With the constant rise of e bike popularity, the DIY e-bike scene is increasingly becoming obsessed with speed and clout. Major cities have designated bike lanes that make this mode of transportation safe and fun while helping people live and commute a little grinner.
Considering that electric bikes cost anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $7,000 for top-of-the-line models, installing a conversion kit on your current bicycle can be a nice move to this new exciting cycling technology for a fraction of a cost.
You will also realize that most electric bikes that are commercially available fall between 15 and 28 mph speed range. This may be great for ordinary riding, but it often leaves many enthusiasts seeking ways to go faster.
Besides, the extra speed can be a nice addition to keep up with traffic, run errands, meet up with friends and get to work on time without having to spend on public transportation.
So, if you’re considering an economical way to zip around town, a homemade electric bicycle may be just what you need. Read on to see how you can make your own DIY electric bicycle at home.
How to Make a DIY Electric Bike
Well, building a diy electric bicycle may not be the easiest thing, but it’s not that hard either. In fact, you’ll only need a conversion kit, a battery, and a standard bike in good working form. Electric bike conversion kits come in handy to make the entire process easier and fast.
Gathering Your Materials
Component choice is crucial. This is what determines how safe and reliable your e bike is. If you don’t own a bike already, there are second-hand bikes available out there and you can get one at a good price too. Just keep in mind that certain features are likely to yield the best results.
In another case, you might want to choose a donor bike with full suspension for a fast electric bicycle. Full suspension smoothes out the ride, and can easily keep you from jolty e-riding moments when cruising over potholes at 40 miles per hour.
Note that no bicycle brandwill make allowance for converting their bike into an electric bicycle. In fact, they tend to have some heed statements concerning how such practices terminate their warranty and that their models weren’t meant for such modifications.
That means any sort of alteration to the original model will void your warranty. But, on the bright side though, if you begin with a high-quality bike, you can increase your odds of having a safe and effective e bike. High-quality mountain bikes, for instance, are mostly built to accommodate speeds above 40 miles per hour.
The frames should be rugged and solid enough to bounce off tree roots and stuff while riding down mountains trails. Otherwise, 40 mph on a smooth street is well within the design capabilities of a decent quality mountain bike.
Another great idea would be to start with a used downhill bike. Downhill bicycles are designed to withstand extreme terrain and thus, make great high-speed electric bikes. Besides, a second-hand downhill bike can have the same high quality, but won’t have the same high price tag.
- Select a bike with wheels that are 16”, 20”, 26”. These are the most popular mass-produced wheels sizes. Smaller wheels generally found on foldable bicycles will accelerate quite faster, but they tend to be unstable and less effective at top speeds.
- Mountain bikes and downhill bikes are the most common option to convert to electric bicycles, but you can always use a different type provided the frame is strong enough and comes with a decent bottom bracket.
- Avoid using bikes with carbon fiber frames or forks because they aren’t solid enough to handle the extra torque or support the extra weight.
- Finally, stopping on steep hills or uneven grounds will be much easier with front disc brakes. And wider handlebars are considered best because they provide the much-needed room for all the accessories including lights. So keep that in mind too.
Buying an Electric Bike Conversion Kit
Electric bike conversion kits come with all the bolt-on parts necessary to turn a regular bicycle into an e bike with almost the same quality and performance as commercial models.
As the name suggests, these kits are designed to make the conversion or rather the building process much easier and more effective, especially if you’re doing this for the first time.
Basically, the kit comes with a speed controller, a throttle, and a wheel with either a hub motor or a mid drive motor. Some even include brake levers, gauges, and other accessories that aren’t always necessary.
Types of E bike Conversion Kits
There are many different types of e-bike conversion kits available, but the good news is that most of them are easy to work with. However, here are some of the most common that you might want to consider:
Direct Hub Motor Kits
These are the most common e bike kits available and possibly the cheapest option with minimal compatibility issues. With a direct hub kit, you can easily replace either rear or front wheel. And if you wish to go all fancy, you could have both rear and front wheels electrified.
However, while front hub kits are more straightforward to install, they may not be sturdy enough to keep up with large motors. They can trigger burnouts and make the bike harder to steer, due to the added weight on the front wheel.
The rear hub system, meanwhile, is considered more powerful but the wiring is typically more annoying than on a front-wheel kit. Also, they provide more traction but you’ll have to ensure they fit well into the gearing system and derailleurs of your existing bike.
Mid Drive E bike Conversion Kits
Mid drive conversion kits basically replace the crankset by controlling the power to the crank, delivering great performance and torque.
These kits are said to be the most efficient as they allow you to fully utilize all of your gears, rather than being constrained to a single gear ratio, as in the case of front and rear hub motors.
Mid-drive kits are also known to balance the weight of the bicycle, making it stable and consistent on steep hills.
On the flip side, however, these systems can be tricky to install especially for the inexperienced DIYers because you’ll have to completely remove the brackets in order to create room for the motor.
Also, they are three times more costly than direct hub motors and require a special frame design to accommodate the motor. Perhaps that’s why they’re less recommended for people who are new to e bike conversion kits or those looking forward to saving money.
How to Choose E bike Conversion kits
If you’re looking to speed up to 30 mph, there are many kits and batteries available that can handle that job. Normally, you’ll be looking at a 1000 watt direct drive kit plus a 48V Li-ion battery. Here are a few things you should check out for:
- The wheel that comes with the kit should be of the same size as the one on your existing bicycle.
- Due to the position of the gears, the rear wheel is a bit harder to replace than the front wheel. So you might want to go for a kit in which the hub motor is on the forward wheel.
- Normally, the e bike conversion kit does not come with a battery. For ease of installation, however, you’ll be wise to get both the conversion kit and the battery from the same manufacturer.
