Electric bikes of all types and price points are flooding the market. Everywhere you look there’s a new model and a new brand. If you’ve got the cash to spend there are some really amazing options out there. Start looking at the bargain basement models though and sometimes you run into not-great bikes paired with not-great electric systems. Even being optimistic, it’s common to find decent electric systems paired with not great bikes.
Even under the best of situations getting an electric bike means getting a whole new bike. If you’ve bought any bike before, then you know it can be a long process, including finding the right bike, then trying to find it in stock, in your size, and arrange a test ride to see if you like it.
If you already have a bike, then the best electric bike conversion kits offer another solution, and Swytch is among the best at taking the bike you know and love and electrifying it.
You have a bike you love and you know it fits you. You’ve already gone through the process of getting everything just the way you like it. With just a little bit of time, you can have one of the best electric bikes on the market and it’s already the bike you love.
Design and aesthetics
Half the experience, at least, of a fully converted electric bike is the actual bike. If this conversion kit is the path you want to go down, then make sure you have a bike you like and that it’s in good condition. The old rusty bike in the shed that doesn’t fit you probably isn’t the best prospect for a conversion. It’s also important to understand what type of bike makes sense.
Nothing absolutely says that you can’t use a Swytch kit on a top-of-the-line road bike or mountain bike but that’s not the design. The power pack in the Swytch kit looks like a handlebar basket and the design is definitely aimed towards a city bike or cruiser. Start with a good quality city bike in good repair, and your experience converting it will be off to a good start.
There are four pieces to the kit. The motor itself is in the front wheel hub. Each kit is custom-built into the wheel when you order it. That means whatever wheel you need, Swytch can handle. Disc brakes, rim brakes, quick release, solid axle, and whatever size you need is all available. There is also the option of upgrading to a matte black finish on the wheel. In my case, I used a silver wheel with a solid axle and the replacement from Swytch is an exact match.
The actual motor weighs 1.5kg and is a little bigger than the palm of my hand. It’s a bright shiny center of the wheel and it fills out the space between the spokes. This particular bike has a three speed internally geared rear hub and the Swytch hub in the front is a bit bigger but has a similar look. In a rear hub it would be hard to tell the difference between internal gearing and the motor. That is, until you see the cable coming out the side. Through the nut that holds the wheel to the fork there is a thick cable with a protective spring wound around it where it bends. The cable coming from the hub motor connects it to the next piece of the kit.
The piece that connects to the motor is the power pack. This piece contains the battery, the controller, and the user interface. The options for the power pack are either a Pro version or an Eco version but they have more similarities than differences. The only difference visually is the addition of a 400-lumen light. Internally the batteries carry more energy in the Pro model, 50km vs 35km for ECO, but are dimensionally the same.
Anyone not knowing what it is would think the power pack was a small handlebar bag. It’s a black canvas material with the Swytch logo on the front panel and four hits of reflective material. The logo on the Pro model lights up. The size of the power pack puts it a little shorter than my phone, about the same width, and about a 1/3 longer. The official dimensions are 20x14x8cm but understand that it’s small. The rear has a small fabric handle and the interface with the rest of the system. At the top of the pack there are two places to attach straps and the controls for the system.
The power pack attaches to the quick connect handlebar bracket, which might not sound all that interesting but it’s well designed. If this piece was badly designed the whole system would be annoying to use. Instead, there’s a lot of thought here. The battery weighs 1.5kg and the ability to easily remove it from the front of the bike makes it a lot easier to own an electric bike. Remove it for storage and transport or even if you have to carry the bike up some stairs. The unit attaches to the bike with two mounts that sandwich the stem. Between them is a soft stabilizer that goes under the stem to prevent rotation. It all works very well.
The last piece that makes the kit work is a PAS unit. It’s a universal system with a variety of options for mounting. There’s a series of magnets that need to move with the crank arm as well as a sensor that needs to attach to the frame, and the space between these two pieces needs to be minimal. This unit is the least attractive part of the kit but there’s not much you can do about it.
If you have enough space the most elegant option is to have only the ring of magnets connected to the crank at the bottom bracket. If there’s not enough space there then there is an articulated arm that attaches to the inside of the crank arm with zip ties. In my case I was able to use that option and get it all lined up the way it needed to be.
