There is no shortage of bikes in the world, but as technology changes, so do our buying habits. Over the last year, the electric bike industry has seen a massive surge in demand, but buying a fully electric bike isn’t the only way to get some extra power in your pedal.
With so many manual bikes out there in the world, converting an existing bike to an electric bike is a way to get some extra pep in your pedal without having to buy a completely new bike. E-bike conversion kits are nothing new, but the folks over at UK-based Swytch wanted to take the pain out of the process and built their own custom tailored, high quality e-bike conversion kit.
The Swytch kit centers around a replacement front wheel that comes with a hub-mounted 250 watt motor. A questionnaire on its site prior to purchase ensures the wheel is as close to your current wheel as possible for a plug and play experience. When the kit arrives, it’s a simple matter of moving the old tire and tube over to the new bike and, for bikes with disc brakes, moving the rotor to the new rim.
The powered front wheel is wired up to a handlebar-mounted battery pack that doubles as the display for the whole get-up. The battery pack is a slick choice and is detachable for even greater convenience. When you get to where you’re going, push the release button and pull the pack off for charging.
I’m generally not a fan of adding weight to the handlebars as it impacts steering, and while you’ll definitely feel the extra 2 kilograms of the battery pack, the extra functionality added almost makes you forget it’s there.
A cadence sensor rounds out the kit and provides the system with the primary input to tell it when to provide assistance. It consists of a ring of magnets that ziptie onto a crank arm that clips around the crankshaft. A wired sensor runs down the down tube and lives on the frame side of the magnet ring to read each of the magnets as the pedals spin. The kit comes with a few different options for mounting the magnet ring to suit a wide range of bikes.
A handful of zipties ensure the various wires are secured to the bike, and after a quick charge of the battery, you’re off to the races. Pro tip: drop the battery on the charger when you start installing the kit so it’s ready to go when you are. A full charge takes about 2 hours, so be sure to allow for enough time to charge it fully before you head out on the inaugural ride.
Our specific installation required me to file down the axles on either side of the Swytch wheel about 1mm in total. The kit comes with a standard 10mm axle and, for the lucky handful of owners with forks designed to work with 9mm axles, this is necessary. It took about 10 minutes in total, so not a huge deal, but is something worth noting up front. The company provides a handy tutorial for the process. Whatever you do, don’t go the easy route and just file down your forks. It may be easier as they’re typically made of softer, lighter metals, but it can compromise the integrity of the fork.
The resulting installation is fairly stealthy, considering how much functionality it adds. The front hub motor adds 3 pounds / 1.5 kgs to the front wheel and blends right into the wheel. Aesthetically, you hardly notice it’s there. The cadence sensor and wiring blend right into with the cables on most manual bikes.
After a quick charge of the battery, it was time to hit the streets. The kit is powered on by a button on top of the power pack that serves as a basic yet functional display for the system. On the left, a set of LED lights serves to show how much battery capacity is left while the right side of the display shows what pedal assist setting is selected, from one to five.
The integrated display speaks to the amount of effort Swytch put into developing a streamlined and functional kit. From levels one to three, the front motor provides a gentle amount of assistance that provide the perfect amount of assistance for longer rides like a commute, a ride to the store, or a day trip to the beach.
Kicking it up to assist levels four and five transform the bike into a workhorse that’s ready to conquer any hills in your way. It’s an impressive amount of power for a motor rated at 250 watts continuous and speaks to the 40Nm of torque it puts out. As electric bikes continue to evolve, manufacturers are getting even better at maximizing the benefits to the riders. Even with the standard 250 watt rating, this motor’s torque produces a rapid acceleration at the higher pedal assist levels.
Overall, Swytch has put together a high quality e-bike conversion kit that is sure to give buyers confidence that they’re not just going to get a jumbled mess of parts. Instead, the Swytch kit makes it relatively painless to convert just about any bike to electric power. As with any retrofit, there are sure to be a few things that have to be tweaked, like the need to file the axle down on ours, but that’s to be expected for a kit designed to fit a wide range of bikes.
In addition to the universal kit with the Eco Power pack we reviewed, the company also offers a kit with a larger battery in the Pro Power Kit. Swytch also makes an electrification kit optimized for UK-based Brompton folding bikes. These bikes are very popular with urban commuters and are transformed into absolute commute slayers with this little electrification kit.
Prices for the Swytch kit range from £999 (~US$1,375) for a universal Eco Power kit through to £1500 ($US2,065) for the Brompton Pro, though Swytch is offering promotional pricing for the next few production runs at a significant discount. For more information about either kit or to order one for yourself, head over to the Swytch website.
Swytch E-Bike Kit Specs
- Range: Up to 21 miles/50 kilometers
- Motor: 250W brushless DC geared front hub motor
- Versions: Eco Power Pack and Pro Power Pack
- Battery: Eco: 180Wh built with 2500MAh cells, Pro: 250Wh built with 3500MAh cells
- Battery Lifespan: 800 cycles (Eco) / 1,000 cycles (Pro)
- Range: Eco: 35km at 125W Pro: 50km at 125W
- Drive Type: Front hub frictionless geared motor
- Fork Dropout Width: 100mm (fits standard bicycle forks)
- Top Speed: 25 km/h. Can be derestricted to 28km/h (Eco) and 32km/h (Pro) for offroad use
- Torque: 40Nm
- Brake Compatibility: Rim and disc brake (screws included to mount rotor disc)
- Gear Compatibility: All gear types, including derailleur and hub gears
- Added Weight: 2kg Power Pack and 1.5kg motor
- Spokes: Silver or black 36x12g spokes
- Rim: Silver or black doubled walled from PowerRim
- Dimensions: 120x70x190mm
- Light: Pro includes integrated 200 lumen front light. Eco does not include a light