It’s good to note that there are more expensive high speed e bike conversion kits than the standard alternatives on Amazon and eBay. The difference in quality may be important, especially for speeds exceeding 30 miles per hour.
For example, some conversion kits come with a controller that uses high efficiency, low heat design to keep the controller from burning out. Other options come with batteries that use high-power cells that will hardly overheat under vigorous riding.
Still, there are other kits that incorporate expensive accessories such as the Cycle Analysts meter.
Pick a 36 or 48V Battery
In addition to the conversion kit, the end results for your DIY electric bike will also depend on the e bike battery you choose.
The point here’s to get a battery made for use on electric bicycles, something that’s fairly easier to install comes with a charger. Check through the voltage and battery capacity to see if they’re compatible with the available e bike conversion kit.
The higher the ebike battery voltage, the more powerful and reliable your electric bicycle will be. So, when making a diy electric bike, go for a 36 or 48V battery with a capacity of 10Ah or 20Ah. This will allow for more speed and slightly longer rides.
Assembling the Kit
The assembly process should be fairly simple given that all of the components in the conversion kit are purposely meant to mount to a conventional bike.
A bicycle stand may be necessary here. But in case you don’t have it, you can simply flip the bike upside down.
Removing the Wheel
Start by opening the cantilever brakes or the rim brakes. Use the lever where necessary. In case the bike has disc brakes, detach the cotter or retaining pin or springs that secure the pads in place. Use needle-nose pliers to remove the pads and keep them aside.
Remove the old wheel (in this case, the rear wheel) and then transfer the tire and inner tube over to the hub motor. Do the same for the disc brake rotor.
To remove the front wheel, simply lift adjust the quick-release lever over to the “open” position and then lift the wheel off the bike.
Install the Free Wheel Gears
The next step is to install the freewheel gears. Then screw them onto the threads on the motor casing and make sure this is done flawlessly not to cross-thread the gears.
After that, now you can put the motor wheel into the back dropouts. You can simply adjust the disc brake calipers in case they don’t match up well with the motor.
Then put the torque arms on both sides of the motor. Fortunately, these components come marked for left and right sides. Proceed and fasten down the axle nuts, fixing the motor in place.
With the bike still upside down, install the controller on the lower side of the down tube. You can choose to put it just forward of the pedals so it’s mostly obscured and hard to notice.
Mount the Battery onto the Bike
At this point, you can flip the bike back over to its normal riding position. Most electric bike batteries are designed to fit on the frame in place of a water bottle holder.
This placement keeps the center of gravity low. So take off the locking plate from the battery and set it on the upper side of the down tube.
Although you can use the water bottle bolts to secure the battery to the frame, it’s best to utilize the included hardware as indicated by the instructions that come with the battery.
Alternatively, you could set the battery in a box or basket on the rear or front of the bike, particularly if it is too large to fit well on the frame.
Secure Any Loose Cables
Use zip-ties to connect all the wires and any loose parts to the frame. Fortunately, each connector comes with a unique size and can only connect to the controller in a single location.
The motor, the speed switch, the battery wires, and the on/off switch should all be connected. Use cable ties to keep the wires to the frame and neaten up the installation process a notch. You don’t want any cables to get caught while you’re riding.
Reinstall the Wheel with the Electric Hub on Your Bike
Installing the new wheel with the electric motor on the bike is easier than you might think. You just need to reverse the same process you applied when you were removing it.
Then connect the brake components. If you are replacing a back wheel, remember to adjust the chain to make sure it fits properly. If your bike has disc brakes, simply add the pads back and secure them using the clips cotter, springs, or retaining pins.
In case the bike has cantilever or rim brakes, just fix them up the new wheel using the lever. Adjust the brakes as necessary, for instance by pumping the levers (for hydraulic brakes) or by aligning the calipers (for mechanical brakes).
Add the Other Electric Components
These include the throttle and the speed controller. Use the guidelines and hardware provided in your conversion kit to install these two parts. In case of any other accessories, attach them as well.
Make sure the speed sensor is properly secured to the new wheel. Gauges and additional displays should be connected to the handlebars using the available hardware.
Connect the Trottle and the Speed Controller to the Battery
Again use the instructions provided with the electric bike kit to connect every part. Plug the connector on the speed controller into the one featured by the battery. Then do the same for the throttle and always remember to keep the wires apart, to avoid any dangerous spark.
At this point, turning on the battery’s power switch and pressing the ignition button on the throttle should reward you with a new electric bike that’s ready to ride. Just make sure the battery is fully charged up before hitting the road though.
Test Your New Electric Bike
Charge up the battery and take your new electric bicycle out to a clear paved region. You might have to stick to private fields, especially if the local e bike regulations do not support fast electric bicycles.
For starters, you should test the brakes at low speeds. If everything checks out, grant it a little more throttle. Start low and try to listen for any strange sounds. Pinging could mean that something’s rubbing against the wheel or parts such as wobbly wires or cable tie ends.
Once everything is in place, you can now zip around with your new electric bicycle. Just push gently on the throttle when you’re ready to roll. Again, go for an e-riding in a less populated place so you can get accustomed to it before taking it out on board.
Inspect your bike at moderate speeds until you’re confident that it’s working well. Then slowly progress in speed through greater speed settings while paying close attention to the bike’s response.
Note that the brakes may take a while to blend in as the pads and rotors break into each other, so don’t gun it just yet. Instead, set the speed selector at the lowest settings before starting off.
Lastly, remember to charge your electric bike as needed. E-bike batteries normally come with a charger to make the process much easier. So follow the guidelines on connections between the battery and the charger and plug it into a suitable outlet as instructed.