. The wires route back to the motor.
For the Bafang, you have the additional sensors for the front and rear brakes and the gear shift cable. These are a little tricker and require some extra tools.
Connect the wiring.
For most installations, this is just plugging the sensor, display, and battery cables into the motor. Then you use a little creativity and some zip ties to hide all your wiring.
Since these are all one size fits all, you might find you have extra cable to hide. For the sensors, you can neatly wrap these up and tuck them under the motor or behind the seat post. Be sure to never wrap them so tight you crimp the wires.
If You Don’t Like It, You Can Undo It
Take pictures of everything before you get started and save all your parts. When you’re done, if you don’t like the conversion, you can always undo it and put everything back to its original setup.
The choice between buying new or converting can be likened to choosing between an iPhone and an Android. The iPhone comes out of the package ready to go with minimal configuration, and limited variations to keep it easy to operate. Whereas the Android lets you pick and choose dozens more options and tweak everything.
Hopefully we’ve shared what you need to make an informed decision. All that said, we’re a Tongsheng shop for a reason. With the torque sensing motor, you’re not just getting an electric boost, but a more natural, efficient, and enjoyable riding experience.
Explore our Tongsheng mid-drive motor conversion kits and take your biking adventures farther!