In this case we have to back up a little and discuss the setup first. The whole process took me about an hour. If I was to do it again I could probably do it in 30 minutes and possibly even less. I started by swapping the wheel and this turned out to be the first significant time suck, as my tyre is directional and the first time I mounted it backwards. After taking it off and remounting it again I realized that Swytch asks that the cable coming out of the wheel be on the left side. That means I had the tyre mounted correctly the first time and now needed to swap it again.
I’m relaying this little mishap because it’s a good example of what takes time in the install. The directions of the actual kit are well written and the steps are easy, you spend far more time figuring out the best way to mount components, or route the cables, than you do anything else.
After I had the wheel swapped, I moved on to the other pieces. The handlebar bracket takes no more than five minutes to install and the power pack attaches with no tools. The PAS system was another time suck that mostly involved trying one mounting option then the next. I had been sure that the spacing between the crank arm and the frame was perfect for mounting without attaching to the crank arm, but I was wrong and it takes a while to get everything placed just in the right spot.
After plenty of trial and error, the PAS components were all mounted and it was time for cable management. There’s no right or wrong here but I wanted things to be as clean as possible while also not being too tight. It would be great if there was a way to tuck extra wires and extra connectors into the Power Pack but I did eventually find a solution that I was happy with, and any exposed wiring looks minimal and is well secured.
With everything installed it was time to go for a ride.
The controls for operating the system are on top of the power pack. They are easy to reach while riding and simple to use. Long press a button to turn things on then use the up and down to adjust the assist level. If you go all the way down it does go to zero.
Right away I felt like the combination of the Brilliant Bikes Carmen and the Swytch was what I am always looking for in an e-bike. The Carmen is a cruiser with a step-through frame, belt drive, and an internally geared three-speed rear hub. It’s easy to get on and casual to ride. The Swytch perfectly complements it with the way it delivers power.
A lot of inexpensive American electric bikes deliver power in a somewhat aggressive way. It’s rarely subtle and the fact that class 3 bikes don’t stop accelerating until 28mph doesn’t help. Those same bikes are often heavy.
With the Carmen/Swytch combo, it rides like I imagine it should. It never feels heavy and the power comes on gently. Imagine riding your unpowered bike slightly downhill and that gives you an idea. You always feel in control but it’s also easy.
Swytch has a lot of text about how they use advanced algorithms for power delivery. That is perhaps why acceleration is so pleasant but once at speed, it feels like it’s a simple cadence system. If I shift the Brilliant bike into its easiest gear I can gently rotate the cranks, with no resistance, and cruise along a flat road at 20mph.
I have never experienced any issues with inconsistent power delivery. When I pedal, power is there and when I stop so does the assistance. My setup does not include the brake sensors and I never felt like I needed them. I also don’t have the throttle accessory. For those in the US where the throttle is available, you might consider adding it. There are times, passing a bus in traffic for example, when it’s nice to have a throttle to get you up to speed without effort.
Imagine to yourself what an electric bike should be. If what you are thinking about involves something super lightweight, or an electric gravel bike, or a high-end electric road bike, then there are probably better options out there. If you are thinking about folding e-bike, a cruiser, or an easy city commuter then the Swytch kit makes sense. There are four models, a Universal or Brompton in Eco or Pro, available to cover this range of bikes. Pricing is depending on location but also, don’t expect to pay full price. The full list price of Universal Eco £999/€950/$999, Universal Pro £1250/€1200/$1249, Brompton Eco £1250/€1200/$1249, and Brompton Pro £1500/€1500/$1499 is typically discounted by half if you are willing to put in a pre-order and wait. That makes the Swytch very price competitive and it’s easily the best electric bike on the market in its price range. Just make sure you have the right bike to pair it with.
The kit is an easy install. You can expect to spend far more time getting the details just right than you’ll spend figuring out how to set anything up. As long as you have a great bike and the right expectations the final result is exceptional. There is no need to be afraid because of a lack of mechanical skill. It’s harder to put together flat-packed furniture than it is to assemble the Swytch kit.
What really makes the kit shine is the gentle power delivery. It never feels grabby or aggressively fast. It’s there to help you without making itself known. For a lot of people, this is what they imagine an electric bike should be.
Tech Specs: Swytch Electric Bike Conversion Kit
- Battery Weight: 1.5kg
- Motor Weight: 1.5kg
- Estimated Range: Pro – 50km | Eco – 35km
- Battery Capacity: Pro 7ah 250wh | Eco – 5ah 180wh
- Top Speed: 15mph (UK/EU) and 20mph (US)